Bishop Mueller Library

Keeping up with RSS

In notes on October 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

On October 26th Let’s Talk had tea in the Library’s Newspaper Corner and chatted about staying up-to-date with news, articles, and topics of interest.

The four main tools we looked at were:

  • iGoogle (mainly just boxes of headlines on a Google page)
  • Google Reader (much more control over your feeds and articles; allows you to share articles)
  • Feedly (using Google Reader settings, turns your feeds into a beautiful magazine-like experience)
  • Reeder (app on the iPod / iPad, using Google Reader information)

To begin:  what is RSS? …

A great explanation is available in this 3-minute video, “RSS in Plain English” from Common Craft.

Examples of RSS feeds: the New York Times offers a lot of RSS feeds for various sections of the newspaper.

The Chronicle of Higher Education also has RSS feeds for sections of its website, including the excellent Prof Hacker blog, in which several instructors share their tips and tools for technology in the classroom.

You can also get an RSS feed for most of the journals in our library databases. This way, you’ll be notified as soon as a new issue is available, with all the article titles listed. MIT Libraries has a great page about academic RSS feeds.


If you’re still scratching your head, don’t worry.  This is just a different kind of workflow.  Imagine this scenario:

You get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee and sit down at your computer to check the weather and news.  Since you have set your RSS reader (see list above) as the home page on your web browser, the newest articles show up automatically. Just like skimming through headlines in a newspaper, many people just skim through the headlines in their RSS reader.  When you see an article of interest, you can star it, bookmark it, email it – whatever seems appropriate.  You can also “share” an article, which means it will appear in the headlines for any of your friends or colleagues who are using the same RSS reader.

When you get to work, one of your colleagues mentions an article that you shared and talks with you about how to start a project using that information.  Later in the day, you see a cool recipe come up on a food blog you follow and you email it to your spouse with a “Let’s try this!” note.

Caveat Lector

For many of us, we already feel overwhelmed with information and the idea of adding more seems discouraging.  Using RSS readers is NOT about adding to info flow, it’s about managing your info flow.  So instead of surfing around or digging through Google search results for hours, trying to find little scraps of information, you invest a little time at the beginning to set up the RSS sources you trust, then let the information come to you. Making your RSS reader your browser home page helps keep this info flow at a trickle instead of a deluge. Sharing with friends and colleagues helps expose us to fields outside our usual purview.

Still have questions?  Want a one-on-one explanation?  Stop by the library and we’ll be happy to help.


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