Tag: rss_feeds

RSS usability problems re-discovered!

Robert Scoble has written a post bemoaning the lack of standards in using RSS feeds and the consequent confusion which this causes :

Some sites use RSS icons. Most that I visit use the orange XML icon. But other sites don’t have any icon and instead use words like “subscribe� or “feed� or “web feed.�

There’s a great discussion in the comments of Robert’s post on this issue – with some making the point that auto-discovery in IE7 will solve the problem and others countering that if you want to add the feed to an online reader like Google Reader or Netvibes, then autodiscovery won’t resolve that problem.

We had a very fruitful discussion on that topic here a few weeks back, after Dave Winer suggested that we use a Subscribe button.

What we came up with was a combination of an orange Subscribe button and a Help button – thanks to FrankP‘s generosity these buttons and the Help text are free to copy and use on other sites.

Robert – you obviously didn’t either 1) read the discussion or 2) read the discussion and forgot about it – I’m hurt 😉

What exactly is RSS?

Have you heard about RSS and wondered what exactly it is? Well in technospeak RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it is a family of XML file formats for web syndication. To put it more simply, the technology behind RSS allows internet users to subscribe to websites that have provided RSS feeds so that they are notified when there are updates to the site. RSS feeds are typically used by news websites (RTE, BBC, Reuters, CNN, etc.), weblogs (blogs) and more recently by search engines and other search services to provide a perpetual search.

To Subscribe to an RSS feed from a website you need the site’s RSS feed address (i.e. http://www.tomrafteryit.net/feed/) and an RSS feed reader. 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. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of commercial and free RSS feed readers. Google has recently launched an online feed reader called Google Reader, Yahoo! has one in its MyYahoo service and Microsoft has one on its Start.com site.

How do I know where a site’s feed is?
A sites RSS feed is typically linked to with a small orange button with white writing on it which might say one of the following: RSS, XML,Webfeed, Feed, or Subscribe.

Why would I want to use RSS?
RSS is a push technology, where the information you want is delivered directly to you – unlike browsing, where you have to go looking for the required data. Search engine RSS feeds are particularly powerful because they allow you to search for a term of interest (your company’s name, your competitor’s name, your market segment) and subscribe to an RSS feed for that search. This RSS feed will now constantly deliver new information on that search term as it arises on the internet. In the field of market intelligence, this is one of the most powerful tools ever seen.

If you’d like to know more about RSS or to see it in action, feel free to come along to the IT@Cork RSS Event on the 25th of October.