RSS and Readers

In a post on listening tools I mentioned the topics of RSS and Readers. Here is a more detailed explanation.

RSS is a syndication technology. There is some debate on what RSS stands for, but the most commonly accepted answer is that RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. This makes perfect sense because (1) it’s a syndication technology and (2) it is really simple to use.

RSS is described as a syndication technology because it allows folks to distribute or disperse content from their website or blog. Once published, the content can be consumed by the audience or republished on another website. Content distributed via RSS is called a feed. RSS feeds can be written blog entries, twitter streams, photo streams (from sites like flickr), audio or video content, or social content (e.g. Facebook updates).

To consume RSS content you’ll need a reader or viewer. There are lots of options for RSS readers but my preference is the free and easy tool from Google called (appropriately) Reader. Here are a few videos on Google’s Reader:

I like this Reader because it’s free and easy to use. It allows me to follow a couple dozen blogs without having to visit a couple dozen blog sites. It keeps track of the stuff I have read or not read and even keeps some rudimentary statistics (which is cool for people who are into data). It makes it easy to share stuff I like with my network of friends and contacts and can even suggest other blogs I may be interested is based on my reading behavior. In that sense, it’s a pretty decent discovery tool.

My only complaint about Reader is that the comments are not included with the posts. I think this is really a function of the feeds rather than a deficiency of the Reader, but it stinks nonetheless. Why would I want the comments? Well, really good blog posts are often a starting point for really good conversations. You see blog posts are usually one person’s take or opinion on a certain issue or topic. The people who read the blog posts may or may not agree with the opinion of the author. Or sometimes the author may by flat out wrong about something. Either way, the comment section of a particular blog post often contains some really good conversations between the audience member and authors. And I think it would be nice to have the option to see that conversation in my Reader.

For the most part though readers can be thought of as organizational tools. They allow you to aggregate a massive amount of content into one place. Which is great for people who are busy or disorganized.

You can subscribe to this blog if you like. Up at the top of the page look for the RSS icon (a orange square with a beacon-like symbol). Click on that icon an then choose the RSS reader of your choice or copy and paste the link directly into your reader.

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