What are these funny little buttons for?
If you already know, I’ll talk to you later. If you don’t, make yourself comfy.
Those buttons are links to RSS feeds and they’re all over the web. You might not have thought to ask. I hadn’t myself. I was too busy digitizing the old family photos. All 8,513 of them.
What is RSS, you now ask? Well, they’re our very fast and efficient links to the world. You think zipping around the web is fast? This is faster. They’re the online version of having your newspapers delivered to you instead of having to go out in the rain for them. Except it doesn’t cost you anything to get the news and you don’t tip the paper boy at Christmas time.
There are only 2 simple steps to get on board: choose a reader and choose some feeds.
First you have to get yourself an RSS reader. There are lots and lots to choose from so I’ll just give you an example. My browser, Firefox, has an extension called Sage, which is an RSS reader. It took less time to install it than it took for me to say “Am I doing this right?” This is what it looks like installed. The icon at the top left opens and closes the sidebar of the reader.
Put “rss reader” in a search engine and see what it offers you. You can have an RSS reader in your email program if you’d rather. You can pay for a reader too but it’s not necessary. CNet has 141 readers listed, some of them reviewed.
Next step: Get some feeds. Let’s say, hypothetically, you think the blog you’re reading right now is the best thing to come along since Swiss cheese. You could, of course, bookmark it for later, but then you may not remember to check back for the latest news and I’d be talking to no-one.
My bookmarks tend to disappear into obscurity. Your RSS reader will serve you better for pages like the news and blogs that get updated on a regular basis.
The next step is even simpler. You click on the little button and drag and drop it into the sidebar of your reader. That’s called “subscribing”. Subscribing does not mean giving your email address or your credit card number to someone. You do the same thing with any other RSS pages you want to keep track of. You now have your own collection of “newspapers” right where you can see them easily, and scan through quick to see what you want to look at. It saves you the bother of scouring through a million links on any single website.
Sometimes when you first drag an RSS link it will look like http://www … etc but the first time you click on it and the page loads it will change automatically to the name of the page. Other times you won’t see a button at all so you drag the whole URL into your reader.
Here, in the top of the sidebar, I have a listing of each of my “feeds” and in the bottom of the bar is a listing of all the posts contained in the feed that’s presently highlighted. After I read a post the bold formatting will turn off so I can see where I’ve been. When any of the feeds has a new or updated post it will appear in bold format again to let me know I haven’t seen it yet.
Of course, these are exactly the same web pages you’d be looking at if you went looking the old-fashioned way. You can keep or delete individual posts in your reader, or entire feed sites. This is totally under your own control, what you want to have there and what you don’t.
There are millions of RSS feeds and on any topic you can think of. Try Genealogy Blog Finder to get off the ground with it. Just search for the subjects you’re interested in, and start adding feeds to your reader. It really is that simple.