Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Blogging and RSS
Depending on who you talk to, RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication. Either way, RSS is a real important technology that information specialists and educators would be well advised to harness sooner rather than later. In simple terms, Weblogs (and an ever-growing number of other sites) generate a behind-the-scenes code in a language similar to HTML called XML. This code, usually referred to as a "feed" (as in "news feed"), makes it possible for readers to "subscribe" to the content that is created on a particular Weblog so they no longer have to visit the blog itself to get it. As is true with traditional syndication, the content comes to you instead of you going to it.

For instance, say you've found 20 or 30 (or, like me, 120!) Weblog sites on the Internet that interest you. Finding the time to click through to those sites on a regular basis is probably pretty difficult. But what if you had to go to only one place to read all of the new content on all of those sites? Wouldn't be so difficult, would it? Well, that's exactly what RSS allows you to do by using what's called an "aggregator" or news-feed collector. The aggregator checks the sites you subscribe to, usually every hour, and it collects all the new content into a folder that is just waiting for you to come and read it. Big deal, you say? Very big, indeed, for a variety of reasons.

Take this general scenario, for instance: You currently get the headlines from The New York Times via an e-mail message that arrives each morning. But more and more, your e-mail box is being clogged up by spammers selling everything from pornography to mortgages. There are new virus warnings every day. Not so with RSS. The feed your aggregator checks is virus free, and you know that everything in your aggregator is something you want to read because you subscribed to it. No ads, no spam, just new content from the sources you read. You can scan the headlines, read the entire post, click through to the actual Web site, and file the information away for later retrieval.

Will Richardson