Really Simple Syndication… RSS for short

Last week, as I looked at some sites, I kept noticing links to their RSS feeds. Being back in the public-facing web development arena, I figured that I should probably understand the technologies that are out there for me to use. So I contacted my friend Nivex, who I knew had dealt with RSS feeds in the past, as he had mentioned them to me in passing. He was able to explain it to me so that I could understand it.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. They work on subscriptions, and whenever you subscribe to a site’s RSS “feed”, you can read the site’s updates automatically without having to go to the site. If you don’t want to see a site’s updates anymore, you can simply delete your subscription to the feed, without having to go to the site to unsubscribe.

RSS feeds are read through RSS readers. There are various types of software packages and websites out there to read RSS feeds. Here at home, I use Google Reader, and I use Mobipocket at work. Other readers can be found by searching for the terms “rss reader” or “rss aggregator” or “feed reader”.

When I wake up in the morning, there are a few sites that I visit consistently. Since I found the RSS feeds for them, I no longer open each site to see if they’ve updated or what they’ve changed to. I can just go to my RSS reader of choice and read the updates there. Granted, some RSS feeds are smaller than others, so I do have to go to the sites when the message is longer than the feed.

The night after I had the RSS conversation with Nivex, Jeff Blankenburg had messaged me, after realizing I had mentioned him here. He had some neat tools to show me, and so I checked them out. A couple tools he had me check out include Google Analytics and Google Alerts. I’ll save the details behind them for another entry. But the tool I’m going to focus on is Feedburner.

Whether you’ve got a blog, podcast, or commercial site, Feedburner can work for you. Feedburner can take your RSS feed and make it work for you. From statistics on how many people read your feed to what kind of reader they use to various statistics found in other web packages (site traffic, referrers, etc.), you can find out all sorts of details about your feed. You can see what search terms people are using to find your site. These are just site statistics and feed statistics.

But wait, there’s more! Feedburner can make sure that your feed is accessible to any feed reader application, using their SmartFeed feature. Whether you have mobile readers or people who just read from their desktop or laptop, SmartFeed makes sure their reader can read your feed.

There are various things that can be spliced into your feed – including pictures from Flickr, links to share the data on a variety of social networking sites, and links that are shared from a variety of social networking sites. There are also specialized feed handlers for feeds that deal with events and financial symbols.

Feedburner can work with the Google AdSense program, so if you’re making money from AdSense Ads, you can inject those into your feeds as well.

Getting the word out via Feedburner is fairly easy. Burn your feed, and then they have instructions on how to advertise your burned feed on your site, with instructions geared specifically for some common browser packages (including WordPress, Blogger, and TextPad).

My feed for this blog can now be accessed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/CodingGeekette.

Thanks to the talk of RSS and really neat tools with Nivex and Jeff, I’ve got some ideas as to how I can use them not only for my own advantage but for the company I work for as well. There are a few parts of our site that I can build feeds for that I could easily see as being beneficial. I have to pitch the idea to the company, but I think I could sell them on it.

Check it out – you may have a use for it too!

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