RSS – what is it and what does it do for me?

Consumers of RSS broadly fit into two categories:

  • Those who wonder why they need it, or otherwise dont care
  • Those who wonder how they ever managed without it

What is it?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a Web 2.0 connection enabling technology which has been changing the way people gather information from the internet for many years now.

Essentially if you are someone who repeatedly goes to the same websites every day looking for new content such as news, forums, blogs etc.. then you are probably wasting more time than you need to. What if all the latest updates from your favourite web sources came to you rather than you having to go out onto the web and spend time trawling for the new stuff you haven’t read, every day?

How do you use it?

There are 2 things you will need.

The RSS Reader

The RSS reader is the equivalent of an E-mail reader. When people send you e-mail you will use an e-mail client such as Outlook, Notes, Gmail or other equivalent in order to connect with your e-mail server and receive new messages.

There are many different types of RSS reader however, some are software based which you download and install onto your device. Others are web-based, and some integrate with other software. Which one that is right for you may take some experimentation my recommendation is to perhaps try a few on for size.

I actually use a plug-in for my Google Chrome browser called “RSS Live Links”.

Pictured below you can see Live Links displaying a non-invasive alert next to the address bar to notify me that there is new content available on my favourite web sites. Upon clicking the icon I can see that there are a few sites that have new content and upon clicking on the sites I can quickly see the narratives for which the updated content relates.


The other cool feature Live Links has is that you can optionally add a bookmark folder to your toolbar which will fill with new and interesting content from the RSS feeds you subscribe to. Below is an example of new E-mail I have received in my Gmail inbox.

Live Links also has an Avaliable Feeds link which you can click on when you are on a page you would like to syndicate with. If the site has an available feed ‘Syndicating’ with the site content in Live Links is as easy as click on the link, pictured in the images above.


Live RSS bookmark folders at work in Google Chrome (using Live Links)

So you have an RSS reader, now what to do with it… Add this BLOG!!

The RSS Feed Rssicon

You may have seen this orange ‘radar’ icon before? This icon is commonly used to indicate that there is an available RSS feed on the page you are viewing. Using this blog as an example see on the right hand side of the screen there is widget titled ‘Social Media in the Enterprise’ preceded with that little orange icon which you can click on. If you click it (or the one next to the title above) you will be taken to a page which has a load of gobble-de-gook on it. This crazy page is XML data which is the machine-readable content your RSS reader will use to notify you of new things happening in this blog. The important thing to take from this page is the URL, or the address:

In your RSS reader or plugin of your choice there will be an option for adding a new feed and the URL above is what it will need to know in order to let you know of new and interesting events which occur on this blog. The great thing about Live Links is that it makes this process much easier by allowing you to simply ‘Add’ the site you are currently sitting on – give it a go 🙂


RSS is a technology which enables you to connect with the content you enjoy from a single aggregation point, thus allows you to find, filter and read the things that are of interest to you in a more efficient manner.

From the corporate angle it is not only especially good at saving time that employees spend gathering information from the internet, but consider the value potential value from implementing this on the company intranet, blog, wiki etc.. it allows people to keep up with the most up to date information from sources that they care about.

Still confused about all this RSS? Check out this video which explains beautifully the simplicity and elegance of RSS and how it can make your internet experience richer and more productive.


3 comments on “RSS – what is it and what does it do for me?

  1. Pingback: Cook’s 4C’s of Social Software – a summary | Social Media in the Enterprise

  2. Pingback: Guiding Frameworks for Social Media use

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