Or perhaps this should be called "all I know about RSS".
You don't need to know anything about RSS if
- you don't have a computer
- are quite happy keeping in touch with your friends by email or snail mail
- read a newspaper or watch television to get any news you are interested in
- don't know about blogs and don't want to read them
- you are quite happy rooting around with google to find things
This is not to imply you are in some way Luddite, just that your dynamics are different to those people who use RSS.
So here are the RSS FAQs. (Lost already? No hope for you, then.)
1. What does RSS stand for? "Really simple syndication". Now that really helped, didn't it? Try here, then. If it's good enough for the BBC, then it's good enough for me.
2. What does syndication mean, and why do I want it? Syndication is just another word for broadcasting or spreading stuff throughout the internet. If you have a blog you want stuff to go to your readers automatically, and you want new readers to find your blog easily. If you want news you want it to come to you automatically, not to have to search on google for it.
3. What is a (news) feed? It's the way the news gets to you, as soon as it is published by a website eg on the BBC, or on a blog. It's like a wire that the news travels down directly to you.
4. What do I need to read a feed? The really essential part is a computer connected to the internet. If you only have dial-up internet, then you will only get updates when you connect, just like for email. However there's not much point really is there? If you really want the news NOW, then you have to have broadband and have your computer on all day to get the updates. Now you can see that it's not for everyone.
The other thing you need is some free software called a feed reader (or news aggregator). You can use Yahoo, or Google or MSN (even) or Newsgator. I use Netvibes because I have it as my desktop. I can do lots of other things with it as well, like have a page of work news separate from my fun blogs, so I don't read the wrong stuff all day.
5. What does a feed look like? If it's from your blog, then it looks like your blog. Well it has the titles of the latest posts and you can click on each and see the rest of the post. Some feedreaders like Netvibes allow you to see the website, so each post looks just like on the website.
If it is the news, then it looks like a list of news headlines that you can skim and just read the ones you are really interested in.
As an example, I have given my friend Beate a free plug by putting her feed in the sidebar of my blog. So you can read her blog, while reading mine. So go find Music and Life Everywhere on the side bar. It's just above the big orange button.
Actually Typepad doesn't do a very good job in displaying the feed, there are only headlines and no box round it. Boo to Typepad. I'm really not good enough at HTML and CSS to fix that up.
6. Do I have to do anything to set up a feed for my blog? No, most blog platforms do it automatically. But there are several different types of feed with names like Atom, RSS 2.0, XML, so they can blind you with science. Stick an orange RSS button on your blog and all is solved.
7. And where do you get the orange button from? The simplest is the best. Go to Feedburner (costs nothing, but you need an account) and get some bling for your blog. Follow the instructions to find your feed, then choose the "publicise" tab to put stuff on your blog to make it easier for people to connect to their own feedreader. That's where I got this stuff:
8. How do I find the feed on a blog? Are you blind? It's in the orange button. Most feedreaders allow you to put the blog URL in a search box and it will find the feed itself, without you even going to the blog.
9. How do I find a news feed as opposed to a blog feed? Well, how many do you want and how difficult is it to choose? Go here and the BBC will give you a start with 26 different sets of news. Now do you think you will really have time to read them all?
So what's the fuss all about? Wouldn't you like this on your computer? All my "fun" feeds and a few news feeds as well, all in one place, easy to see what's new. Because Netvibes has tabs (did I mention I like Netvibes?) I have a tab for techie feeds (for when I'm really bored), a tab for Bosnian feeds (because I'm working there), a tab for Lebanon feeds (because I might be working there and need to know more what it's like), and a tab for Russian feeds because all human life is there.
As you can see, all the feeds are in boxes which you can expand to read the headlines. Then you can read the actual post, which expands to fill the page. It's all so easy.
And now I must go to check it out again. Anything's better than working.