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RSS readers and how they work

September 1, 2007

in All Articles,Browsers,Culture

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The computer world is full of acronyms, from ARP to ZAK. Supposedly simplifying complex terms, acronyms often do the opposite. Computer conversations often lead to an Overdose Of Annoying Acronyms (or OOAA).

Today’s star acronym comes as a pleasant surprise, because its job truly is to make things easier for everyone involved. It’s called RSS.

“Really Simple Syndication” is a method to consolidate news and information sources. Let’s meet Sammie (our Sample Acronym Man Making Instruction Easy).

Sammie turns on his PC and reads CNN’s website for the latest news. With interests in world politics, he skims the BBC. Also curious if Andy Kaiser’s written anything lately, he visits and pokes around for new material. Doing this daily or even weekly is a chore.

RSS readers, AKA the acronym-free term “news aggregator”, are programs that automatically collect your favorite news sources and blogs, then concisely present the results. Every hour, day or whenever you specify, the RSS reader handles all the work of browsing and looking for the latest headlines.

Sammie will have a much easier and productive time with RSS. Opening the RSS reader, it’s already visited his favorite websites and displays an easy-to-read summary page. He can browse through all article summaries and read the interesting ones. He can sort by subject, website or look at all new feeds at once. When any new information is available, Sammie gets a pop-up notification.

What You Need (WYN)

One requirement is the RSS reader itself, and there are plenty of free readers available. For the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid (KISS) crowd, use Feedreader at If you want a more functional (but more complex) program, use Pluck at

The second requirement is an RSS feed, the location of the information you want the reader to monitor. This involves visiting a website and looking for an icon labeled “RSS” or “XML”. When using Pluck, you drag the icon into the Pluck interface. The RSS feed will be added and will begin archiving your news and articles. Feedreader requires you to type the location of a file containing the RSS information. For example, is the RSS file for my own website.

For More Information (FMI)

Visit and see the RSS icon at the top right, next to “Subscribe RSS / Email”. This connects you to andybrain’s rss.xml file and is the same icon to look for when searching for other RSS feeds. RSS is fast becoming one of the more popular ways of distributing information. It simplifies life for publishers and readers. Despite a rash of intimidating acronyms, some computer tools actually improve our lives. DIY and enjoy.

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