are the lingua franca of the modern internet, the glue that binds
together the hundreds of services that make up “Web 2.0.” The term
stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and can be thought of as a
machine-code table of contents to a website. An RSS feed
for a blog will typically list the last dozen-or-so articles, with the
title, date, summary and content all laid out in special fields. Once
you have a website’s RSS feed you can syndicate, or re-publish, its contents by email, RSS reader
or as a sidebar on another website. This post will show you a
ridiculously easy way to “roll your own” RSS feed without having to
worry about your website’s content platform.
Just about every native Web 2.0 applications comes built-in with multiple RSS feeds.
But in the real world, websites are built using an almost-infinite
number of content management systems and web development software
programs. Sometimes a single website will use different programs for
putting its contents online and sometimes a single organization spreads
its functions over multiple domains.
Step 1: Make it Del.icio.us
To begin, sign up with Del.icio.us,
the popular “social bookmarking” web service (similar services can be
easily adapted to work). Then add a “post to Del.icio.us” button to
your browser’s toolbar following the instructions here.
Now whenever you put new content up on your site, go that new page,
click on your “post to Del.icio.us” button and fill out a good title
and description. Choose a tag to use. A tag is simply a category and
you can make it whatever you want but “mysites” or your business name
will be the easiest to remember. Hit save and you’ve started an RSS feed.
How? Well, Del.icio.us turns each tag into a RSS feed.
You can see it in all its machine code glory at
del.icio.us/rss/username/mysites (replacing “username” with your
username and “mysites” with whatever tag you chose).
Now you could just advertise that Del.icio.us RSS feed
to your audience but there are a few problems doing this. One is that
Del.icio.us accounts are usually personal. If your webmaster leaves,
then your published RSS feed will need to
change. Not a good scenario, especially since you won’t even be able to
tell who’s still using that old feed. Before you advertise your feed
you should “future proof” it by running it through Feedburner.
Cloak that Feed
Go to Feedburner.com. Right there on the homepage they invite you to type in a URL.
Enter your Del.icio.us feed’s address and sign up for a Feedburner
account. In the field next to feed address give it some sensible name
relating to your company or site, let’s say “mycompany” for our
example. You’ll now have a new RSS feed at
feeds.feedburner.com/mycompany. Now you’re in business: this is the
feed you advertise to the world. If you ever need to change the source RSS feed you can do that from within Feedburner and no one need know.
The default title of your Feedburner feed will still show it’s
Del.icio.us roots (and the webmaster’s username). To clear that out, go
into Feedburner’s “Optimize” tab and turn on the “Title/Description
Burner,” filling it out with a title and description that better
matches your feed’s purpose. For an example of all this in action, the
Del.icio.us feed that powers my tech link blog and its Feedburner “cloak” can be found here:
Get that Feed out there
Under Feedburner’s “Publicize” tag there are lots of neat features
to republish your feed yourself. First off is the “Chicklet chooser“
which will give you that ubiquitous RSS feed
icon to let visitors know you’ve entered the 21st Century. Their “Buzz
Boost” feature lets you create a snippet of code for your homepage that
will list the latest additions. “Email subscriptions” lets your
audience sign up for automatic emails whenever you add something to
RSS feeds are great ways of communicating
exciting news to your audiences. If you’re lucky, important bloggers in
your audience will subscribe to your feed and spread your news to their
networks. Creating a feed through a bookmarking service allows you to
add any page on any site regardless of its underlying structure.