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# RSS: How You Can Use it to Stalk Me

It's occurred to me that a good number of my friends don't use RSS in any way, and somehow I feel that it's a failing I should address. So, in an attempt to help the issue I'm going to demonstrate how RSS can be used to keep an eye on the types of things that are crossing my attention. This is intended to show my audience a few ways that will relate to them, but this in no way covers the multitude of ways you can use RSS to further your stalking skills.

RSS and Finding a Feed Reader

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It was originally designed for syndicating headlines from one site on another site. For example, the side boxes on slashdot or kuro5hin with content from other sites are generated from RSS feeds.

RSS originally referred only to a single protocol. As sometimes happens, there was a rift in the community and the standard was forked and multiple versions ensued, sometimes versions incompatible with each other. The long and sorid history of RSS is too long to include in this article. Besides, the only information you really need at this time is that RSS is a generic term for feeds of all sorts, but it also refers to a specific feed format. The other major feed format is Atom. Generally you as an end user don't need to worry much about these details.

So how do you read these feeds? You have many options, it's just a matter of finding what works for you.

The most basic and lackluster support for RSS comes as part of many web browsers. Firefox, Safari, and OmniWeb all have built-in RSS support. However, the support is very limited and is unsuitable to sorting through large numbers of feeds.

You're much better off to get yourself a full feed reader. If you're one of the beautiful people (mac users) your choice is easy. NetNewsWire is the single best feed reader on any platform, hands down. I have paid for the full version, myself, but almost everyone I know that uses a feed reader uses the lite version, which is free. If you're on OSX this needs to be the first (and possibly only) feed reader to try.

If you're stuck on windows or Unix, I'm not going to be much help at finding you a recommendation. There are RSS plugins for Outlook, and Thunderbird has RSS support. I couldn't tell you how well they work, however. I'm sure you can find something with some poking around at download.com.

My Blog

No discussion of using RSS to stalk me would be complete unless I started with the site this piece was written for. See those links on the left that say "Atom", "RSS" and "RSS 2.0"? By now, you should have at least a basic understanding of what those means. But which one do you subscribe to? If you're just starting out, and are using a reputable feed reader, it has Atom support. Pick that feed.

If you're given a choice between RSS and Atom always pick the Atom feed. Atom is on its way towards acceptance that RSS just doesn't have. Atom is also a lot less confusing overall, albeit in ways you'll probably never encounter. Still, the software serving you a feed will encounter them, so go with the less broken option.


You may or may not know what flickr is. If you do, skip to the next paragraph. For those of you still with us, Flickr is, at its simplest, a picture sharing site. What makes Flickr different? It's the extras they tack on, like being able to comment about a specific item in the picture, or their liberal use of RSS feeds. It is the latter we'll be focusing on today.

Flickr has a number of useful RSS feeds. In fact, you can get nearly every index page as its own RSS feed. For example, this page (RSS) shows all my pictures I've taken on film. Just look for the "Feed" link at the bottom of the page to subscribe.

Some other interesting pages on Flickr:


You may have heard of del.icio.us. You probably don't know what it is, other than some bookmark thingy. Its core function is to store your bookmarks online so you can retrieve them anywhere, but it's really so much more than that, and you may not realize just how great it is until you start using it. In fact, you don't even need an account to realize a lot of benefit from del.icio.us.

Since this article is all about me, let's start with me. You can see all of my bookmarks (RSS). On del.icio.us, unlike flickr, every page has a corresponding RSS feed. You can find the orange RSS button at the bottom of the page.

Perhaps you're not interested in all the topics I'm interested in. Maybe you only want to follow a few of the things I'm working on. Here's a good list:

Other Feeds

The feeds listed above are great ways to see what I'm posting about, but if you're reading this article I'm going to assume you're trying to stalk me. You can't very well stalk me if you don't know what sort of things I'm reading as well as posting, can you?

So, to help improve your stalking, here's a random selection of feeds that I read every day. This way you know what I'm posting and have a good idea what I've been reading, too.

posted at: 2006 Jul 10 22:55 UTC | category: tech | (story link)

Copyright © 2006-2008 Zach White