Making sense of RSS

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We’d like to introduce you to one of the simplest, easiest and most efficient ways to use the web. It’s called RSS, but don’t let the strange abbreviation throw you off: any novice web user will find this tool to be useful, easy and fun.

If you have a collection of bookmarked sites that you read regularly, you’ll appreciate RSS. Instead of visiting ten different websites and blogs in the morning, imagine if there was a way to read them all in the same place.

You could click through every single site you know, or…

That’s RSS. You subscribe to websites, and the content from the sites comes to you, instead of you having to visit the site. Unlike magazines, the subscriptions are free. It’s like an email inbox for the web. We’d like to show you how to use this innovative service.

First, you’ll need a “reader.” We recommend using Google Reader, because it is free and very easy to use. Just visit reader.google.com and sign in using your Google Account. (If you don’t have a Google Account, you can sign up for one in minutes.)

Here is a screenshot of an example account we created. The panel below shows all the sites we subscribe to:
Left panel of our subscriptions

In Google Reader, to view the actual content from each site, all you have to do is click on the site name. The articles will appear in your Reader.

Subscribing to websites

An “RSS feed” is just the content from a website, without the design. Most websites that publish content regularly have an RSS feed. You can usually spot it by looking for an icon that looks like any one of the ones below. Keep your eyes peeled: if you spy these icons on any website you visit, it means you can subscribe to the site using RSS:

RSS icons

Once you’ve located the icon, there are two ways to get the RSS feed.

    Option 1: Right-click on it and select “copy link location”
    Option 2: Left-click on it and read the instructions on the website

Here is how to add a new subscription in Google Reader.

  1. Visit the website you want to subscribe to.
  2. Find the orange RSS button, and copy the link.
  3. Return to Google Reader, and click “Add Subscription.”
  4. Paste the link into the “Add Subscription” box. It looks like this:

Google Reader: All Subscription

That’s all you need to know! If you already use RSS, or if you’re about to, try subscribing to Elbowruminations. We publish fresh content every week. Here’s our RSS feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Elbowruminations

RSS feed icon


If you’d like to learn more about RSS, here are some helpful links: