TECH TALK: RSS, Blogs and Beyond: RSS and News Readers (Part 2)

JD Lasica has more on RSS and News Readers:

Instead of the hunt and peck of Web surfing, you can download or buy a small program that turns your computer into a voracious media hub, letting you snag headlines and news updates as if you were commanding the anchor desk at CNN.

The programs, which are just now moving out of the techie world into the mainstream, come in a variety of shapes and flavors: Newzcrawler (PC), AmphetaDesk (cross-platform), Radio Userland (PC or Mac), NetNewsWire (Mac), and others. Look beneath the hood and they’re all powered by XML, a souped-up form of HTML. The programs check each site to see if they contain RSS tags, a set of HTML-like instructions for sharing news.

Here’s how it works. You fire up one of the news readers (also called news aggregators), subscribe to certain sites from a directory of thousands of choices say, BBC Online, ESPN, Salon, the Chippewa (Wis.) Herald and Bangkok News and bingo, you’re in business. Whenever you sign on, a directory pane lets you see the most recent updates for each channel you’ve subscribed to. Within each channel you’ll typically see a half dozen headlines and perhaps a summary, the entire item, and occasionally an accompanying photo. Want to dive in further? Click on a link and you’re transported directly to the source’s Web site. Some programs run through a Web browser, others through a standalone program. Most are free.

From the same article comes a quote on the future of RSS:

Shayne Bowman, a freelance journalist and designer, makes two predictions: “I think that RSS feeds will start replacing e-mail newsletters because they do a better job of providing structure and a more efficient means of parsing through data.” And he sees revenue possibilities here. “RSS could be a great way of distributing and reading classified ad information, customized to the user’s preferences.”

RSS and News Readers are not restricted to just news sites and weblogs. Any information that can be represented using the RSS format can be made available as a feed for subscription. For example, consider stock quotes and cricket scores. Both have rapidly changing information. Today, to just check a few bytes of information we download 100-1000 times the useful content (the page graphics and ads). In fact, when cricket matches are on like now, with the World Cup it is very difficult to access most websites because of the huge volume of traffic. This is where having an RSS feed could make a difference – users could subscribe to it to get the latest information, saving bandwidth for everyone.

Another area where RSS could be extended is for enterprise events. Databases could provide updates in the form of an RSS feed. Users could subscribe to feeds which provide alerts on inventory levels, accounting information or customer support calls.

I believe that RSS and News Readers can be disruptive when it comes to accessing information. Ponder this comment by Jon Udell: Inbound RSS feeds needn’t be only internal or external weblogs. They can also deliver customer feedback, system status reports, business intelligence — you name it. And the output needn’t be a weblog….Think of it, instead, as an internal [knowledge blog, or k-log] that selectively exposes team activity to the larger organization.

Tomorrow: Blogs

TECH TALK Beyond RSS Blogs+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.