Feeds are taking the webdom by storm. The word RSS used to have a very political significance earlier. Now, the definitions have changed.
Personally, I was blog hopping till my mouse pointer hurt, before I discovered the magic of feed reading. However, feeds are not so widely prevalent in the minds of web surfers yet. Many of them are yet to understand its significance. This certainly does not stop the influence of feeds on the world wide web. Feeds are here to stay.
What is a feed?
You might find a hundred definitions for the word “feed”, in the techno world. It is basically a machine-readable document that only an application called the feed reader can decode and reveal. For the lay person, a feed reader is a one-stop destination to consolidate all the information that s/he may require. With feeds, you can read comics, top news stories, blogs and just about anything that you may want to read on the internet. In recent times, you can subscribe even to podcasts which are nothing but video and audio feeds.
Where do feeds come from?
Every website can have its own feed. A feed contains all the information a web site may wish to present to its readers. The readers can subscribe to this feed from a feed reader and read it in leisure. You can also create a feed for your site. Sites such as Feed Burner also help create feeds and to optimize and publicize them. You can even keep track of the number of readers accessing your site through feeds. There are web news crawlers that may integrate your feed into them. You can use search tags that will allow users to access your feed from search sites like Google or Technorati.
How do I read feeds?
Feeds are not readable in their raw form. Only a feed reader can help you read feeds. A feed reader is a magic wand upon whose touch the mysterious and indecipherable codes in an rss or xml document get decoded. Another beauty in feed readers is its ability to aggregate information from various places within seconds and present them to you on a platter.
Some of the well-known feed readers are Google Reader, My Yahoo, Bloglines and NewsGator.
Where do I find feeds?
Feeds have their own urls. The act of accessing a feed through a feed reader is similar to a magazine subscription. Sites like Blogger and WordPress generate default Atom or RSS feeds for their member blogs. You can subscribe to any blogspot feed by inserting the respective atom url into your feed reader.
Example: http://*yoursite*.blogspot.com/atom.xml (remove the asterisks and insert the blog name instead of ‘yoursite’.)
Along with this watch out for this icon
Wherever you find it, there is a feed to a particular site that you may want to read. Click on it to subscribe to the relevant material. Also look out for RSS and XML icons.
Where do I start?
To begin with you can look at a site like Share OPML to see what thousands of feed subscribers are currently reading on the internet. You might be able to do a subject-wise feed search with an RSS search engine like Feedster or Plazoo.
I personally recommend Netvibes, an AJAX feed reader, as it is largely customizable and user-friendly. Netvibes also integrates several other tools that give you a complete web package.
Employ these methods and enjoy your feed reading experience! 🙂
Note: I have previously published this article at Desicritics – Feeds for Thought