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What does the "RSS feed" link on many webpages mean?

On many news websites (e.g., CNN, New York Times, the BBC) and blogs (web diaries or weblogs), you may have noticed links or buttons that say Syndicate this site, RSS, or XML; they all refer to the same thing: a quick way to have the headlines or new additions to these sites delivered to you, as they occur.

There is some discussion as to what RSS stands for, but the majority agree it stands for "Really Simple Syndication" (XML is the language in which the file has been created). When you "subscribe" to a RSS feed, the latest news and additions to the website will be delivered directly to you. You don't need to subscribe to email alerts or click from one site to the next, trying to see the new content that has been added since your last visit. Put plainly, it allows you to identify the content you like and have it delivered directly to you, taking the hassle out of staying up-to-date by showing you the very latest information that you are interested in.

Not all websites currently provide RSS, but it is growing rapidly in popularity and many news sites provide it. The U of Illinois Library recently set up several types of RSS feeds:

What do you need?

First, you need a newsfeed reader program.

These compile all the headlines, excerpts and links to the sites that you have subscribed to, allowing you to scan the headlines quickly, and then go to the full article, if desired.

Several free newsfeed readers are available including:

The Library is recommending and supporting Bloglines or Google Reader, since they are free, web-based, and allows you to read new posts wherever you are. The other programs must be loaded onto your personal computer, but may offer additional features not available from Bloglines.

To get a free account with Bloglines, go to http://www.bloglines.com/ and register, providing your email address and a password. Your email address will be your Bloglines login. 

To access Google Reader, login to your google (Gmail) account, and go to http://www.google.com/reader.

Ok, now you're ready to subscribe to some RSS feeds!

Here's how it works with Bloglines:

Say you want to subscribe to the RSS feed for the Scholarly Communication Newsletter.

That's really all there is to it!

Go ahead, add some more RSS feeds to your "MyBloglines" or Google Reader!
E.g., I am monitoring the science headlines from Time, the New York Times, the BBC, and Scientific American; I am also monitoring today's headlines from the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and CNN; and many more! Each morning I just click on my bookmark (http://www.bloglines.com/myblogs/) for "MyBloglines" to see what's happened since I last checked.


Both Google Reader and Bloglines allow you to create folders, so you can keep related feeds together.  E.g., you might want to parse your feeds into various categories (folders) such as scholarly communication news, local news, journal table of contents, science news, fun stuff, etc.

How can I find other RSS feeds?

There are many places that you can search to find RSS feeds or blogs to subscribe to or to read.

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