10 Steps to RSStocracy
How RSS can help you track twice as much news in half the time
If it’s easy to love the Internet for making a world of information instantly available, it’s just as easy to hate the Net for demanding that we spend more and more of our time scanning computer screens in order to stay up to date, in the loop and on the ball.
Happily, the latest trend to sweep the Net offers a three-letter solution to the ever-increasing demands of news and information monitoring. RSS — which might stand for “really simple syndication” or “RDF site summary”, depending on who you listen to — represents a huge leap forward in making web content easy to access and quick to read. Spend ten minutes getting RSS literate and you’ll save at least that much time every day — while becoming better, smarter and more attractive to the same or opposite sex.
What is RSS?
I could cop out here and just point you to the Wikipedia entry, but I figure that the kind of people who like to look stuff up in Wikipedia are the kind who already have an arm-waving acquaintance with RSS. So here’s the short definition: RSS is a format for storing online information in a way that makes that information readable by lots of different kinds of software. An RSS page looks like this; links to RSS feeds are often displayed as or or . You may also hear about XML or Atom; Atom and RSS are both particular types of XML files (XML is the broad standard that makes online information easy to share across different browsers, programs or operating systems).
Web sites that update their information regularly (like blogs and news sites) increasingly offer RSS and/or Atom versions of their content as a way of making life easier for their readers. If you notice a web site has a little orange button or a piece of text that says “XML”, “RSS” or “Atom”, those are links to an RSS or Atom feed. A feed is a constantly updated RSS version of one (or more) web pages, which you can subscribe to using a “newsreader” or “news aggregator”. If you use a newsreader to subscribe to RSS feeds from your favourite web sites, you can spend twenty minutes reading all your favourite news sources in one place, instead of thirty minutes flipping from one site to the next.
How can I use RSS to become better, smarter and more attractive to the same or opposite sex?
Here are the 10 simple, painless steps to becoming an RSS user:
- Decide whether you want to read your news online (with a “server-side” or “web-based” newsreader) or on your computer (with a desktop newsreader). Some thoughts:
- Online newsreaders are web sites that let you read RSS feeds from within your web browser. They are good for people who have frequent or constant Internet access, who use more than one computer, need to read news while on the road using other computers, or reading news via public terminals. They also offer more options to Mac users and other non-Windows users since there are fewer desktop newsreaders for Macs.
- Desktop newsreaders download the news to your computer, and let you read your news inside a dedicated software program. They are good for people who want to read news even when they’re not connected to the Internet (for example on their laptop on an airplane, or at home with a dial-up modem that shares a phone line).
- Choose a specific newsreader — either online or desktop. A few options (click links for detailed instructions):
- Bloglines (online)
- Pluck (online or desktop versions)
- Newsgator (documentation coming soon)(online or desktop versions)
For descriptions of these newsreaders and a few other options, check out CNet’s review of some of the leading RSS readers. (RSS monkeys: add your favourite newsreader to this list by adding a comment to this page with a link to your own step-by-step instructions.)
- For desktop newsreaders: download and install your chosen newsreader software OR for online newsreaders, setup your account (which typically involves activating your account by clicking on a link in a confirmation email).
- Launch your desktop newsreader or login to your online newsreader account.
- Create a bookmarklet for your web browser so that you can easily add RSS feeds to your reader (this option is usually under “tools”). This bookmarklet is a shortcut that you add to your browser’s bookmarks bar so that you can subcribe to RSS feeds with a single click
- Now you’re ready to subscribe to some news feeds. Go to some of your favourite blogs and news sites (maybe the ones you have saved in your browser’s “favourites” bar) and subscribe to their feeds, OR
- Use my my public list of Bloglines subscriptions to get started:
- If you’re using Bloglines: Click on a particular folder or feed title in the left-hand sidebar to preview the latest news items it contains. If you find a feed that interests you, click “subscribe” in blue button bar on the upper-right-hand side of the page.
- If you’re using another newsreader, use its “import OPML subscriptions” option, and input this URL to import my subscriptions: http://www.bloglines.com/export?id=AlexandraSamuel (Note: Some newsreaders will require you to import a file that’s on your computer, not online; in this case you’ll need to save my OPML file to your computer by right-clicking or control-clicking in the window that opens when you click here. Then upload this file via your newsreader’s “import subscriptions” option.)
But wait! I don’t feel better, smarter or more attractive yet.
Like growing your hair or learning to ride a unicycle, life improvement via RSS takes time. Unlike hair and unicycles, it doesn’t take very much time: within about 24 to 48 hours of setting up your newsreader and subscribing to some news feeds, you’ll find that you’re reading more news in less time. In other words you will be better informed, smarter about the world around you, and less likely to embarrass yourself at cocktail parties by being out-of-the-loop on the latest book/meme/Hollywood gossip.
In fact, you’re going to be so much more efficient in your media tracking that you’ll have at least an extra ten minutes a day to do sit-ups, touch up your manicure, cultivate inner peace or whatever it is that you think will make you more attractive to the same or opposite sex.
What, you thought I was going to do that for you?