Welcome to our guest blogger – Joyce Donahue
For many people, RSS feeds are a mystery. You see the ubiquitous orange-and-white box logo all over the internet, but unless you know the real benefits of feeds, they may simply represent another time-consuming complicated thing to learn about that you tell yourself you will deal with “someday”. Actually, they are pretty easy to use. Best of all, they can help you organize frequently updated web content to keep you in the know.
An RSS feed is, simply defined, a way to notify you that something has been added or changed on a website. Once you subscribe to a site’s feed, you receive alerts whenever new posts, events, or photos are added so that you don’t have to keep coming back to check to see what’s new – thus saving you time and trouble and reminding you to visit new content. A great basic explanation of RSS feeds can be found here .
The RSS video will show you how subscribing to feeds in Google Reader works.
Why should you follow web pages using a feed? One of the most useful is the blog feed. A strategy often recommended to help begin a blog is to start following other people’s blogs and adding occasional comments, so that you learn the protocols of blogging. In addition, following blogs, newsfeeds, photo streams, or websites is a great way to keep up with new information and ideas, interesting news, and to be exposed to a variety of opinions about topics of interest. There are many great sites – on ministry, catechesis, teaching techniques, technology, and much more. I personally follow about 180 feeds at the moment. (Thankfully, they don’t all post new content every day!)
So, how do you follow a feed? Look first on any web page for the orange and white box indicating an RSS feed. If you don’t see that, look for the initials “RSS.” Click on it to subscribe. Normally, you are given a choice to subscribe via an email or by using a reader. When you are just beginning to follow feeds, you may wish to subscribe by email. However, if you find yourself following a number of feeds, a feed reader, such as Newsgator, Page Flakes, RSS Owl or Google Reader allows you to organize them all into one place and even to create folders to arrange them by categories. Since I regularly use the Google Reader, which is one of the most versatile and easy to use, let me explain how I use it.
Google Reader requires that you first have a free Gmail account, which is connected to Google. You can find out how to do that here . Once you have a Gmail account, log in and you should see Google Reader as one of your options on your account page. If not, go to the Google Reader page to download it. You may want to check this page to see a thorough description of how it works.
Once you have the Reader, visit the page you wish to follow. If you see the orange and white RSS box or the word RSS, click. Follow the screen prompts, choose Google, then Google Reader. If you do not see an RSS indicator, simply copy the URL from the address bar of your browser, open Google Reader, and on the upper left choose “Add Subscription” and paste in the URL, then hit “enter.” You will see a notification indicating you have subscribed to the feed if a feed can be created.
Your subscriptions will be listed on the lower left. Click on the name of the feed to open it in the reading pane. Scan the titles of the post in the list and click to view a preview of the content. Often you will be prompted to jump to the full version on the original web page to read more. To organize your subscriptions, you can click on the lower left, the words at the bottom “Manage Subscriptions.” A second page will appear where you can rename, unsubscribe, create folders and more. You can also make some adjustments, such as changing which folder a feed appears in, from the bar above the reading pane. Once you create a folder structure, you can keep similar feeds together, under such headings as news, catechesis, liturgy, entertainment, hobbies, etc. Google Reader also allows you to tag selected feed stories as favorites.
That sounds easy, right? Want to be prompted to check the Google Reader for new content daily? If you are using IE 7 or above, or Firefox, which have tabbed browsing, simply create a new tab and go to the Google Reader, then add that tab to your browser as a permanent home page (click “Tools” on your browser toolbar, then “Options” and add the URL of the Google Reader to your existing homepage, separated by a semicolon. That way, each time you open your browser, a tab for the Google Reader will open and you can see by a number in parentheses on the tab how many new items there are to be checked. Your items of interest are right there whenever there is an update – ready whenever you have a few minutes to check on them – and you won’t miss the great new stuff that content providers on your favorite sites have added.
Come visit Liturgy and Catechesis Shall Kiss, Joyce Donahue’s blog on the intersection of liturgy, catechesis and culture.