If you haven’t run across this icon in the last few months you probably haven’t been online period (or on my site since it’s sitting right over there on the sidebar). What is this funny orange symbol you ask? and why does it matter?
That my friend, is an icon indicating an RSS “feed” which is basically a neatly packaged format for the content from a website, blog and much more. The best analogy I can think of is like a customizable newspaper on speed. Before newspapers if you wanted to know anything you had to go out and see it yourself. You might hear about news from thirty different people throughout the day, which was fine, but it would have been nicer if you knew they would all just come and tell you the details when you where ready for them to. Thus, the newspaper was born: News about a wide range of topics delivered right to your doorstep for you to read when it’s convienent for you. That was all fine and dandy till the Internet came along. And for that we meet our friend RSS.
With RSS you can compile your own newspaper, exactly the way you like it. Want sports news? Pick just the authors you like to read, or just the teams you want to follow. Want the weather? Pick just your home town, and maybe the forcast in the town your roadtriping to. But it get’s better. Want to know when your the package you shipped or ordered is arriving? track it with RSS.
And then it get’s really specific. I have RSS for any comments anyone leaves on any of my blogs, so I don’t have to click around checking them each individually. I have RSS from all my friends blogs, so I know when they’ve posted without having to check their individual site. I also RSS searches on ebay and craigslist for items I’m looking for. Pretty specific, if you catch my drift.
Now, I’ve done a bit of looking around at different RSS readers and each one has their own unique features, so today I’ll just introduce you to the one I use: Bloglines.
There are a few features I really like about bloglines. One, they make it quite user friendly to subscribe to different RSS feeds for blogs, weather, package tracking, etc. Also, since a number of people use it I’ve found some nice hacks and userscripts to make it even easier to use. Another really great feature is that you can setup email accounts so that any email subscriptions you have can show up in your RSS reader rather then your email inbox. That’s one of my favorite features. You can catagorize things into sections and read everything in that section, or click on just that individual feed. All very nice.