RSS feeds automatically deliver updates from your chosen websites to your computer, enabling you to quickly and easily monitor news, blogs and much more. Find out more about RSS and how to set it up on your computer.
RSS ('rich site summary' or 'really simple syndication') is a format for delivering online web content which changes regularly, such as news.
With RSS technology you can use special applications, known as RSS feed readers, to notify you when a site is updated. You can then read the updated content in that application, without having to use a web browser.
Firstly, you need to either download an RSS feed reader onto your computer or use a web-based feed reader. This feed reader software allows you to get the RSS feeds from various sites and display the feeds on your computer.
Secondly, you need to go to sites that offer RSS feeds that you are interested in, and add those feeds to the feeds your reader checks for. Usually you copy the URL of the feed page into your feed reader. Your feed reader should guide you through how to do this step.
Two free RSS readers are:
Browsers like Firefox and Safari and the Thunderbird mail client also act as RSS readers. If you don't wish to or are unable to download a reader to your desktop, you can use an online version like Bloglines.
- Firefox [Mozilla website]
- Safari [Apple website]
- Thunderbird [Mozilla website]
- Bloglines [Bloglines website]
This is intended as a simple tutorial to help you add RSS feeds to your Google homepage.
Video demonstration of how RSS works [Commoncraft website]
Identify the feeds you want to capture. To monitor the blogosphere for conversations about your organisation, we recommend you get feeds from at least these following five search engines.
In the search box on each site, type in the phrase you want to monitor, such as your agency name or project name.
Select the "Exact phrase" option. If you are searching for more than one word, such as 'Department of X', make sure you put quote marks around the entire phrase.
Hit 'Enter' and your search will be returned.
Somewhere on the page, depending upon the engine you are using, there will be a button or link inviting you to subscribe to the feed - it can look like any of the following:
Click on the button and you should see a page of XML, but fear not! Just ignore it. If you are using a modern browser like Firefox, it will be readable. The important thing is to copy the URL from the address bar:
Paste this address into a text file or word document and reserve it for later.
Repeat the above steps for all of the search engines, until you have your master list of RSS feeds.
Loading your chosen feeds
Open up your web browser and go to the Google homepage. If you have already customized your homepage, skip the next couple of steps.
Google homepage [Google website]
Click on the link in the top right that says iGoogle.
There may already be some pre-populated feeds there that you can choose to either keep or delete. We suggest you are ruthless in the beginning as you can always load other feeds later, once you have got the hang of reading and accumulating feeds.
Click on the link on the right to 'add stuff' to your homepage. This will allow you to add your own custom feeds on to the homepage.
Find the (very small and cunningly hidden) 'Add by URL' link to the right of the search box, and click it.
One at a time, paste the URLs you collected from the search engines into the box. After you have added a URL, click the 'Add' button.
Once you've added all of your links, return to your newly customised homepage by following the link in the top left of the screen:
Go into each of the separate feeds and edit the settings to customise how they appear on the page, such as how many links show up. 'A' opens the edit settings dialogue box and 'B' sets the display number for items in the feed.
That's it, all done. If Google is your homepage, every time you open a browser window you will see what is being said about your agency in the blogosphere.
Once you have gotten the hang of it, it is simple to add more feeds. A word of warning though: this solution is really only useful for a limited number of feeds as it is not very transportable. Most desktop readers allow you to export your list of feeds (as an OPML file) and import them into other readers, or even better, synchronize them with a browser based reader. If you want to really dig into RSS, use a desktop reader or a browser service like Google Reader, Netvibes or Bloglines.