Using Bees To Effect Vengeance

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Thursday, June 26, 2003
I've been messing around with RSS aggregators for the last few days. For those who aren't aware, RSS stands for -- depending on whom you talk to -- either Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. Essentially it's software that goes out and pulls the latest posts from your favorite weblogs and news sites, and consolidates them in one place. The idea (admittedly akin to the ill-fated "push" technologies of A.D 1997) is that you don't have to surf around from site to site to read the latest -- your RSS software pulls the latest at pre-determined intervals and presents it to you, saving you time and hassle. Plus aggregators tend to strip out ads, etc. so there are some usability benefits as well. RSS aggregators can also pull mailing list postings -- for instance every Yahoo group you belong to also has an RSS feed.

A lot of weblogs offer RSS feeds -- you might see links in people's sidebars saying "Syndicate this site" or just a little button saying "XML". All of those mean that the site has an RSS feed you can use, and that you can copy the link into your aggregator to start receiving it.

I'm still unsure about the long-term utility of an RSS aggregator and whether I'll stick with it, but I'm already getting irritated that some weblogs don't have RSS feeds -- I want to see all the sites I read in one place. For those sites that don't have RSS feeds (like most blogspot blogs) there are services that can create one. Blogstreet lets you input any blog's URL and create an RSS feed for it, but it appears to be down lately...don't know if it's dead or what. Blogger Pro supposedly supports RSS but apparently it don't work so good.

I've settled on the free version of NewsMonster, which integrates into your Netscape or Mozilla (Netscape without the bells and whistles) browser. You can sort your feeds into folders -- I have Web, Culture, Politics, Football, Music, Friends, etc, and it's easy to pick and choose what you'd like to read. There are some still some issues, but overall it's been worthwhile. I'd also tried Amphetadesk, which is probably slightly easier to get started with. However, I prefered the NewsMonster interface, plus I could never get automatic aggregation to work properly with Amphetadesk.

These are still early days for aggregators, but I think RSS has some interesting online marketing applications if it takes obviates concerns about "opt-in" for a start.

Anyway, all of this is to say that if any of you would like to read this blog via RSS, you can now do so -- my RSS feed is here, thanks to BlogMatrix.


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