Anyone who knows me will know I like to keep things tidy. Whether it’s my desk, the contents of my work bag or the files on my computer, everything has its place. This helps me keep in control and is why I still believe RSS has its place.
But what is RSS?
Before Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the main way that someone could communicate an idea, solution or frustration was via their blog. For the purposes of this article the term ‘blog’ refers to a site where articles (news, reviews, opinion) or other content (photos, comics or videos) is added regularly.
If you, the reader, wanted to see if a particular blog had published a new article, you’d have to go to the blog on the web (perhaps via a bookmark you’d saved to your web browser). Sometimes you’d be pleasantly surprised and there would be a shiny new post for you to pour over. Often the ‘trip’ was wasted.
Now repeat that process for each and every one of your favourite blogs. Pretty time consuming!
RSS does the hard work for you
RSS is a way to check all of your favourite blogs for new posts, without your having to navigate to each one in your browser.
All you do is subscribe to a bunch of blogs in your RSS app and, at scheduled intervals, or on the click of a button, it will fetch any new posts that have been published.
Accessing your RSS feed
The type of app/program you use to access your RSS feeds varies. Sometimes it’s a dedicated RSS app like Reeder, some email apps offer built-in RSS readers, some web browsers offer the same kind of built-in reader.
It’s one thing having your RSS feeds collected by an app on your laptop, but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll like to pick up whichever of your devices is to hand and check for any new blog posts. If you pick up your phone, you don’t want to have to filter through articles you’ve already read on your tablet.
This is where ‘cloud’ services like Feed Wrangler or Feedly come in. You can access your feeds by logging into your account on their website, or most have their own apps. Alternatively you can access them through a third party app like Reeder (I use Feed Wrangler in conjunction with Reeder because Feed Wrangler is good at filtering out posts I know I don’t want to see, and Reeder offers a great reading experience).
So what’s wrong with social media?
A lot of people have ditched RSS recently, in favour of services like Twitter. In fact, most companies whose RSS feeds I subscribe to also publish links to their articles on their social media accounts. I often come across really interesting articles on Twitter that people I follow have written or retweeted.
It’s just that, in general, I prefer to separate articles blog feeds from the chit-chat of social media. I could miss an important announcement very easily on Twitter, where I would have to deliberately dismiss it in my RSS reader.
RSS does one thing well
I find RSS a great way to keep in control of my day. I use it for keeping up to speed with:
- Important software announcements
- Interesting articles from my favourite bloggers
- Geeky comics
- Industry news
I like that this is separate from my email, which is a back-and-forth communication tool and social media, which is more conversational.