Ever wonder what RSS is?
Well, until I become a priest, I've made my living in information technology.
I know what RSS is, and I use it. And before I tell you, let me just say that if you're already using it, don't bother reading anymore. This page is for those folks who are average web users, don't know much about web site development other than how to open their browsers, and don't really care much about it either. I've been amazed at the lack of "plain language" information available on how to use it. I'm writing this with the assumption that by giving you basic info on where to go you can follow basic directions given other places on how to set it up, but you can always post a question here and I'll try to help if I can.
The most common explanation for RSS is Really Simple Syndication. It is really just a term for a way that web sites can pass information to each other without the average user having to know much to set it up. Atom is similar but newer concept which is generally interchangable with RSS.
Why do you care? Well here are two practical applications for you, assuming that you blog a lot:
- You could create your own home page (let's say at a site like my.yahoo.com). Personalized home pages like these allow you to use RSS to place multiple feeds on one page. So, you could have one web page with all your favorite feeds on it. Let's say that you like my site (of course mine's your favorite) and 3 other blogs, but you don't have time to check them all every day to see if there is anything posted there that you want to go read. Well, RSS is for you. Create a personalized page (follow the instructions at my.yahoo.com or a similar portal like Google, MSN, etc.), add the RSS or Atom feeds for the blogs that you want on your home page, and voila- you now have a one-stop shop for all of the sites you need to see without having to spend a lot of time visiting them all.
- Some mail programs allow RSS feeds, so that you can read blog posts as if they were incoming mail. I use Yahoo Mail, and RSS feeds can be set up as a mail feed. I also use Outlook, with an add-in that is free for personal use called intraVnews that you can get here. Using this add-in, blog posts from all your favorite sources will come into a separate folder in Outlook so that you can see them in Outlook. Note that rss only publishes the first few lines of the blog, so you get just enough to see if you are interested with a link to click if you want to read the rest.
Note that my blog has two RSS feeds: one for the posts, and one for the comments. The intraVnews add-in for Outlook will just find the feed by putting in the website that you want, so you don't really need to know much about how to find the RSS feed information. But for the others, you can find my RSS feed information by going to the "Meta" section of the navigation bar on the right-hand side of the screen, and clicking on either the "Entries RSS" or "Comments RSS" links. Many sites will have an Orange "XML" or "RSS" icon instead.
Also, note that there are a LOT of RSS feeds. You can get news feeds from all major news organizations, feeds from cooking sites, feeds from technology sites, feeds from entertainments sites– just about anything you want. If you want information, you can get it through RSS. It's just a matter of looking for the feed you want.
Hope this is helpful. Let me know!