Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Using Feeds

My site is now available as ATOM feeds.

I know that half of my site’s current audience doesn’t know ATOM feeds from cattle feeds, so let me take some time to explain how to exploit this feature.

It all started in the development shacks at Netscape Communications. That’s the place where they make some of the acronyms we use in day-to-day language. One such acronym they made has evolved from RDF, to RSS, and now in its latest avatar to ATOM.

So, what is this stuff anyway? Is it useful, or just another of those acronyms that sounds big and scary but does nothing?

Let’s start with its uses. If you are anything like me, you surf a lot. A lot of the sites you visit are blogs. Most of the blogs you visit are ones you have visited before. You are only going there to check if there has been any update. You also want to check out news on a regular basis, but have found no easy way to do it. Getting the daily Calvin and Hobbes comic strip would be a nicety too, but you don’t bother because you’d have to go their site. You’d love to subscribe to a couple of online magazines or other publications, but you don’t want their mails cluttering up your mailbox.

Feeds would make all these problems non-existent. With one click, you can scan a hundred sites for their updates, grab them and display them in a neat and organized fashion on your screen. It uses a technology so simple, you’d wonder why we didn’t think of it before. Because it is so simple, you don’t need a fast connection, or a powerful computer. If you have a web-based feed reader like I have, you don’t even need to install software on your computer. Just sign up for one of the popular feed reader services, like Bloglines – the one I use.

Once you have a feed reader, whether on your desktop or online, you now collect feeds from different websites. Most modern websites offer their content as feeds. For example, the link to my feeds can be found on the sidebar. These feeds are called by different names on different sites: XML Feeds, RSS Feeds, ATOM Feeds, or sometimes simply by an orange “XML” button. All these are different flavors of the same thing, and their differences mostly don't matter much from a user's point of view. You just find the URL of the feed, and add it to your feed-reader. Now on, your feed reader will scan the site on a regular basis, or when you explicitly ask it to.

It’s almost like a different kind of browsing! It's faster, more customizable, and much more easy than hopping from site to site.

Update: You might want to add my feed directly to your Bloglines.com account.


Rakesh Pai said...

Cleaned up the markup to reflect abbrivations. Also, interestingly, Atom is not an abbrivation. Sorry for the glitches.

Rakesh Pai said...

I am getting worse at this! It's abbrEvation, not abbrivation. Sorry again.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nerdu ,
Thanx for (RE) explaining the whole ATOM feed thingy ... I also now know why my teachers insisted on revision ...wish i had listened !!!
Now all i need is someone who'll explain the whole cattle feed funda to me ...:D and i'll be set for life