RSS Feeds for Fun and Info

May 27, 2011

WordPress generates an RSS feed or “subscribable content” for all of the posts in a blog, including the blog section of this site. It also generates another RSS feed for any comments on the blog posts. For you as a publisher, RSS is a way to “syndicate” the contents of your blog to other Web publishers, or other sites of your own. For example, I use RSS to publish summaries of my main blog on my home page.

(“Really Simple Syndication” is what the letters mean to most users, although there’s a longer, more technical, and very boring history.)

The addresses for both the “post” and “comments” feeds are usually in a menu at the bottom or in the right column of a WordPress site, unless you hide that menu from visitors. (Even for-free sites give you great control by letting you assemble page sections with its “widgets.”)

You can also post a link to an RSS feed anywhere on a page, just the way you would post a link to any other Web page. Browsers may treat the feed link differently from other links. For instance, clicking this link with Firefox will produce a dialogue box inviting you to “subscribe,” while clicking it with Safari will show you a page-view of the feed contents:

Basically, an RSS feed allows people to use a variety of programs to read or subscribe to the contents of a blog, a news site’s headlines, podcast, or other content. A little orange or blue “radar antenna” icon is usually the giveaway that a site has a feed or that a browser has a built-in feed reader. (When you “subscribe to a podcast” in iTunes, you are actually using iTunes as an RSS reader.)

Contents of “Pages” are not included in the WordPress’s RSS feeds — only contents of blog-style dated “Posts.” Blog posts are usually the main or home page of a WordPress blog. This site is different, as noted on the Home page: It’s a demonstration of using WordPress with a “static” front page, with the blog assigned to a menu item instead.

See my main blog for a page discussing the differences between pages and posts.

See more notes on WordPress on my third WordPress demo blog.

And if RSS is all new to you, see my oldest blog for a page about RSS, a comparison of RSS and blogs, and another about podcasting history, as well as this 1994 PC World Magazine article I wrote about RSS “aggregator” programs, back before most browsers and iTunes had added RSS-reading to their features.


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