What Is This RSS, XML, RDF, and Atom Business?

It’s been a long day at work and you’re in no mood to cook dinner or go out. Time to count on the reliable pizza delivery guy. The order is called in and he promptly arrives with smokin’ hot pizza within 30 minutes as promised. If it were only that easy with a picky family where no one can agree on the same restaurant for dinner. One wants Mexican, another wants Chinese, and another wants a burger and Mexican.

Instead of running to three different places, you call a delivery service that goes to all of them and brings it to you Sherry Dyson . What could be easier in getting a meal without cooking it or fetching it?

RSS, XML, RDF, and Atom are the food delivery guy of the Internet. The content they deliver is mixed and cooked elsewhere on the Internet just like the meal isn’t made on your doorstep and the acronym fellows bring the content to you via software or an online application. Instead of trying to remember all the places where you like to go to get the latest news, it all comes to you once you order your food.

Click on any of that orange or blue RSS, XML, or RDF buttons and you see unreadable text. Some of it is readable, but reading between the is slow and difficult. In this case, you’ve got the raw ingredients of the content known as a feed. To make it easily readable, download a feed reader that can interpret (aggregate) the ingredients or sign up for an online service that can do the same.

When the software or application is ready to go, click on the orange or blue button (or “Syndicate This Page,” or whatever is along these lines) and copy the resulting URL from the address box. Paste it into the application to cook the ingredients where it’s delivered to you ready for your enjoyment.

Syndication is a not a new concept on the Internet, but it’s growing in popularity as more Web sites and newsletters are churning content to turn it into syndicated files, which are fed into an aggregator. Think of it as the content that’s ready to travel anywhere it needs to go.

Grab the feed and feed it to the aggregator, another way of bookmarking (or creating a favorite) a site because you wish to come back again another time. But how often did you go back to the site through your bookmarks/favorites?

Instead of schlepping from site to site in search of information, I have it all in front of me via the aggregator. The feeds are sorted into folders by topic for easy finding. If I’m writing about the latest virus or worm, then I open the security folder with the security-related feeds and scan them.

Scanning content through aggregators is easier than on a Web site because it’s in one folder with headlines and maybe a short summary. On a Web site, you’re only getting the benefit of that site’s news and nowhere else. The folder has news from over ten resources including blogs, news sites, and newsletters.

Any content can be syndicated. It’s a matter of having the backend process in place, which is dependent on the application used for managing the content. If a site doesn’t have such resources, then there is software for entering content to create a file with the feed for posting on the site.

Most aggregators have exporting capabilities so the feed can be shared with others interested in the same topic. If you’re interested in my security feeds, I can export them into, in most cases, an OPML file and you can import it into your aggregator.
Spam filters are preventing readers from getting newsletters or they get lost in the spam pool. Offering a feed for the newsletter is a compromise.

Readers can get the content, only instead of it coming to the emailbox, it comes through the aggregator. It’s a way around spam. Like everything else, it has its advantages and disadvantages:

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