Creating RSS feeds

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Q. What is an RSS feed?
A. Basically a simple text file that creates a stream of the latest information from a website.

Q. Why do I need one?
A. Allows you to share content with your audience and engage them in an additional way.

Q. What are some advantages of using an RSS feed?
A. It allows you to read the website using a news feed reader or aggregate several posts at once to download later similar to reading articles as you would email.

Q. Aren’t RSS feeds outdated?
A. Nope! Many big news sites still use RSS feeds such as TV stations and radio stations from around the world.

Q. Why haven’t I heard of it or used it as much?
A. Nowadays most people get their content either from the websites directly or through social media or for instance and multimedia is prioritized on those sites.

Q. Is there an advantage of RSS like speed?
A. Yes, this was a common technology in earlier times because of a few reasons. Early computers couldn’t load images and videos as fast, so RSS takes advantage of text loading which is faster. And on top of that RSS also often is concise and to the point. You won’t see a lot of advertisements and banner ads to distract you from content of popups. And since it’s text based you might be safer from hidden site Javascript and click trackers.

Q. What’s another advantage of using RSS feed?
A. You can use it to increase brand awareness and marketing of your site. The more readily available and accessible your content is, the more eyes and viewers it can potential get. It also allows your content to be readily sharable and viewable which is the goal of most any content creator: to get viewership.

Q. Why might a blogger or site creator not use RSS feeds?
A. Either they aren’t aware of this simple tool or they already share their content to other social media platforms or distribute elsewhere. Or other platforms don’t advertise or support it on their platform because they consider it outdated technology.

Q. Are there any time saving advantages to RSS for a reader also?
A. Yes, as mentioned above speed is one. Not only will you not have distracting images and privacy distractions that social media often has, but you can dictate when you read it. The first example is that when you go on social media, the site is designed for you to keep engaging in a site continuously. So you keep clicking and going down the rabbit hole and sometimes click on miscellaneous nonrelated content like cute cat photos or that funny joke article or video and get sidetracked. Some content nowadays even masquerades as a news article but is actually a sponsored ad trying to sell or push a product in an attempt to get you to buy the goods or services they provide. And here all you wanted to do was spend 5 minutes catching up on the news! Secondly a good newsfeed reader software allows you to download all the articles of the feed and save to read it later. You manage what you see on your own time. This is especially relevant as big data corp social media platforms sometimes reorganize your timelines or data feeds (oopsie!) And so you go to click or swipe on an link and it suddenly disappears. Drat!

Q. What are some examples of newsfeed readers?
A. Newsboat is a good command line interface (CLI) where you can read it in Unix/Linux based consoles. Other examples include Flipboard, Feedreader, and Feedly.

Q. Is RSS here to stay?
A. It certainly isn’t going away yet, but eventually some browsers and sites may gradually sunset or fade away the use of this technology as innovations evolve. However many sites still use it like Reddit and some weather sites and podcasts and even video channels.

Q. What does RSS stand for?
A. It stand for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. The acronym came first and then the meaning behind what the acronym came later, basically a backronym. Per Wikipedia it may originally have been RDF Site Summary where RDF stood for Resource Description Framework or basically a type of standard or format protocol.

Q. What does a news reader do?
A. A news reader can aggregate or collect multiple RSS feeds and download them for you to read. For example, you might want to read articles from a TV news site and your favorite blog, but also keep up to date on information from a radio station. So you can subscribe to various feeds and retrieve them all at once and read them in a central single location later. This saves time through automation via your browser or news reader that can be told to download the feeds automatically with the new updates.

Q. Doesn’t this mean that RSS has to be in a certain format to be able to be accessed across many platforms?
A. Yes, usually a RSS might be in an XML file format and contains full or summarized text and metadata such as the publisher’s information.

Q. Has RSS gone through several revisions?
A. Yes RSS is based on a standard specification that has been gradually revised and refined over time to be what it is today. Original development was from some people working at Netscape.

Q. Can RSS also allow other files beside text?
A. Yes, there are elements which can enclose audio for instance. This helped serve as the precursor and introduction the later popular medium of podcasting. Some of the revisions allowed some backward compatibility.

Q. Does RSS have an icon to identify it?
A. Yes, it looks kind of like an orange square with rounded corners and a white wifi shaped symbol, or basically a dot with two curves to the upper right

Q. Where are RSS feeds seen the most?
A. Often you see them the most on blogs but other places like news sites.

Q. Is there a limit to the RSS files?
A. According to Wikipedia some news aggregators might not support RSS files greater than 150KB.

Q. You mentioned podcasting, how does that work with RSS?
A. A subscriber adds the RSS to their podcast client which lists available episodes to download or stream for listening or viewing. This has a description, some graphic, and a category as well as rating for certain podcasts and information on language.

Q. Can you send RSS to emails?
A. Yes there are some services tht deliver RSS to email inboes or also to the RSS readers.

Q. What is Atom?
A. Atom was a alternative to RSS to start from scratch and also correct certain program limitations. There were some “namespace” attributes in formatting that may or may not have been compatible with previous revisions and this alternative standard tried to fix this limitation and other issues. Although RSS seems to be the more known standard.

Q. Why is RSS not used as much in browsers?
A. RSS started declining in popularity over the years especially with the rise of faster computers and alternate content and other media content sites. Although the activity of reading is prevalent, gradually individuals may be choosing other rich sources of media that contain graphics, moving images and video with audio. Computers nowadays are capable of faster throughput and bandwidth for this multimedia content and people simply like to be entertained, although reading and listening to podcast lectures and radio programs is still an easy and simple and often free pleasure. Podcasts for example offer updated content with the ability to listen while on the bus or from the an iPod plugged into a car dashboard allowing a person to multitask if they wish.

Q. Can RSS also be used with other updating content?
A. Yes, one other example is that certain clients that support “torrents” may also support RSS and allow you to get a link to an updated torrent file and download to the subscribed content as soon as it is published.

Q. What does the XML file for an RSS feed look like?
A. Usually RSS is in an XML format and in plain text. Some people may be reminded of HTML tags or old formatting tags in word typing programs that used a descriptive text surrounded by angle brackets on either side of the text and an end tag.
Here is an example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<rss version="2.0">
 <title>The Science of Bird Migration</title>
 <description>Comparison of various avian habits and wing evolution</description>
 <lastBuildDate>Wed, July 24, 2019 00:00:30</lastBuildDate>
 <title>Early pterodactyls</title>
 <description>Research into how birds may have taken to the heavens derived from early dino ancestors</description>
 <guid isPermaLink="false">5ba780e1-2443-1d34-bcfa-38a521b3670e</guid>
 <pubDate>Thurs, 20 Jun 2019</pubDate>

Q. Okay so you have me interested, how do I create RSS feeds?
A. You can use a web service to automatically create or update your feed for a fee. Or you could get an RSS feed software program to update your feed manually. This can include programs like RSS Builder which is free and open source. also allows you to create RSS feeds from any site. There are many other various web services that will do this for you.

Q. What should all RSS feeds have?
A. They need metadata to identify the structure and organize your content. Most of them will have a title. They likely need a website link to help viewers link back to the site. And they need a description to explain the content and oftehn this is very short. So in summary: title, links, description is a good start.
You should also add a picture so that it is memorale and easily visible and identifiable. This is especially important for podcasts.

Q. What other things should I know about the content of the feed?
A. There likely needs to be a GUID which uniquely identifies the content. Items to be short and sweet and to the point. Often this is just a short list of recently updated content. You should also add author information. Don’t forget to make another entry for each item being broadcasted. The final content is exported to XML and is what vistors use to subscribe. The good thing is that often times you can create this file by hand. When you add new content to your site you will update your feed file and simply open up the XML file in a text editor and add the description of the new content on the top of the older content. You can use the old content as the template. To keep files from getting too large a good tip is to keep it short and to remove a few entries from the bottom when you add new ones so your file length stays roughly the same.

Q. How is the feed published?
A. The XML file is uploaded to the site usually to your homepage or a link might be used instead. Some programs also allow FTP options. Your feed can also be submitted to several directories to publish so people can find it.

Q. What are some specific types of tags?
A. You might see “item tags” to delineate elements of your content. Then you might also see channel tags to separate out files and divides up the feed. You also have to declare that your using the XML specification with a declaration and what RSS version.

Q. Where else can I learn more about RSS feeds and content?
A. RSS is great and lets you read and pick up shows from all your favorite sources across many platforms. Start looking for the option on your favorite site or news source or program online and subscribe or enter the link information into your RSS feed software or aggregator. The more you play with it the more you become familiar with it. You can also do a search engine search for more information and how to create content and what programs or services you can use. It is fun and information and very entertaining.

Have fun! You don’t need a fancy fast computer to get started consuming RSS feed content and in fact older computers are great for this. Give it a try!

Sources: Wikipedia, Lifewire, Digital Trends, Wikihow

Author: savvywealthmedia

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