How RSS Changed My Life . . . or at Least My Reading Habits -->

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How RSS Changed My Life . . . or at Least My Reading Habits

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Anne Torkelson
By Anne Torkelson, Writing Consultant

When I worked in public relations, my responsibilities included keeping an eye on the Internet for certain trending topics. I read numerous blogs and news sites every day to stay up to date. Like many Internet users, I had marked the websites that I read regularly as favorites (or “bookmarks,” depending on which browser I was using) so I could access them easily. The trouble was that to see if the websites had updated since I had last checked them, I needed to visit every single one. Doing so often led to wasted time, as many of the websites had not yet updated, meaning I had to spend even more time checking them again later.

Using an RSS feed reader can help you manage the blogs you follow.Then I found RSS.

RSS stands for really simple syndication or rich site summary, and it’s a way to easily access and manage web page content that changes frequently. Many websites, including the Walden Writing Center blog, offer RSS feeds. To find a site’s feed, use the shortcut CTRL+F to search for RSS, or look for the universal RSS symbol (on the right).

To start accessing content via RSS, you’ll need to set up an RSS feed reader. An RSS feed reader, also called a news reader or news aggregator, allows you to store and sort the RSS feeds that you’ve gathered. While this method may not sound much different than my method of storing websites in an Internet folder, the difference lies in the automatic updates. Once I started using an RSS reader and subscribed to the RSS feeds for my favorite websites, I no longer needed to visit every website to check for new content. Instead, I just checked my RSS reader a couple times throughout the day, and I could see at a glance which websites had new content and which did not. I could read the content right from my RSS reader, or I could click through the reader to visit the original.

Microsoft Outlook includes an integrated RSS reader, and several feed readers are available for free, such as Google Reader and My Yahoo! Reader. You need to set up an account to use Google Reader or My Yahoo! Reader, but you do not need to use Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. Here are a few screenshots to show you what these feed services look like.

Microsoft Outlook: 

Screenshot of RSS feeds in Microsoft Outlook.

Google Reader:

Screenshot of RSS feeds in Google Reader.

My Yahoo! Reader:

Screenshot of RSS feeds in My Yahoo! Reader.

When you add an RSS feed to your feed reader (see the videos below), the reader will update when anything on the page changes. For example, if you subscribe to the Writing Center Blog’s RSS feed in a feed reader, the reader will automatically include a new Writing Center Blog post as soon as it’s published. You’ll notice that the examples above show the content, but not the design, of the blog or website. Despite this visual drawback, using an RSS reader can be an easy way to manage your links if you read several blogs or websites. Some readers, including Google Reader, also allow you to star or tag favorite posts to return to later.

Many websites have a single RSS feed, though some also offer topic-specific feeds. As a Walden student, you might want to subscribe to the New York Times business feeds, keep tabs on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receive news updates from the U.S. Department of Education, or follow our Writing Center Blog.

Here is the Writing Center Blog’s feed: 

See the videos below for help adding this feed to Microsoft Outlook, Google Reader, and My Yahoo! Reader.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Though the RSS feeds in my reader have changed from when I worked in public relations, I still use my reader to organize the sites I visit and cut down on wasted time. Has RSS changed your life? Will you give it a try? Weigh in with your experiences!

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