RSS - How Simple is Really Simple Syndication?


RSS is really simple! You know what is not simple? Keeping track of all the things you see on the web that you want to read. Using a RSS reader or “aggregator” can simplify your information gathering and help you organize your favorite websites.

Most blogs and websites also publish their posts, articles, and other updates in a standard data format that can be read by RSS readers. This allows anyone to “aggregate” or assemble the news and information they want to read into their own personal “newspaper” or web page.

The easiest way to get started using RSS is with a web portal. A web portal allows you to select and organize pieces of websites and other information onto your own personal home page, so whenever you open your web browser, you begin with your unique customized pathway or “portal” to the Internet. The three major web portals are My Yahoo, My MSN and iGoogle.

RSS readers started as standalone applications and there are many still available. But RSS is more commonly used in some type of web portal today. You can also receive many RSS feeds by email. In fact, if you subscribe to this blog by email, you will be receiving email with an RSS feed for each new post. Please try it! You can always unsubscribe later.

All three of the major portals allow you to choose from many content options and gadgets. All of them have weather and email gadgets, and preconfigured news readers for the major news sources like AP, Reuters, NY Times, and CNN. In fact there are so many to choose from, you can spend the whole day customizing your home page. If a day is not long enough, all three also allow you to arrange multiple customized pages with tabs to access them quickly.

The web portal you use will probably be the one integrated with the email you use. If you use Hotmail, My MSN is probably a good choice for a web portal. If you use Gmail, you should try iGoogle. My Yahoo is a good choice if you use Yahoo Mail. You will need a corresponding email account to use them. You don’t have to use the email unless you want. You just need the account to access your portal page. All three, along with their respective email, are free to use, so experiment all you want!


My own My Yahoo "Tech" page


Once you have setup your free email account, you can access your personal portal page and start customizing it. It’s really easy, and if you mess it up, you can always start over! The easiest way to add your favorite blog or website feed to your portal is to start from the blog or website. To find a blog or website RSS feed, Look for a link named “RSS” or this symbol:
RSS symbol

You will find the RSS symbol in the upper right corner of this blog. Many sites, like this one, use a service called FeedBurner to convert posts and provide them as RSS feeds. If they do, when you click on their RSS symbol, you will see a group of icons that look like this:

feedburner icons

Simply choose the one corresponding to the portal or reader you use, and it will be added to your portal page. You have probably noticed there is no icon for My MSN. But, don’t worry - it is still easy to add a feed to My MSN. All you need is the URL (website address) for the feed.  This blog’s feed URL is http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/beaYXS. You can see it in the address bar of the feed's browser window on most sites and copy it from there.

Then go to your my.msn.com page and choose the “Add Content” link in the upper right of the page. The next page will show a list of content types on the left side. Choose “Add RSS”, paste or type in your feed’s URL, and click “Add Feed”. You can use a similar method to add a feed to your My Yahoo or iGoogle page, if the blog or website feed you want, doesn't use FeedBurner. Just find the feed's URL. My Yahoo and iGoogle also have a direct way to add a RSS feed using a URL.

The best way to learn about your new portal is to play around with all the different options. You can choose different themes and colors - add new pages and all kinds of different gadgets. I see so many people whose home page is the default Yahoo, MSN or even Google's home page. If you are like them, you are missing out on a much more satisfying web browsing experience. So, get to customizing and portalizing and RSSalizing!





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