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How to use RSS reeds Subscribe to a blog

This web site has a blog section which is updated regularly. But I know: We do not have time to take a look each day. However, you can subscribe to the site using the feed. A feed is a list of all published articles.

What does this mean… subscribe to a blog?

Icon of a feed
Feeds often use the official and free to use icon

Subscribing to a blog is similar to subscribing to a magazine: You do no longer have to pick it up in a shop. Instead, the new issues are delivered to you, so that you do not have to take care of it.

Additional advantages of such a subscription:

  • It is updated on its own – you simply open an application
  • You can cancel a subscription at any time
  • You can manage subscriptions of several sites in a single application
  • New articles are automatically marked as unread
  • You can rapidly scan articles, ignoring what you do not consider interesting
  • You can open the full article with a single click

How does subscribing to a RSS feed work?

Tooday, most users use services to manage their feeds, like Feedly or Feedbin. Similarly, you can install a service like this on your own server, e.g. with Tiny Tiny RSS. The advantage of these services: You can reach your subscriptions on any device, and the reading status gets synchronized.

You can read the articles via the web interface or using an application supporting RSS feeds. Many modern web browsers and email clients have this feature, but there are also dedicated applications, e.g.:

To subscribe to the feed of this site, you simply click on the link "subscribe to the feed" in the footer of each article. Alternatively, you can manually add the linked feed url to the RSS service of your choice.

How do I find interesting feeds?

A lot of web sites offer feeds, e.g. news sites, blogs and magazines. An alternative are apps like Flipboard which create nice magazines using the feeds of web sites. They offer a great opportunity to discover new content. Services like Feedly do also collect and categorize RSS feeds, making it possible to discover new sources.

Of course, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are also very important – the own network tends to easily find new content which could be interesting. Services like the afore mentioned Flipboard integrate these individual suggestions.

The technology: what is a feed?

Seen from the technological perspective, subscribing to a web site uses a feed which is a list of all published articles in a machine-readable format. A software can therefore take the content and present it in any way it wants – it could for instance only sow the headings and tags in a list, loading the content itself after a click.

There are different technologies used to create such a feed. RSS is one of these technologies. RSS is an abbreviation of "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication". RSS is based on XML ("Extensible Markup Language"), a markup language for any content.

Here is an example of a RSS feed from the englischen Wikipedia. It is easy to see how the content is separated in different parts:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>
 <title>Title of the RSS feed</title>
 <description>Example of a RSS feed</description>
 <link>http://www.example.com/main.html</link>
 <lastBuildDate>Mon, 06 Sep 2010 00:01:00 +0000 </lastBuildDate>
 <pubDate>Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:20:00 +0000</pubDate>
 <ttl>1800</ttl>

 <item>
  <title>Article 1</title>
  <description>Description</description>
  <link>http://www.example.com/blog/post/1</link>
  <guid isPermaLink="false">7bd204c6-1655-4c27-aeee-53f933c5395f</guid>
  <pubDate>Sun, 06 Sep 2009 16:20:00 +0000</pubDate>
 </item>

</channel>
</rss>

Alternative technologies are Atom, which is also based on XML, and the relatively young JSON Feed. JSON Feed uses JSON instead of XML, another data exchange technology. JSON is an abbreviation of "JavaScript Object Notation". In my opinion, it is much easier to read than XML. This is an example of a JSON feed, taken from the official documentation:


{
    "version": "https://jsonfeed.org/version/1",
    "title": "Title of the JSON feed",
    "home_page_url": "https://example.org/",
    "feed_url": "https://example.org/feed.json",
    "items": [
        {
            "id": "2",
            "content_text": "This is article 2.",
            "url": "https://example.org/second-item"
        },
        {
            "id": "1",
            "content_html": "<p>This is a paragraph in article 1</p>",
            "url": "https://example.org/initial-post"
        }
    ]
}