What is this RSS thing?

When you go to a blog page at any website, you will probably notice a link labeled something like “RSS.”  And if you happen to click on this link, you get taken to a page of gobble-dee–guk scary looking code stuff.  Not too helpful, right?  What are you supposed to do now?  Let’s dig into this a little.


RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  Who came up with that?!  Seems like someone was at a loss for names. “Let’s just say it’s RSS and it will sound really technical.”  Anyway, what it ultimately means is that this particular web page can be fed (or pushed) to other websites automatically. What never seems to be explained with these links is how to actually subscribe.  First, you must have a feed “reader” which is a program  set up to receive these blogs as they are published. Here’s how it works.

You have certain blogs that you like to read frequently.  Rather than needing to go to all these sites and see if anything is new, you open up your feed reader and you can see which of your favorites have published something new.  And then you read the article right there within the feed reader. Once you start using it and get used to it, you’ll see how convenient it really is.

How to Set Your Feed Reader Up

There are many reader programs out there:  plugins that will load into your browser program, programs that will load onto your computer, those that interconnect with your email program, and various other types depending on your preferences, needs and understanding. I personally use Google Reader (www.google.com/reader) which is free (most readers are free). You just need to create a simple account with Google (or use your existing one).  When you get into the Reader after you log into Google, save it to your bookmarks or, even more conveniently, place it in your bookmarks toolbar/taskbar so it’s right there for you to grab.

How to add a feed

Okay so here’s where that RSS link comes in.  Go to the blog that has the RSS link and click it.  Copy the web address that comes up for that scary code page to your clipboard.  Then go into the Reader and click the “Subscribe” button. A window opens for you to paste that web address and then click “Add.”  The name of the new RSS subscription will show in the left column. When it is bold, you’ll know there is a new article.  And as long as those articles are kept up on the web from their source, you will continue to have access to them.

And just to let you know, rather than clicking on the RSS link, you could right-click on the link (control-click for Mac users) and select “Copy Link Location.” Then just go to your Google Reader, click Subscribe and paste the link.

What About Podcasts?

Podcasts are recordings, either voice or video, and you can subscribe to them too.  But you need to hear and see them, so the reader must be able to handle this.  The most popular method these days is using iTunes.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the websites who provide podcasts actually have an iTunes link available where you can view all their podcasts listed within the iTunes interface.  But many times you’ll see the purple icon (as shown here) which works like the orange RSS link.  For podcast subscription, I use the iTunes program already loaded on my computer. I simply click the podcast link and copy the web address to the clipboard.  Within iTunes, click on the Advanced menu and select “Subscribe to Podcast.” Then just paste the web address in the box that opens.  iTunes automatically takes you to the Podcast section and shows you all your subscriptions.  Double-click the icon to see the full list of programs.

As with pretty much everything on the web, there are many paths to the same place.  You may know of other methods for these processes.  Please feel free to share them here! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to my Blog!  http://www.sirvatka.com/feed/

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