Friday, October 07, 2011

What is RSS?

RSS, which stands for Rich Site Summary and is also known as "really simple syndication," is "a format for delivering regularly changing web content." (OK, I know--in English.)  Simply put, RSS allows web sites, blogs, and news sources that update frequently to get that word out to the people who want to know.  (The symbol above appears on a blog or web site to let you know that an RSS feed is available.)  To make it easier for the people who want to know, aggregators (a web site or software that collects information from multiple online sources) or web feed readers came into being.  My reader of choice is Google Reader.

Google Reader is a free web feed reader.  There are others, but since it's the one I'm familiar with, I will use it as an example.  To get started, all you need is a Google account which is free.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'm going to refer you to a good series of tutorials on using it.  Google also offers their own tutorials as you make your way through their various products including Reader.

Having a feed reader means that you can see changing content in one place without having to navigate to lots of different sites on the chance that there might be something new to view.  THIS IS BIG and an incredible time saving device.

I have my feeds divided into interest areas.  With the news sources, I basically scan headlines and only go to the article if it's something I'm very interested in or something I might forward to one of my teachers at school.  Things of general interest, I post to my Facebook page.  The library topic area often provides articles or links that I send to the school librarians' listserv in our corporation.  The NCSMLA keynoter, Gwyneth Jones, has a great blog, The Daring Librarian, that I have followed since hearing her at AASL in Charlotte.  Speaking of AASL, they also maintain a blog that updates the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning list maintained by Heather Moorefield-Lang, another one of the presenters at NCSLMA.  I follow a non-fiction author blog called I.N.K. (Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids) and met Sue Macy at AASL in Charlotte because of a post she published on it.  Several library blogs I read review books.  One of the bloggers, Melissa Rabey of Librarian by Day,  asked for guest bloggers when she was going to be busy for a month. I contributed this post for her.  (Nerd alert.) I read a Harry Potter fan aggregator called The Leaky Cauldron and the blog for Jo Rowling's new site, Pottermore Insider.  Of course, I follow my son's blog and mine so I can see how it displays for others.  The other feeds I read are about quilting, fiber and domestic arts, and Playbill to get the theatre news.  I also have a miscellaneous category for those blogs that don't fit any other.

Google Reader also tells me, via a feed, if anyone backlinks to my blog.  This lets me know if the people who are reading my blog are sending their readers to me.  Google uses this data to determine the Page rank of a web site.  More on all of this in the next post.

Google Reader is a remarkable Web 2.0 tool and I leave you with a link to a post on Mashable, one of my favorite tech sites, called "HOW TO: Use Google Reader like a Rockstar."  Go, Google and be a rockstar.

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