Sunday, February 18, 2007

Subscribing to blogs and websites/RSS explained


I was going to find a good website to link out to for this, but thought I'd give it a shot at writing it myself.

The thing is that subscribing to Blogs is a good thing. Some would say it's a great thing, but not that many people know how to do it, or what it is exactly. I will try to explain for the benefit of anyone who sees the "subscribe" button on the left and doesn't know what the whole shebang means.

I'll try a newspaper analogy.

Imagine the whole internet is a newspaper. There'll probably be a few writers (bloggers) whose columns (blogs) you particularly enjoy. In an ideal world you'd be able to pay somebody to cut them out of the paper and paste them onto a piece of card so you don't have to search for new articles amongst the rest of the paper... particularly frustrating if it's an occasional column which doesn't appear every day.

This is exactly what feed-readers do. Once you've subscribed to a blog, or other regularly updated site, it cuts new articles on that blog out, and pastes them into your own individual web-page for your convenience. Feed readers do this by seeking out a file called an RSS file, which is essentially an index of articles on a blog.

There are a number of sites on the web that enable you to subscribe to blogs, and that generate a webpage of articles from the blogs you subscribe to. Two of the most popular are Google Reader and Bloglines. The process for signing up to either of these is slightly different, and I won't bother explaining it. But once you've subscribed to one, every time you come across a blog you'd like to be included in your subscriptions page, just look for and click on the RSS icon: . Content from that blog will, from then on, appear on your subscriptions page automatically.

Y'know, you could always click on the one in the top left of this page if you like.

No pressure.

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