RSS: What Is It, Why Do I Want It, and How Do I Get It?

While it’s exciting how technology has made the Internet interactive, trying to make sense of some of the options available can be a bit intimidating. At least that’s been MY experience!

I kept seeing the RSS icon on people’s sites, with enthusiastic invitations to join their RSS feed. However I honestly had no clue what it was much less how to sign up. So I mentally filed it away under “More Information Than I Need To Know” and chose to ignore it for a very long time.

When I finally realized what it was, one day, it changed my whole online world.

 

WHAT IS RSS?

What a concept! RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, depending on who you’re talking to. But don’t worry about the technical terms. This is what it means.

Let’s say that you’re interested in travel information and you have several web sites and blog sites saved as Favorites or Bookmarked. Occasionally you check back to see what new articles (posts) they’ve added.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could go to just one site where you could click on the name of each of your favorite web sites and be able to see at a glance a list of recent articles and new ones the instant they appear on the web or blog site? Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose to see that list as either the title only or as the title plus part of the article knowing that you can see the article in its entirety?

You can! And it’s all FREE!! Sign up at just one site, select the “reader” you want to view the feed (the articles) in, and from then on you can add as many sites as you want to monitor and, when you “sign up” for their feed, you select that reader and just type in your username and password and that site is automatically added to your reader!

I personally prefer the Google Reader. It’s very comprehensive, user-friendly, and offers more viewing options than some of the other readers. While many readers are available, I’ll show you how to sign up with Google Reader.

 

HOW DO I GET IT?

They sometimes offer an e-mail option so you’ll get a notice in your Inbox each time a new blog post appears.  However, here is what to do if you prefer to just monitor the new posts in a reader.

Click on the “subscribe to our feed” link on one of your favorite websites. This is usually found at the top of the home page and often has an orange icon as well.

Once you have clicked that link, the next page that opens gives you the opportunity to select a reader by clicking on the “show all Subscribe options” link or by selecting the default reader which might be “Subscribe with Google.” On the “Add to Google” page that pops up, you have your choice of “Add to Google homepage” or “Add to Google Reader.” In my opinion, the reader is much easier to use to review feeds.

So click on “Add to Google Reader” and a sign-in box will appear. Right below it is a big “Create an account” button. Once you have a Google account you will have access to all their many other services as well, including Gmail, which I recommend.

Then the “Create an Account” form appears. Just fill in your e-mail address, create a password, confirm your country location, type in one of those annoying word verification boxes that proves you’re a human (you’ll see what I mean once you’re there), and click on “I accept. Create my account.” (accepting the Google Terms of Service).

Next they send you an e-mail that lets you activate your account and verify your e-mail address via a link they send you. If the link isn’t active, copy and paste it into your browser’s address line. Then Google announces that your account is now activated! You can close the Google window.

Whew! A lot of steps; but it only has to be done this one time.

From now on, any time you want to add a feed from another site, you just click on the subscribe to feed area at that site; select the reader you want to subscribe with; if it’s Google, click “Add to Google Reader”; sign in; and voila! That website’s feed is instantly added to the list! It’s like creating your own custom magazine, and always being aware of the latest information being posted on your favorite web sites and blog sites.

How do you access Google Reader, since it’s web-based and doesn’t seem to have a shortcut icon for the desktop? Go to http://www.google.com/reader. That will take you right to your sign-up box. Now you only have to access ONE site in order to monitor as many sites as you want.

NOTE: Many times you will have the option of receiving the RSS feed via e-mail instead. If you don’t mind getting a constant flow of e-mail, that’s the one to choose. :-)

A FINAL NOTE: If you find a site that offers RSS feed but the signup is really confusing, you have an option. If you are using Google Reader, open it up and click “Add Subscription” in the left sidebar. It will open a window for you to type in the site’s URL (domain name). The new site’s feed will instantly appear in your reader and you’ve painlessly signed up with them!

Also, some sites only offer RSS feed on certain pages, like the Press Room where they post their news releases. So if you find a site that doesn’t seem to offer RSS feed, follow the above procedure in your reader. If feed is provided from ANY page, you’ll be signed up. If not, Google Reader will let you know that no feed is available. It’s always good to have a backup plan! ;-)

Be sure to sign up for the ThriftyTraveling.com RSS feed so you’ll know the latest-breaking information we have for you!



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