What Is RSS Feeds And How Do You Use It

by Klaus on July 8, 2009

in Articles, Guides/How-To

RSS feed icon

RSS feed icon

We all have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is usually where you don’t know much about anything. RSS feeds are such a thing. If I’m having a chat with my father about the Internet and start mentioning RSS feeds, XML files and so on, I can be certain that his mind is already in a completely different place than where I want it to be. So, this article is actually for people like him – people who have not yet had a chance to get to know RSS feeds, what they mean, what they’re good for – and how to subscribe using RSS.

I’ve known for a long time what RSS feeds are and how to use them, I just never use them, to be honest. Today I see how stupid I was, you miss out on a lot of great content and updates if you are determined to manually go and visit websites as you remember to do it, rather than having their RSS feeds delivered directly to your Inbox or favorite RSS reader.

What Does RSS Mean?

RSS is an abbreviation of “Really Simple Syndication”. With a name like that, how can you not be craving for more information on the subject? Not being a master in something where two thirds of it’s name are “really simple”, is probably not something to be proud of 🙂

As you might have figured out by now, using RSS to subscribe to feeds (e.g. websites) means you don’t have to go and visit your subscribed sites all the time – you will get the updates automatically. But it doesn’t have to be websites with articles only, you can also subscribe to Twitter feeds, Video feeds (YouTube and such) and much, much more.

RSS Subscribing Software / Web Based

You have a ton of options on this one. Personally, I like to stick with Mail.app within Mac OS X Leopard. It’s simple and I can have certain feeds delivered directly to my Inbox, like with e-mail, or I can choose to have them saved in their own folder, where I check them from time to time. In Firefox you can use the “Live Bookmark” feature. Google, of course, also has an RSS reader which is very popular at the moment, they call it Google Reader and is web based. Another web based alternative is Bloglines which is also a popular and free service to syndicate your blogs. If you’re on Windows I suggest doing a Google search for “rss reader windows”, you will get a ton of great suggestions.

Subscribing To A Blog

I’m going to use Tech Patio as an example here, so feel free to follow the steps if you want to subscribe to my blog. TechPatio.com uses an “advanced” feed that actually allows you to subscribe not only using RSS software, but also via e-mail. If you scroll up and look in the upper right corner, you will see a “Subscribe to TechPatio”-area (next to the big orange RSS feed logo within this article). You can either click the RSS-feed icon or enter your e-mail address in the field just below. If you enter your e-mail address, you will receive daily updates (but only if there’s new content to show), delivered directly from FeedBurner (by Google).

On most computer systems and browsers, clicking the RSS feed link (the icon previously mentioned) will either launch your RSS reader application or allow you to subscribe directly within the browser. You can try it out and see what happens – simply click this link to subscribe now (it’s free, so don’t be afraid!). If something unexpected happened and you don’t know how to proceed, you can either just subscribe to my feed using e-mail (upper right corner), or leave a comment below, describing what you see when you click the RSS feed link, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

This should get you started with the basics of RSS feeds. You can find thousands of articles out there, covering RSS feeds, if you want something a bit more advanced to study. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via e-mail, Twitter or in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Comments & Leave a Comment

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

The Gooroo @ Finance Advisory Stop July 9, 2009 at 16:47

It’s actually good to see someone making a post about RSS. It’s kind of weird considering that it is a great tool for bloggers, yet many new bloggers don’t even know the purpose of it.

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Autoalert October 11, 2009 at 19:02

I am suscribing to other ‘leading’ websites to easily obtain information for my post. Perhaps you could write an article about how to encourage users to subscribe to your syndication.
.-= Autoalert´s last blog ..Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept =-.

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Pam November 29, 2009 at 21:57

I have a blog on Tattoo Remover products and I didn’t know much about RSS. Thank you for the post to teach me.

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Witty Artist July 3, 2011 at 17:18

At first RSS seemed overwhelming for me. All that text there without any pictures, colors, it was like being at a boring course. Then, I started to get it better and see it friendly and useful. It’s a real helpful tool especially for bloggers. 🙂

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