probably noticed this funny little orange symbol all over the Internet. But what
does it mean? What does it do? That’s what I’m here to answer. Before I move
on, check out some of the other looks for RSS symbols:
I’m no technology geek, so you’re going to get your answer in plain and simple terms. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and that’s what it is—really simple.
Whenever you see an RSS symbol or icon, it means you can subscribe to the content of the webpage or blog you are on, and store this content in your own ‘library’ available on any computer that has Internet access.
For example, if this afternoon, you realized that you missed the last few days of posts at any of your favorite Internet sites like Organic Journey Online or New Kid on the Green Block or All Things Dog Blog, you can sign into your RSS Reader (more on that later) and catch up. You don’t have to go the websites, dig around their ads, or wade through pockets of nonsense that isn’t important to you. All you get is their updated content, in a scrolling library of articles.
What I love about using my RSS reader is that it is a great tool for researching sites and information that I have chosen to follow. Simply by how it works, I’ve already weeded out the websites that don’t matter to me. I get to hand pick what goes into my ‘library’, or RSS Reader.
When you make the decision to use RSS, you’ll need a tool called an RSS Reader in order to use it. Do a Google search and you’ll find quite a few provided by different Internet browsers. I use Google’s, and it is extremely easy and free of charge. Like I said before—really simple.
You create a Reader account just like you create an email account. At Google Reader, for instance, just visit www.Google.com/reader and click create an account. Once you have done this and followed all of your reader’s instructions, you’re ready to go. It just takes a few minutes to set up.
Now visit my website, and click on the orange RSS icon. You’ll be given a few choices—different brands of readers—and you can simply click the one you chose in the paragraph above. The RSS ‘elves’ will make quick work of putting a bunch of the material from this site into your RSS Reader. It’s sort of like stocking the shelves of your library; hopefully the elves have ladders if you choose a lot of sites to keep up with.
As you browse the Internet and click the RSS icon more and more, your ‘library’ population will grow. When you visit your RSS Reader, you’ll find it is much like an email account. Your chosen website and blogs will be listed, and there will be a search box. You also have the option of organizing your sites into groupings.
The search box is my favorite part. If I’m looking for composting information or dog training help, I simply type in these keywords and the reader returns a bunch of articles that match my search terms. Those elves must be very busy on my Reader, as I have thousands of articles catalogued there; it’s a researchers dream come true.
Since I’m only researching my chosen websites, it makes my searches cleaner than a regular Google search, which often turns up nonsense that happens to include the words in my search terms. So for my work, RSS makes life easier.
Why not just bookmark favorite sites?
That’s a good question, with a very easy to understand answer.
Problem 1: When your bookmarking list gets long, it can take a while to scroll through it, as you look for a particular site that you can’t remember the name of.
Problem 2: When you visit a bookmarked site, you may often find there is no new material. You’ve just wasted your time finding the bookmark and going to the site.
Problem 3: Your bookmarks are not organized, making it difficult to find the sites you’re looking for.
Problem 4: If you don’t check your bookmark list, you may forget to look at a site for a while. Then you’ll have some challenges with finding all the missed articles. Worse yet, you may miss something critically important.
What if I don’t want to have another account to go to?
No problem. Most websites and blogs offer email subscribing as well. This gives you, their reader, three choices for getting their new material.
As long as you don’t have dozens of sites to follow, this is fine. It doesn’t work for me, but then my job involves lots of research and keeping up with what others are doing on the Internet. My RSS Reader looks like the NY Public Library. I like it that way, but you may prefer to get your few chosen sites sent to you via email.
So, why would a reader choose to visit a website, if RSS and email subscriptions are so great? Another good question. When you visit the actual website, you have the opportunity to see sidebars, tabs, stationary material (non-updating) and resources that are not distributed by any type of subscription. For this reason, I encourage you to visit--even your subscribed sites--somewhat regularly, to check out the view on the actual real estate. Looking at the inside of the house doesn’t give the whole picture. Is this analogy confusing?
I hope these little analogies have been helpful. If I’ve totally baffled you, I apologize. Feel free to write to me at CarrieLeaJohnson@gmail.com for the answers to any questions. That’s what I’m here for.