#5 RSS & Feed Readers

Warning: Once you try RSS you’ll never go back and wonder how you ever lived without it.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ and it is a technology that delivers frequently-updated content from around the web to you in one, convenient location — your feed reader.  RSS is not only revolutionizing the way news, media and content creators share information, but it also is changing the way everyday users are consuming information.

RSS Feeds allow you to keep up-to-date with your favorite blogs and websites in a single place.  Rather than checking each site individually for updates, RSS feeds provide a single point of contact for viewing the newest blog entries and website updates.  Subscribing to RSS feeds is the best way to stay up to date with any topic you want to follow.

Most websites have at least one RSS feed you can subscribe to. Look at the websites you visit for these common icons that indicate an RSS feed is available:

RSS image example RSS image example RSS image example RSS image example XML RSS image example

To learn more about RSS feeds and feed readers, check out this excellent 3.5-minute video from Common Craft: RSS Feeds in Plain English.

Note: This video shows Google Reader which is no longer available. The concepts are the same for all RSS readers.

Benefits of RSS Feeds and Feed Readers

  • Stay informed by receiving the newest content from your chosen websites.
  • Save time by viewing updates in one location, rather than visiting each site individually.
  • Easily access the original blog post, article, or news item: each item in the reader links directly to that item on the source website.
  • Free your email inbox from notifications and newsletters.
  • Access your feeds from any computer or mobile device with a web-based feed reader.

This week’s Discovery Exercises focus on learning about RSS news feeds and setting up a Feedly account (a free online newsreader) for yourself to bring your feeds together.


Discovery Exercise:

  1. Create a free online Feedly account for yourself.
    (* Requires a Google account.  Another option is  Bloglines if you don’t have nor want a Google account.)
  2. Subscribe to at least 3 things such as:
  3. Leave a comment on this post about this exercise answering these questions: (Or even better, write a blog post about it!)
  • Did you previously use an RSS reader?
  • What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?
  • How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?

14 thoughts on “#5 RSS & Feed Readers

  1. How did I never know what RSS stood for?? Good thing I’m in Learn Camp!
    I use Feedly to pull in mine and categorize them by general topic. Makes a huge difference in being able to stay current with what everyone’s up to.
    Biggest tip I have is to make it a habit to check your feed daily. If you let it pile up, you won’t be able to take it all in and it won’t have the same value to you.
    I check it in 3 ways: Via the Newsify app on my iPhone and iPad, and on the desktop via a Feedly icon in Chrome.
    Good suggestion to write a blog post about it, Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad that you included RSS readers in Learn Camp. I used to use Google Reader but when it was discontinued never got it together and moved to another RSS reader. This is a great impetus to start a new one!
    Jackie’s tip above is a good one – you really do need to check your feed every day. I have been guilty of letting it get out of hand and then abandoning it for a while because it seems overwhelming. I have also found that a good filing system is invaluable in making a reader useful day to day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I do generally read mine everyday but I subscribe to a LOT of feeds and I don’t worry about getting to all of them every day. I organize them into different folders and put all the best/relevant ones into my “A-list” folder. That is the first place I go..then if I have time I’ll move on to the others. If I don’t make it to some of those other folders for awhile I’ll usually use the option to mark them all as read not worry about missing anything from those. (Plus if there is anything really big, odds are that I’ll see it somewhere else like Twitter anyway.)


  4. Great tip about feedly. I also used Google reader and never my favorite blogs over, I also use the wrodpress reader, but the downside is that is only catches those blogs written via wordpress. As with what Mike said, I was depending on twitter to point me in the right direction. I had completely overlooked feedly. Now I’m all organized again (at least for the moment).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I set up a bloglovin’ feed a while ago. It’s great, but I find myself using twitter and twitter lists as my feed source! I love having everything in the one place and sometimes when I can’t follow a website (usually) on a reader it really frustrates me! I sometimes wonder am I missing out on articles if they are not shared on twitter though.


    • Sue – I agree. I mostly use twitter to find information, but the downside is twitter moves so very quickly that I’m afraid that I’ll miss something. So I think it’s good to have some sort of back up. I do have to find a way to remind myself to visit the feed more regularly. Perhaps set up a regular task in the to-do list?


  6. I use both but in different ways. I love the things I find on Twitter but when I find someone who blogs really great stuff I always plug them into my RSS reader so I know I won’t miss anything from them. Twitter lists are a really great way to segment who you follow on Twitter and they are usually the first place I go when I dip into Twitter. Seems like they are underused by most people too.


  7. I also used Google Reader. And then it went away, but that was probably okay as I had ALOT of feeds. I eventually migrated to Feedly and I have been much more selective. As with any tool, you have to really have a purpose and objective. Many other social media outlets will feed you information, and you have to be selective there. I use lists on Twitter. But I really value the RSS feed for content and knowledge. This is the place I can find some really deep and unique content. Twitter is the stuff that is current and fleeting. Feedly feeds my deep needs for knowledge. On a mopey note, there used to be a service called trap.it where individuals could search out personalized content, but they’ve gone more corporate. The ultimate lesson or goal is to know exactly what you are looking for and leverage it to the max. Lots of Google tips out there for any service you may choose. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am new to feedly as well. My connection with my favorite blogs and websites has been very haphazard up to this point. I am looking forward to keeping new information organized in one place! I am curious to see if it leads to an increase or decrease in my digital engagement…


  9. I fear I’m falling behind in these challenges already – but I’ve now set up a Feedly account and I’m loving the interface. I haven’t previously used an RSS feed reader, but I can already see that this would save me subscribing to email updates and keep me out of my Inbox.

    I really like that you can go straight to the article or website from the news feed and that you can sort the feeds into categories or “collections”. I also like the search and browse functionality for quickly and easily locating feeds that might be of interest to you.

    On the negative side, I’ve found some issues with WordPress blogs and RSS feeds that are a little frustrating, so haven’t quite worked out how to offer RSS feeds from my WordPress blog yet, although I do like the “Follow with Feedly” button option.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Dianne! No worries about missing anything. Just dip your toes in when you can. 😎 What is the problem you’re having with WordPress? WordPress automatically has RSS feeds and you don’t need to do anything to turn them on. You can add a widget to your sidebar that displays a link to the RSS feed for your posts and comments. Here is a little info on how to do that http://en.support.wordpress.com/widgets/rss-widget/


  11. Thanks for the info Mike. I’ve added the widgets to my sidebar in both of my wordpress blogs and I really like the one that shows links to my other blog, but when you click on the “subscribe to posts” link in Google Chrome, you get that message that says “the XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it”, although I’ve just tested it using Internet Explorer and it works. I also get this same message when I click on the RSS icon on sites like Jackie Van Nice’s. There are some troubleshooting tips to fix this, but they’re long and complicated…


  12. Pingback: #16 Applying Curation Tools & Techniques | Learn Camp

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