The Digital Photo Guy

Simplify Your Life – Subscribe via RSS

by on Mar.10, 2009, under Articles, Website

Does anyone remember the unfulfilled promises of the “paperless office?” Do you recall how life was supposed to be in a world where all communications and information would be electronic and paper would be forever banished to the dust bins of history? Well, citizen, it ain’t working out too well. If you’re like me and get most of your information from the web, it’s getting more and more complex to find the right information at the right time in the right format. You can simplify some of this by using a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which “pushes” only the info you want to you as it is posted on the web.

If you’ve ever read newspaper columns like Ann Landers or op ed pieces by George Will or cartoonists like Scott Adams (Dilbert), you know how sydication used to work. In the good old days, a writer or cartoonist would produce a piece and send it to many newspapers for distribution. Each newspaper paid for the right to reproduce that piece. As you can imagine, managing all those subscriptions and sending all that paper and keeping track of all the payments and royalties was a real pain in the “you-know-what” (rhymes with gas). RSS is the same idea but at a much more proletarian level. Sure, there are big sites like CNN and MSNBC that use RSS but the technology is so simple that even numbskulls like I can deploy RSS.

There are two parts to RSS. First, you need an RSS-enabled site that publishes information that you want to see such as my site. After all you’re reading this drivel so you must be interested. An RSS enabled site will have an RSS symbol like this:

 An RSS Feed icon.

That icon tells you that you can subscribe to have the site notify you whenever new content is added to the site. Some sites have many RSS feeds covering different aspects of the site. For example, CNN might have RSS feeds for World News, US News, Politics, Sports and every other major subject they cover. Other sites, like mine, have just one feed because it’s not that difficult to keep up with everything that happens here.

The other half of the equation is an RSS Reader. There are many different readers so I’m only going to cover the 2 “biggies” and a directory of other readers. Google Reader and MyYahoo! are two ways to get feeds directly from my site. You need an account with either Google or Yahoo! to use either but most people already have a “junk e-mail” account with one or the other so that shouldn’t be a problem.

With Google Reader (below left), click Add Subscription (1) and type my URL to add it to your list of subscriptions (2) and show you the first few lines of each entry (3).

Google Reader    Yahoo! Reader

With MyYahoo! (above right), click Add Content (1) and the entire dark menu will appear. Click Add RSS Feed (2) and type into the dialog that appears.

For those who want a stand-alone reader that doesn’t need a Google or Yahoo! account, check out this page for a list of 3rd party readers.

It may not be very useful if my site is the only one you want to track but if you’re like most people, you can add any site that uses RSS. All your daily info fix will be in one place. You can also make a Favorites entry so you can easily see all your feeds with one click.

Once most of my readers start using RSS, I plan to discontinue the weekly e-mail blast which has become a major PITA.


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