October 14, 2009

Taking a Detour: Making Sure You Don’t Miss a Thing!

Posted in Basic Information, RSS Feeds, Uncategorized at 5:00 pm by kathobson

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.[2]  

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.


More Information…

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!

Wanna jump ahead and sign up for Google Reader?  Here’s a comprehensive video that walks you through signing up.

Or if you think RSS Feeds via email is for you and your email provider doesn’t handle RSS Feeds (or you don’t know if it does), here’s a short piece about FeedMyInbox.com.  

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!



  1. Susan said,

    Hi there. I’m a little late jumping in here, but I’m ready to ride. I have LOTS to learn so I’m happy for you to do the digging and just let me know what I need to know. I do know, however, that I don’t want more stuff in my email box so I’m ready for an RSS Reader. Since I already have a gmail account, I guess I’m halfway there. I have no brain cells left tonight so I can’t watch the comprehensive video about signing up at the moment. That’ll have to wait for another session. Thanks for the info – I’ve already learned something!

  2. kathobson said,

    Glad it’s helping you learn too. I figured if I’m gonna learn about this I may as well take some folks along with me. And, as you said, it’s always nice if someone else is willing to gather the knowledge and I just have to soak it in! So be a sponge!

    May I suggest you wait for tomorrow’s post on the rest of the RSS feed stuff before you sign up for the reader. It will add to your perspective and give you some help when you sign up.

    Thanks for coming along!

  3. Tina Fanning said,

    Thanks Kathy-

    That was very informative- I am looking forward to learning more along the way. I’ll wait for tomorrows blog before setting anything up.

    BTW can you please follow up with blog on how to use my Blackberry, organize my office, kitchen, photos, life in general. The opportunities are endless!

  4. kathobson said,

    Tomorrow’s blog is today’s blog! What you’re looking for should be up now, Tina. Good luck with the decision and with getting the RSS coming in to your life. 😉

    The others? Hmmmm….Blackberry instruction is lifelong, sorry…took me two-weeks to figure out how to make a call on that puppy; office organization = scan the life out of every piece of paper; kitchen = get rid of all the stinking tupperware and you’re half way home; photos = Flickr (stay tuned); life in general = you’re on your own! I will add one though — hanging clothes = turn all your hangers around backward. As you wash and rehang them, hang them the regular way. At the end of the season/year, you will know what you didn’t wear by the backward hangers and you can donate those to Goodwill. Yea! And that one was on the house, folks! Oh…hang on…ALL of this is on the house! Never mind! LOL.

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