Saturday, September 27, 2008

RSS Redux

If you look at a lot of news online, you probably use RSS feeds. And if you look at a lot of news online but don't use RSS feeds, then why don't you? RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a way of subscribing to news (just like in the olden days of paper newspapers... remember those?) so that whenever stuff happens it comes right to your computer/iPhone/smartphone. The news arrives in a very simple digest form - a list of headlines accompanied by short summaries of each news story. This format allows you to quickly skim the articles available so you can choose what you really want to read and what you'd rather skip.

You might say "well I have CNN set as my home page and that's all I need for the latest news." Well, cnn.com has a fine site and it's laid out pretty intuitively so you can find your news, but you have to wade through all the pictures (and ads if you don't have an adblocker) just to see all the articles that are up there. Maybe you'd like to bypass having to load an entire web page just to glance at what's going on. If so, RSS is for you. Most major news sites (again taking CNN as an example) have multiple RSS "feeds" that you can subscribe to. CNN has separate feeds for: Top Stories, World, US, Sports, Politics... well, one for every section of their site. You get the idea.

An RSS feed is basically a special version of a webpage, formatted specifically for quick and easy digestion by you. Why would you want a simplified version of a page, when websites these days are filled with gorgeous graphics and attractive layouts? Well, many of us lead pretty busy lives, so we don't want to waste precious seconds being distracted from what's really important - the news.

Still not convinced? RSS is not hard to set up, and it will change the way you look at news online and make it much more efficient. You can have your ESPN, CNN, UCLA Daily Bruin, ICanHasCheezburger, and Omnigeno.blogspot.com entries all sent right to your computer in one convenient place. Your reader will notify you when new articles come in. You don't have to constantly refresh a page if you're waiting for news to happen.

So you want to try out RSS but you don't know where to start. If you're using Safari on Mac OSX or Windows, you already have an RSS reader! Click on the following link to read the RSS feed for my own blog: feed://feeds.feedburner.com/Omnigeno. Subscribe by bookmarking it! Another popular reader is Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader/), though it's a web-based reader rather than a dedicated RSS client program. There are also plugins for Firefox that track your feeds for you. When you subscribe to a feed, a number appears next to the feed's name indicating how many new unread articles exist.

Here's a link to the CNN page that lists all of their RSS feeds:
http://www.cnn.com/services/rss/?iref=rsssvcs

And here are some feeds that I have subscribed to and regularly read.

Fox Sports College Basketball
feed://msn.foxsports.com/feedout/syndicatedContent?categoryId=99

Daily Bruin News
feed://dailybruin.com/rss/news/

Touch Arcade
feed://www.toucharcade.com/feed/

Now, I have to admit that I'm doing this partially to get more readers on my blog. I completely understand that I don't update regularly enough and that I usually don't have much interesting stuff to say. But I've gotta try anyway, right? If you like what you read here, please subscribe to my feed and leave a comment on the blog itself.

The other reason I'm doing this is to make people aware of some of the cooler things you can do with a computer these days. Most people use computers and go on the web to look at things, but they often do it in a very rudimentary fashion. They aren't exposed to many of the useful tools out there for making things more convenient, fun, and uncomplicated. I promise I'll be back with more cool tips.