What is RSS? It can stand for either ‘real simple syndication’ or ‘rich site summary.’ In a nutshell, it brings the web to you rather than you going out and finding information. Broadly, it allows for the reuse of content from the original site, so that you can see new content drawn to your browser or feed page without having to first visit the actual website.
The following clip (under 4 minutes) has one of the best and succinct explanations of what RSS is and how it changes our use of the web. (The Netflix reference is a company in the US setup to compete against the Blockbuster model at the time which made users come in-person to browse and select their products. Netflix’s model upended existing trends by offering a user-tailored and customisable online experience offering convenience of selection where users could reserve, request (DVD) videos rather than risk missing a highly anticipated release due to high demand (as Blockbuster’s users frequently complained at the time). It also allowed users the ability to keep a movie as long as needed rather than the 2-3 day limit imposed by Blockbuster at the time.
As of this clip in April 2007 Technorati had calculated there were 50million+ blogs. Less than a year later (as of February 2008) Technorati had the number in excess of 185million blogs. By some algorithmic calculations – there are now over 212million blogs as of September 2008. Clearly, with such exponential growth of material, it becomes even more important for those conducting research over the web to 1) be alerted to the creation of new relevant information resources and 2) be able to critically evaluate them.
Phil Bradley has said that ‘RSS underpins all aspects of Web 2.0’ and when you see the prevalence of the RSS icon, you quickly realise its intrinsic interconnectedness. Pervading all major news web sites to academic databases such as Ingenta Connect and Academic Search Premier, one can also follow new information posted on blogs, new library books as they enter a library catalogue, new resources added via Delicious, new pictures added in Flickr, new presentations in Slideshare or even newly digitised music score collections from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/index.html?c=rss&l=de)! RSS truly gives new meaning to the term ‘information superhighway’ where information is shunted faster than I could possibly type on Google or navigate via the various taxonomic folders of Bookmarks I’ve accumulated organised into Subjects / Publishers / News / e-Journals / E-Resources / D-Spaces / E-Prints / Metalib / Copyright / Diglib / Infolit / and then my favourite catch-all folders Junk1 / Junk2 / and to clarify things further there’s Junk3.
What is the best way to maintain your RSS feeds?
That really depends on individual preferences. Each has its own strength. If you are a big fan of the email format then the Google reader (www.google.com/reader) is probably for you.