Getting started with RSS

Written By: Jorge Gonzalez

RSS is probably the biggest and latest buzzword among the techies, just after blogs.
But what is RSS anyway and how can you start taking advantage of it?

RSS is a format to provide headlines and summaries of information in a simple and standardized way. Think of it as a distributable “What’s New” for websites.

RSS is great for users because it saves users from having to repeatedly visit favorite websites to check for new content or be notified of updates via email. It can give a glimpse of a site’s latest concrete contents (no design) in a second.

RSS is also great for site owners because:
<li> The summaries of their content can be republished all over the web, which gets new links and visits to the site. <li> They get more returning visitors, since users can suscribe to the feed to keep up with the site’s updates. <li> More profits: RSS feeds can contain ads, such as Google Adsense.

RSS feeds can be used for: <li> Blogs entries <li> Forum entries <li> Articles <li> News <li> Events <li> Latest products / discounts / specials <li> Music (podcasting)

An “RSS feed” it’s the actual RSS file with headlines. To have a glimpse of how it looks like and what it can contain, we’ll examine the feed from SelfHelpCommunity.com step by step:

<code> <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”ISO-8859-1″ ?>
<rss version=”2.0″>
       <title>Self-Help Community</title>
       <description>Self-Help Community is the absolute online reference on Self-Help …</description>
       <copyright>Copyright 2005 Self-Help Community. All Rights Reserved.</copyright>
       <lastBuildDate>Tue, 19 Jul 2005 07:33:57 GMT</lastBuildDate>
          <title>Engaging in the Moment for More Effective Living.</title>
          <description>Want to learn how being engaged in the moment can enhance your life experience as well as your business? Here, Adam Eason shows how anybody can learn how to engage in the present more to enrich your life more and more wonderfully.</description>
          <pubDate>Fri, 15 Jul 2005 00:00:00 GMT</pubDate>

       (… more <items> here, up to 15 … )

</rss> </code>

First we declare it as an XML file (RSS is an XML standard), then the RSS tag and version (at this time, 2.0 is the latest). Then we start with the channel which contains some general description of the feed and provider like title, link, description, and finally the actual items. Each item contains a title, a brief description, a publication date and a link to the rest of the item. To see all the information you can display, check out the official RSS 2.0 specification.

There are several ways to read an RSS feed: <li>Using your browser or even notepad –since it’s just an XML file (formatted flat text). <li>Using a standalone desktop aggregator –such as FeedDemon, SharpReader, RssReader, and others. <li>Using your e-mail client –NewsGator Email Edition plugs into Outlook Express, Eudora, Entourage, Apple Mail, or other POP3 e-mail clients and lets you receive RSS feeds right in your e-mail window. The same company’s Outlook Edition integrates RSS with Microsoft Outlook. And Mozilla’s Thunderbird e-mail client comes with RSS-reading capabilities built in. <li>Using your mobile device –using a service such as FeedBeep, NewsGator Mobile Edition, Yahoo Mobile, or Elfinland.

To create an RSS for your own site, there is the option to create it by hand, or using a software like FeedForAll, or an online service like RSS creator.

Finally, to search for established RSS feeds you can use our very own RSS search engine, and to quickly submit your RSS feed to several directories, you can use our RSS submit tool.
About the Author

Jorge Gonzalez is one of the creators of the YourFeeds.com RSS search engine: http://www.yourfeeds.com

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