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RSS and Newsreader tutorial: Part 2, Reading Feeds in a Newsreader

by Brian Brown (follow me on Twitter): March 9, 2007

As I mentioned yesterday in Part 1, a Newsreader emulates email programs by providing a folder structure in the left-hand column, and the content of feeds in the wide right-hand column. Here is an example of the Newsreader Bloglines where I have a few feeds loaded on the left-hand side, and I am displaying the content of the "Small Business Blog of the Day" feed in the right-hand column (click on the image for a larger view).

Bloglines

In the left-hand column, you can see that your feeds may be organized into folders. For example, I have a local news folder that contains the RSS feeds for the Google News search for "Janesville, Wisconsin." Any time something gets posted to Google News with those keywords, it appears in my folder. Also, I have loaded the RSS feed to my local newspaper back home in Vermont. Many newspapers feature an RSS feed on their websites so you can do this. Unfortunately, my local paper in Janesville does not, so I use the Google News search instead.

Closeupbloglines_2

You will notice that in addition to the Burlington Free Press feeds and Janesville Google News feed, there is a feed called "AES." This stands for Applied Ecological Services, the firm my girlfriend works for. Using RSS allows me to track any news about her company as soon as it hits the web.

Notice that AES is displayed in bold with the number (35) next to it. Bold indicates there is something new to read in this feed and 35 is the number of new stories in this feed. This is just like how a folder tells you there are 35 new emails from a person in your email program.

Clicking on the feed displays the content of the feed in the right column. Notice in the first graphic that the content of "Small Business Blog of the Day" (the feed for Pajama Market) displays the same thing that is on the Pajama Market website (for March 8, 2007). After I save this post, this post will appear in the "Small Business Blog of the Day" folder about 15 minutes after I've saved it.

As you can see, the right column is kind of like a browser. It displays the same information that's on my blog, but with some of the design stripped away. For example, it doesn't display my logo at the top of the page, nor does it display my navigation bars. It only displays the most recent story I've written. That's what an RSS feed is, it's a stripped-down version of the stories you write on a blog. The RSS Newsreader displays this stripped-down version.

After I've read the story in the right-hand column, the story will disappear. This means the stories that appear are always new, things you haven't read yet. If you want to bring up an old story, you can always find it by searching, or by changing a setting that allows you to read stories you've already read.

This feature is great because you don't have to remember if you've read something or not. I've been on blogs where I get half way through the blog post and realized I'd already read it in the past. But if I read the post in my RSS Reader, I know the post is fresh.

Sometimes you won't be able to read the entire post. The author of the post will often have an option to allow the entire post to display in RSS Readers, or to only allow the first 200 words, or even just the headline to appear. I hate it when they do this because it requires you visit their site to read the whole story which very much defeats the purpose of using RSS feeds with RSS Readers.

Finally, although the Newsreader displays a stripped-down version of the story, it still includes the photos and the active links for the post. In fact, you can always click on the headline or the name of the feed's source and you will be brought directly to that blog/news website/search. But the beauty of a Newsreader is that in many cases you don't have to leave the reader to read the post. You can skim it and quickly go the next post on your list, reading several blogs in the same time it would otherwise take you to read just a few.

In Part 3, we'll take a look at how to find an RSS feed on a blog, a news site, or on a search website.

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Comments

Hi Brian - we're missing our small business blog of the day. When will they be starting up again? Nudge, nudge...

Ken

Oh man. Someone finally noticed I haven't done one in like...ever!

Ok, I have at least three in the "que" so I should be able to get to those next week.

Thanks for the gentle nudge, Ken. Sorry about the wait.

Thanks - looking forward to it. The techo stuff is done elsewhere, but the blog egs are unique.

And it's 'queue', 'favourite' and 'harbour' - for your Commonwealth readers!

Ken

Yikes. The reviews may have to wait a day or two. I'm having a hard drive crash and using a secondary computer to fix it. In my experience, these things take more than a couple of hours to fix.

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