Moving my blog to a new location got me thinking about which tools I've reviewed over the last several months were the most useful for me. There's no question that it's rss.
Until I found out about rss (also known as really simple syndication) I was becoming a blog reading junkie, following links from one blog to another, adding the interesting ones to my bookmarks, trying to remember which blogs I needed to follow up next, and losing track of a lot of good stuff. At the same time, I was subscribing to more than a dozen email newsletters, and had signed up for email notification from certain websites that update their content frequently.
Web technology now allows automatic tracking of websites that change frequently, such as news sites, blogs and e-magazines. You can tell which websites are available for this kind of tracking because they have an icon somewhere that uses words like syndicate, feed, RSS or webfeed .
You then sign up with a web based service like Bloglines or Feedster (they're also called feed readers or aggregators), and choose which websites you want to track (subscriptions). After that, every time you log on, you can scan all the updates to your subscribed sites on a single web page. Instead of going one by one to different websites or email messages to see what's new, all the new content comes to you in one place.
After researching and trying a few feed reader sites myself, I chose Bloglines because
- it's free and web-based, so you don't have to download anything;
- it lets you organize your subscriptions into your own categories;
- many websites with email update notifications are now
available as rss feeds, so you can reduce email clutter;
- you can save time because it's easier to scan blogs quickly;
- you can publish your own free blog as a kind of journal with web clippings
To get started, you can go directly to the About page at Bloglines and read the introductory information. Otherwise, see Amy Gahran's Contentious blog about feeders, or click here for her tutorial on rss feeds.
To keep learning more, check out my del.icio.us bookmarks that I've tagged "rss" by clicking here. Better yet, subscribe to that del.icio.us link so you can get updates automatically!
23 Oct 2005 update: Steve Rubel lists several ways that using RSS feeds can enhance your life. Click here.
3 Nov 2006 update: Right now there are about 83,000 people like me who have public subscriptions on Bloglines, and about 35% of these people (like me) organize their subscriptions into topical folders, and (like me) average about 20 feeds per folder. Now the clever people at the University of Maryland have created Feeds That Matter. FTM interprets all that information about nearly 3 million individual feed subscriptions to generate lists of the most popular feeds in the most popular categories. If you are researching one of these categories, you can quickly find the most reputable bloggers for that category and find information and resources that have already been filtered by like minded people.