I am still in my post-election triple depression, considering four more W. years, Scalia as our head judge, and a conservative ocean's 11 (yes, eleven!) worth of states voting against certain types of marriages. I told my in-house Republican that she couldn't gloat, at least for the next few days.
To try to divert myself from thinking about this sad state of affairs, at least I can turn to the Web and drown my sorrows in data dumps, late-night blogs, and ludicrous analyses from pundits large and small. And the number of gratifying election humor emails that I have received also helps.
Be that as it may, one of the best ways these days to stay on top of things is to use RSS, a syndication service that is basically a messaging protocol between you and your favorite Web site. When someone adds content to their server, the site can be configured to send out an RSS message so that you can be notified of this new content. You can pick up these messages in any number of products, called RSS readers, ranging from specialized software tools, combination readers/email clients like Mozilla's Thunderbird, to Web sites that can aggregate the content such as My.Yahoo.com, NewsGator.com, and Bloglines.com.
For those of you that are old enough to remember, this whole RSS thing sounds annoyingly and cloyingly like what was once called push technology, which was the darling of the digerati back in 1996. Back then we had special software that you could put on your PC and whenever some new content came rolling along from your favorite sites, it would be "pushed" to your PC and you could read it without having to constantly check the sites and root around in your browser to see what was new on that particular site. I had a brief relationship with various push products and kept returning to email as the best notification mechanism for keeping you updated.
However, email as a notification system is patently flawed. For one thing, corporate filters tend to block many lists these days, especially if you have certain words in them or in your subject lines. And people change email addresses faster than anything, so staying on top of your list is always a challenge. That's where RSS comes in handy.
RSS has none of these issues with email filters, at least for now. And I have begun to use it during my day job to keep track of my own sites. You see, we have a huge content repository here at the Electronics Group at CMP. From that content we publish numerous sites, and having the RSS feeds to those sites means I can easily check on my people and see what they have posted for the day, as well as have a neat mechanism for my editors to keep track of what other work they have done. And this is without the crude fuss and bother of having to click around various sites. (My thanks to Stuart Bowen and Rob Keane for making this happen, by the way.)
Now, I am not new to RSS at all. Indeed, I have been using an RSS "feed" (as the individual "channels" are called) on my own site for quite some time. And with absolutely no promotion, links, or anything resembling a marketing plan, this feed gets quite a few people who have subscribed. For those of you that are interested, here is the address to enter into your reader:
Until this week I was preparing my feeds by hand, using a text editor (I'll let you guess which editor I use), and then uploading the file to my site every week. It is painful, yes. And when I tried to update my RSS 0.9 feed manually to a more recent version, I ran into some problems, so I backed off for the time being. Maybe one of you RSS gods can help me figure this out. Then I came across FeedForAll.com, which seems like a nifty tool to update your feeds, but I haven't spent much time with it yet. It does seem simple and easy to set up your feeds, and I will write more about it later, as Iyou’re your reactions to the feed that I have assembled.
Another site worth checking out for various RSS tools is here:
Of course, there are more sophisticated ways to do these feeds, including linking directly into your own content management system so that the site itself prepares them and sends out the messages. Indeed, that is how our feeds work at CMP, with a little help from our Web staff and a bit of programming magic. And there are even tools that allow you to insert Amazon affiliate ads inside your feeds (available at feedburner.com) among other things, so this area is definitely poised to take off.
Since setting up my T-bird email reader for RSS, I have begun to subscribe to a bunch of sites that I like to check up on, including the competition. (Techtarget, bless them, is still behind the times and doesn't have any feeds for their sites. Better for us, I say.) I hesitate to say that RSS could become the push of this decade, but in its own quiet way, it has. And maybe with a brighter future, too. Let me know what you think of my feed, and what reader(s) you have used and prefer.
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