Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

An introduction to RSS

RSS has got to be one of my favorite reporting tools. Although my writing lately is limited to this blog and News Videographer, I still have to find something to write about and keep current in my field. That means communicating with a lot of people.

But I don’t have time to talk to all those people. Many of them have Web sites and blogs, and those who don’t get written about online by the former. It’s much easier and faster for all this information to be compiled in one place for my viewing pleasure.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It is most often characterized by the orange and white icon you may see on many Web sites. (See the icon at the top of the right column?) An RSS feed basically delivers new content from a chosen site to a feed reader of your choice.

A feed reader, also known as a news aggregator, can be compared to your e-mail inbox. Instead of e-mail addressed to you, it receives the updates you have subscribed to. Some readers let you interact and organize your subscriptions in many different ways.

So start receiving these handy-dandy updates, you first need a feed reader. My favorite is Google Reader, but other options are available such as Bloglines and NewsGator. You can also choose, like e-mail, to use a Web-based or desktop feed reader. You can peruse these options by simply doing a search for feed readers.

Having chosen your feed reader, start subscribing! In most cases, the orange and white RSS icon will appear somewhere on a Web site. Some browsers will also show the icon in the address bar if there is a feed for that site. Some sites do not have feeds.

I’ve subscribed to a slew of different sites, from news to blogs to entertainment and more. If your city government has a Web site, chances are it has some sort of feed (even Gainesville has one for municipal minutes). State and federal governments are more likely to provide more information. And don’t discount blogs! Even though you will have to double-check the information, blogs are an amazing resource, and with a little hunting you can find the good ones.

Now, all you have to do is remember to check the feed reader every day.

This post was also published at Wired Journalists.