Really Simple Syndication for Non-Nerds

February 6, 2014

A while back, I tweeted this:

Guys. My non-geek girlfriend just agreed to set up an RSS reader account (with @feedly.) Life is good.

She texted me the next day:

I’m leaving you for my RSS feed.

Frequent visitors to the site will probably notice a new icon up top. It’s bright orange, and hard to miss.

My nerdier audience already knows what this is and how to use it. You guys have permission to gloss over the rest of this post.

The rest of you—my non-nerd audience—you need to pay attention. The button is a link to this blog’s full-content RSS feed. What is an RSS feed? I thought you’d never ask. No, really; the non-geek community is seriously missing out by not taking advantage of RSS in this online-media-dominated world we live in.

RSS, commonly shortened to Really Simple Syndication, is a way to, in essence, “subscribe” to a website. By using a feed aggregator, you can collect RSS feeds and organize them, then check up as often as you’d like to get the subscribed content delivered to you. You’re basically making the Internet check the website constantly for new content, and having it collected for your viewing pleasure.

It’s the equivalent of subscribing to an email list, following a website on Twitter, or checking the homepage daily for new content. Except so much easier and so much more efficient.

To get started, I like Feedly, especially for non-nerds, because it’s free. Free matters to non-nerds. You don’t even need access to the RSS feeds with their service—you can just search for my name and it’ll find it easily enough.

A college professor back in undergrad once attempted to force our class to create Feedly accounts and subscribe to a minimum number of websites. I passed the assignment with ease, as I had already done so, back when Google Reader was still a thing. Her biggest mistake was allowing the students to delete their accounts after the assignment had been completed.

I don’t use the native Feedly interface much these days; I have Newsify on my iPhone and iPad and use it instead, since I prefer its layout and functionality (this article by Justin Blanton gives a nice overview of the features you need to optimally consume lots of content.) The Feedly iOS app is good enough though, and also free.

I’ve been very hesitant to open up an email subscription service on my blogs; I used to have separate Twitter and Facebook accounts dedicated to posting my blog’s content. They weren’t worth it in the end, so I’ve shut it all down, and mainly rely on my own self-promotion, as well as word-of-mouth and RSS subscriptions to drive most of my daily traffic.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not open to any of those ideas, and they might be implemented in the future.

The goal, as always, is to make reading and following this blog as effortless as possible. By making my RSS feed easily accessible and educating my audience as to what it is and how to use it, maybe it’ll all become even easier.