From the Kenosha News on 1-1-06

Use RSS to keep up on news and more

More and more web sites are now providing RSS feeds. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication", which doesn't help explain what it is. For the average user, RSS provides a way to keep up with the latest from web sites they're interested in without actually going there. Still confused? Let's use some examples to understand it.

First, think of some bits of information you'd like to stay current on: news headlines, current events, how your elected officials are voting, how your stocks are performing, etc. To visit all the corresponding web sites could take a long time, and you might find very little you're actually interested in. RSS allows just the headlines to be sent to your computer and compiled in one convenient location. From there you click on the items that interest you, and the appropriate web page will be displayed directly without navigating the actual web site. If that's still confusing, read the AARP's RSS primer at http://www.aarp.org/learntech/computers/howto/a2004-07-21-rssfeed.html.

The headlines are sent to you in an "RSS feed." To get RSS feeds from one ore more RSS-capable sites, you'll need an RSS Reader program. There are many free ones out there. If you want a reputable name, Google makes a feed reader that you can download from http://reader.google.com. A brief list of RSS readers can be found at http://blogspace.com/rss/readers, and a comprehensive list at http://allrss.com/rssreaderswindows.html. I chose one from the longer list called FeedThing 1.0; it was written by an individual who wanted a small program that didn't require a lot of resources. I like the simple approach.

You can also use a web-based RSS reader such as the one at http://www.bloglines.com/. The advantage of a web-based reader is about the same as web-based e-mail – you can access it from any computer anywhere without installing special software.

Once you've chosen and installed (or set up) a feed reader, you're ready to populate it with RSS feeds. For example, suppose you'd like to keep up with the most recent votes in congress. Point your web browser to http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/rss/. Right click on the link to "feed of the 10 most recent votes", then click Copy Shortcut from the pop-up menu. Launch your RSS feed reader and click on the button or menu item to add feeds. Place your cursor in the box where you would type the feed URL (address.) Press Ctrl-V to paste the address. Press Enter or click the OK button.

It'll take a little research to find sites that interest you that have RSS feeds. If you browse news sites already, just look for an RSS link on their page. Often, it appears as an orange rectangle labeled RSS. Here are some diverse sites that use RSS:

(Thanks to David Love – one of my colleagues – for providing info for this article.)

 

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 1-1-06