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RSS Feeds

Written by Walid on Monday, November 03, 2008

Ever wondered what does this icon, that appear on almost every website, mean? Today, I will be talking about RSS feeds, acronym for: Really Simple Syndication!

Some fact first!
Today Billions of websites are interconnected and this number is growing every day. Among these, thousands are really interesting and I bet you are interested in more than one hundred!

This is what I first do when I am online: check my gmail (that gathers all my email addresses into one single account, I will be talking about this later on), check some news pages, mainly, annahar, BBC, Reuters.. Get to know the latest sports scores, the latest scores and sports updates (mainly how many interceptions did Joe Flacco throw on Sunday), read some very interesting Tech new at Ars Technica, Digg, Slashdot, Gizmodo and many others. I would also take a look at my "Astronomy picture of the day" and check what's new at Scientific American. Finally, I would check "too", Sergey Brin's personal blog (which, btw, was not updated since it was launched on September 18)!

The problem:
mmm, you are wondering now.. How long will this take, especially with the slow connection. What if most of these pages that I usually visit were not updated at all? That means that I would be wasting my time checking them out! To make things worse, sometimes I visit a pages, wait for it to load and find out that only 1 subject interests me in that page. More time was wasted here.

A better way!
Today we are going to talk about a new and efficient way to keep up with all the stuff that's happening on the internet.

2 ways that you can keep up with whats happening on the net:

1- Old way: You login to your PC and start checking if there are any updates on your favorites pages. You will check every page by itself, some might have been updated, but others. Every time you look for something time that its not there, you have wasted some valuable times.

2- New way: Have your favorite parts of the Web come to you, not the other way! No need to go out and check for updates all the time. No need for bookmarks! So, in other words, you can keep up with all the updates to your favorite pages without having to check the site every day to see "what's new." New pages and updates to old ones are sent to you through RSS.

How do you get started with RSS Feeds?
Easy! Get yourself an RSS reader! This is special software that reads the RSS feeds... You can go with a Desktop-based or Web-based RSS reader.

Desktop-based RSS readers
This is an application that needs to be installed on your PC. You can add RSS Feeds addresses into this program, and updates will be delivered to you as soon as they are published. Some desktop-based RSS readers include:

NewGator FeedDemon

Download FeedDemon RSS Reader
FeedDemon is the most advanced one of these 3. You can easily add feeds, change the view, customize the fonts, hit the "Panic Button" when the unread articles reach a huge number...etc. The most important feature of FeedDemon is the ability to synchronize 2 or more : for example, I have FeedDemon installed on my office laptop and on my home desktop and I am synching these 2. So, the same feeds appear on both machines, I don't have to re-subscribe to the same feeds again on the desktop PC. Moreover, if I read an article in a feed on one machine, it will be marked as read on the other. Same if I delete articles. NewGator also offers a web-based RSS reader (next section), which means that you can also read your feeds online if you cannot access your machine where FedDemon is installed: just login to NewsGator and there you go, you have a web-based reader. This tool is really useful!

FeedReader and RssReader are lighter, more basic readers without many features. On Mac, you can use NetNewsWire.

Web-based Feed readers:
An alternative to desktop-based RSS readers is web-based readers. You can easily sign-up for one of these web-based readers and start adding your favorite feeds to it. The advantage of this is that you don't need to install any tool on your PC and it's accessible anywhere, anytime. Another advantage is the social experience. Many of the web-based RSS readers allow users to rate a particular news post or tag a post so that it is more meaningful to other users. As a result, users of online feed readers can benefit from their peers and have a sense of the most relevant items.

Now, to the other side of these web-based readers! The main disadvantage is its slowness and lack of customization and its . I find it more appealing to get my RSS feeds in a dedicated application on my computer, rather to check them on the web.

Some web-based Feed readers:
Google Reader

To conclude on RSS Readers, well, it all depends on your preference. If you are more into social networking and find it better to use the web to get your RSS feeds, then web-based readers are yours. On the other hand, if you want to customize your RSS reading experience and make it faster, go with the desktop-based readers. NewsGator FeedDemon combines these 2, therefore it's highly recommended.

Subscribing to your favorite websites offering RSS Feeds
Here are most of the RSS Feeds icons that you can find on the web. If a webpage supports RSS Feeds, then you will probably encounter one of these icons. To get the RSS Feed address, click the icon in use.

You cal also find a small orange RSS Feed icon on the address bar. Similar to the regular RSS icon, to get the RSS Feed address, click on that icon.:

You will then get the address of the RSS Feed in question:

Copy this address, open your RSS reader (I am using FeedDemon), and click on "Subscribe":

Enter the address of your RSS Feed:

Voila, you're done!

Partial Versus Full RSS Feeds
I think that RSS is one of greatest tools that facilitates the way you browse the net. With so many sites in your bookmarks, it would take quite a bit of time to go through and check whether or not our favorite sites have been updated. RSS allows the site to tell us when it’s changed, which in my opinion is the ideal solution. What’s even greater is that the content is also provided with this notification.

Content? mmmm, some RSS Feeds display the FULL content of the update in question, and some other only display partial content, or a small summary of the update in question.

In the case of FULL content, you can read the FULL article in the RSS reader and you don't need to click on a link and open that article in your browser.

In the case of partial RSS Feed, you will need to click on the link provided in the update in order to read the full article.

Each of these 2 approaches has its positive and negative points. You will surely encounter both.

That's it for now! Yalla, get your favorite RSS reader and start collecting your most interesting RSS Feeds.


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This is my little Leaf where I'll be sharing my knowledge, passion and opinions related to subjects and issues that I think are important and interesting. Opinions expressed here are my own personal opinions — they are not expressed by, for, or on behalf of any other person. I will try to present these issues in a plain and easy to understand format and provide references to materials I encountered while developing these opinions. Cheers!

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