Saturday, October 04, 2003

RSS = NQSSS, Part 3  

(Really Simple Syndication = Not Quite So Simple Syndication)

News Aggravators, um, I Mean Aggregators

When I first wrote on this topic (see RSS = NQSSS, Part 1) I had created my .rss text file and uploaded it to my server. I used a validator (FeedValidator.org) to make sure that my coding was good. I also placed an icon linking to my .rss file in the left column of this blog. In RSS = NQSSS, Part 2, I was trying to make my blog available to the general public, I submitted my .rss file to several different sites that collect this type of information (Aggregator.UserLand.Com , syndic8, NewsIsFree.com, and Feedster).

Sometime after that last post I also stumbled across BlogStreet.com and submitted my site there, which is why you see the BlogStreet icon in my left panel there. (According to their direx, I don’t have to leave it there forever…just until they add me to their database, and then I can remove it.)

Then I started getting involved in other projects and forgot about all of this temporarily. I figured I would eventually hear back from one or more of the sites I submitted my URL to, but so far I haven’t. So I have no idea whether I am actually in their database or not. I will be patient (who, me?) and wait a bit longer.

Today I started doing a little bit more reading on the topic and came across the Bloglines site. Bloglines is a free Web-based news aggregator.

Don’t worry…I had no idea what that meant, either. Apparently, it’s the reason WHY I had to make my blog available as an RSS file in the first place. RSS files “feed” news aggregators. A news aggregator is a program that, at regular intervals, reads a set of information sources in one of several XML-based formats (such as RSS). When the program finds new data (blog postings, news, etc.), it conveniently displays them (typically in reverse-chronological order) on a single page.

If you ever worked with a newsreader program back in the heyday of Usenet News, then you are already familiar with the basic concept. You find news feeds (such as blogs that publish an RSS file, like mine) that you are keen on and then you subscribe to them. Subscribing means you tell the news aggregator software that you want to read these sources on a regular basis.

But apparently there’s more to this. If you are reading a blog (or any other data source that is published as an RSS file, such as a news site), you can choose to grab that info, place it in your own blog and then comment on it. So really, news aggregators and blogging software are really just two sides of the same coin. Where blog software is for writing, news aggregators are for reading. Note that I could not find a way to do this on the web-based Bloglines, so it might be something you can only do if you download a news aggregator to your own hard drive. (Either that, or I just haven’t figured it out at Bloglines yet.)
So my next step is to find a news aggregator and download it to my computer.

You’ll know more when I do!

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