I keep coming across people who are not familiar with RSS and how it can simplify your life if you'd like to keep current with a range of blogs.
When you open a morning newspaper you read stories from around the world assembled by editors from hundreds of sources (wire services, reporters). The paper prints the same news for every reader - you choose which stories to read. Instead of relying on a editor to choose the news, how would you like to have a 'morning newspaper' delivered each and every day with stories on topics *you* choose? With a free "Blog Reader" or news aggregator you can create a personal page on your web browser loaded with the freshest news about the things you love.
The way you set up your 'personal newspaper' involves a few steps and can seem a little tricky. Follow my step-by-guide below and you'll be reading information about your topic from all over the Internet on one web page. A little investment of your time will pay off.
You'll need about 30 minutes to follow the steps below. Ready ? Let's go!
Introduction - What is a Blog ?
Basically, a blog (WeB LOG) is an online diary. There are millions and millions out there! The trick is finding the ones that have information you need and flagging them when they post updates. Advantage: you get the 'inside scoop' before most people in your industry. The good news about blogs is that are probably dozens you will find interesting, the bad news is that means there are dozens of bookmarks you must keep, and since bloggers don't post on a regular schedule you never know when you need to check back to read updates. That's why you need a "blog reader". Technically it's known as an "RSS Reader".
So Why Read Blogs ?
There are as many reasons to read blogs as there are people. Each person's reasons are different. Here are a few reasons I read blogs:
- I get a direct line into the thinking of important people in the field. In technology this could be Jonathan Schwartz (Sun) or Irving Wladawsky-Berger (IBM). In the media it might be Dan Gillmor (San Jose Mercury News). Or perhaps it's people with their finger on the culture like Craig Newmark (craigslist). It's unfiltered and in their own words.
- Reading from a news aggregator is a much quicker way of reading news. For example, when I log in in the morning and hop over to Bloglines, in one interface I can see what many people are commenting on, along with news outlets like the NY Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe. This beats visiting the websites individually to see if they might have some updated content to read.
- You get a much better picture of the individuals involved; what they're working on, what their concerns are, sometimes even what their favorite restaurant is. Most bloggers like to read Comments you can leave. This is a great way to build relationships. It's not a replacement for personal interaction, of course, but one that has its place and has a lot more scale to it.
- Announcements are often made first in blogs.
What is an RSS Reader ?
RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication'. Just like your morning paper relies on syndicated news from AP, Reuters etc, so your blog reader will rely on the fact that most blogs 'syndicate' their news - they can 'feed' it to your blog reader for you to review.
A news reader or aggregator checks a list of feeds on your behalf and displays any updated articles that it finds. It is common to find web feeds on nearly all blogs as well as many websites such CNN.com. RSS programs are available for various operating systems.