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4 Reasons you need an RSS feed

If you don’t know what RSS is, prepare to have your mind blown. If you’ve never used RSS, chances are you’re still bookmarking your favorite websites and blogs and visiting them on a regular basis painfully one at a time. RSS feeds allow you to magically consolidate all the content you read online, into one platform where you can get your daily dose of information all at one go.

RSS stands for really simple syndication, and it was designed as a simple way for web authors to syndicate their content across the internet. Conversely (and more importantly), it also provides a way for web users to consolidate all their favorites blogs, searches and forum threads onto one single platform.

So what is it really? Well I’m not too sure of the technical specifications to be honest, but here’s how I think it operates.

Let’s say I’m a blogger, and I host a blog which I update on a daily basis (how I wish this was true!), every single update on my blog would update a separate ‘headline file’ on my server. For the truly curious, the file is usually an XML file that meets a certain format specification.

Now any one of my readers can then use an RSS reader that checks the ‘headline file’ intermittently, for this example lets say it’s once a day. Thereby getting access to all my content via the headline file without having to visit my blog. The real power of the RSS reader is that it’s able to download all the ‘headline files’ from almost every blog a reader wishes. This provides a single place where the reader can then view contents of nearly every website they wish without having to visit each site individually. It means not having to type the name or open up tabs for each specific site, but all the get content streamed directly to one location where you can have a birds-eye view of your subscriptions. Amazing!

Think about the advantages of having to go to just one place to get data from 100 blogs or news sites without having to individually open up a 100 tabs for each one of them. Think about how many times you’ve visited blogs only to find that there isn’t any new content since your last visit. All those issues are solved with a single RSS reader.

So what’s an RSS reader, it’s just an application that reads these ‘headline files’ every day, and like all application there are online web-based versions of RSS readers. In the past I use to love My Yahoo!, now however nothing beats Google Reader. I literally live on Google reader.

For more on how to setup your Google reader, check out this tutorial from www.jimmenick.com

However, that really isn’t the whole story.

Once you’ve setup an RSS readers for the hundreds of blogs you follow, you can even get the latest content from the news by subscribing to RSS feeds from newspapers. Here’s one for Malaysiakini, and one more for the TheStar. Reading content on RSS readers has the added advantage of having no adverts, however news sites only post snippets on the RSS feeds, meaning you’ll have to click on the links to view the whole story. The up side is that you can easily filter out the crap you don’t want to read without having to visit the individual sites.

About 90% of people use RSS readers for just this purpose, but right now you can get syndicated content direct to your RSS readers from a whole host of other provider.

Using RSS to find Jobs.

Jobstreet has a really neat feature that allows you to save your job search as an RSS feed, what this does is that it allows you to get up to date job postings from Job street directly to your RSS reader without having to visit the Jobstreet.com website.

Whenever you search for a job on jobstreet, pay attention to the box on the upper right hand of your screen (inset left). You’ll see a Get jobs by RSS, this is the RSS feed for your specific search including both job description, location, salary..etc etc. It really is a nifty feature, and now I view at least 5-10 job postings daily without ever having to visit jobstreet or wait for the weekly email notification.

It also acts as a repository to store all the jobs form the past month without having to do a search online. Jobstreet even provides the entire description in the RSS feed itself to make things really easy, and the reason for this is that Jobstreets sells job posting not ads, so unlike news sites they don’t need to get you to their site to make money.

Monster also has RSS feeds, but already in pre-defined categories like IT or Marketing.

Using RSS to follow forum threads.

Lowyat.net is arguably the most visited forum website in Malaysia. It has a very very high participation rate and nearly every Malaysian has gone there at one time or another to get information on something.

Lowyat offers RSS feeds to every single thread on the forum, so if you start a thread to ask for help on a PC setup for example, you can just subscribe to the RSS feed of the thread and view all the replies almost instantaneously on your RSS reader, negating the need to go to Lowyat till you need to post something. This is absolutely amazing.

Fortunately, most forums provide this service, and you should be able to easily find the RSS feed links somewhere in the threads.

Using RSS to subscribe twitter #hashtags.

Sometimes you want to follow news sites for the news, but sometimes you think it might be good to get an crowd perspective as well. So you can follow the news on twitter, now you can either go to twitter every 10 minutes and refresh the feed, or you can get the news delivered directly to your RSS reader.

Subscribing to a twitter hashtag has some complications though, and I strongly recommend you read this article from sociable.co in it’s entirety before attempting how. However, for a super simple way to subscribe to twitter hashtags in your RSS readers, here’s the briefest outline:

It’s really interesting, and I’ve already added #Bersih3.0 and #Bersih to the list of twitter hashtags I’ll be following come April 28th :).

Conclusion

You can use the RSS reader to subscribe to your:

1) Favorite blog and news sites, thereby negating the need to visit them individually.

2) Subscribe to job postings from Jobstreet and Monster. Keeping you up to date on how the job market within your industry is doing.

3) Subscribe to forum threads, so that you can check back on questions you posed in forums without having to visit the forum site.

4) Subscribe to twitter feeds, to get the latest news from a crowd perspective.

And the best part is you can do this all from just 1 place, Google Reader.

Astound us with your intelligence