What is RSS Anyway?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You know what really means. You know what simple means. But what about syndication? Let’s break this down even further. Syndication usually applies to periodic media/information that is produced on an ongoing basis.

Webster’s definition of syndication:

Syndication: 1. To sell (as a cartoon) to a syndicate or for publication in many newspapers or periodicals at once; also : to sell the work of (as a writer) in this way (a syndicated columnist) 2. To sell directly to local stations.

One of the best examples I can think of when I hear this word “syndication” is television. A television show is sold to a network like CBS, NBC, FOX, etc., usually by the episode. These episodes are then shown on a weekly basis during the fall television season. If the stars line up…the show is good, and the viewership is good, there are subsequent episodes and seasons of the the program. This is syndication.

Magazines and newspapers are another example of real world syndication. For example, if I walk into a bookstore, or check my local newsstand I will see Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and a host of other types of print media. If I walk into the very same bookstore a month later, most likely, I will see new issues of these magazines and newspapers as many of them update on a regular basis. Many magazines update monthly, whereas newspapers may be updated everyday.

On the Internet, RSS is in essence quite similar to my TV/magazine/newspaper examples. Let’s take a blog (short for web log) for example. A blog is a wonderful media sharing tool which includes articles, videos, audio, or a combination of all three. A blog will update as often as its creator wants it to. For instance, I like to update the japanguy.com everyday (and when I have the time maybe even 2-3 times in a day). The major difference on the Internet is that I don’t have to sell my blog to a network for it be syndicated. Providing my blog information to Google, or another type of reader allows whoever is interested to see everything I’m blogging about on a regular basis. On the right side of my blog’s homepage you will find the orange logo listed above. In most cases, if you see this logo on any blog, news site, etc., you have the ability to follow the site’s information.

RSS feeds

An RSS feed or Really Simple Syndication feed, is a sourced, stream of information, a type of data. So I type my articles on thejapanguy.com and register for a service like Feedburner. This gives me the option of also having my feedburner retrieve and convert my blog posts into a format that feed readers can understand.

RSS Readers and Feed Aggregators…Oh my!

What the hell do these mean?!? When I hear these words it seems as if some intellectually-gifted, pointdexter just threw up on me. Not to worry, though, I’ll describe this in simple, Donald Ash English. To me, RSS Readers and Feed Aggregators are the same thing. Both are just used to take and RSS feed (a stream of information) from a blog or other online source and put it in one place. This makes it easier for you, the reader, to read whatever blogs, newsletters, etc, that you’re interested without having to always visit the site directly. I use Google Reader for example, which is a 100% free service to handpick, and group information that I find useful in a single place.

There are many Feed Readers/Aggregators to choose from:

FeedBurner (www.feedburner.com)
Feedreader (www.feedreader.com)
Bloglines (www.bloglines.com)
Google Reader (www.google.com/reader)
SharpReader (www.sharpreader.net)
NewsGator (www.newsgator.com)
RSS Bandit (www.rssbandit.org)

So if you’re interested in trying out a feed reader, you would simply register for one of these services. For most, it’s as simple as entering your name and email, and you can gain access (FOR FREE!!). Once you sign up with a feed reading program, you can just look for any RSS button and subscribe to a site’s information. If you see the RSS logo, like we mentioned above, you should be able to register for the site’s feed.

Video on How Use RSS Step By Step


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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
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