October 14, 2009
Taking a Detour: Making Sure You Don’t Miss a Thing!
I know the last post indicated that this post would be about micro-blogging and social networking, but (yea!) I’m getting comments asking how people can keep up with my blog. And maybe by now you’re also thinking, “How can I make sure I don’t miss an installment of Kathy’s Exploring Social Media blog?!? If so, I can help! ; )
Today, we’ll take a step away from our exploration of the types of social media for a minute to explain RSS Feeds so that, if you’re interested, you can have a way to keep up with this blog that requires almost no effort from you. This information will also help you keep up with new content on other blogs or websites you regularly visit.
So, again, let’s visit our friends at Wikipedia for a definition of RSS.
RSS (most commonly translated as “Really Simple Syndication” but sometimes “Rich Site Summary”) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.
Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator“.
To translate into layman’s terms a little bit, RSS is a way for website to deliver regularly changing content to their site to you AND it’s a way for you to keep track of the changing content of your favorite websites.
If you are a person who visits several sites on a regular basis (say, CNN.com, craigslist, weatherunderground and volunteermatch), perhaps you can already see the benefit to using an RSS Feed to get updates from those sites automatically. In the “old days”(or, if you’re like me, right now), you had to bookmark your favorite websites in your browser and manually return to each site on a regular basis to see what was new. With RSS, you save time by having the content come to you. (And, as a bonus, you retain your privacy by not having to give out your email address to subscribe to each sites email newsletter. Woo-hoo!)
The most beneficial thing about this whole scenario is that you get relevant up-to-date information sent to you for you to read when it’s convenient for you.
Basically, you can tell a website to let you know every time they update. If that seems like a lot of information, you are so right. Particularly for some large websites like news websites that update content many times a day. However, most large websites give you the option to subscribe only to departments on their site that you are interested in, so that cuts down on unwanted information.
Still confused? Think of it like this…it’s like having a magazine subscription. But, the magazine that is delivered to you, instead of coming to the mail box at the end of your driveway once a month, it is delivered to your RSS Reader or into your email when the website is updated.
It’s a way to streamline the information that you get from the web.
So, you’ve decided you want to check this RSS thing out. What do you do first?
The first step is to decide if you’re willing to use an RSS reader or if you want content to come to your inbox.
Okay, a few thoughts about the pros and cons of both…
Using an RSS reader will add a step to the process of accessing your RSS feeds. However, if you already don’t care for the number of emails you are getting already, you may find a reader more to your liking because it will allow you to read content when you are ready by signing in to your reader. (For those of you who have a gmail account, you’ve already taken step one to getting a reader…one of the most popular readers is Google Reader.)
On the flip side, most email providers are set up to handle RSS feeds. Normally, there is a separate section for accessing your RSS feeds that prevents your inbox from being blasted with content from every site you subscribe to. So you won’t get the email from your boss, the email about the e-gift certificate Aunt Jenny is sending you for your recent birthday and….28 updates from Time.com.
Your homework (you didn’t ask if there was homework, Rod…just about tests!) is to think about what style suits your personality…
…if you want the “instant gratification” of just going to your email provider and seeing all of the content from your favorite websites and you don’t mind a lot more email, you’ll want to subscribe to RSS via email.
…if you want to be able to choose to see your RSS feeds when it is convenient to you and keep your email life separate, you will want to chose an RSS Reader.
Think about it…we’ll talk about Reader Vs. RSS via email in the next post.
Coming Next: RSS Readers and RSS Via Your Inbox — Thanks, Bob. I’ll Take Door Number Three!
For more information about RSS Feeds watch the Commoncraft video on RSS. It’s 3-minutes and it’s great!
A note…I will discuss some simple basics of getting RSS feeds in Outlook, iMail and Gmail in the next post if you want to wait on this step…OR you can do an internet search and probably come up with some great tutorials yourself if you don’t want to wait on the next post!