RSS – a nice alternative

Years ago many people started their day with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. Newspapers have all but disappeared, and connected individuals read Facebook with their coffee. We’ll leave the debate about the validity of the information posted there to others, but there’s no disputing that your morning news is heavily seasoned with advertising. There is another alternative.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary if you’re old school. It’s a kind of custom newspaper that is built just for you, every day. Like most of us, you probably have a number of websites that you visit daily, many with blogs like this one. You probably just want to see what’s new. Most blogs feature what is called a “feed”. It’s like having a service that goes through all the newspapers, clipping out only those articles that interest you. You can read them whenever you like, on a computer, phone, or tablet. We’ve been using RSS for years, and now that we’re blogging we want to let you in on the secret. To get started with RSS here’s what you’ll need:

  • A feed subscription – this is like a magazine subscription, except it’s free. You subscribe by selecting the feed for your blog. Some blogs, like this one, will have a prominent button like the orange one in the sidebar, that you can click to subscribe. Others may have a link, sometimes at the bottom of the web page.
  • A feed aggregator – this is a service that keeps track of all your subscriptions and making sure that you have the latest post in each one. Some, like Feedly that I use, have a free option. Free almost always means ads, but not the focused and intrusive ones that you’ll find on Facebook. Other aggregators may charge by the month or year. Whether you use a free service or pay, you need one of them to do the heavy lifting for you.
  • An RSS Reader – Readers are specialized software that contact your aggregator for the latest information. There are dozens available, for every type of computer, phone, or tablet. Most aggregators also have a web-based reader or app available to subscribers. Google “RSS reader” for options.

Once you have the basic tools you can start looking for RSS icons or links on the sites you visit most. Most readers will present the articles in a list with a brief synopsis. You can click or tap to go to the full article on the web. This saves you a lot of time and you won’t miss anything. It’s a great way to start the day with your morning cup of java.