August 20th, 2007
If you’re using the Internet, chances are you’re doing a lot of reading. In fact, if you were somehow accepted into UMW without the ability to read, I would be very surprised, and ask you for your secret. Anyway, think for a second about everything you read online; news, sports, blogs, articles, The Onion…hmm…instead, think for a second about the stuff you don’t read online, and try and make a list. It’s not very long, is it?
It would be really nice if you could get all of your e-reading done in one place. Naturally, like most things on the Internet, it’s possible with Google. Specifically, Google’s free, web-based application called Google Reader, which can take advantage of websites which support the “RSS” standard.
RSS, or “Really Simple Syndication,” is basically a way by which websites can publish their information into “feeds” which are updated automatically, and can be obtained by applications like Google Reader. You, the end-user, subscribe to one of these RSS Feeds using the reader (an “aggregator,” in nerd speak), and the content is delivered to you automatically. If this sounds kind of confusing, that’s because it is!
Another way to think about it is like getting a magazine subscription. The magazines come from all different places, but by telling the publishers that you wish to subscribe, they are delivered to one place — your house. And, naturally, you can choose which magazines you want to subscribe to. Using this analogy, you, the subscriber, become the aggregator. Make sense?
To access Google Reader, you need to have an existing Google or Gmail account, which is free. Once you’re set up, go to www.google.com/reader, and you are ready to add subscriptions.
The question is, how do you know which sites have this RSS Feed support? How will you know if you can subscribe or not? Most major news sites and almost all blogs support RSS, but to be sure, look for a symbol in your address bar that looks like a little orange box with white “airwaves,” as I like to call them. That symbol means you can subscribe to the page’s content. If you’re still not sure, just try and enter the web address of the site you’re wondering about into the Google Reader “add subscription” box. If the information you’re looking for appears, you’re in luck. If not, you broke the Internet.
CHOOSE CAREFULLY. Have fun.