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Saturday
May012010

What is RSS and How it Benefits You!



RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication'.

How many websites do YOU visit every day?

I visit about 10 news websites like CNN, MSN, Yahoo, Sign On San Diego, and others. I also visit several photographer blogs, technology blogs, Hulu, NFL, and many more. I probably visit each site, especially news sites, several times per day. Sometimes there's new stuff to read. Other times there's nada, zippo, zilch. Wouldn't it be nice if someone could just tell me when there's new stuff there to read so that I don't have to waste my time visiting all these sites over and over again?

RSS is a technology that is being used by millions of web users around the world to keep track of their favorite websites. In the 'old days' of the web, to keep track of updates on a website you had to ‘bookmark’ websites in your browser and manually return to them on a regular basis to see what had been added. The problems with bookmarking are that you as the web surfer have to do all the work (i know....it's not 'that' much but hey...I'm lazy), it can get complicated when you are trying to track many websites at once, you miss information when you forget to check your bookmarks, or you end up seeing the same information over and over again on sites that don’t update very often.

Many people describe RSS as a ‘news feed’ that you subscribe to. In this way, it’s like subscribing to a magazine that is delivered to you periodically but instead of it coming to your physical mail box each month it is delivered to your ‘RSS Reader’ every time your favorite website updates.

Before we get into more details, have a look at this short video clip to see RSS in action making your life a little easier:


RSS In Plain English

Step-By-Step Instructions To Setting Up Your Reader

Visit www.Google.com/Reader to establish an account. Why Google Reader? Google Reader is actually one of many RSS readers that you can use. If you prefer to use a different reader, you should. They all work in a relatively similar manner and I'm only demonstrating with Google Reader because it's what I use. Also, most RSS readers, including Google Reader, are free!



From there, if you already have a Gmail account, sign in with your Gmail credentials.



If you don't yet have a Gmail account and would like to create one, click "Create an account" and follow the necessary prompts.



Once logged in to Google Reader, you'll see a dashboard page that looks something like this:



The next step is to locate one of your favorite sites to add to your new RSS Reader. Let's start with this blog for example. In the upper right hand corner of this page you will see this button:



Click once on it.


Next, you will be redirected from that page to a new one at this address: http://feeds.feedburner.com/SensoryEscapeImages shown here:



You'll notice the many RSS readers that you can use to subscribe to this RSS feed with.



Click on the option for 'Google' as shown below:



The next screen you will see will look like the image below. Make the selection for 'Add to Google Reader'.



Almost finished! Here's how it looks in my own Google Reader.



I think I'd like to rename it though so that I know exactly what 'Blog' it is that I'm subscribed to when I come back later to view all my subscriptions. To do this, with 'Blog' selected, simply click on the small downward pointing arrow once and in the dropdown list that appears, select 'Rename Subscription'.



In the dialog box that appears in the middle of the screen, I replaced 'Blog' with 'Sensory Escape Images Blog'.



Note: RSS technology is still a bit imperfect. Not all blog content is rendered in the RSS readers exactly the same as the actual site so think of RSS Readers as pagers. When your pager goes off, you'll know to visit your reader to see what's up. If you find something interesting there, you can click on the link in the reader to be taken directly to that page on your favorite site. This saves you so much time that would have normally been spent visiting sites with no guarantee of new and interesting content.

For help understanding the nuts and bolts of Google Reader, visit their Help Page for more info.

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