7.20 Really Simple Syndication

As its name suggests, RSS (really simple syndication) is way of easily sharing information across the Internet. In the past companies could place links to articles of interest elsewhere, or incorporate material from other sites on their pages (with the copyright holder's permission), but RSS automates the process. With a little coding, links to articles on other sites are automatically updated, and links to company pages appear on other company sites.

Put briefly, RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content. Sites with such newsfeeds generally show an icon: , or , and their prevalence shows that RSS has become a useful adjunct to email, avoiding the ever-increasing problem of spam.

RSS Types

There are several versions of RSS, and a distinct system (Atom) that is commonly called RSS though rather different. The three formats in common use are:

1. RSS 2.0: a stable, open-source, XML format issued under a Creative Commons license.
2. RSS 1.0: formatted as RDF/ XML (where RSS stands for "RDF Site Summary").
3. Atom 1.0: released in August 2005, under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Locating RSS Feeds

RSS feed for a company site is found in these ways:

1. Search the Internet with keywords of interest plus 'RSS feed' or 'blog'.

2. Search the blog directories: most blogs have RSS feeds. Popular directories:

      Blog Catalog. Several thousand listed under convenient headings.
      BlogDirectory. Lists some 2 million sites.
      BlogPulse. Also shows user trails, trends and use of keywords.
      Weblogs Inc. Weblog directories grouped by trade, industry or profession.
      Technorati. Monitors 10 million blogs and tracks 1100 million blog links.
      Top 55. Robin Good's listing of blog directories and resources.
      Google Blog Search. Similar to its web search engine, and very extensive.

3. Use RSS Feed Directories: Example:
      Syndic8. Searches RSS and Atom feeds.

4. Use a web browser, generally adding a small reader:

      Google. Google's free RSS reader.
      Newsfire. Newreader for the Mac.
      RSS Feed Reader. Free add-on: supports 0.9x, 1.x, 2.x. and Atom formats.
      Bloglines. Free online search.
      RSS Readers and Aggregators. Yahoo's listing of newsreaders.

5. Use a standalone program that searches the web under various criteria: Example:

      Tristana. Several commercial programs, but reader is free.

Adding RSS Feeds to Company Blogs and Sites

1. Companies either use blog-authoring programs to automatically create RSS feeds.

2. Or employ software to turn text into RSS feed. Examples:

      RSS Wizard. Creates RSS 2.0 feeds from any webpage.

      For RSS audio feeds, consider:

      ProfCast. Various programs for enhanced podcasts (PowerPoint lectures, etc.).
      Poderator. Free publishing of Podcast files.
      Podcast RSS Buddy. Produces RSS feeds that are iTunes-compliant.

Getting Pages Syndicated

Company information is syndicated in two steps.

First:

1. Automatically by publishing with one of the better blog-authoring tools. The following provide additional information:

      Blog Software. Al MacIntyre's very extensive listing of resources.
      Writers Write. Blogging software tools: some 90 programs listed.

2. Or by employing software to create RSS or XML files. Either the programs listed above or these:

      Logictran RTF Converter for Windows. Outputs word processing documents to XHTML, CSS based HTML, and Docbook XML.
      FeedBurner. Makes RSS and Atom feeds available to feedreaders.
      Auto HTML RSS. Reads an xml page, converts the RSS data, and imports it in to an existing web page.

Second:

By registering the blog or website with blog directories (see above) and then pinging to notify them of the update. Other blogs will also note a post with a trackback or linkback, or automatically if your company is listed on their blogroll. Other pinging services are listed on Elliot Back and Ensight.

Questions

1. What is really simple syndication, and how does it work?
2. What are three formats of RSS in common use, and how do they differ?
3. How would you find RSS feed for your company site? And add it?
4. How would you get your company's promotional material syndicated?

Sources and Further Reading

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