Help on Subscribing

Subscribe? What does that mean??

Many sites now provide feeds of their content which you can subscribe to. This simple technology allows you to use software called a ‘feed reader’ or ‘aggregator’ to read content from sites instead of visiting the site itself. Don’t be put off by the acronyms like XML or RSS – this is genuinely easy to do.

Why would I want to do it?

If you like to keep up to date with a number of sites, you can now do so more easily with a feed reader. You no longer have to go from site to site checking for new content. This technology allows you to keep up to date with the content from a large number of sites. Using a feed reader you can subscribe to a sites feed. You can now read the sites content in your feed reader and the site’s feed will automatically update. The feed reader will usually have a way to visually let you know when there is fresh content from a site you are subscribed to, so you can see at a glance which feeds you need to catch up on.

OK, so how do I do all this?

First, you’ll need a feed reader, or ‘aggregator’. You can install a feed reader on your computer so that you have access to it on your desktop, or if you prefer you can use an online feed reader. If you are not comfortable installing software on your computer then an online feed reader might suit you best.

The following three feed readers are popular:

FeedDemon for Windows
NetNewsWire for Mac OS X
Bloglines which is Web based

Wikipedia has a list of news aggregators if you would like to explore some more options.

Bloglines, which is listed above as a popular online choice is very easy to use. Sign up with them and when you log in you will see a subscribe button prominently placed on the screen. You will then be brought to a screen where you can enter the url (web address) of a site or feed. If you enter a website address, the feed reader will attempt to discover where that site’s feed is and subscribe you to it. If the feed reader cannot find the feed you will have to enter the feed manually.

How do I know where a site’s feed is?

A lot of sites include a text link or button which leads to their feed. The trouble is there are many different names and acronyms in use to alert you to a site’s feed. This is partly to do with the different technologies being used to offer feeds, but we won’t worry about that now. The fact is you have probably seen these links or buttons but you may not have known what they were. A common button is a small orange button with white writing on it which might say one of the following:

RSS
XML
Webfeed
Feed
Subscribe

(Click on any of the terms to read the wikipedia entry for them)

These buttons are usually links to the url (web address) of the feed for that site or blog. That is the url you need to give to your ‘feed reader’ or ‘aggregator’ in order to subscribe.

That’s it?

Well, in a nutshell, yes:

1. Choose a feed reader
2. Tell your feed reader where the feeds you like are
3. Read all your favourite sites in one fell swoop

There must be more!

These are the basics, if you don’t feel comfortable with the concepts yet, have a look at these:

* Using RSS and Atom, from a non-technical standpoint.
* What Does Syndicate This Site Mean?
* an introduction to weblogs, part two: syndication
* About.com’s Top 10 Windows RSS Feed Readers / News Aggregator

So where is the feed for this site?

The feed for this site is at:

* http://www.tomrafteryit.net/feed/

Help page content shamelessly copied from FrankP’s excellent Help page

4 thoughts on “Help on Subscribing

  1. Pingback: Tom Raftery’s I.T. views » Blog Archive » Subscribe button II

  2. Pingback: Amarendra bhushan’s business blog » S60Tips.com Web-based Feed Reader - Bloglines or Google Reader?

  3. Pingback: Amarendra bhushan’s business blog » Part 4: Getting Started: You Need a Feed Reader at contentious.com

  4. Pingback: RSS and helping people subscribe to your blog… » Website Design Cork

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