app talk: RSS Readers

Do you have a number of news or other websites that you like to read on a regular basis?  Would it be helpful to access ALL of the websites and news you want to read more efficiently and quickly?  Would it be useful to be able to track and only read the NEW articles and information posted on those websites?  An RSS Reader can accomplish both.

The web has evolved so that a single news webpage has two objects associated with it.  There’s a style and layout for the page, and there’s a data stream for the page.  For example, on the left in the image below is the Insider Higher Ed website; it has a nice graphical style and layout that brands the page.  Feeding into that style and layout though is a data stream, also called an RSS Feed; RSS is an acronym for “really simple syndication.”  That RSS feed may be accessed directly, as shown on the right in the image below, because it has its own, unique web address.

Inside High Ed    Inside High Ed1

Using an RSS Reader, you can “subscribe” to an RSS feed.  Subscribing is entirely free; it only means that you are telling your RSS Reader of choice to access and to track the RSS feed.

In the image below, Feedly.com was used to subscribe to a number of RSS feeds related to news in higher education.  Each individual feed is named in the navigation menu on the left: NPR Education, Faculty Focus, Inside Higher Ed, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the TCCTA Blog, and several different feeds from The Chronicle of Higher Education and the AACC’s Community College Times website, respectively.  In all, the single page shown below provides a single point of access for 15+ websites that publish news related to higher education.  All of the news articles are displayed in a single stream of links and article excerpts as shown, or by clicking on the name of a site in the navigation menu, a single site may be accessed at a time.

feedly_cDuke

RSS readers ALSO help you track which articles/pages you have read in a news feed and which you have not.  Notice the numbers next to some of the feeds in the navigation menu in the image above.  NPR Education, 48.  Faculty Focus, 13.  Inside Higher Ed, 87.  TCCTA Blog, 13.  The numbers are the NEW items that have appeared in the RSS feed that have not yet been read.  As the articles are clicked on or marked as having been read in the RSS reader, the reader remembers that and will “hide” those articles.  In short, the RSS reader is essentially an inbox of new news articles from only the sites you want to read.

Most websites have RSS feeds and can be tracked, read and managed using an RSS reader, and many are web-based and available via mobile apps.  Plus, many readers make it very easy to share articles or news with colleagues, friends or family via Facebook, Twitter, or email.  When used to track professionally relevant news or learning material, an RSS reader can be one of the most, or perhaps, THE most valuable professional and professional development tools you use on a daily basis.  An RSS reader is also certainly useful to keep up with leisure and personal news as well: comics, hobby related websites or blogs, sports news, etc.

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