Thursday, April 17, 2008

Real Simple Syndication Part 1

Per a request from Burke, I am going to do a short series on how to use Real Simple Syndication(RSS) on the web.

RSS is a simplified way to aggregate web data in one uniform place. What this means in simpler terms is that information from many different places can be gathered quickly to one place. The best usage is on frequently read websites or blogs. An RSS reader can periodically gather the headlines of any new material appearing on your favorite sites. This can be helpful when trying to keep up to date on all of the family blogs.

A quality RSS reader will let you know when a site has changed and pull the article to you. This alleviates the time spent having to navigate to each individual page. This isn't limited to just blogs or news sites. RSS is really powerful. I use a google search powered feed to keep up to date on important company information. I also keep track of sale items on certain websites like Amazon, Ebay and Woot.

Here's an example of my favorite RSS reader, Google Reader. Click on the pic for a larger view. You can see that I am tracking over 100 websites categorized in multiple folders. This is a shot of my "family blogs" folder. I can look at the list in two ways, by individual blogs or by folder. If I choose to look by folder the individual articles will appear chronologically in the order that they were pulled to the reader. So I can essentially read all of them at once without having to read each individually. I am able to sift through thousands of headlines each week instead of hundreds. It's a real time saver, Clark! As I skim, Google Reader marks each as read and indexes them. This is where it gets really powerful. Reader has integrated Google's search technology to keep track of what you have read. If you can't remember where you saw a certain news item or recipe you can use Readers integrated search to find the data within articles you have read! This saves you from having to skim through a sizable blog or trying to find a single article using a broader search tool.

Getting started is simple. Internet Explorer 7 has a built in RSS reader but it's rudimentary at best. I would avoid it. I have used most popular readers and as you can tell from this article, I think Google has done it right. Go to to start. It has a great video that will explain how to use it and they have a bunch of awesome pre-built feeds in multiple categories. Plus if you already have a google account(blogger, gmail, picasa, etc.), it's waiting for you already!


If you have any questions or need help, leave a comment and I will address them here so everyone can benefit.

FYI - The big orange logo above is used by many sites to indicate whether or not they have a feed available. Where that feed exists depends on each individual site.

Hope this is what you want, Burkie.


Neil said...

Thanks Matt, I am really going to try you think I am too old to learn? I hope not...not too old to learn...only that you think that I am not too old to learn! I'm going to hook my kids up with this info too. LUV..Auntie V.

Burke said...


Thanks for the education. I have already set up my reader page. Is there a way to find links to specific company information. For example, if I wanted to see all the articles about IM Flash, could I set that up somewhere?

Big Red Cat said...

Go to and type in "IM flash technologies" in quotes in the news search bar. When the page loads, look to the left sidebar on the page and find the RSS link. You can copy this link and add it to your reader manually. It will add any new articles to the feed as google finds them.