What is RSS and how do I use it?

News and Views

You’ve heard about RSS, you’ve seen the little RSS icons, and yet it still remains a mystery. What does it do? What does it mean? Can’t I live without it?

RSS is actually really simple (it actually stands for Really Simple Syndication, so I guess it lives up to its name), but for some reason no one seems to be able to explain it in a simple way. So here’s the lowdown – basically, RSS is a way for you to keep up with new information on web sites (such as blogs) via your web browser, without the need for emails updates.

The RSS advantage – get information updates without subscribing to yet another newsletter that may just end up cluttering your inbox and/or ending up in your junk mail folder.

So what do I need to get started with RSS?

  • A browser – like Firefox or Internet Explorer
  • An RSS aggregator

What is an RSS aggregator?

An RSS aggregator is a web-based site that manages your RSS subscriptions. The RSS aggregator displays every blog or site in its own section, with all the latest posts listed there. You can choose how many posts to display for each blog, and many readers show you which posts you have read and which you haven’t.

Can you recommend an RSS aggregator?

There are many popular RSS aggregators out there, but I will recommend three:

  • Google Reader – This is a very popular and easy to use RSS tool. You can easily add subscriptions and sort them according to topic. You can also have your Google Reader appear on your Google Homepage.
  • My Yahoo with RSS – Yahoo has recently redesigned its mail system, and it now includes an RSS manager. The new design is pretty and the RSS feature is easy to use and is useful for people how use their mail. Their RSS tool can also be used on My Yahoo homepages.
  • And now my favorite RSS reader: Netvibes – Netvibes is a really cool and fun web-based reader that allows you to easily and happily manage your blog feeds, and other snazzy tools and widgets. You can easily create tabbed pages according to your tastes, and add useful tools such as a Gmail reader to track your gmail, currency converter, to-do lists, calendars, and more. I discovered Netvibes thanks to a handy and enthusiastic tutorial written by Masey.

So how can I subscribe to illuminea blog?

What an excellent question. Click on the RSS icon rss feed icon on the right-hand side of the page. A FeedBurner page will appear. You will see a bunch of little icons for different RSS readers on the right-hand side. If your appears there, select it. If not, check the drop-down box to see if your reader is there. If your reader doesn’t appear in either of those lists, simply copy and paste the URL at the top of the page, and in your reader select “Add Feed” or “Add Subscription”, depending on which tool you use. Paste the URL into the field that appears, and click Add or Submit. Voila – you have now subscribed to illuminea blog. Enjoy!