How exciting are RSS feeds?! About as exciting as engineering reports but don’t underestimate them for sounding dull – accountancy also sounds dull but it still performs a useful service in society (consisting mostly of unpleasant reminders of overdue tax payments). RSS (pronounced “rissss” by people in the know) stands for Really Simple Syndication, which is not true because it’s not really simple – if it was more people would be using it. It has its very own icon (that most people don’t get) but once you recognise it you’ll see it popping up on websites everywhere!
Why should you be interested in RSS? Well if you follow a website that is regularly changing, such as a news site, competition site or a blog (such as this one!), and they offer an RSS option (wherever you see the RSS logo) simply click it and you’ll be able to add it to your RSS reader. This can save you time checking these websites for new items – they’ll let you know instead!
But what’s an RSS reader? There are several out there, and you can even use Outlook to collect your RSS feeds now, but one of the more popular ones is Google Reader, which is what I personally use. It allows you to create separate folders to organise your RSS subscriptions and choose how you want them displayed.
There are a few more tricks that RSS has and the more you use it the more you’ll find it is a very useful tool, particularly if you’re a webaholic like me. I sure hope the rumours of its demise are only rumours because it saves me a whole lot of time! In fact I’m currently experimenting with automatically including RSS feeds in an automated email campaign (so if you see any monkey business going on with my tweets, Facebook updates etc. blame it on this, or the boogie, or even the moonlight if that suits). On a side note, sometimes it does break and I’ve only just repaired it with a nice whitespace-killer script you can download from here.
RSS in my opinion has simply been the victim of poor presentation. Maybe if the geeks had approached marketing earlier we might have been able to run a more successful PR campaign but for now it will continue to struggle as emails poor cousin, hiding in the shadows and begging for attention. So go on, show some love to a poor neglected RSS icon near you, perhaps even one of mine lurking around the top of this page – you’ll get a friend for life, or at least as long as you don’t unsubscribe.