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Really Simple Syndication (RSS), the orange broadcasty symbol thingy (usually) that you can click on at most blogs, websites, and from google news searches… Do you use it every day? You need to. Last year I showed you how to set this up in a youtube video about Firefox plugins. I’ve bumped into dozens of people who read the blog but missed the RSS bit and don’t use RSS. This post will focus exclusively on RSS: why and how. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Why use RSS?

1) Works better than memory. When you “subscribe” to sources, you don’t have to remember to actually visit each of those sources each day, and don’t waste your time when there was new new content posted anyhow.

2) Centralizes your articles. With almost everything coming to one place, you can choose to leave stuff unread until you are ready, and visit only one site (your RSS reader) when you have time.

3) You can easily share and receive articles within your network. Andrew Min and Nathanael Yellis (personal and Heritage Action) are two people who I follow, share with, and get their shared articles from because our RSS feed readers know to share like that. This means that I get updates from their blog, when they find an article in THEIR sources that they like they share it and I will see it, and when I receive an article or visit a site I like they will see it (as well everyone who follows me on Google Buzz, for example, since I have that linked up).

4) Improves your contextual knowledge. When you use something efficient and effective like an RSS reader, the result is something akin to reading the Wall Street Journal every day (how many of you do that? … That’s what I thought)–you stay up on broader brush strokes than the specific policy of your targeted negative research or 1AC.

How I use RSS

I use RSS feeds every day for my job (I’m an analyst in the homeland security sector, in case you didn’t know). If you visit any page but the home page at dhs.gov, you find the RSS Feeds link, which takes you to about a dozen feeds (from press releases to speeches to events to their blog to FEMA’s RSS feeds). I don’t have to actually visit each page at dhs.gov to get these updates. One of the things I do means I need to keep up to date on biodefense developments and go attend conferences and symposia on the subject, so I have RSS feeds from google news searches using terms like biodefense, cbrne, wmds, and events, conferences, dhs, etc.

People running Cyber Security should be subscribed to blogs like this one: http://www.hlswatch.com/2010/10/18/cybergame/ because you will find sweet recommendations of the latest resources, like this article which points to a GAO report showing our country isn’t doing 22 of the 24 policy objectives we say we are when it comes to Cyber Security. Help aff inherency much?

How to set up an RSS Reader

1. Get an RSS Reader. You can choose a program that you download, use the RSS functions in Mac Mail or Microsoft Outlook, or use an online RSS reader program (which is what I recommend and will describe from here on out). Google RSS Readers for some options.

I suggest either:

  • Feedly — More visually appealing list and arrangement options; has most popular stuff on the web each day (in a separate panel); and includes a toolbar in Firefox so you can share ANY web page and subscribe to any that post content, even if those sites have not installed an RSS feed burner or you can’t find the little orange button thingy
  • Google Reader — Best for sharing/receiving; easily integrates with your other Google services (or not if you want to set it up in a new account)

Since Feedly can link to and through your Google Account, it will share on Buzz and interface with gmail (if you want it to). If I am away from my normal computers with Feedly, I can easily visit my google reader since both locations have my RSS feeds. Here are screenshots of both:


If I am not interested in certain articles, a little X hovers over their icon on the left when my mouse is there and I can simply close it as if I read it. When I click a title, it opens the article RIGHT THERE, rather than visiting the site, and I just hit the escape key to go back to the list. Sweet.

Google Reader

You can see in Google Reader who shared which articles, because a little icon and their name comes up beside those items.

If you need any help or have suggestions for other RSS readers or tricks that you like, post a comment.

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