MEDST 255: New Technologies Nicole Turney
Assignment#1: Profile of an Internet Technology September 26, 2011
RSS, short for Real Simple Syndication, “is revolutionizing the way we consume web based information” (Lee, Miller and Newnham 312). According to Malala, RSS is an XML based format that allows the syndication of web content, hyperlinks along with other information, and presents to viewers only content of their interest.” (6) This basically means that RSS makes it possible for users to keep up to date with their favorite websites. There are ultimately three parts to RSS: the publisher, the feed, and the reader. The publisher creates content on the web which is then syndicated to subscribed readers. The content created by the publisher is then sent in XML format to a RSS feed. And lastly, all the assorted information from the feed is organized into one place, the user’s RSS reader (Also important to note; before this process can even begin the user must establish their own RSS reader, and in order for the content to be available through the feed, the user must subscribe to the RSS feed of the sites they‘re interested in.) (Curran and McKinney 67-69).
Although the actual technical set up/process of RSS seems rather complex, the technology itself makes for quick and easy web browsing because everything is presented to you on one page. RSS is definitely a time saver because conventionally web browsing consists of the user persistently going back and forth to their favorite sites to monitor for updates. This is a very tedious process of pushing information to you. With RSS, updates ranging from the latest weather to recently uploaded podcasts are pulled to you through the feed and filtered based on the users custom criteria, and interests. (Lee, Miller and Newnham 312 )
RSS was first introduced to the public in March of 1999. This version 0.9 was referred to at the time as RDF and was developed by Netscape as a method of building portals to major news sites for news headlines. Netscape quickly lost interest in the portal making business which is when Userland Software adopted the concept, and through the years introduced versions 0.92, 0.93, 0.94, all the way to there current version, 2.0 (Curran and McKinney 65).
It amazes me that more than a few versions have been released yet I’m completely new to the technology. Yes, I’ve seen RSS examples all over the internet, but truthfully I never understood what they were until I researched for this assignment. GoogleReader was the first RSS reader site I checked out. As mentioned earlier this reader is customizable to the users’ interests. Once you establish your reader you can subscribe to the feeds you want, then ultimately wait for the updates to come to you. I will admit I had my reservations at first about RSS, but the process really is as simple as that! Overall the RSS reader is very accessible and most internet users should be able to operate it. I found it easy to subscribe to a lot of the sites I visit daily, and it’s helpful that you can create folders to distribute various sites of interests by topic. Another effective feature to the reader is the ability to keep track of your read and unread items.
A second RSS example I found was Yahoo! News, which is a part of the Yahoo! search engine. This particular News section uses RSS format to deliver the latest headlines to Yahoo browsers. The page is again very accessible to anyone searching the web, and the site is pleasingly organized into different categories (i.e.: Business, Sports, etc.), as well as sub- categories,(i.e.: Stocks, Football, etc.) so the user can glance through and click and choose topics of their interests to read. I think this site is helpful for the user who may not be confident or doesn’t want to set up their on reader. The only slight disadvantage in using Yahoo! Reader is that your not exactly choosing which sites are brought to you Yahoo is choosing them for you, and you’re filtering to the content of your choice.
The third example of RSS I discovered on the internet was TweetDeck. This RSS application gives the user the ability to keep up to date with their many social networking pages (ie:Twitter, Facebook) all under one interface. This website is beneficial for the social networking fiend who has multiple social networks across the web and feels overwhelmed by the flood of updates and information presented to them. This RSS aggregator allows the user to control multiple networks in an efficient way without wasting time visiting each site separately. With TweetDeck not only are you kept up to date on your followers or friends but you also have the ability to update your own page still under the one interface. Another controllable feature I thought was interesting was the ability to organize people into groups based on their relation to you, interests and location. This again gives the user control and allows for quick filtering to find only updates on the people they’re interested in at the moment without having to browse through their whole network.
I don’t know why it took me so long to discover RSS. I initially thought after gathering all this information on the technology that using an RSS reader would make me feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information thrown at me all at once, but it doesn’t. I find a valuable element of RSS to be the ability to get a brief understanding of a headline or summary without necessarily having to read the whole article if it doesn’t fully catch my attention. Therefore, I can still get some information but ultimately skip over the content if I want to. The process of everything coming to me is also another valuable feature, as I’ve been stating throughout this piece, because I don’t have to do any of the tedious work in going from site to site to pull content from. I would recommend for anyone to try RSS, and have actually mentioned the technology to several of my friends who I know would benefit from it.
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