Friday, January 11, 2008

RSS: Get inside the wrapper!

If RSS is 'Really Simple Syndication" why do so few people really understand it?

If you are reading this blog because you have subscribed to an appropriate feed, then you likely won't get anything out of this post. If, on the other hand, you came across this post randomly, then you might consider taking advantage of RSS to provide yourself with 'one-stop' reading.

The best analogy that I can come up with for Really Simple Syndication, is the chocolate bar. You might be attracted to the wonderful packaging, but really, what you want, is the candy that exists inside the wrapper!

Really Simple Syndication ensures that the CONTENT can be subscribed to, while the FORM is inconsequential. In the 'old days' of 5 or 10 or more years ago, web authors used to spend lots of time customizing the form of their content. Fonts, sizes, colours, and other attributes that adapted and augmented the content ('the wrappings') if you like, are becoming secondary to the content. RSS, allows the reader to focus solely on the content. You might want to view "RSS in Plain English".

A quick and entertaining explanation of RSS is included within The Machine is Us/ing Us:

In order to access the content, you need to select and get comfortable with a 'feed-reader'. These 'aggregators' are free and widely available. I prefer Google Reader because it has the same look and feel as my G-mail account, but there are many options available.

Once you have a feed-reader, you can subscribe to all kinds of syndicated content. Just look for the orange RSS symbol in any URL, and you can copy the entire URL from your address bar, to add a subscription to your feed-reader:

Now you can subscribe to all types of content, including:

Your friends Flickr images
A colleagues bookmarks:
Your favourite newspapers:
Any of a number of Blogs... like this one:
or Podcasts: E-learningDaily

I didn't mention this in today's Teacher 2.0 Podcast, but this is just the beginning of huge changes in the way we access information! As coders are coming to realize, you can also draw RSS information into other sites and programs, resulting in a wave of new 'mash-ups' that are turning the world wide web on its ear. What are you waiting for? After all, it is "REALLY SIMPLE SYNDICATION"!