How to ease into using RSS feeds

We came across a helpful explanation of RSS in one of our sibling publications, Plant Services, and thought we should pass it on as a little different piece of OEM Insight you can use to better gather information.

RSS FeedsBy Michael Ermitage, Senior Web Editor, PlantServices.com

Whether you call it Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary or by its most popular moniker, RSS, it’s still, as they say, German to most. It seems there’s a significant portion of the population that has heard of RSS feeds or could give you a five-cent definition of what it is, but there are few folks who can deliver a solid explanation of what they are and how to take advantage of them. It’s a shame, too, because a savvy RSS feed subscriber can improve their information-gathering efficiency significantly.

In the interest of generating more attention for our PlantServices.com RSS feed, allow me to offer a brief introduction and tutorial.

What Is It?
RSS feeds simply are syndicated content continuously streamed for consumption. A subscriber to the PlantServices.com RSS feed, for example, will have access to a continuous stream of Plant Services content as it’s uploaded to the website. The beauty of the feed is that you don’t have to visit the website, sift through the many organizational categories, etc., to view the latest material. Instead, you can access your RSS reader or visit the web portal that contains your RSS subscriptions and sift through the list of stories. Many websites offer RSS feeds across a variety of subject areas, allowing you to select topics of highest interest. The feed will display the newest stories. PlantServices.com allows you to choose feeds that pull just articles, white papers, industry news, products, or, if you wish, everything that appears on the site.

How Do I Get It?
Subscribing to RSS feeds is getting easier. The simplest way to subscribe to an RSS feed is to set up a home page with any of the major web hubs (I prefer Yahoo or Google). These news aggregators allow you to select a subscription button, or search for one, that will forever display on your home page every time you log in. Both the newest versions of Internet Explorer (IE7) and Mozilla Firefox (version 2.0.0.1) have made subscribing to RSS feeds fool-proof. You simply find the RSS logo (sometimes sites display this as an XML logo or with an orange rectangle) and click on it.

          ControlDesign.com RSS Choices

ControlDesign.com offers RSS feeds categorized by content as follows:

  • Entire Site
  • Articles
  • Industry News
  • Whitepapers
  • Products

The site also offers feeds segmented by Resource Centers that focus on a technology category:

  • Control Platforms
  • Industrial Networking
  • Machine Safety
  • Motion Control
  • Operator Interface
  • Sensing & Measurement
  • Vision Systems

At PlantServices.com, you will find the RSS feed about halfway down the page on the left navigation. This will bring you to a second page, where you specify the type of feed you want. It will automatically store the feeds you select in an easily accessed feeds folder, much like a favorites folder that you likely already have.

You might still encounter sites that deliver an intimidating page of seemingly unintelligible code when you click on their RSS feed. You can decipher these codes by pasting them into a viable RSS feed reader, which you can easily download for free from numerous sources including Active Web Reader 2.48, Snarfer 0.71, or FeedReader.

RSS feeds continue to gain popularity, extending beyond your web browser to your iPod, your Palm, and even your phone. Start with PlantServices.com’s relatively easy RSS feed, and expand your information empire from there.

Please feel free to direct any questions or comments on RSS feeds, and especially any related to PlantServices.com RSS feeds, to me. Thanks.


  About the Author

 

Michael ErmitageMichael Ermitage is the senior web editor for Plant Services and PlantServices.com. You can reach him at mermitage@putman.net.
 

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