RSS and Podcasts

RSS Feeds and Aggregators

Lee Lefever – The Common Craft Show: RSS in Plain English

That sums up RSS feeds and aggregators but for those of us who learn best by reading, here is a brief definition.

RSS feeds are XML file formats that deliver content from a website. We all have favourite websites that we visit weekly, sometimes daily. Instead of visiting your favourite sites to check for updates, RSS brings the new content directly to you.

An RSS aggregator, also know as readers, takes the XML format of the RSS feed and converts it to a readable format. The aggregator will also “pull in” updates of the website for you so you don’t waste time looking at all your favourite websites for new content.

There are several kinds of readers. Desktop readers require the downloading of software onto your computer. Browser-based readers are readers that are directly attached to your web browser (e.g. Mozilla, Internet Explorer, etc.). Web-based browsers, such as Google Reader and Bloglines, are maintained on remote servers and are accessible anywhere there is an internet connection. In addition to basic web-based readers, there are customizable portals with readers embedded, such as My Yahoo, that are designed by the user for their specific tastes and interests.

RSS Search Engines

To find RSS feeds that interest you, you can go to your favourite websites and look for a link that says “RSS,” or “XML,” or “Subscribe.” An additional way to find RSS feeds is through an RSS search engine such as Search4RSS. RSS search engines are like regular search engines but the search engine searches only for RSS feeds.


Podcasts are like RSS feeds. You subscribe to them as you would an RSS feed but instead of receiving textual updates of a websites content, you will receive a digital audio file that can be downloaded into your computer or MP3 player. The term “podcast” stems from the first podcast scripts created for Apple Ipod. Podcast scripts are a programming language that allowed for the download of feeds. While many large media corporations have created their own podcasts, such as CBC Radio, HBO Podcasts, and CNN Podcasts, podcasts have also become popular among everyday users. Additionally, libraries have begun using podcasts as a form of instruction. For example, Arizona State University has created podcasts that supports scholarly research and Washington State University offers podcasts on tips for successful research.


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