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What Is This RSS, XML, RDF, Atom, and Feeds Business?

ANTIPODEA // RICHMOND
Source: Flickr

It’s been a long day at work and you’re in no mood to cook dinner or go out. Time to count on the reliable pizza delivery guy. The order is called in and he promptly arrives with smokin’ hot pizza within 30 minutes as promised. If it were only that easy with a picky family where no one can agree on the same restaurant for dinner. One wants Mexican, another wants Chinese, and another wants a burger and Mexican. Instead of running to three different places, you call a delivery service that goes to all of them and brings it to you. What could be easier in getting a meal without cooking it or picking it up?

RSS, XML, RDF, and Atom are the food delivery guy of the Internet. The content they deliver is mixed and cooked elsewhere on the Internet just like the meal isn’t made on your door step and the acronym fellows bring the content to you through software or an online application. Instead of trying to remember all the places where you like to go to get the latest news, it all comes to you once you order your food.

What to Do with the Funky Code

Click on any of those orange or blue RSS, XML, or RDF buttons and you see unreadable text. Some of it is readable, but reading between the is slow and difficult. In this case, you’ve got the raw ingredients of the content known as a feed. To make it easily readable, download a feed reader that can interpret (aggregate) the ingredients or sign up for an online service that can do the same.

When the software or application is ready to go, click on the orange or blue button (or “Syndicate This Page,” or whatever is along these lines) and copy the resulting URL from the address box. Paste it into the application to cook the ingredients where it’s delivered to you ready for your enjoyment.

Syndication Isn’t Just for Blogs

Syndication is a not a new concept on the Internet, but it’s growing in popularity as more Web sites and newsletters are churning content to turn it into syndicated files, which are fed into an aggregator. Think of it as the content that’s ready to travel anywhere it needs to go. Grab the feed and feed it to the aggregator, another way of bookmarking (or creating a favorite) a site because you wish to come back again another time.

Instead of schlepping from site to site in search of information, you can have it all in front of you through the aggregator. The feeds are sorted in folders by topic for easy finding. If I’m writing about the latest virus or worm, then I open the security folder with the security-related feeds and scan them.

Scanning content through aggregators is easier than with a Web site because it’s all in one place with a list of easy to scan headlines and usually a short summary. On a Web site, you’re only getting the benefit of that site’s news — nothing else. The folder has news from over ten resources including blogs, news sites, and newsletters.

Any content can be syndicated. It’s a matter of having the back-end process in place, which is dependent on the application used for managing the content. If a site doesn’t have such resources, then there are applications that can easily create a feed for posting on the site. No techie knowledge needed.

Most aggregators have exporting capabilities so the feed can be shared with others interested in the same topic. If you’re interested in my security feeds, I can export them into, in most cases, an OPML file and you can import it into your feed reader.

Mix up the Content

If the feed is automatically created, what have you got to lose? You’re providing another way for your readers to get your content just like you can get pizza in different ways: go to the restaurant, have it delivered, or make it at home. More applications are adding syndication capabilities, which make the process effortless. Some have said they won’t read something unless it has a feed.

It’s an opportunity to get more readers because there are many directories where publishers can submit their feeds and get noticed. So when someone does a search on your topic, your news might come up and you’ll have gained a new reader.

There was a time when we didn’t have the option to have pizza delivered to our doorstep. When we’re too tired, we know we can rely on the delivery guy. In term of content, expect to see it show up at your doorstep more often than the pizza guy plus it’s cheaper with the cost only coming from the software though there are many free options available. Syndication is a must have for a company’s communication toolbox. Witness it by watching for RSS, XML, RDF, and Atom out there.