Thursday, May 24, 2007

RSS Feeds - What are they and how do I use 'em?

Subscribe to The Chelsea BlogWhether or not you know what 'RSS' is, if you use the Internet on a regular basis, you have undoubtedly seen or heard of RSS Feeds. Just about every news source, e-zine and blog has a feed subscription option, as do many other websites. Those little orange icons are everywhere, but what are they for?

To put it in non-computer terms, imagine that you subscribe to The Ann Arbor News, The Chelsea Standard, Sports Illustrated and Vogue. You listen to NPR every morning, and watch the local news at 11 to get the next day's weather. It's a lot of work to stay current! What if you didn't have to thumb through pages and pages to get to the content you wanted, or be at a certain place and time to hear the news briefs you want? Instead, you have a single three-ring binder that someone organized for you. The binder has a handy table of contents listing only articles in the newspaper sections you read, and only the magazine features you want. You quickly scan the list and flip to the pages you're interested in. Want the Lion's game highlights? They're in there. Want fashion updates, but not celebrity gossip? You got it. The binder also has an audio button, and you can listen to the NPR stories you missed that morning. Too tired to stay up and watch the news? No worries, the weather updates are there, too.

Basically, each of these items (NPR Morning Edition, or Ann Arbor News Sport section) would be an RSS feed you've subscribed to. An RSS Reader (aka 'news aggregator' or 'podcatcher') is a software program that essentially acts as the 3-ring binder we're talking about. It organizes all those subscriptions of yours and puts them in one handy place. There are plenty of readers out there, including those that are specifically designed for the task like NewsGator or NewsFeed, as well as multi-functional programs like Firefox, MyYahoo and Google that can display RSS feeds for you.

In case you want to give it a try, it just so happens that I added a "Subscribe" option to The Chelsea Blog. What will happen when you subscribe? If you subscribe via email, you will get my new blog posts delivered to your in-box. If you subscribe via MyYahoo (for example), the posts will show up on your MyYahoo page in a similar format as a news item. In a way, it's like bookmarking a website page, but it then tells you when something new has been added.

You can subscribe to news, blogs, photo albums, videos, podcasts, and all kinds of fun stuff.If you get hooked, and want to subscribe to lots MORE stuff on the web, here are some links to explore:

Questions? Comments? Post them here and I'll do my best to help you find answers.

No comments: