Despite the fact Radio Userland provides an integrated RSS news aggregator with its blog tool, it would appear that most Userland users, like most bloggers in general, don’t use this feature. In fact a number of bloggers don’t really know what that funny orange box in the corner of their blog is for, or how to use it. If you’re clueless about RSS, this post is for you.
What is RSS?
Basically, it’s a mechanism for publishing (syndicating) and subscribing to recent additions to any website — usually a news site or a weblog.
How Does It Work?
The RSS software tracks new posts on your blog, or your favourite news site, packages them all up in a standard format, called a feed, and sends them to anyone who has ‘subscribed’ to them. All your RSS feeds are integrated together, creating a kind of personalized newspaper. Some RSS feeds contain the entire article, while others offer just the headline, or the headline with the first part of the article, with a link to the full article.
How Do You Subscribe to an RSS ‘feed’?
First you need to have a news aggregator (sometimes called a ‘newsreader’), a software tool that collects and displays the feeds you choose to subscribe to. Radio Userland has one built in. The one I use is called Bloglines, but Feed Demon, NewsGator, and many other news aggregators operate similarly. They’re free, and each has slightly different features.
To subscribe to the RSS feeds for your favourite news sites and blogs: Go to the site and find the URL for its RSS feed — there will be a small orange box saying ‘XML”, or a link that says ‘subscribe/syndicate this site’. When you’ve found it, right click on the box or link and ‘copy link location’. Then go to your news aggregator and paste the copied link (it usually ends with .xml or .rdf) into the aggregator’s ‘subscribe’ box.
Some news aggregators, and RSS catalogues like Syndic8 will even look up the RSS URL for you — all you need to do is enter the name of the news source or blog, or its regular URL, and it will save you searching for the sometimes hard-to-find RSS link. Some news aggregators and channel builders like MyRSS can create a synthetic RSS feed for sources that don’t have one.
Why Would You Want to Subscribe to an RSS feed?
Unlike e-mail subscriptions, RSS feeds don’t clutter your e-mail inbox. News aggregators also give you more flexibility in what you subscribe to than e-mail subscriptions, and more flexibility in how information is displayed. And if you read a lot, it can save you time compared to browsing all the sources in your blogroll or Favorites folder. And it’s spam-free. But it’s not for everyone — some people prefer browsing serendipitously, or like looking at blogrolls and other sidebar contents (which don’t make it into RSS feeds) — and a huge backlog of unread RSS feeds can by intimidating, even tyrannical.
Why Would You Want to Have an RSS feed?
It’s another way to get your message out, and to find readers for your writing. It reduces the chance that your most faithful readers will miss some of your posts by forgetting to visit, or will see time-sensitive posts too late. Some people won’t even read sources that don’t offer RSS feeds, claiming they don’t have time. Dave Winer now offers a service to let you see who subscribes to your RSS feed, to complement your Technorati inbound links so you have a better sense of who your entire readership is.
If you want to try out subscribing to RSS feeds, to see if you like them, pick one of the free news aggregators, subscribe to a dozen or two of your favourite news sources or blogs, and look at the feeds once a day for a week. After that trial period you’ll probably either make your aggregator your one-stop shop for news and blog-reading, or decide it’s not for you and go back to browsing your blogroll or Favorites folder sites. And if you prefer your RSS feeds by e-mail, Bloglet can send them to you that way, too.
If you want to set up an RSS feed for your blog, unless you’re a Radio Userland blogger you’ll have to check out the instructions for your particular blog tool (they’re all different). Or you can simply provide a link to one of the services like Bloglines that create a synthetic RSS feed for you. And if this is all too complicated for you, Bloglet lets you offer your readers a daily e-mail digest of your posts (or your RSS feed) instead.
And if you do have an RSS feed already, do your readers a favour and put the link where people can find it. Mine is the little orange box just below the search bar, upper right. The URL is http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/rss.xml. Just right click, Copy Link Location into your news aggregator, and get How to Save the World delivered fresh to your door every day.
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Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 145 Posts, by category, from newest to oldest ---
Dying of Despair
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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