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Feed Me, Seymour

It’s really simple to get updated news headlines—including industry news—on your computer through RSS feeds.

By Helen Thompson

Managing your daily influx of headlines, financial news, sports, weather and entertainment can take over your workday if you’re not careful. Between that and juggling your email, organizers and to-do lists, you may feel like you’re running your own little shop of information management horrors.

Fortunately, your web browser won’t become a man-eating plant from a campy musical. But thanks to a technology called Really Simple Syndication (RSS, for short), you can have that information “fed” directly into your favorite search site, such as Google or Yahoo!.

Make the most of the search engine you use by transforming it into a personalized information hub—and get news, weather, your favorite magazines, stock quotes, recipes, sports scores, restaurant reviews and just about anything else you could possibly want from the web right there on your search page.

Keep it personal
To fully harness the power of RSS feeds, visit your favorite search engine homepage. If you’re like most people, that will be either Yahoo! or Google, but many other search-engine services offer this “portal” technology as well.

You’ll be prompted to log in to your account or, if you don’t have one, to register.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to create your page. At the top left, you’ll see a link that says “Add Content.” Google allows you to browse many pages of RSS feeds that you can add to this new “homepage.” Yahoo! also has an RSS browser with popular feeds, editor’s picks and multimedia links. Both allow you to search for content.

The feed bag
Here are some other neat ways to use RSS feeds. If you use the Firefox browser (www.firefox.com), some sites you visit may have an orange symbol in the right-hand corner of the “go” box. If you right-click it (or click-hold on a Mac), you’ll get a prompt to add a “live bookmark.” This creates a folder in your bookmark toolbar that will show you new content on that site as it is posted.

HERE’S A NEAT TRICK

There are many sites you can read using a portal site or aggregator, and not all of them are listed in public directories. But if you know a newsfeed’s syndication URL, you can subscribe to it directly. (RSS links end in “xml” instead of “html.”)
This includes NAIFA’s “What’s New” area. Look for the link that says “Add RSS by URL” and paste http://www.naifa.org/feed.xml into the field. Voila! You’ve just added NAIFA to your search page. This will work with other RSS feeds as well.

If you really want to max out your RSS power, you may want to look into using an aggregator. This is a software or web program that will check dozens or even hundreds of feeds for you. Popular aggregators include Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) and NewsGator (www.newsgator.com).

The real joy of RSS is that you control what information you get. It’s easy to unsubscribe to a feed—in your portal sites, you can just click the “x” to get rid of a feed you don’t find useful. But if you get comfortable with this technology, you’ll be better able to stay up-to-date on sports, weather and headline news—even what’s new at NAIFA (see box).

Two-way street
You might be thinking this could be a great way for you to get information to your clients. So, what do you need to do to set up a site that other people can grab for their portals?

You don’t need to know any special web programming code to set up your own feed. There are technologies that convert your content to an RSS feed that are already built into many online content-management solutions, including most free web-log (“blog”) services. Why blog, you ask? Good question! Check out “Blog Your Way to Better Clients.”


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