RSS – what is it?

Do you read the newspaper every day? If so, how do you get it? Do you get dressed, jump in the car, drive to the shops, park, get out, go into the shop, buy the paper, then get back to the car and drive home before you can read it? Or, do you get the paper delivered and read it in your PJs while sipping tea and eating toast?

Have you looked at any family history related blogs yet? If you have, do you have to check them periodically for updates? Do you forget at times? Wouldn’t it be good if you could have them delivered just like the newspaper? Actually, you can!

Many of you will recognise these symbols without really knowing what they mean and what they can do for you. In short, this indicates that new content from the website you are looking at is able to be sent to you as it becomes available, sort of like getting the newspaper delivered!

The RSS symbol stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ or others know it as a ‘web feed’. Simply put, it’s a uniform way to share web content, but you don’t need to understand or remember that, you only need to know that it is a secure way for a website to deliver news to you.

We could go on and on for pages but here’s a nifty little video that explains it all much better than we can – RSS in plain English, and it’s from YouTube: to play the video just click on the right pointing arrow in the middle of the video screen.

Although the video RSS in plain English highlights Google Reader, which is not a bad thing because many of you probably already have a Google account anyway, there are other feed aggregators like RSS Owl  and FeedDemon and FeedReader3  – all are free and just need to be downloaded and installed (get the grandkids to do it). It’s just a matter of personal preference as to which one you use. A feed aggregator can work hard bringing in all the latest news from your favourite websites and blogs while you’re boiling the kettle in the morning and have them ready to read with tea and toast! Well, you’ll have to cook the toast; they can’t do everything – yet! Just open the program and it will check all your subscriptions for new content and tell you what it has found. Just think, with one click you can keep up with the latest news from us, the GSV, AIGS, the State Library, PROV,………

Or, you can utilise your email programs like Outlook and Thunderbird to bring in RSS feeds. Or, you can subscribe to the feed by email if you’re not comfortable with aggregators, see our post about email subscriptions for more information.

Which is better? It’s up to you really; the one big difference between news feeds and email subscriptions is this: if you’ve got an email subscription then the website has your email address. It has no other information about you, just your email address. How else is it going to deliver your news? Most sites and organisations have privacy policies and will not divulge your information but you should check. If you use a news feed, the website has no information at all about you, it doesn’t need to, your email program or aggregator gets the content from them.

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