The Unwired Medic

Teaching EMS providers & other public safety pros about using mobile tech to improve their practice, patient care, continuing education, scene safety, general entertainment, & productivity.

RSS? What’s That?


Summer is coming and who has time to constantly bounce back and forth to all those favorite websites to see what’s updated?

RSS is a pretty nifty feature on a webpage that actually notifies its subscribers when the webpage has been changed or updated, and it even tells you what has been updated.  You might have noticed a little orange icon on the toolbar of your browser, or an icon on a webpage you’ve visited.

​They look like this: RSS Feed Icon

When you click on the icon, it takes you to a rather plain looking page where you have a link at the top allowing you to “subscribe” to the feed.  When you open your favorites in Internet Explorer, for
example, you will see three tabs, allowing you to view your favorites or bookmarks, your feeds, or your web history.  You will see the pages you have subscribed to on the feeds tab.  Unfortunately, you still have to remember to go look at the tab once in a while, but there is an easier way.  Why not let the computer tell you when an update occurs instead of looking for it manually?

Why would I want to use RSS?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably read a newspaper or magazine, right? Would you meticulously read every article looking for whether or not the information is useful?  Chances are you read the headlines and look at the table of contents on the front of the section you are interested in, then flip right to the pertinent article.  RSS feeds are just like looking at the headlines and the table of contents.  If it isn’t relevant, simply ignore or delete the article in the feed and move on.  If you want to know more, a synopsis is shown in the Reading Pane, where you can decide if you want to go to the website and view the whole article or update in a web browser.  Just like you’d do with a newspaper or magazine.

So many people use Outlook…

If you are one of the many people that use Outlook for our day to day e-mail, you are already using a program that works great with RSS feeds.  You can go to Outlook Options and set it to allow you to receive your RSS feeds in Outlook.

  • In Outlook 2003 and 2007, here’s how you do it:
    • Open the “Tools” menu
      • Select “Options” at the bottom of the menu
      • When the pop-up box opens, go to the “Other” tab
      • Click the “Advanced Options…” button.
      • The next window opens and you will need to check the box next to “Sync RSS Feeds with the Common Feed List” and click OK until all the dialog boxes are closed out.
  • In Outlook 2010:
    • Open the “File” tab
      • Select “Options” on the left side near the bottom of the choices
      • On the box that pops-up, on the left side, select the “Advanced” category
      • At the bottom of the window, you should see “RSS Feeds” before having to scroll down
      • Check the box next to “Synchronize RSS Feeds to the Common Feed List (CFL) in Windows”
      • Click OK

You should now be able to view the RSS feed(s) subscribed to on the navigation pane on the left side of Outlook.  When an RSS feed has been updated, the name of the folder will turn bold and you’ll see a blue number in parenthesis indicating how many updated items there are.

Well I don’t use Outlook!

That’s ok, all the major browsers support RSS feed subscription, plus there’s Google Reader, which collects your RSS feeds even while your computer isn’t running, and you can do a simple web search for “RSS Reader” and come up with many free and paid programs to aggregate your RSS feeds.  The reason I would advocate to go with Google Reader over another non-Outlook version is that it will keep your feeds synchronized across multiple devices.

How can I add RSS to my own site (or blog)?

Well, there could be a bunch of site administration mumbo jumbo that you may have to jump through, but let’s say you’re running WordPress or Blogger for your website or blog.  You can usually subscribe to Feedburner (now owned by Google) and drop in a little hidden code or click a radio button in your site options and that’s really about as complicated as it gets.  Then put a link on your site to let people go to your RSS feed.  If you want to get more complex and even delve into analytics on RSS performance, maybe you want a professional tool, and that’s a bit outside the scope of this article, but feel free to leave a comment with your question and I or another in the web community will share a response back with what we know.

One last note on RSS…

By the way, here’s a bit of useless trivia: RSS means “Really Simple Syndication”; in other words, it’s really simple because the reader just clicks on the RSS link, agrees to subscribe, then starts reading the updates.

If you already use RSS feeds, what is your favorite RSS reader?  Leave me a note in the comments.  Thanks and have a great summer!

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