What Are RSS Feeds, and How do you use them?

If you are a relative newcomer to the Internet, or even a old hacker, you may not be familiar with one of the latest innovations, RSS Feeds. My intention of this topic is to give you a conceptual framework so you can use this technology, but avoid the gory details that are only useful for programmers.

First of all, the acronym RSS means "Really Simple Syndication" a good summary of this is at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_%28file_format%29

It says: "is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. An RSS document, which is called a "feed", "web feed", or "channel", contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that's easier than checking them manually."

You may be a subscriber to email distribution lists, and you may note that it can be a pain to subscribe to these as they fill up your in-box. RSS feeds are an alternative, especially as a replacement for announcement-only lists, and are recommended when the distribution lists get very large. In fact, on many sites, the administrators are abandoning conventional email lists and using RSS feeds only. With email lists, the sender must maintain an accurate email address for every recipient, and send a separate email to each person. This is done by a List Serv, or "reflector" that is a program that resends any email to the entire list.

When RSS feeds are used, the content is simply updated on a single website, and then programs called "aggregators" go out and gather up all the latest information from the RSS feeds that you subscribe to. In other words, the creator of the content no longer needs to maintain your email address or even know who you are. On any particular site, you can find the RSS feed symbol. Right click on the symbol and click Copy Link Location, and then add that to your aggregator.


go down and you will see a little box that says it currently has 69,000 some odd subscribers. Just right click on this box and then select "copy Link Location". You can then paste that into your aggregator. The link I copied is: http://feeds.dailykos.com/dailykos/index.xml

There is a site called http://www.syndic8.com lists over 500,000 feeds that are available for subscription, so as you can see, this is no small trend.

You may want to try Google Desktop, which has an aggregator built in, and is also able to search your computer just like google searches the web.

On this wiki site, if you are a subscriber and are willing to learn a thing or two, you can set up your own aggregator. Using the HEADLINES command, the RSS feed is placed directly into the topic.

For example, if I place the string that looks like this %HEADLINES{"http://feeds.dailykos.com/dailykos/index.xml"}% on the following line, here is what I get: (There is nothing else on this page. Everything else is sucked in from Dailykos and is updated daily.)


Topic revision: r1 - 19 Jul 2007, RaymondLutz
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