You have probably seen the logo on the left all over the internet – trust me, its all over the place. It’s the RSS logo, and when you see it you know that the site you are reading supports one of the most useful standards evolving on the internet.
So, what is RSS?
RSS is a standard format used to let people (and programs) know about updates to a website. Because it is a standard (everyone agrees on a common format) programs can be written to do useful things with RSS publications – more about that later.
This site actually has an RSS feed. You can see a link to it at the bottom of the page – “Entries (RSS)“. The link is to a file in a standard format (XML) which has information about the 10 most recent articles published on alistairpott.com. For each article there is a title, link, and description (in my case the whole article).
RSS readers – Google Reader
This is where RSS becomes useful to you and I. There are lots of RSS tools and readers out there, but the one that I use and recommend is Google Reader. Instead of manually checking each of my favorite sites for updates I just open up Google Reader. It downloads the RSS file from each of the sites I have subscribed to and lets me know if there are any updates that I haven’t seen yet. I can then read the articles from within the program – or link to the original articles if I want. Below is an example of a recent alistairpott.com post shown in Google Reader.
If you regularly visit sites to check for updates, then I strongly recommend that you give Google Reader a try. And if you do, then subscribe to alistairpott.com!