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RSS and Bloglines

Friday, March 24th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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RSS and Bloglines

RSS is a family of Web formats used for Web publication. It is used by (among other things) news Web sites, Web logs and podcasting. The abbreviation is used to refer to the following standards: Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91), RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0) and Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0).

These types of feeds provide content or summaries with links to the full versions of the content. RSS, in particular, delivers information as an XML file called an RSS feed, channel or stream. It is also known as a Web feed. In addition to syndication, Web feeds allow a Web site’s frequent readers to track updates on the site using an aggregator. An aggregator is typically a program allowing users to subscribe to the feeds.

As for bloglines, http://www.bloglines.com/ is a free Web site that works as an aggregator through your Web browser by creating a customized Web page containing the RSS feeds that you subscribe to, as well as, blogs and other services. The advantage of using a Web site rather than a separate program to collect your Web feeds is that you can connect and see your feeds when you want from anywhere you want and you don’t have to have yet another background program using up your computer’s resources.

Click on the “Sign up now, It’s free!” link on the Bloglines site and fill out the form as shown below. You’ll need to replace the dummy e-mail address and password with your own information. Notice that they don’t even try to force you to get their e-mail newsletter. The box is unchecked by default.

Once you’ve set up your account, there are a number of ways to start selecting content. Of course, the first site you want to subscribe to would be WorldStart. Start by entering “worldstart” into the “Search All Blogs” box at the upper left of the page and click Enter. The result should look something like this:

At the bottom, you have links to let you preview the site. Look at related feeds or go ahead and subscribe to the feed. Clicking on the WorldStart Computer Tips link also lets you preview the site. Whichever path you choose will take you to a page where you can set your preferences for that feed. You may want to experiment with these options later, but for now just go to the bottom of the page and click the subscribe button. You should then be returned to a page that looks similar to the one below.

If the page you see looks different, you may need to click on the “MyFeeds” tab and/or the WorldStart Computer Tips link. On your first visit, you will likely see many items on the right since you haven’t read any yet. The link in the left pane of the browser window will have a number following the link, which shows how many unread items are available. Notice that this number goes to zero as soon as you click on the link.

The default behavior for the right pane is to show only these unread items, but there is a button at the bottom of the pane, which lets you go back and see your previously viewed links. This is useful if you want to go back and check an item that you looked at previously.

Depending on your browser, clicking on a link will generally open a new window or tab to show the item on the site where it’s hosted. That would be worldstart.com for the WorldStart links.

If you know the URL of a feed or a blog, you can enter it directly by clicking the Add link at the upper left of the My Feeds tab as shown below.

Entering the WorldStart feeds URL as shown above and clicking the subscribe button will set up the WorldStart link just as the earlier procedure did.

As you can see, Bloglines try to make it as easy as possible to organize all the various sources of Web published information that you might want to follow on a regular basis. It’s much like having your own newspaper with just the stories that you are interested in. You can use the directory supplied by Bloglines to search for feeds that you know by name or just by areas that you are interested in. They provide a listing of the most popular feeds as well.

~ Gary S. Kearney

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