Wednesday, 6 April 2011

RSS feeds

Next on the list of this week's web 2.0 tools is RSS - Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary, depending who you ask. has a nice one page summary of what RSS is.

Essentially, RSS allows people to subscribe to a 'feed' from a chosen web site, blog, search result etc. They do this using a feed reader or aggregator, which automatically collects any updates from the chosen feed, and means the user only has to check one place in order to follow updates from multiple sites.


  • RSS feeds can be 'delivered' in the preferred medium, e.g. by email, in an aggregator/feed reader, or in a widget embedded on another page (such as this H807 blogs page
  • RSS is opt-in only - you get updates only from the site feed, and don't end up with spam or un-requested content
  • Convenience: you only check the feeds when you want to - and don't need to worry about missing something if you don't check for a while, because it will be picked up automatically by your aggregator
  • Time saved by not having to visit multiple sites in order to get or check for updates
  • RSS can be used to monitor news tickers, and search engine outputs, as well as blogs and web pages - useful for monitoring the occurrence of a particular key word or phrase in a news article (the #H807 Twitter feed at the bottom of the left column of this blog is an RSS feed on the search term "#H807")
  • Having my feeds all in Google Reader makes it really easy for me to 'favourite' particular posts or stories - and save them for future reference
  • I find I often now subscribe to an RSS feed rather than bookmarking a site. This way I don't have to remember to check it
  • Readers/aggregators tend to offer a 'headline' or 'first line of post' type display - that allows you to quickly scan feeds in order to decide whether to read the full content
  • I love having the RSS on my own blog so I can track what is getting hit, how many users and where they come from. All the stats are geeky and far more absorbing than I should let them be!

  • Subscription means you only receive feeds from sites which you know about - no serendipitous discoveries (although in actual fact the culture of linking to other pages from a blog or other news article means you may well discover new links of interest)
  • A feed from a particularly busy source might leave users feeling overwhelmed... but they are free to unsubscribe!
  • Not all content is suitable for RSS
  • It's still geeky - it's not on the radar of the internet using masses who have mastered email and browsing, but not yet caught up with this type of technology
All my feeds coming in to my Google Reader, and also showing up in a list on my iGoogle page (which is open in one of my browser tabs almost all the time I am online) mean I see plenty of updates within minutes. This is brilliant for things I need to read, but a lot of the time it takes a certain amount of self-discipline not to reed all these exciting feeds the minute they arrive... and sometimes I have it, and sometimes I don't!

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