I may possibly be the last person in the world to have discovered RSS (Really Simple Syndication), but on the off-chance I am not, in a wild burst of child-with-a-new-toy enthusiasm I am going to share my marvellous new discovery.
RSS has been around for a number of years now, and is really nothing more than a digital version of the old news wire services, excepted automated (i.e. really simple) for any website with the requisite technology. In effect, RSS provides a feed of headlines and updated content which can be subscribed to, allowing one to view, in an RSS compatible reader, an overview of new, ordered by date content from any website.
Sound simple? It should, because it really (as advertised) is. I initially gave RSS pass a few years back because it required either a detailed knowledge of XML or a special RSS application, and quite frankly having yet another application to use for the internet seemed more trouble than it was worth.
The process has been simplified considerably in recent times by the adoption of RSS technology in the major browsers; for example, in Firefox and Apple Safari every RSS enabled site or page you visit creates an RSS icon in your browser URL window—click on that icon and you can bookmark the feed, creating in effect a“live” bookmarks, continuously updated with content from the site or page you have bookmarked.
On my browser I now have a bookmarks toolbar folder in which I file every frequently visited site’s syndication feed into (see image), so I only ever have to visit these sites when I see there is an update. Personally I only do this for sites that are occasionally updated, as other frequently visited sites like news sites are by definition updated daily, and RSS for such seems a little overboard—unless you are a news junkie or particularly interested in tapping the actual living pulse of the blogosphere.
RSS may also be handy if you have MyBlogLog enabled, as it avoids creating the impression on sites with MBL that you might be a cyberstalker.
Observant readers may have noticed that I have my own site’s RSS feed bookmaked. Why? Good question—it seems that I must“really” like RSS. Or really like myself…
Another interesting use of RSS is for auto-generated content on websites. Some SEO experts (read spammers) claim it is now possible to build entire websites and still have them rank in search engines with content delivered solely via RSS. Online medication sales aside, an RSS feed can be used benignly to add a dynamic content portal to your website, displaying for example the most recent posts from a like-minded website anywhere on a page. I myself do this here at A Sensitivity to Things, displaying recent posts from a number of other sites in my“widget-enabled” WordPress sidebar.