June 24, 2004
What is RSS?
One of the technology terms you'll see a lot these days is RSS, which stands for "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication." Basically, RSS is a way for a publisher -- usually the publisher of a news site or weblog-- to open up the website for syndication.
Just as a syndicated newspaper column or news item can appear in multiple newspapers simultaneously through a wire service, a site that has an "RSS feed" can automatically and immediately publish new additions to the site on other Web sites that subscribe to the feed or to individuals.
The feed can be set up to publish the entire article or to publish just a headline - or a headline and opening paragraph - with a link that lets the readers go to the site iteslf to get the full text.
Web sites can display the feeds they subscribe to directly on the pages of their sites. Individuals can use free online "news aggregators" (like Bloglines) or desktop software to subscribe to the feeds from multiple sites. The aggregator checks the sites for updates and, when a site is updated, the aggregator highlights the addition or notifies the user.
While these are the most common forms of syndication, RSS feeds can also be read by other devices such as PDAs and cell phones.
Why Bother with RSS?
Well, for example, I have about 25 blogs and news sites I like to check out on a regular basis - particularly for online education-related news and links. As you can imagine, trying to check out that many sites a day would take A LOT of time.... and a lot of that time would be wasted, since sites don't necessarily have updates every day, and some of the news on these sites isn't of interest to me.
Using a news aggregator, I can basically create my own daily online newspaper containing all the updates from just these sites. I can use it to scan the headlines, read articles that interest me, or save articles I don't have time to read at that moment.
A web site can use the feed from multiple sites to add a set of articles to their site that they think might be useful to their readers (e.g., on this blog, it might be useful for me to provide headlines from some of the education blogs I think might be useful to you - instead of just linking to them as I currently do through my "Ed Blogs" link).
This is still fairly new technology, and early adopters are still experimenting with ways to use RSS in the online classroom, but you can check out the following sites for more information:
- Introducing RSS. A lesson plan for using RSS in the classroom.
- Distributed Learning Object Repository Network. "Your one-stop source for learning object syndication. We retrieve learning object metadata from across the web and store it here."
- Blogging and RSS — The "What's It?" and "How To" of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators
- RSS: The Next Killer App For Education
Terms related to RSS:
Posted by Joanne Tzanis at June 24, 2004 04:56 PM
- XML (Extensible Markup Language). A way of creating Web documents so that they can be defined, transmitted, and interpreted by a number of different applications.
- RSS feed. (also called "RSS channel") An XML file summarizing Web-based content that is automatically generated when a site is updated and which is read by news aggregators. A site's feed is usually indicated by a link marked "syndicate" or "subscribe" or with the images: , , or . (The link "Syndicate this site (XML)" shows the feed for this site)
- Syndication. Simultaneous publication. To "syndicate" a site = to subscribe to a site's RSS feed.
- RDF (Resource Discovery Framework). A version of RSS.
- News Aggregators. (also called RSS readers or news readers) Applications that collect, scan, and organize RSS feeds for syndication.
- Atom. A new Web log syndication format designed to address perceived problems with RSS. Atom is newer than RSS, so some aggregators may not be able to read Atom feeds.
- Blogroll. A collection of Web log feeds that can be exchanged using OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language), allowing users to share the list of sites they subscribe to.