Subcribe to feed, RSS, Google Reader… What the?

If you’re a computer illiterate like me, you probably know almost nothing about BLOGS … and find it hard enough to find your way around, let alone “subscribe to an RSS Feed” (whatever that is) – right? Well, I’ve asked my son Mike (who takes care of my blog and is a bit of a legend with all this technical stuff) to explain it for you. If it’s not your cup of tea, read no further. But if you like learning and experimenting with new online tools, then what follows is for you . (Be sure to check out the video at the end!)

Cheers – John

What is a feed:

A feed, also known as RSS feed, XML feed, syndicated content, or web feed, is frequently updated content published by a website. It is usually used for news and blog websites, but can also be used for distributing other types of digital content, including pictures, audio or video.

They allow you to see when websites have added new content. You can get the latest headlines and video in one place, as soon as its published, without having to visit the websites you have taken the feed from. Feeds can also be used to deliver audio content (usually in MP3 format) which you can listen to on your computer or MP3 player. This is referred to as podcasting.

How do I start using feeds?

In general, the first thing you need is something called a news reader. This is a piece of software that checks the feeds and lets you read any new articles that have been added. There are many different versions, some of which are accessed using a browser, and some of which are downloadable applications.

Browser-based news readers let you catch up with your RSS feed subscriptions from any computer, whereas downloadable applications let you store them on your main computer, in the same way that you either download your e-mail using Outlook, or keep it on a web-based service like Hotmail.

Once you have chosen a news reader, all you have to do is to decide what content you want it to receive. For example, if you would like the latest BBC News Entertainment stories, simply visit the Entertainment section and you will notice an orange button on the left hand side.

RSS button

If you would like the latest BBC News World video stories, visit the Video and Audio section of the BBC News Website (www.bbc.co.uk/newsvideoaudio ) and click on the button at the bottom of the World section.

RSS button

If you click on the RSS button you can subscribe to the feed in various ways, including by dragging the URL of the feed into your news reader or by cutting and pasting the same URL into a new feed in your news reader. Most sites that offer feeds use a similar orange button, but some may just have a normal web link.

Some browsers, including Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox, automatically check for feeds for you when you visit a website, and display an icon when they find one. This can make subscribing to feeds much easier. For more details on these, please check their websites.

How do I get a news reader?

There is a range of different news readers available and new versions are appearing all the time.

Different news readers work on different operating systems, so you will need to choose one that will work with your computer.

News Reader Examples:

Windows

Newz Crawler

FeedDemon

Awasu

Mac OS X

Newsfire

NetNewsWire

Web

Bloglines

FeedZilla

NewsGator

Microsoft Live

My Yahoo!

Google

Browser

Windows Internet Explorer

Mozilla Firefox

(Thanks to BBC for providing parts of the above information)

Phew! Hopefully that wasn’t too confusing for you! If it’s still a little hard to understand, here’s a link to a brilliant video explaining it all in simple, lay-mans language …

RSS in Plain English