What is RSS? How to use it? And most importantly Why to use it?
Do you read news everyday on internet? Or follow a celebrity on Twitter, maybe Instagram? Or keep browsing web pages for more and more content to consume?
Yes, right? Internet, as we know it, is very similar to a refrigerator. We know there is nothing new inside, but we keep opening it (in a hope that something appears miraculously), get disappointed only to repeat after some time.
It takes a lot of time and energy to constantly monitor websites for new content to satisfy ourselves with dopamine. You feel left out if you are not updated with latest news or gossip or that viral video which everybody is talking on Facebook and you end up wasting hundreds of hours. Above all, not all that is published might excite you. Disappointment again ☹
Now what if I tell you that you can save all of that time and energy (rather be productive without being left out), by making internet and computer work for you? Sounds exciting? Read on…
Consider a software which continuously monitors various different websites for new content and instantly sends a ding notification to you when it finds something. Wouldn’t that be cool?
RSS is the technology which is meant to do this, you can set it up in matter of minutes which even a layman can use it just like any other social media. You can keep updating the feed as your needs and interests’ change.
Let see what Wikipedia has to say about this,
"RSS is a type of web feed which allows users to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format. These feeds can, for example, allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator."
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary. You must have seen such icon on many different websites, alongside other social media icons, but never knew what they were used for.
Not all, but most sites provide this feature. It is very similar to subscribing to a blog via e-mail. RSS is an XML based file which fetches latest content from that particular website and pushes the link to your feed aggregator.
RSS aggregator, as the name says, is a desktop, web or mobile based software which displays the content fetched by the subscribed RSS.
Let’s have a closer look to understand the details.
So, by now you must have got a fair idea of RSS technology along with its capabilities. To clear the air, let me put it in a simple statement, instead of monitoring hundreds of websites, get all the content at one place (RSS feed aggregator) for ease of access to save time and energy. Let us go through an example for you to understand how it works.
If you are reading this post using your smartphone, pinch and zoom to view the images clearly.
I love reading blogs. Zen Habits is one of the best out there.
As you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can see that it has a RSS option.
Click on it and you will be navigated to RSS feed URL which is responsible for bringing all the content to you.
Now we need a RSS reader or feed aggregator, for which we will use Inoreader (there are many other out there but this one is my personal favourite).
Sign up with your e-mail address, Facebook or Google for a free account.
Go back and copy the RSS URL meanwhile your free account is being created.
You will land on dashboard in Inoreader. On top left you can see a search bar. Paste the link and wait for it to search. Do not click anywhere else for search to complete.
Click on the first search result. You can see the number of subscribers for the Zen Habits RSS feed.
All the recent posts will be fetched and displayed for you to review before you subscribe. Click on Green subscribe button.
Viola! Success. You have just subscribed to your first RSS feed. You will be notified whenever a new post is published on Zen Habits.
Click on anyone and start reading.
There are many other features to explore in Inoreader and other aggregators. You can set rules, modify the subscriptions, customise the UI, change view moede, notification settings, add tags, create folders and many more features.
For power users, there are paid plans as well. Once you get used to the concept, you can switch plans or even aggregators. Many even have a browser extension which makes it even easier to access to keep yourself updated with the trend, news, viral posts, new technology launch, et cetera.
With RSS you are not just limited to blogs, but you can subscribe to news, magazines, comics, even social media like Twitter and Instagram by using feed generators.
What if the website does not have RSS icon? Well nothing to worry about. Just go to search and type the name of the website, the feed will be fetched automatically and you will be able to subscribe.
Even though I do not consume any social or mainstream media, I am always updated and know things which most don’t even know. People keep asking me how do I manage to do that? And the secret is my RSS feed. I have more than 200 subscriptions, which would have been impossible to manually monitor.
So, using this amazing piece of technology, you can utilise your time in much more productive way. Enjoy your subscriptions 😊