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Mike Richwalsky is the Web Administrator at Allegheny College, in Meadville, PA. He really digs RSS. His email address is mrichwal @ allegheny.edu and this presentation is available at http://www.allegheny.edu/bits2006
What we’ll talk about today: What is RSS? How is RSS being used? How can I use RSS? What does the future hold for RSS? Questions
RSS is a family of web feed formats, specified in XML and used for web syndication. RSS is used by (among other things) news websites, weblogs and podcasting. The abbreviation is variously used to refer to the following standards: Really Simple Syndication RSS 2.0 Rich Site Summary RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0 RDF Site Summary RSS 0.9, RSS 1.0
RSS is a methodology and technology for delivering content to users. Instead of using a browser to view a webpage, they use a client to “subscribe” to your feed. When you update your RSS feed, a user can receive that update automatically.
A Quick History. Before RSS several similar formats existed for syndicating web content. Microsoft created one for IE4, Netscape created one for their MyNetscape portal. The idea and spec were abandoned, but Dave Winer of Scripting News carried the torch and pushed development of several versions of the format. See the Wikipedia entry on RSS for a detailed history.
RSS is everywhere around you. You browse the web and may have never noticed the varieties of syndicated content all around the web. Here are a few examples.
Okay, now what? Now you see the content out there? How do you view it? Viewing it in a browser may look like this…
We need a program that can make sense of that XML and make it pretty and useful. There are custom readers as well as web-based tools and even web browsers. Let’s take a look.
Enter the news-reader. These programs manage your subscriptions. They do the dirty work of making sure you’re up to date with the latest information. FeedDemon http://www.feeddemon.com NetNewsWire Mac OS X NewsGator Outlook Plugins
Take them with you. One of the drawbacks of stand-alone programs is that you may have one set up updates at work and others at home. Web-based readers let you take your feeds anywhere. BlogLines http://www.bloglines.com Google Reader http://reader.google.com Kinja http://www.kinja.com
Now you can let the browser do the work. Firefox and Safari let you subscribe to feeds right in the browser.
Generating content may be easier then you think. Many CMS and blogging tools already do the heavy lifting. Want to create custom RSS? PHP and .NET have tools and functions to do much of the work.
Why offer RSS? Consumer choice. Give them the means to access the information you have to offer in any format they want, when they want it. Offering a feed allows the user to keep in touch with what’s happening with you without having to visit your site every day/week/month.
Why offer RSS? Offer a variety of information. News and press releases? Yes. Events calendar? Nice. Sales and specials? Excellent. Custom inventory levels for each customer? Sure. It’s all about the relationship.
Create your own portal. ErieBlogs.com has a tool that grabs RSS feeds of local bloggers to create a real-time list of the most recent posts. With RSS, you can pull in feeds from sources, parse and format, and offer that information to your customers. Or, create your own private portal and do some market research and trend-watching.
What’s the buzz on the blogs? Tools like Technorati, Google Blog Search, IceRocket, Gnosh and more offer RSS feeds based on terms you enter. Use this to monitor what the blogosphere is saying about you.
What does the future hold? Mobile readers. Feedburner and distribution. Podcasting. Services like Gnosh and A9 coming to the forefront of searching RSS. Social Bookmarking.