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rss[1] feeds - reading the news, or anything!

Link to abelard.org's RSS newsfeed

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index
what is RSS?
how to obtain and use a RSS feed reader
what are the benefits of using RSS?
technical supplement
why is the RSS feed button marked XML?
how to make a RSS newsfeed
end notes

Scan fifty newspapers and websites before breakfast!
Well, you can with your computer and a RSS feed reader.

what is RSS?

RSS is a software standard for publishing frequently updated web-based content, like news, blogs, timetables, sports scores. Using RSS feeds is an easy way to keep up to date (automatically, if you wish) with websites that interest you.

how to obtain and use a RSS feed reader

There are several free RSS feed readers available from the internet. For MS Windows operating systems, some RSS readers require NET framework software to be installed. However, both Mozilla Firefox and Awasu do not.

Since this article was first written, the Mozilla Firefox Internet browser has been upgraded to version 1.0PR. With this upgrade (and the appropriate extension dowloaded and installed), you can save RSS feeds (whether news or blogs) as ‘live’ bookmarks which can update and list their headlines for reading within Firefox.

However, if for some reason you prefer a separate RSS news reader, having tried several desktop and web-based RSS news readers, abelard.org suggests using the following stand-alone reader:

Having tested Awasu, we can recommend it as a first RSS feed reader. It has two failings,

  1. like most RSS feed readers, news items cannot be cached to read off-line,
  2. On start-up, an upgrade request screen in the browser has to be shut (unnecessary if you have bought the upgrade.).

Awasu is a free news-reader, downloadable from the site link above. It also has a paid-for upgrade giving more options.

marker at abelard.org

Once you have installed your news reader, you can subscribe to the RSS content feeds you want. For instance, with Awasu,

  • when you have decided upon a site you wish to follow, look for the RSS feed indicator (for instance, this can be shown by typical icon for a RSS news feed, or rss feed icon, or by words such as site feed, or even by the word syndicate/syndication)
  • ‘grab’ [by right-clicking, then choosing ‘copy link location’or ‘copy shortcut’] the link to an rss feed
  • click on New Channel in Awasu
  • in the wizard window that appears, copy in the grabbed link and then continue through the easy process of adding the feed to your reader.

For example, abelard.org now provides an RSS feed of our news headlines. Right-click on the RSS/XML image below to save the URL [‘copy link location’or ‘copy shortcut’] for our RSS feed to add to a newsreader.

Link to abelard.org's RSS newsfeed

Alternatively, here is the url for our news rss feed: http://www.abelard.org/news.rss.

marker at abelard.org

Here is a link to a free on-line RSS news reader. This link is currently set to automatically call the abelard.org RSS news feed. Just enter the url of another newsfeed, or explore the site’s listings to switch to another RSS feed.

 

what are the benefits of using RSS?

RSS is an easy method to collect content from web-sites who provide frequent updates, such as news or blogs. A RSS reader can check for and collect updated web content from several (or many) web-sites. It is convenient for viewing updated pages or site summaries without graphics, advertisements, or any other superfluous material. Thus, you can sift rapidly through content from many sites in a relatively short amount of time.

 

why is the RSS feed button marked XML?

As eXtensible Markup Language (XML) has developed, so, by using XML, RSS has grown to now become the Internet’s version of a free news wire. In techie terms, RSS is a fancy dialect of XML.

A RSS service, or RSS channel, is an XML-formatted file containing a list of items, each made up of a headline with a link to a web page, and a description. These files are also called feeds.

The RSS/XML format can be read by desktop news reader programs; or used in web sites that can include RSS code such as news aggregator sites. Including content from another site’s newsfeed is called syndication.

If you double-click on an RSS button, or link, you will just see XML code. Probably the most convenient method of deciphering the code and actually viewing RSS newsfeeds is by downloading a program called a news reader, or aggregator. Once installed and configured (adjusting it to your preferences), the news reader will display RSS content feeds on your computer from the websites you have chosen. Several Web-based news readers, such as 2rss.com, are also available.

 

technical supplement [under development]

News feeds can be made using different types of coding formats, such as RSS, Atom or RDF. In all, there are seven different formats called RSS, some of which also have further variations.

RSS versions and recommendations for use
Version Owner Advantages Status Recommendation
0.90 Netscape   Made obsolete by 1.0 Don't use
0.91 UserLand Extremely simple Officially made obsolete by 2.0, but still quite popular Use for basic syndication. Easy migration path to 2.0 if you need more flexibility
0.92, 0.93, 0.94 UserLand Allows richer metadata than 0.91 Made obsolete by 2.0 Use 2.0 instead
1.0 RSS-DEV Working Group RDF-based, extensibility via modules, not controlled by a single vendor Stable core, active module development Use for RDF-based applications or if you need advanced RDF-specific modules
2.0 UserLand Extensibility via modules, easy migration path from 0.9x branch Stable core, active module development Use for general-purpose, metadata-rich syndication

 

how to make a RSS newsfeed

  • Below we show part of the code used to make the RSS feed for the abelard.org news and comment service.
  • Only one item listing is included for space reasons. Usually our RSS feed has 20 items listed (we would not advise having more items, it could cause problems with the RSS readers of your visitors).
  • For new items, the oldest item is cut from the bottom of the feed and pasted at the top of the feed code. This top item is then used for the newest item listing.
  • For ease of reading, here the code is shown in pink and the content for each entry in white.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>
<title>
abelard news and comment zone</title>
<description>
Items selected on general interest and abelard&apos;s long-term purpose to develop a more rational and thoughtful society; not driven by current affairs as first priority. Updated as items of interest are found. News topic classification is flexible - the world is seamless.</description>
<link>
http://www.abelard.org/news.htm</link>
<image><title>
abelard news and comment zone</title>
<url>
http://www.abelard.org/library/rssyak.png</url>
<link>
http://www.abelard.org/news.htm</link>
<width>
100</width><height>78</height></image>
<item>
<title>
how to make a RSS newsfeed | technology zone at abelard.org</title>
<link>
http://www.abelard.org//technology/rss-feeds.php#newsfeed</link>
<guid isPermaLink="true">
http://www.abelard.org//technology/rss-feeds.php#newsfeed</guid>
<description>
Simple instructions on how to make your own RSS feed. New section in the abelard.org page on RSS feeds - reading the news, or anything!</description>
</item>
</channel>
</rss>

  • Each code entry has a beginning and an end tag in angled brackets, < >, as for html code.
  • Do not put empty lines between the lines of code.
  • Note that RSS code does not tolerate ordinary apostrophes and quotation marks. These must be substituted by &apos; and &quot;.

After you have uploaded your RSS feed to your web site (usually to the root directory), sensibly you should

  1. validate the code by entering the URL of your feed into the RSS Validator at http://feedvalidator.org/. [The url for the abelard.org RSS feed is http://www.abelard.org/news.rss.]
  2. Check the RSS feed itself, that the link you added works and that you have not missed any spellings, or punctations, or.... We at abelard.org use a variety of methods:
    this online RSS reader: http://www.kanzaki.com/test/rssfr?u=http%3A//www.abelard.org/news.rss,
    or Live Bookmarks in Firefox,
    or otherwise just type the RSS feed URL into the browser address cell.

Other feed formats include Atom and RDF. Looking at the source code of a feed in one of those formats may provide much of what you need to build a feed in that format.

end notes

  1. RSS originally stood for Rich Site Summaries. As the coding format has developed, RSS evolved to mean RDF Site Summary, and now Really Simple Syndication.


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