How can I use RSS?

At Bargains for Geeks we receive emails from time-to-time asking about the RSS feed feature we provide and how it can be used. Today we are taking a few minutes to cover what an RSS feed is, how you can use it, what you need and how to validate the ones you subscribe too.

What is RSS?How Can I Use RSS?
How can I use RSS?
How do I get a news reader?
Can I use these feeds on my site?
How to validate?

What is RSS?

The acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication. The theory behind RSS is that information on the web is pushed to you, rather then you pulling it. For example, lets say you love the all American sport, Baseball. Well, traditionally you would visit a website such as ESPN.com and look up scores, stats news and information. This would fall under the “pull” theory. However, RSS simplifies this process and lets you have information “pushed” directly to you, at one location. Now you are getting all the news and information without having to look for it. After all, isn’t it better to have the latest news and information delivered directly to you, rather than clicking from site to site?

RSS allows you to see when sites from all over the internet have added new content, in real time. You can get the latest headlines and articles (or even audio files, photographs or video) in one place, as soon as they are published, without having to remember which sites to visit and then visit them each day.

How Can I use RSS?

The most common use or integration of RSS for a web surfer is on a customized homepage. Just about everyone I know has a customized homepage for the internet. Whether it’s from Google, Yahoo or MSN a customized homepage allows you to select what information you want displayed when you log-on to the internet (that first page when you open your browser). These custom homepages have an RSS news reader capability so you get streaming news and information in one, familiar place, the second it happens.

Not all websites currently provide RSS, but Really Simple Syndication is getting more popular and is a great barometer about the website and whether it’s current and provides reputable information. Bargains for Geeks provides RSS capability for those who love USB powered gadgets.

How do I get a news reader?

In general, the first thing you need is something called a news reader and, as mentioned before, most search engines have this feature when using a customized homepage or start page. A news reader is a piece of software which checks RSS feeds and lets you read anything new that was added to them. There are many different versions, some of which are accessed using a browser, and some of which are downloadable applications. Browser-based news readers let you catch up with RSS feed subscriptions from any computer – which is what Bargains for Geeks recommends, whereas downloadable applications let you store them on your main computer, in the same way that you either download your e-mail using Outlook, or keep it on a web-based service like Hotmail or Gmail.

Once you have chosen a news reader or customized a homepage, simply decide which content you want to receive automatically via RSS. You can do this by looking on your favorite web sites for the RSS logo, click on it and then subscribe. For example, if you would like the latest information on USB gadgets, then visit the sidebar (navigation area on right side) and click on the RSS logo or the quick link to add to your homepage for Google, Yahoo or MSN.

Can I use these feeds on my site?

On the flip side of a web surfer is a webmaster or web programmer. They too can benefit from RSS technology. For example, RSS gives a web programmer the ability to automatically update their site and provide the most current news and information to their visitors. Since content found in Really Simply Syndication is, by definition, information intended for redistributed, this is a great tool for fresh website content. Note; it is important to re-syndicate the information exactly as received along with credits to those due otherwise you are infringing on copy write laws. Now, going back to the example, if you run a technology website or blog you might find it very worth while to syndicate information about USB gadgets and this can easily be done using the RSS feature of Bargains for Geeks.

News readers can also be found in web browser software such as Firefox, Opera and Safari, and will automatically check for RSS feeds when you visit a site. This is the ultimate in making RSS subscriptions a snap with just a single mouse click. For more details on news readers below are some quick links to their respective websites:

NEWS READERS
Windows
* Newz Crawler
* FeedDemon
* Awasu

Mac OS X
* Newsfire
* NetNewsWire

Web
* Google Reader
* Bloglines
* My Yahoo!
* NewsGator

Browser
* Mozilla Firefox

How do I know an RSS feed is good?

The last thing you can do is check to make sure the RSS feed is valid, meaning the format of the feed is correct to display the content being syndicated. Typically an RSS feed is validated by the web programmer or webmaster because they want to insure the format is correct. So if you are a web surfer it shouldn’t be a big concern. However, if you need or want to validate a feed, one of the most common RSS validators is FeedValidator.org.

RSS Filter or Feed Filter

Many users are catching on to the RSS news readers and enjoy the ease and convenience of the entire process. However, some further stream line their flow of information by use feed filters. An RSS filter or feed filter uses a keyword to only process those articles which contain the keyword. FilterMyRSS is an example of a simple, yet powerful feed filter. Most services have the ability to filter on a feed description, title or category. In addition using multiple keywords is not a problem. Using an RSS filter, one may selectively receive only the information which is important to them.

In conclusion, if you haven’t tried RSS yet, you should. It makes life much easier and more convenient. It will reduce the amount of spam email and all the while get you the news and information you need on the topics you want. Cheers and good luck.