Everybody's Talking About RSS
No matter if you call it "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site
Summary," RSS is definitely all the rage right now online. With
email filtering, IP blocking and the newest "Can Spam Act," everyone's
scampering for a better way to get their messages across to their
With RSS, the customers don't have to come to your website or open
their inboxes to get your latest news and updates. Once they subscribe
to your "feed," the news comes to them automatically. But wait;
I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's get back to the basics.
RSS is an XML based format that originated with Netscape. To use
RSS, you must first create what's called a "feed." This is basically
a file which you upload to your server. RSS feeds end with .rss
rdf or .xml extensions and can be created by hand. An RSS file needs
to include the headlines, links, and summaries of the content you
want to distribute.
Once a feed has been created, other computers can subscribe to
your "channel" and read your updates using what's called an "Aggregator"
or "news reader."
Most feeds consist of a link with a short summary to click on
to read the entire article. To let people know your site offers
an RSS feed, you place an orange XML icon on your site linked to
the url of your feed. You'll also want to list your feed with various
RSS search engines that exist just for the purpose of collecting
a database of feeds.
So what kinds of things can you turn into feeds? I thought you'd
never ask. Any area of your site that changes on a regular basis
is a good candidate. Things like newsletters, news announcements,
site updates, anything that you update regularly.
If you have no idea how to create a feed, this site will do it
for you: http://MyRSS.com
Just type in the HTML page you wish to make a feed from and it
converts it to RSS for you automatically.
Another great tool that will create a RSS feed for you is http://feedster.com/builder.php?next=cfintro
. This works especially well if you need a feed of your third party
hosted Blog, for example Blogger.
There's also a script that will convert any HTML doc into RSS --
Go to http://kalsey.com/tools/blogfeed/ . If you'd like to validate
your feed, you can do so at http://feedvalidator.org
A News Reader is simply a software program that brings what's
new straight to you in an organized, easy to read format. Let's
take a look at some of your options when it comes to readers and
what's available to you.
1) RSSReader: http://RssReader.com
Free; it collects news in the background and warns you with a popup
in your system tray when there's new information available.
2) Ampheta Desk: http://AmphetaDesk.com
Free, cross platform aggregator.
3) WildGrape: http://WildGrape.net
For Windows; reads headlines from thousands of sources. Free.
4) Sharp Reader: http://SharpReader.net
Free reader for the .Net Framework created by Luke Hutteman
5) Newz Crawler: http://NewzCrawler.com
Web News Reader and browser. There's a two week free trial. You
can purchase it for only $24.95.
6) Feed Demon: http://FeedDemon.com
Download a free trial or purchase for only $29. Written by Nick
Bradbury, creator of Top Style and Hoesite. Feed Demon is loaded
with great features.
7) Feed Reader: http://FeedReader.com
Freeware; Windows app that supports all RSS feeds and formats.
8) Blog Lines: http://Bloglines.com
A web based Blog and newsfeed reader. No software to install to
read your feeds; just visit the site and log into your account.
9) Awasu: http://Awasu.com
Free Windows news reader that integrates with Internet Explorer.
10) Feed Readers: http://FeedReaders.com
Lockergnome's offering in the news reader field. Seven day free
trial. Two versions available: pro or standard with pricing ranging
from $5.00 to $15.00.
If these options aren't enough, you'll want to check out the full
list of readers over at http://www.lights.com/weblogs/rss.html
If you'd like to have feeds sent directly to your inbox instead
of downloading a reader, check out http://rss.blogstreet.com/asp-rssbin/auth_rss
Once you download a reader you need feeds to subscribe to.
Check out http://Syndic8.com
for thousands of choices. So now that you understand the technology,
what are the advantages and disadvantages of RSS? Here's a big one:
your subscribers don't have to give up their email addresses, which
is great for those with privacy concerns. RSS puts control of subscriptions
directly in the hands of your users. When they wish to unsub- scribe
they just delete the feed from their reader. It also reduces the
risk of Spam accusations. If you're an ezine publisher and you don't
have to worry about getting your messages past all of the filters
in place by users and ISP's.
The disadvantages are that you cannot include personalization,
and you have no way of knowing how many people are subscribing to
your feed. Also, at this time, RSS may seem a bit complicated to
the novice user and it has not become widely adopted by Web users.
If you haven't looked into RSS, now's the time to consider this
technology as another avenue for reaching out to your website visitors,
and keeping them informed.
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