RSS and XML – Getting the web delivered to you

On some websites you might have noticed some unusual orange icons with the words XML, or heard of something called RSS or a “feed”. This refers to RSS, or Real Simple Syndication.

RSS is a great tool for getting what you want out of the web with less clicking and surfing. Like search engines, RSS helps you get what you want to read and know with minimal time and effort. Here’s how anyone can get up and running with RSS with the least amount of work. If you can bookmark a webpage, you can use RSS.

Why RSS?

You do not visit websites to look at pretty graphics, you want news and information you can use. The graphics and other formating are just there to organize it into a readable shape.

Going from site to site through traditional bookmarks and URLs can be time consuming. Is there anyway to spend less time clicking and more time finding useful information?

What if you could read the headlines or other content from a collection of websites in one glance? Then you could skim the headlines, preview the stories, pick what stories you really want to read, then visit. That is what RSS allows you to do. Instead of you going to visit a website, the websites you like feed you their newest information to you.

With normal web surfing, you type in a URL to your web browser takes you to visit the site. With RSS, the same information on the web pages is sent you through the feed. The latest information is sent right to you. When new information is added to the site, the feed automatically updates, so the information you are seeing is up to the minute.

You can still choose to visit that site, but you get to skim the contents before you do.

So how do you set up RSS without becoming computer geek?

The easiest way is to use a web brower with nothing to sign up for and no software to install. The new Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox can use RSS with a simple visit to a website that features a feed. Not all websites use RSS, while other might offer multiple feeds in different formats and with different content.

Here are some links to help you get started with Internet Explorer or Firefox.

To set up RSS with IE 7, read this page on the Microsoft site. It shows a quick demo of how to spot and activate a feed.

To set up RSS with Firefox, read this page to do the same.

If you have Quicktime Video installed on your computer, the Awakened Voice Blog has a great video tutorial on how to use IE7 with RSS.

Google Personalized Homepage, My Yahoo and RSS Readers

Perhaps the easiest way to organize multiple RSS feeds is with a Google Personalized Homepage or My Yahoo page. You can get started now if you already have a Gmail or Yahoo account. You can also use the service free if you sign up with a current E-mail address.

Some webpages have made it easy for you by putting Add to Google or + to Yahoo button. If you are signed up for either service, one click puts the feed on your page. You can read more about using a Google Homepage here.

To add more content to a Google Homepage, you can click on Add more to this page at the top and either search for your favorite site, or copy and paste the XML link from the page directly. What is XML anyway?

XML, RSS News Readers, and what is that funny XML button for?

XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is a markup language for documents containing structured information.

OK…in English.

XML is the raw stuff of an RSS feed. If you click on the XML button on a page, you will see bunch of tags and other strange items.

Here is the XML feed for this page.

Mixed into this digital stew is some text for a story. So what do you do with this?

XML is what the web page is sending out in the RSS feed. It’s like a raw TV signal. You do not watch a TV signal without a TV. The TV grabs the signal and turns it into something you can watch. With RSS, XML is a raw collection of tags and code that your Google or Yahoo page turn into stuff you can read.

But you can use other services and software called Newsreaders to read that XML feed. You can susbscribe or an RSS reader service, such as Bloglines or Newsgator.

You can also dowload software that is seperate from your web brower to read an RSS feed, or use a plug-ins for your web browser to pull in and organize collections of RSS feeds.

You have many options with RSS. Some readers will let you read the full story and pictures from the feed, others will just give you a headline and some sample text. You can pick which one is right for you by looking on search engines for RSS Reader. Most are simple to set up and customize.

You can get started using RSS with this blog! Click on any of the buttons on the lower right sidebar for the newsreader or homepage you use and get started today.

Leave a Reply