Thursday, July 20, 2006

Things I take for granted: syndication

Today, I'm starting a new category that I will call Things I take for granted. This category will contain posts about things that are almost second nature to me and yet may be completely foreign to other people. Of course, this is never meant to put anyone down. I'm sure that things that doctors take for granted will be foreign to me as well.

First to make it to this category is syndication. Most of my peers in the IT industry will take syndication for granted but to a lot of people, it is a complete mystery. Just yesterday, somebody asked me what those syndication buttons are for. Quite a few people have also asked me where I get the time to read all sorts of things. The secret: syndication and aggregators.

For those who are new to syndication, here's a good introductory article:

What is RSS/XML/Atom/Syndication?


Syndication is the process of using RSS/Atom for automated updates, another way of getting the information you want. You no doubt have a list of web sites you browse daily for updates, whether they’re stored in your bookmarks or your head. If you find yourself loading 20 or 30 sites a day, and you notice if a few stop updating as frequently, you’ll inevitably stop checking them.

What if there were instead some way to have your list of bookmarks notify you when the sites you read have been updated? You wouldn’t waste time checking those that haven’t. Instead of loading 30 sites a day, you might only need to load 13. Cutting your time in half would enable you to start monitoring more sites, so for the same amount of time you originally invested in checking each site manually, you may just end up end up following twice as many.

Syndication provides the tools to do this. A news reader, or aggregator as they’re also known, is a program or a web site that automatically checks your list of bookmarks (which you only have to set up once) and lets you know what’s new on each site in your list.


As an analogy, the news reader acts like a customizable newspaper. You can pull a variety of content from a growing number of sources into one place, to be read however you choose.


The only stipulation is that the source must provide a feed....

If this introduction has whet your appetite, the next step is to grab a news reader and start playing.


So there you go. If you have a Yahoo, Google, MSN, or AOL account, you can instantly take advantage of syndication. If you don't, there are free online aggregators like Bloglines, Rojo, NewsGator, and Netvibes. Also, some browsers like Firefox have builtin support for syndication.

Go ahead, try it so next time I post something, you will be notified right away. :)

No comments: