What is RSS and Why Should I Use It?

What is RSS and Why Should I Use It?

You may be “following” your favorite artists work on Facebook, or have a long list of bookmarks you like to check, however there is a better way. Over the past few months, talking with several friends, it has become apparent that there are quite a few people that don’t know about RSS and the benefits it has. 

Let me start by explaining what RSS is. RSS is “Rich Site Summary” or some call it Really Simple Syndication. In ELI5 fashion, it is a feed or channel that you can subscribe to that the RSS reader compiles for you to read at your discretion. Essentially it’s a single website that collects the new content for you, marking it as updated. Instead of bookmarking 30 blogs that you check daily, loading each one in a new tab and trying to remember which posts you’ve seen or read already, all you have to do is add the URL to the reader and it will begin aggregating the posts for you. There may be several reasons you would use an RSS reader, e.g. keeping a list of inspirational photographers, tracking industry news, or following your sisters family blog. With Facebook pages reach being crushed recently, there is no assurance you will see the updates from those you wish to follow. Due to this I can see RSS readers making a resurgence.

Now comes the time to choose which aggregator you want to use. I was a fan of Google Reader until they killed off the project last year, so I had to do some digging to find a new one, it was a bit overwhelming. There are tons to choose from, ranging from desktop applications to web based solutions. I chose to go with the latter. We as photographers tend to be on the move quite a bit and I didn’t want to limit myself to one computer, so I chose a web based platform. There are 2 that seem to be user favorites and they are The Old Reader and Feedly. Both allow you to log in with Google or Facebook accounts so no need to worry about creating another account. I chose to go with The Old Reader do to my familiarity with Google Reader, which it was modeled after.

Awesome, I want in, but how do I start?

First things, first log in, that was easy enough. Now just add the content you want.

Add Subscription

Now that you’ve amassed all the blogs you want to follow, enjoy all the content you want all conveniently in one location for you to read while you sip your coffee.  (As you can see it’s been a few weeks since I have been though my feed.)

RSS Feed example

RSS has many other benefits that aren’t as apparent at first glance. Unlike subscribing to an email list. You don’t have to reveal your email address. If you want to stop receiving content, you don’t have to request to be “taken off the list.” All you have to do is remove the subscription and it’s gone. Since there are no email addresses involved there is not selling your email, no spam, no phishing.

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6 Comments

Rob Timko's picture

RSS died when Google Reader died. I thought I'd miss my 200+ RSS feeds, and panicked. Now, I see the same content on my social media feeds and I like that some social media's/and the nature of social media, tends to bring the interesting things more attention, rather than clicking through RSS feeds. I haven't looked back and I don't think I'm 'missing' anything.

Kyle Ford's picture

I felt the same, panicked and save them all out. I too was being satisfied by my social media stream, however I've been lacking in time to spend on the social sites as of late and have been missing tons of great content. That coupled with FB crushing the reach of pages, I'm moving back to my RSS feeds.

from Marshall Kirkpatrick, co-editor of ReadWriteWeb : http://readwrite.com/2011/06/07/glassboard_rock_star_team_regroups_from_...

[...]
My take on it is this, and I'll try to say this without
getting too upset about it: the lack of uptake of RSS
reading software by consumers and businesses is among the
turns of events in recent technology history that's most
disparaging of the state of humanity. That a personalized,
centralized repository for updates from dynamic streams of
information delivered by free trusted sources of democratic
publishing all over the world has had its tech-lunch eaten
by mind-rotting casual Flash games on Facebook is as
depressing as the way that public education dreams were
dashed when the promise of television became its reality.
It's like the psychedelic dreams of Harvard's Dr. Timothy
Leary becoming the wretched, heartbreaking narcotic drama of the TV show The Wire. It's terrible. It's reason
to pack it all up and go home.
[...]

Personally, I'm almost never on social media, so I'd miss a lot. I've tried several different RSS readers and I love feeder.co & for just $20/year, I can see my feeders anywhere.

Major W. Latimer's picture

Great article thanks!