What is an RSS feed? That link has a lot of info, but the short answer is that it is simply a way of formating content so that it can easily be used by other websites, as well as specialized software. For instance, did you ever visit one web site and see a list of recent headlines from other websites? That was an RSS feed!
But what is even more amazing is that you can download and install free software that will let you view such lists on your own computer!
And depending on how people have set up their site, you might even be able to read the article itself from within the RSS feed — like you can with mine! This is great because you don’t need to visit the web site to find out when it has been updated — the software checks regularly and lets you know which new articles have appeared which you have not read yet!
If you have a computer running Mac OS X you can use the wonderful NetNewsWire Lite, and if you use M$ Windoze you can use the free Feedreader software.
But once you have the software, what sites can you visit with it? A lot of sites will have a link that says either “syndicate this,” or “RSS,” or maybe even “XML” — which are all links that you can enter into the software. But some sites don’t support RSS feeds, so you need to find some way around that. One solution is to pay money for the premium service offered by Newsisfree.com. That will get you the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and a host of other sites. There are also some services, like Blogmatrix.com that will create a crude RSS feed for sites that don’t have them.
To save you some work, I’ve listed all the news feeds I read below. The title links to the web site, and the link below is for either the RSS feed, or, if it is a Newsisfree.com premium service, a link to Newsisfree.com where you can sign up for a 30 day free trial if you like. The service is $20 a year which seems quite worth it for me.
Here are the list of sites I have right now in NetNewsWire:
Common Dreams NewsCenter — Progressive NewsWire
TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow
New York Times: International News
New York Times
Foreign Affairs: Peace & Conflict
Howard Dean 2004 Call to Action Weblog