RSS, the Best Automation You Didn't Know You Needed

RSS, the Best Automation You Didn't Know You Needed

It’s no secret that I am a little obsessed with efficiency in all aspects of the industry, and that carries over to more than just the photos themselves and my retouching process. Efficiency is key for me since I am a one-man-show, I do every aspect of my business from the photography, to the retouching, accounting, marketing, website development, etc., and I could not even begin to keep up if I didn’t take advantage of every automation process available to me. One of my favorite and most useful things is RSS feeds.

What are RSS feeds?

Well, let’s say that I want to make sure I keep on top of new articles posted with Fstoppers, as well as follow anything my favorite photographers post, maybe searching for a specific item I am seeking on craigslist, and maybe following my favorite YouTube channel when they post something fresh.

The amount of time it would take each day to get up, and go to each place would be a lot. Hours every day for me, and perhaps you forget to check one of them and miss something that you really would have wanted to see. Or like me, you just simply don’t have the time to manually go check a bunch of different things each day. Enter RSS, your new best friend in efficiency.

RSS (Rich Site Summary; often referred to as Really Simple Syndication) is a feed that you can consolidate all these things with. It can be used many different ways, including an app for your computer, or mobile device that keeps track of the feeds you choose, and notifies you accordingly, or it could be a service such as Digg.

I use a program on my Mac that integrates the native OSX notifications, in the top right corner of my screen. Anytime something is posted from any of the sources, it pops a notification up, with the headline and a few lines of description, so that I can immediately see if it’s something I am interested in, very quickly.

The Program

First we’ll talk about the app, and then about how we add sources (feeds) to our own notifications.

I use a program from Rocky Sand Studio, Called RSS Notifier, which appears to have been replaced by their newest offering called Leaf. The program you choose to use is entirely up to you, they all offer a bit of a different interface, but all are simple.

Here’s a link to the newest version.

Adding Feeds

First we need to obtain the feed url to give to our RSS program, I’ll lay out the locations for those below:

We’ll start with Fstoppers, to make sure we don’t miss an article that we would like to see.

The Fstoppers feed is both in the header and footer of the pages…

Fstoppers Feed Location

FStoppers Feed Location

The highlighted icon is the feed icon, you can right-click it and choose copy link address, or you can click it, then copy the url from your browser window, it will look like this: http://feeds.feedburner.com/fstoppers/articles

From there, you will click the + button or “new feed” depending on the RSS software you choose, and paste in the link… That will look something like this:

Fstoppers feed add location

Adding Fstoppers feed to RSS reader software.

Boom! Now, you’ll get notifications for that feed. Pretty simple! Don’t forget to set your notifications preferences within the software; things such as how many articles to notify at a time, how often interval to check for new articles, etc., 15 minutes is generally PLENTY fast enough for most uses... If I am seeking something on Craigslist, I may choose 5 or 10.

The notifications might look something like this when there's a bunch... (usually from not having seen your notifications in awhile)

Notifications from RSS reader for following a specific photographers YouTube channel

A sample of what some notifications look like

When you click one of the notifications, it opens the site and you view the article. It will use your default browser, whichever you have set on your system.

Next, we’ll move in to Craigslist… let’s say for sake of example we want anything with “Nikon” to pop up as soon as it gets posted… We go to our local Craigslist page, and do the search, put in whatever parameters you like, such as price limit.

In the far lower right hand corner is an RSS button (shown below).

RSS Feed location for Craigslist.

Example of Craigslist RSS feed link location.

Click that, and then copy the url from your browser window, and repeat the steps above to add this feed to your notifications.

Now when someone posts something in your area that matches, you get an instant notification, this is VERY useful to be the first to call someone on an item that may be posted for a really cheap price… the early bird does indeed get the worm. I’ve often had folks I buy something from, say things like “Oh wow, Craigslist is crazy, I JUST posted that five minutes ago” - I don’t tell how, I just smile and enjoy the deal I just got.

Following photographers’ blogs, usually this is very easy, since most blog software, eg. Wordpress (what most blogs use) - automatically publishes an RSS feed of the posts. Just look for the rss icon (it will look just like the one on Fstoppers), copy the url and paste into your app.

YouTube, well YouTube channels are great to follow if you find useful information or tutorials from a photographer who's style you like, however they don’t make it as easy to get the feed URL, fortunately it’s still not that difficult.

First, visit the channel you wish to follow, and view the page source from your browser, (location of view source varies by browser, most often in the right click menu) - and do a search (Command + F) and look for: channel-external-id and copy the value for that element: it’ll look similar to: UCObv4g2qLyI6Y8-gLlxXHJQ and add it to this url string: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=

So that your entire link looks something like:

https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=UCObv4g2qLyI6Y8-gLlxXHJQ

That’s it, that’s the url to add into your program, and now you’ll know when your favorite channels post a new video. This has been hugely helpful for me because being busy, I generally don’t have the time to go browsing YouTube to see if there’s anything new.

I warn you, of course not to get too carried away with this and add 500 feeds, as you could get bombarded with too many notifications, but even following all the things I mentioned above, I don’t find my notifications intrusive, they are actually very helpful and allow me to monitor and see more stuff than I would otherwise have even known about.

You can even get an RSS feed app that’ll sync with your iPhone and pop up notifications on your Apple watch if you REALLY want to be on top of things when you aren’t at your computer.

Side note, you can obviously use this for more than just your photography stuff, could be a news feed from your favorite sports team, and you could get notified of roster changes easily… (again, something I wouldn’t normally have time to keep up on, because of being so swamped with sessions and retouching).

Hope this has been helpful and yes, I know there’s 1,000,000 different ways to accomplish most things, but this is my favorite way of keeping up with new articles and relevant feeds.

Any questions, please feel free to comment.

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13 Comments

Jeena Paradies's picture

That is all nice and dandy, and I even agree, but why is there no full post feed fon Fstoppers and instead just a teaser and I have to be online when I'm reading my feeds because I have to open the website in the browser?

Bill Larkin's picture

It's meant to be a teaser, a headline and short description. It's not intended to read the entire article, as you would lose formatting, etc. it's not a replacement for a browser, just a way to be notified about things you may be interested in.

I agree with Jeena on this one. I find it really frustrating. I use feedly for my RSS feeds, most my feeds open up and I can browse them all within the app, keeping my PC free of many tabs and opening and closing them all the time. That's the reason I choose to use an RSS feeder, to keep everything in one place. Yet fstoppers which is one I have been following for a while is the only one to force me to take my browsing outside the app. As for formatting...what formatting. It's always been an article with a few images embedded...nothing special. I feel it is more down to forcing people onto your site because of advertising revenue.

Aside from that...how about a article with some of your favourite people to follow and links to their RSS feeds?? I'm always game for finding new people to learn from.

I wish the Fstoppers RSS feed indicated which articles were simply videos, vs. which had a text component. I'd skip all the videos...

Dallas Dahms's picture

There's a much better way to follow via RSS and that is with My Yahoo.

It lets you create a page with blocked feeds from any RSS stream. You can drag them around and also decide how many items you want to have appear in a block. You can also have different pages as tabs for different topics you might be interested in. Much better than constantly being annoyed with something popping up on your screen in OSX.

Bill Larkin's picture

Yep that works as well, also services like Digg, but the notifications allow things to be seen faster... even without having a browser open, such as for a craigslist watched item that may pop up... rather than having to visit that page. So it's just a preference.

Dallas Dahms's picture

I find the OS X notifications very distracting and I have set them to off for most apps. I have MyYahoo set as my home page, so when I open the browser I have my favourite sites latest content presented. Google really screwed up when they they decided to end their own version of this in favour of G+ (which I don't think I have looked at in about 2 years). Now I land on Yahoo instead of them.

Bill Larkin's picture

I totally agree on Google screwing up bad by ending that, it was a good thing. I used to use it. I personally don't like Yahoo... so I moved on to different methods. :)

Daniel Haußmann's picture

I use feedly to get an overview of all the feeds I am interested in. In fact it brought me here :)

Bill Larkin's picture

Feedly is good :)

Mark Bienvenu's picture

I think it's funny to see an article "introduce" something that's been around for as long as most people have been using the internet. I think the best sites (as old ones went away and new ones came around ) were Bloglines, then Google Reader, then Feedly. I eventually replaced all that with Facebook Lists. That's still my preferred method. That feature is technically disabled now so you can't create new lists, but you can still access and edit existing lists if you had the direct URLs bookmarked. Twitter also works.

Bill Larkin's picture

Hi Mark, it wasn't "introducing as new" it was letting folks know about it who did not already know, which is a large percentage of the population. I've personally spoken with about 30 photographers, none of which knew about it.

The same goes for podcasts. For a while there most people didn't even know what they were, especially younger people. I love podcasts.