For those of you who are reading my weblog with a RSS Reader, skip this article. For those of you who dont, listen closely ;).
So whats this RSS everyone’s talking about? Wikipedia says: “The technology of RSS allows Internet users to subscribe to websites that have provided RSS feeds; these are typically sites that change or add content regularly.” which once again says it all. RSS is a technology which makes it easier to go through the massive amount of information and news the average internet user is confronted today. The way it works is that a website publishes the RSS-Feed and every one can take the address of that feed and put it in his/her favorite RSS-Reader. Now, when you fire up your reader it goes through all your subscribed websites/boards/weblogs and automatically updates the articles. It then shows you how many new articles there are, how many you havent read. This way it saves you a lot of time since you dont have to browse to the webpages yourself and sort out all the new items there. You can then decide to read those articles in your reader or you can browse to the webpage itself.
It becomes especially interesting when you have websites that can display lots of different information. Take flickr. You can subscribe to everything. You can subscribe to newest photos of your contacts, newest photos of a certain group, comments on your own photos, new photos by tags, new discussions in groups, the flickr blog obviously, and so on. This way its getting really easy to just get the stuff you want and dont even bother looking at all the extra information.
Now, most of my non-geek friends havent even heard of RSS, which is why i want to say: Try it. After a few days you dont wanna go without it. If you pay attention, it is getting harder everyday to find a website which doesnt flash the little RSS/Atom icon somewhere, in some form. If i image i had to go through all the pages i have subscribed to manually (meaning with my webbrowser) i would probably be going nuts. RSS is a real time-saver as well, since you can see with one look where new articles have appeared and which pages you dont even need to visit since there is nothing new. When i asked a few of my old class-mates if they would bother updating they board-software (invision power board) to a more recent version so it does RSS i was confronted with utter disregard and non-understanding why someone would want something like that. The argument i often hear is “Stop complaining, you just have to visit the site once a day/week, theres not that much going on.” But if you have to visit about 20-30 pages once/twice a day it becomes clear why you really really want RSS.
Bottom-line: If your an information-junkie like me, if you have so many different sources of information and dont want to spend your whole day browsing a long list of web pages and recalling which articles you already read and which are new, give RSS a shot. For Mac OS X there are a few good RSS Readers around, but since most of them are driven by people who think that an RSS-Reader is worth half as much as my whole operating system i am using Vienna, which is a free, open source project. I dont know any good software for windows or linux, i think Thunderbird can subscribe to RSS feeds as well. If you have any suggestions id be glad to hear about them in the comments.