RSS for newbies - getting the most out of feeds
Do you constantly find yourself aimlessly wandering your way through your huge bookmark library looking for something new to read? Do bloggers with random posting schedules like me totally annoy you because you never know when to visit their site? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then it's time someone talked with you about RSS Aggregators.
RSS is a technology many sites now use (including this one) that basically equates to a news wire. Think of it as their own personal broadcast station that constantly loops the most recent items from that site. Now, just like you need a radio to listen to AM stations, you need something called an aggregator to sort out these feeds to view them and also alert you when something new is added.
So now you're thinking, "Well that sounds great, Vince! Where do I start?" Well, there are a LOT of different aggregators out there, probably hundreds, and they vary quite widely in their use-ability and compatibility. I have tried a number of different approaches but I think I've finally found my RSS nirvana, and I would like to share it with you all.
First thing's first: If you haven't already, you really owe it to yourself to switch from Mircrosoft's Internet Explorer to Firefox (or from Safari to Firefox, Safari is so S L O W). I truly believe that it offers a much faster, safer and more powerful web experience. IE is such a huge hacking target these days that I just don't feel comfortable running it, and I highly recommend Firefox to all my friends and family, so now I'm recommending it to you because it's also integral to reading RSS very efficiently.
Download Firefox by clicking the graphic below, install it then come back here and continue on to the next step. You might want to bookmark this article because you are going to have to restart your browser a couple of times before you're all set.
Welcome back. I hope you've enjoyed installing Firefox and all your wonderful bookmarks have been translated nicely. Now it's time to sign up for a great web-based service called Bloglines. This is my new favorite RSS aggregator for a lot of reasons which I'll outline as I go, but a quick rundown of the major reasons for recommending it:
- Platform independent
- Easy to use
So go to Bloglines.com and sign up for a free account. Once you're looking at your main Bloglines page, make a bookmark for it and put it somewhere easy to find - this will be the only bookmark you'll have to click instead of the 50 sites you visit daily. I'll be right here waiting.
Now comes the best part of all, bringing it all together. You have Firefox, and you have Bloglines, now you get to use a great extension called LiveLines. Extensions are little add-ons for the Firefox browser that add new functionality to make your life easier. Don't be discouraged, this part looks fairly involved written out, but it really is quite easy once you go through it. Find the install link and click it. Firefox should pop-up a bar at the top of your browser like this:
|Click the 'Edit Options…' button.|
|Then click 'Allow'.|
|Now go click the install link again, and on this pop-up click 'Install Now' after the countdown times out.|
|Now exit and restart Firefox, go to the menu bar 'Tools->Extensions' and double click the 'LiveLines' item which brings up this box. Enter the information shown in this image:|
|And you're done! Done what you ask? Now whenever you go to a site and you see this little button in the URL bar, just click it and that site's RSS feed will be added to your Bloglines account. Try it on my site, right there at the top.|
I hope this makes your life a little easier. Let me know if you run into any issues or have any questions. I'm going to do a brief review of how to use Bloglines soon, because there are a lot of really cool features hidden in there. This article should get your started though - Good luck!