Thursday, October 23, 2008

How-To: More On RSS Feeds

I promised a bit more about RSS feeds and how to make them useful. First, in case you forgot or you have not had time to read the previous two posts (Part 1 and Part 2) in this series, let's take another look at why RSS feeds are a good thing in the video below:

Most feed readers today offer many other features besides simply making RSS feeds accessible, however. Google Reader, my preferred reader, offers a wide variety of options for managing the data that comes into the reader as do most other readers.

For example, Google Reader allows you to star items or tag them with key words so they are easy to find later on. You can also easily share items of interest on other forums or websites. For example, all of the items in the SAM's Shared Items box at the right are items that I picked out of my reader and "shared". This allows me to simply and easily feature documents and articles on this site that I would otherwise never have time to write about.

Adding feeds to a reader is so easy and can prove to be so useful that it is also necessary to go back periodically and weed out those feeds that are no longer helping. Fortunately, most readers can track some of your usage data and will help you make these decisions. Google Reader, for example, provides a "Trends" feature that tells you, among other things, how often you actually read a particular feed as well as how active a particular feed is. In this way you can easily keep your subscriptions from growing out of hand, avoiding, in the process, turning out like this guy:

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