Tuesday, February 28, 2006

RSS everywhere

People who have gotten into blogging know a bit about RSS but most folks haven't even heard of it before.

It stands for Really Simple Syndication and all you need to know is that it's a standard form of communication on the Web that allows for the syndication of content.

And what does that mean?

Let's say you run CNN. You have a new article to publish to the Website. Putting the article up on CNN.com is a great start, but then people have to remember to visit CNN multiple times a day to keep up to date with what's happening in the world.

Wouldn't it be nice if the users could be told that there's a new article rather than make them go look for new articles?

But how annoying would it be to get an email from CNN every time they put up a new article? You'd have tens or hundreds of emails a day flooding your Inbox.

And what if you wanted updates from not just CNN but also AP, Reuters, the New York Times, and so on?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just have a single Web page that collected all the latest stories from each site, displayed the headline and maybe a short description, and then offered a link to the full article? That way you'd know all the latest stories and could just click on the items that interested you. Pretty nice idea, huh?

"Hey," you say, "my customized My Yahoo page already does that for me."

Yeah, I know. How does it do it though? Through RSS.

Basically every time you visit your My Yahoo page, it automatically checks, through RSS, if there are any new items to display. A news outlet like CNN or AP will have new items just about every hour. Less frequent sources may have nothing and just display "no new items in the last x days".

And the nice thing is that RSS is "Really Simple" so anyone can use it, not just professional news outlets.

And with My Yahoo or any other RSS reader (aka content aggregator) you can choose to add as many different RSS "feeds" as you like.

This blog has a dedicated RSS feed. Look to the right column under "Syndicate". Those are links to the RSS feed or specialized links to automatically add this feed to your My Yahoo or Google pages.

And now my other sites - banzaifilms.com and ebanzai.com - have their own dedicated RSS feeds (and I had to write my own Java code so that my sites could offer RSS feeds so I think it's cool even if no one else does...).

The banzaifilms.com feed will keep you updated with new movie reviews as they're posted. Why visit the site if there's nothing new? Or why waste the time to visit just to find out whether or not something new is there? Just add its RSS feed to your My Yahoo page and click on new reviews as they appear (if you're interested, that is).

Same for ebanzai.com, my online photo gallery site. New galleries might appear once a month or, if there's a flurry of activity, there could be new galleries up each day. But again, why visit the site just to see if there's something new? Just add the ebanzai RSS feed and you'll be notified when a new gallery is posted.

To add either RSS feed, just visit banzaifilms.com or ebanzai.com and you'll see the new "XML", "+My Yahoo", and "+Add to Google" buttons all over the place. The "+My Yahoo" button will add that site's RSS feed to your My Yahoo page.

If you'd like to add both feeds, you'll have to visit each site and click its "+My Yahoo" button since the underlying action of each button is customized to each of the two feeds. Even though the "+My Yahoo" button looks the same on this blog, on banzaifilms, and on ebanzai, each one is specially coded just for the site that it's on.

The "+Add to Google" button allows you to add the feed to your Google page or Google reader. This is fairly new so people probably aren't too familiar with it.

Finally the "XML" button is a link to the actual RSS feed itself. If you use any other reader (i.e. not My Yahoo and not Google), you'll need that link to tell it how to find my feed. If you're advanced enough to be using a different RSS client, then you don't need my help.


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