How I use RSS feeds

Regular readers of this blog know I’ve been doing all I can to tame the volume of email coming my way. One great method is to simply stop delivery of emails that don’t add much value.

I also want to keep up with a number of blogs, but I don’t have the time to visit them all each day. Nor do I want emails from each one every time a new post comes up. I prefer to sit down away from my desk to flip through post titles and short descriptions, picking the stuff I want to read, share and so forth.

All this activity should happen in only one place. That’s why I use an RSS reader.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It’s a system online publishers use to let people subscribe to their content – but it doesn’t flow through email. Instead, it goes to tailor-made RSS readers. The market is flooded with RSS readers, many of which are free, so there’s really no reason to avoid at least trying them.

Choosing an RSS reader

How do you pick a reader? Just search app stores or google “RSS Reader” for your operating system.

I chose an RSS reader that works on my Mac, iPad and iPod Touch AND synchronizes feeds over all three devices. My pick: feedly.

Choosing blogs to follow

My RSS reader delivers news that matters to me. Let me explain that by first telling you what I DON’T follow:

  • general news (I’m trying to cut back)
  • blogs that clog my reader with too-frequent posts (I unsubscribe from these)
  • blogs I realize I don’t care about (sometimes I mistakenly follow blogs that seem interesting, though I don’t do that so much anymore)

So many people publish useful blogs that I look forward to scanning at least the blog headlines put out by these publishers (about 150 at last count):

  • companies that make products I use (e.g. Apple, Honda, Plantronics)
  • companies and organizations I follow (LinkedIn, Adobe, iFixit)
  • friends and acquaintances (Paul Lima, Gordon Graham, Caitlin Kelly)
  • the business of freelance writing (this category overlaps quite a bit with my friends and acquaintances)
  • health and fitness blogs (Fitbit, Mark’s Daily Apple)
  • very local news (City of Toronto, certain local businesses)
  • causes I care about (Canadian Media Guild, Professional Writers Association of Canada)

How to find subscription feeds

When you visit a blog, you can quickly find the feed url by clicking the RSS icon on the page:

48rss

Once you click it, your browser shows the “feed” page (the blog page minus the style of the blog website). Copy the URL of this page and subscribe to it using your feed reader. In some cases, clicking this icon starts the feed reader and gives you the option to subscribe.

No RSS icon? Here’s a workaround

Some blogs don’t offer this icon on the web page, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the feed. Try typing either “/rss” or “/feed” to the end of the blog’s URL, and in most cases the “feed” page appears.

Consider this example: if “blogsite.com” is the URL you visit, the feed page might be either:

  • blogsite.com/rss
  • blogsite.com/feed

How I read blogs

I DON’T read blog posts in the office, on my computer. Instead, I read them on my couch, on my iPad, during breaks.

Why I read blogs

I’ve answered this question throughout this post, but I’ll add another reason here: I like to share content on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+).

I “broadcast” these shares to all four networks using Hootsuite on my Mac. I’d do so on the iPad, but Hootsuite can’t add Google+ to its iPad version. So I bookmark posts on the iPad, let Feedly read the marked posts on the Mac, then share the posts on my Mac.

Summary

We all know the Internet provides a veritable fire hose of information, and few of us want to drink from it. And while we can subscribe to blogs using our email addresses, that’s a lousy tactic for those of us who are trying to reduce the volume of email we deal with.

That’s why I use RSS feeds: to pick information channels that matter to me and digest a controllable stream of what they offer away from my workspace.

If  using RSS make sense to you, download a reader like feedly and get started.

1 Comment
  1. Hi Luigi,

    thanks for the insight. I, in my turn, not just read blogs via RSS, but also market my own – not just to the subscribers of the blog, I also publish the feeds from my RSS feed to my Twitter and Google+ directly from that feed. Flowreader’s free web-based tool is very efficient for that – http://www.flowreader.com

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