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Spoon feeding

Are you a lazy bum like 90% of humans on this planet? Then you gotta do RSS, says Aditya MJ

All of us have a list of websites that we visit everyday, right? Wouldn’t it be great if we could check each of these sites from one place? Well, RSS (Rich Site Summary of Really Simple Syndication) does just that. News based websites, which get updated frequently, started providing RSS feeds first. But now it is commonly used by blogs, podcasts and other websites like download.com.

My spaces
My Yahoo! Or My MSN spaces are the easiest way of using RSS. Most websites that employ RSS feeds have an ‘add to My Yahoo!’ or ‘add to My MSN’ buttons, that you simply need to click.

If these websites don’t have the buttons, then you first copy their feed address (just click on the button which says ‘Web Feed’). Then go to your My Yahoo! or My MSN website and click on ‘add content’ link and paste the feed address. By adding a number of sources in your space, you can browse through the websites you visit regularly from one place.

You can also create a custom feed by feeding in a search term like “technology” or “Cricket India”. Any updates related to the search term get automatically syndicated and added to your space. Yahoo! also offers an innovative service of feed/blog alert beta Feed/blog alert sends a message to your IM, to your inbox or even your mobile phone whenever a website you are keeping track of gets updated. Pretty convenient, eh? This means that every time a friend updates his or her blog, you get to know of it in real time!

Aggregators are basically third party programs that keep track of feeds. These are also called newsreaders and feedreaders. There are two kinds of aggregators: web based aggregators and desktop aggregators. The services discussed here are free of spam, free of adware, and free of cost.

Web based aggregators
Like My Yahoo! or My MSN, web based aggregators provide an online information space where you can read an accumulation of syndicated content. Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) is a popular service that not only allows you to gather content in a very simple to use and customizable directory structure (categorize different feeds in different directories), but also lets you share your feeds with others. That way other people can read what you are interested in. This service also automatically detects RSS feeds if you simply type in the url of the website.

Google has a feedreader service too, called Google Reader (www.google.com/reader). It has simple a no-nonsense interface, with brief summaries of feeds available in rows. You can choose to keep track of your favorites amongst your favorites with a star (the same gmail one).

Some online aggregators have preselected feeds and do not let you customize them. These are basically websites which keep you updated with relevant information from various sources.

Take for example www.indianews.infoindia.in, which is an aggregator of all India-related news.

Desktop aggregators
Feedreader from www.feedreader.com is a 3.5MB download. A highly configurable feedreader, you can organize your feeds in a directory structure. It’s like using Microsoft Explorer.

Snarfer from www.snarfware.com is another popular offline feedreader, and is just a 250KB download. Iy comes preloaded with a lot of popular feeds, so you know what’s in and what to read right away. Highly recommended.

Feed Explorer from www.feedexplorer.net has a nice tabbed interface, and an integrated search feature. Some paid feedreaders come bundled with powerful features such as directly updating your ipods with podcasts and automatically printing out updates.

Linux users will like the simple Rawdog newsreader available from www.offog.org/code/rawdog.html.

Web Browsers
Browsers like Opera, Firefox and Safari have built-in feed reading capabilities. Websites that have RSS feeds are automatically detected with the orange icon appearing in the address bar. Reading a RSS feed from your browser is like reading bookmarks. Unfortunately more popular browsers (like Internet Explorer) do not have this feature. Save all the sites that you visit regularly in one bookmark folder, and then open it as a group. You can also open the group automatically every time the browser starts.

Your feeds
Have a weblog? You have a band and want to start a podcast? (bodhiTree’s blog acts as one: xlkikudiyan.blogspot.com) Want to syndicate your content?

Well, all blogs service automatically generate syndicated content in both RSS and Atom formats. But you can make it easier for regular visitors to use the feeds by adding RSS button to your blog. Adding the “add to My Yahoo!” or “feedreader” buttons, will be an added advantage. To do this, visit the website of the aggregator you want to add a button to, and follow the instructions. It will usually be a simple block of coding that you will have to copy paste into your sidebar. Don’t worry, it’s a pretty simple trick.

There are many kinds of RSS variants for web syndication as well as the XML and Atom formats. Most of this article applies for these kinds of syndication as well, and you can use the newsreaders, aggregators and websites with these formats.

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