Week Five: RSS and Feed Readers


You’ve heard of RSS.

You’ve seen those small orange icons on web sites.

You’ve heard co-workers and acquaintances swear by it, but still have no idea what RSS is.

Well, you’re not alone.

RSS is not only revolutionizing the way news and content creators share information, but it is swiftly changing the way everyday users consume information.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is written in XML that works behind the scenes for sharing web content. It allows users to view updated web content with a “reader” (also called an aggregator), without visiting every web site looking for the new content. The RSS reader checks Web sites to which you have subscribed, and then displays new or updated content in your reader.

RSS feed readers come in four basic forms.

  1. Web-based sites (Bloglines or Google Reader).
  2. Delivered to your email inbox (With email software such as Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird, or through Web sites like Feed My Inbox.)
  3. Built into Web browsers (Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer)
  4. As standalone programs downloaded to your computer (SharpReader or RSSOwl)

This module teaches Bloglines at http://www.bloglines.com/, Google Reader at http://tinyurl.com/yfnrwmu and Feed My Inbox at http://www.feedmyinbox.com/ .

Sharing and Productivity

RSS feed saves your time:

  • In keeping up with the news by collecting headlines for you to scan, with links to the full articles.
  • Broadcasting to others headlines of articles you post on your Web sites or blogs.

RSS in plain English (3:45 minutes) is an amusing explanation of the value of RSS feeds.

Tools for your consideration

Google Reader
Feed My Inbox
These aggregators maintains RSS feeds on Web sites. Since it is a Web site, it is available from any computer attached to the Web. They do not clutter your email inbox with RSS feeds. Feed My Inbox is a Web site that delivers up to five RSS feeds to your email inbox. Delivering feeds to your inbox is advantage to people who forget to check Bloglines for long periods and, when they remember to check, find hundreds or thousands of feeds to scroll through.
Both have searchable databases of thousands of RSS feeds. This makes finding feeds easy. For example, searching Bloglines for “librarians” retrieves a list of 213 RSS feeds for librarians. From this list, it is easy to subscribe RSS feeds to you can read through Bloglines or Google Reader. Feed My Inbox does not have a searchable database. Instead give “Feed my inbox” a URL, i.e., Web address, to a Web site. Feed My Inbox finds all RSS feeds associated with the Web site and lists them so you can choose which ones you want to subscribe to. For example, give Feed My Inbox “http://www.dilbert.com/” and it displays two RSS feeds: “Dilbert Daily Strip” and “Dilbert.com Blog”. Click the check box(es) beside the RSS feed(s) you want and click “Confirm.” “Feed by inbox” sends a confirmation email requiring your response to subscribe to the feed.
Use Web-based aggregators to subscribe to RSS feeds you want to browse once a week, once a month, or whenever you have time. Use Feed My Inbox for up to five RSS feeds you definitely want to see when it is posted on your favorite Web sites.

Tool instructions

Written directions

  • Using Bloglines is an illustrated guide: sign-up, subscribing to feeds of various sorts.
  • Using Bloglines Tutorial gives step-by-step instructions: creating an account, logging in, finding RSS feeds, adding feeds, uploading an OPML file to Bloglines.

Google reader

Written documents

Feed My Inbox

  • Verbal explanation of “Feed My Inbox”
  • Feed My Inbox Bookmarklet” demonstrating a bookmarklet which speeds the process of creating RSS feeds with Feed My Inbox. Bookmarklets are buttons you can add to your bookmarks toolbar. Bookmarklets can do really cool things.

Written directions

Action Activities Do one on the following activities.

Activity #1 (Receiving RSS feeds)

  1. Decide which RSS feed method you want to try.
  2. Follow the videos and read the written documents to subscribe to 2 RSS feeds.
  3. Post on your 23 Things Blog a paragraph explaining how you chose a RSS feed reader and listing the feeds you subscribed to.

Activity #2 (Telling others how to get the RSS feeds from your Web site that has an RSS feed link.)

  1. If your Web site or blog has an RSS feed link on the home page, create a bookmark with instructions telling patrons how to use Bloglines, Google Reader or Feed My Inbox to subscribe to the RSS feed.
  2. Pass the bookmark out to your patrons.
  3. Post on your 23 Things Blog the instructions on the bookmark.

Activity #3 (Putting a FeedMyInbox form on your Web site for people to receive feeds by email.)

  1. If your Web site or blog has an RSS feed link on the home page, right click that link and left click “Copy link.”
  2. Go to http://www.feedmyinbox.com/feeds/formCode/
  3. Paste the copied link into the box and click “submit.”
  4. Highlight and copy the code.
  5. Paste the code on the side bar of your Web site or blog. This displays a form. People type in their email address and receive your RSS feeds in their email.
  6. Tell people about it on your blog.
  7. Post the story on your 23 Things Kansas blog.

10 thoughts on “Week Five: RSS and Feed Readers

  1. Okay, I once again have to say that technology has come a long way to provide convenience for its users. I have always seen the orange icon but never quite understood what it was. I had no desire to learn yet another technical term so I avoided it all costs. Well, lo and behold, Week 5 is over RSS. Thank you for making it simple enough for me to understand. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the tutorial videos and have already added several subscriptions to my Google Reader. How simple was that? This will eliminate me having to log-in to so many different websites to find out what’s going on. It will be like reading the Sunday paper everyday for me.

  2. Hi Sharon. I was in the same boat as you. When all this Web 2.0 stuff started coming onto the scene, I didn’t want to be bothered. Now, tools like RSS have really changed the way I do business, so to speak.

  3. This really was a fun module. I just visited Erin’s bloglines account–very cool and VERY well organized. Thanks for sharing it, Erin!

  4. For some time I have been using option #3, Built into Web browsers (Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer).

    I tried setting up an account, but it was one more place to log in, one more password to remember, and I just didn’t find it useful.

    But now, I’ve noticed (with IE7) that the reader has times when it just doesn’t update – either one RSS feed, or several, or all of them. What causes that, and how do I fix it? I’m not talking about blog-generated errors where the coder made a mistake, but times when my feeds which were working yesterday, suddenly aren’t working today – and when I go to the blog in question, I find that there’s at least one, and sometimes many, updates. (My Twitter feeds are especially prone to this)

    Any suggestions on how to fix this?

  5. Oh I feared those RSS feeds. Then, I read the lesson. Still confused. Ignored the subject. Then …….. watched the YouTube tutorial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU& “”RSS in Plain English””. Yep. Leave it to YouTube. Truly a lifesaver.I’ve used YouTube before for many other questions, like how to thread my 1st sewing machine. Or, how to use an electric typewriter. I am using the Yahoo MyYahoo feature. I would HIGHLY recommend using this to keep your internet experience at its easiest. I have a tab just for my RSS feeds. Thanks so much for nudging us into the future!

  6. I did Activity #1 with Google Reader. It’s not my first experience with RSS feeds, but it seemed easier to get things going this time around. I think I used Bloglines previously. Decided to use Google Reader for this assignment because I have a Google account. I’d forgotten how helpful it is to have all this info aggregate in one spot. And it’s pretty easy to change my subscriptions as my interests change. Great update!

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