Last week, the number of subscribers to this blog’s RSS feed passed the 2,000 mark, after teetering just below that number for a couple of months. It’s very gratifying to know that so many people enjoy my writing, and although this increase in subscriptions is tiny compared to the total number of subscribers, it somehow feels like leaping over a high hurdle.
Perhaps you haven’t subscribed to my feed because you think you’ll have to pay. Actually, it’s completely free, as are all other feeds. Or maybe it’s because you’re unfamiliar with RSS. If so, here’s a very short primer on this very useful technology.
RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, and it does what it says on the tin. It can be used to aggregate content from different sources into one place. If you read dozens of blogs or more, RSS will save you a lot of time and effort. Most other websites use RSS too, so you can subscribe to those too.
RSS is very easy to use. First, you’ll need to set up a feedreader account. I’d recommend either Google Reader or Bloglines. Then you can begin subscribing to your favourite blogs and sites. RSS is referred to as “pull” technology, because it scans the sites to which you are subscribed and pulls the new content from them, in the form of a data stream or “feed”, into your account.
Subscribing involves clicking on the RSS button, the orange logo that is displayed ubiquitously across the web, or on the text that says something like “Subscribe to my RSS feed“. Both of those actions will take you to a page on which you first select and then log in to your feedreader. You then confirm that you want to subscribe to that particular feed.
In your feedreader you can organize your subscriptions into categories. Most give you the option to view the content from a single site, a category or from all your subscriptions together. The content itself can also be organized by date, so that the oldest or newest entries appear first.