Syndication & Subscription

If the symbol up above and the acronym RSS leaves you with a big "?" over your head, don't worry, you're not alone. Without getting into too much of the mechanics, we thought a brief explanation might help.

The beginning would be a good place to start, but to avoid all the complicated mechanical stuff, I'll start at the end.

Imagine you like reading articles from a certain online publication or blogger. You could check their site every day for an update (and we like the visits!). But what if they update irregularly...or maybe multiple times a day? Wouldn't it be nice if you could get the updates sent to you? Maybe like an email. Yet emails get messy if there's too much HTML craziness.

Thankfully there is Real Simple Syndication (RSS). With RSS an individual can use a program (often called an RSS Reader or News Aggregate) to read up-to-the-minute news updates from the Internet.

The way these updates are read depend on what programs people are familiar with. There's an RSS reader incorporated to Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook. If you use Gmail, Google also has an easy to use reader (imaginatively called Google Reader).

Let's say you have the two necessary parts: an RSS reader and a syndicated feed (the blog or news service website). It's usually just a matter of locating  the orange broadcasting button like the one above. If you have a browser that automatically recognizes a feed address (usually ending in ".xml") then you follow the prompts to set up a feed subscription. After you click on the symbol or link and you see a page of random code - ignore the code - copy the page address (for example, Spot's Feature feed looks like this: and paste it into the "add subscription" option of whichever reader you're using.

If you're trying to choose which feed to use - RSS, Atom or RDF - most readers recognize one of the first two. And for the long explanation check out Wikipedia's entry on RSS

-Jake Faris