Vincent Cheung

Vincent Cheung's Blog

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

RSS is key – c’mon, everyone’s doing it, why aren't you?

The punchline: if you read the news on the Internet and/or follow blogs, RSS can save you a lot of time. Check out Google Reader.

RSS is the little orange icon in the address bar or in the bottom right corner of your web browser if you’re using a good one, such as Firefox. Basically, RSS lets you grab headlines and articles from webpages, without having to go to the webpage. Then, you can go and view the headlines in a similar fashion as you read your e-mails.

While this doesn’t seem mind-blowing (it didn’t for me when I first heard about it), it’s a godsend for quickly scanning for new articles and blogs. I just blogged about Digg and Slashdot. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just get the articles from both sites without having to actually go and load up both web sites and then you have to sort out which ones you’re read and ones you haven’t? Well, RSS does this for you. You can get the feed from these sites and load them up in a RSS reader.

Do you read blogs? Well, you’re obviously reading mine. Do you read more than one blog? Don’t you hate having to check each blog individually only to find out that most of them haven’t updated since you last checked? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just go to one place and instantly see all the new blogs that your friends have made? RSS does this.

I hope you’re intrigued by this point. So, how do you actually get all this RSS stuff to work for you? My RSS reader of choice at the moment is Google Reader. Just login using your Google account (same as your GMail account, btw if you want a GMail account, just let me know), and you can search for feeds and subscribe to them.

If you want to say, subscribe to my blog, just add my feed:

There are two reasons why I like Google Reader. First, I love tags/labels now. Ever since I started using, I really understand why multiple labels for one thing can be good.

Quick tag/label guide:

With labels or tags, you associate something with several key words.

E-mail (GMail):
For example, an e-mail from your friend in Toronto about volleyball gets labeled as "Toronto" and "Volleyball", then when you're in GMail, you can look at all the labels with just volleyball or Toronto, or both. With folders, you have to put them in either Toronto or volleyball, but with labels, you give it both.

Bookmarks (
Take bookmarks. I bet your bookmarks are a mess (unless you’re using something like Let’s say you want to bookmark my blog. If you were using folder like things, you’d probably put it under "blog". With labels, you can call it a "blog", "friend", "Winnipeg", and "Toronto". Then you want to bookmark someone’s personal webpage. You wouldn’t put it in the "blog" folder, but you could give it the labels "friend" and "Winnipeg". Then, you could look at all your bookmarks that are “blog” and see only blogs, goto "friend" and see all pages related to friends, etc. Things can be grouped together even though they are different things.

RSS (Google Reader):
Now, RSS feeds. I have maybe 20 RSS feeds that I’m currently following. I label all the blogs I follow with "blog". That’s a no brainer. When I click "blog" I instantly see all the new posts in the blogs I’m following. I label Slashdot and Digg as "news" and "technology". I label the Globe and Mail as "news" and "Canada". This way, when I want quick technology info, I click the "technology" tag, and this separates the articles from the other news.

Second reason for liking Google Reader is that I tend to read news from multiple computers (at work and at home). Google Reader, being online, keeps track of which articles I’ve read regardless of where I’m reading them, that way I can easily sort out which ones I’ve already read at work or home.

Ok, there’s 3 reasons, and the third one is because it is delivered from my Lord, the mighty and all-powerful, Google.

One caveat though, Google Reader is in beta and last week when I was setting it up, it was a little slow for me, though it's improved this week.

Update (Nov. 21, 2005):  Added a "Add to Google" button on the sidebar, which I got from here. This button lets you easily add my site feed to your personalized Google homepage or reader.


Sarah said...

grrr you totally beat me to making this post!! oh well, i'll still do it when i get time :)

Anonymous said...

RSS is definately an easy and fast way to follow the progress of you favourite blogs. I wrote a little script that can be added to a your content. It outputs unlimitted number of RSS headlines on your website. This way you can have your page constantly updated as well as give your readers brand new content at a high frequency.

Vince said...

Who are you Ignat? Are you just some random that found my blog, and then tried to blatently advertise your script and get an extra link to your website?

Anonymous said...

Nope, just someone who tried to share the knowledge. I get enough visitors as is.

Now I know why science in the US is struggling. No one wants to listen...

Vince said...

Well, just fyi, I'm a phd student doing genuine research in science/engineering. People are generally willing to listen, but are just suspicious of where they get their information. I'm sure you can understand my skepticism of your comment seeming as how that was your first post on my blog and I don't know you.

Oh and by the way, while I'm in the US right now, I'm going back to Canada in a couple weeks after my internship has finished, so I'm no indication of the state of science in the US.

Sarah said...

good call...vince is a PRIME example of the average guy who doesnt care about science or technology. :P

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