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#4 Make life “really simple” with RSS and newsreaders

2009 August 4
by naomi

What is RSS?

If you think about the websites and news information sources you visit every day, you realize it takes a long time to get to each website, evaluate and read the information.

What if you could visit all those information sources and web pages in just one place and all at the same time? You can. Watch this video for an overview of RSS:

is an acronym for “Really Simple Syndication,” a format used to keep up with recently published entries for blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts or websites.
RSS Readers
The summarized content of different web sites can be read using software called an RSS reader (also called an aggregator, news reader or feed reader). There are many different RSS readers (see “types of readers” below). We’ll be using Google Reader here.
RSS Feeds
You can subscribe to the websites you want to follow (via little pieces of code called feeds) by entering the website addresses into the RSS reader. To be able to subscribe to a site in an RSS reader the site must have a news feed. The feeds go into your RSS Reader. The feeds are simply URLs for, and many sites indicate this by an orange news feed icon: rss iconor feed icon

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Watch the Youtube video: Google Reader in Plain English.
  2. Go to the Google Reader site and sign into your Google account.
  3. You’re now ready to start subscribing to feeds.
  4. Over on the left, you’ll see Add Subscription, and next to it is a little link to Discover.
  5. Click on Discover to find some feeds that interest you. You can search using keywords. Try library.
  6. Subscribe to 3 feeds.
  7. Play around in Google Reader to see how it works. Read some of your feeds.
  8. In your blog post for this exercise, copy and paste the RSS links to your 3 feeds (the URL to the pages that appear when you click on the RSS icon for that particular blog or website). Please include “Method 4” in the title of your blog post. What appealed to you about these feeds? Do you see yourself using Google Reader or some other RSS Reader to keep up with certain sites now?

More information for the curious

Types of Readers

  1. Client software – Readers you download and install on your computer. An example is:
    • FeedDemon (for Windows)
    • NetNewsWire (for Macs)
    • Once you install and download a reader, you can only access your feeds on that computer. Great for mobile users who have a laptop!
  2. Web-based – Readers you access online via the web. Some examples are:
    • Google Reader
    • Bloglines
    • Netvibes
    • The advantage of using a web-based RSS reader like Google Reader is the same as using web-based email: it can be accessed from any web browser.

View a full list of common readers you can use.

What kinds of sites have feeds?

Any kind of site can have a feed. Setting up RSS on a site it not difficult. You’ll find sites for all different interests when you use the Discover feature in Google Reader. Some examples:
News sites:


Fun Sites (for me at least):


RSS Magic!
Once subscribed, the reader checks for new content and retrieves it. No effort on your part! You just go into your reader, and can see everything you want to read in one place.

Finished learning this Two-Stepping Method? When you’re ready, move on to Method 5.

14 Responses leave one →
  1. October 11, 2009

    This was fun. I added some of my favorite news channels, and then decided I would catch up on Don Imus, one of my “favs”. I must have taken a wrong turn because I got a site that invited me to join a singles group – WOOPS!

  2. October 11, 2009

    I used the Google Reader and it seems fine. I subscribed to 3 feeds having to do with investments. I’ll have to see how it works.

  3. Tina Billman permalink
    November 29, 2009

    I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to leave a comment here after each activity or not.
    So here is one just in case. I’ve added several more RSS feeds since completing this activity.

  4. naomi permalink
    November 30, 2009

    Hi Tina,
    It’s certainly not necessary to leave a comment after each activity, but if you have something you’d really like everyone to see/read, please feel free. 🙂 But please make sure that you are posting your responses to the discovery exercises for each method in your blog (unless the instructions ask you to include it in the comments section). Thanks so much!

  5. Mary permalink
    December 17, 2009

    I must be really stupid to not be able to figure out how to add the RSS links to my blog. Any ideas?
    Tried the help thingy but didn’t help me.

  6. December 21, 2009

    Hi Mary, are you using Google Reader or another type of reader? Most readers work pretty similarly — perhaps this video about “getting started with Google Reader” will help you: ? Please call me or email me directly if you still need help. Thank you, Naomi

  7. Demetria Williams permalink
    January 28, 2010

    I too need help in adding my RSS links to my blog.

  8. Kathie permalink
    February 1, 2010

    I was unsure whether to leave this here, or in my blog, so I am doing both. Maybe someone can show me the error of my ways.

    I am not sure about RSS feeds. I set up the Google reader. OK, everything that I selected is displaying, but I can see from the titles, I am not interested in reading. How do I delete it so I don’t have to weed through it all? I tried Yahoo, and at least they displayed on MyYahoo page, (I couldn’t figure out how to do that on my Google page iGoogle?) but again, how do I delete, in order to make it easier to only have the ones I have not read display?

    I also found it hard to navigate between the reader and other pages.

  9. naomi permalink
    February 2, 2010

    Hi Kathie, thanks for your question! Google Reader has a Help document online, with great resources on using Google Reader: . In particular, to answer your question, to unsubscribe from a feed, here is what the Help document says to do: . There are also some great video tutorials on using Google Reader at: . I hope that these resources help you become more comfortable with Google Reader. Thanks!

  10. Demetria Williams permalink
    February 2, 2010

    I figured out how to add a RSS feed to my blog. I definite will be using google reader for a long time.

  11. Kathie permalink
    February 5, 2010

    I had checked out their help pages, but did not find what I was looking for. I don’t want to unsubscribe, I just want those items I have not read to display. On my Yahoo feed, I have 5 items showing from the Library of Congress. I have looked at them, read some of the articles. Those are dimmed out, showing I have read them, but I want to delete the articles I have read or am not interested in. I like a clean screen without unnecessary ‘stuff’ on it.

    I will continue exploring, but, really, I would rather get this info as emails I can keep in a folder, keep active or just delete. Guess I am just out of step.

    I do see how sending out notices by this method can go to those that are interested, rather than cluttering up mailboxes of those that are not.

  12. February 9, 2010

    I really had fun with this method and learning about feeds. I already have more feeds than I can read, just like my bookcase of books at home.

    hee hee 🙂

  13. Juanita Hazelton permalink
    February 27, 2010

    I really like the RSS feeds. Why didn’t I do it long ago!!!

  14. Albert Chambers permalink
    August 12, 2011

    I’m a recovering lolcatsaholic. You’ve probably caused me to have a relapse.

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