Monday, 24 May 2010

Week 3: RSS

First thing is to establish what RSS is.

You’ve heard of RSS? You’ve seen those small funny orange icons on websites? You’ve heard friends and colleagues swear by it, but still have no idea what RSS is? Well don’t worry! RSS is not only revolutionalising the way news, media and content creators share information, but it also is swiftly changing the way everyday users are consuming information.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web. Just think about the websites and news information sources you visit everyday. It takes time to visit those sites and scour the ad-filled and image-heavy pages for just the text you want to read, doesn’t it?

Watch a short video:

Optional: watch as well, or for a slightly longer video try this one:
(remember and plug in some headphones if you’re watching either of the videos!)
Search Wikipedia for an explanation of RSS.

Now imagine if you could visit all those information sources and web pages in just one place and all at the same time … without being bombarded with advertising… without having to search for new information on the page you’d already seen or read before… and without having to consume a lot of time visiting each site individually. Would that be valuable to you? Well, it’s available now through a newsreader and RSS!

 Now it’s time to try 3 different ways to organise the RSS feeds you find useful.

Thing 5 – Browser based RSS Reader

You can use the Internet browser to manage your RSS feeds, in the same way as you use it to organise you favourite (or bookmarked) websites.

Step by Step:

  1. First find an RSS feed you like – look for the RSS button on your favourite websites (or perhaps try the Medical Library RSS feed for starters, or try the BBC News website, or your favourite newspaper website)
  2. Click the RSS button to view the feed. 

Folllow the instructions for the web browser you use most often:

Using Internet Explorer,
  • click the green plus/gold star button to “subscribe to this feed”
  • Name the feed in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Click subscribe.
  • To view the feed to check if there are any new items for you to read, click the gold star button, and pick the “feeds” column – if the name of the feed is bold there is new material for you to read; if the name of the feed is in normal type, there is no new material for you to read
Using Firefox,
  • Click “subscribe now”
  • Name the feed in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Click subscribe.
  • To view the feed to check if there are any new items for you to read, click “bookmarks” chose “bookmarks toolbar” and then pick the feed you want. Click on the entry that is interesting to you.

Perhaps you could try adding a few more RSS feeds. You could try using the 23 Things blog feed (look for the orange button in the browser menu to view the RSS feed).

Take a screenshot of your browser based RSS feeds, and load it into your blog. Label it “Thing 5”
Don’t remember how? [There's some instructions in the Hints & Tips]

Thing 6 – Web based RSS reader

There are many available but for the purposes of this programme we will use Google Reader as you have already created an account with Google.

• Go to Google Reader at

• Sign in with your Google account username and password

• watch this video

Once logged in you will see the homepage of your account. Down the left-hand side is a navigation panel and on the right is the main section of the page where you will see the content of your feeds. Automatically displayed are some posts from Google to help you get started. You can read through these now or come back to them later.

To show you how to receive updates from a site we will start by subscribing to the feed for the 23 Things blog.
• In the blog's sidebar you will see the heading 'Subscribe to this blog'. Underneath it are options to subscribe to the posts and the comments. For now we will just subscribe to the posts.

• Click the link to the posts RSS feed and a drop down menu will appear listing a number of feed readers. From the list choose 'Add to Google'.
• A new window will open giving you the option to either add the feed to your Google homepage or Google Reader. Add this feed to your Google Reader by clicking the blue 'Add to Google Reader' button.

• You will be taken into your Google Reader account. In the navigation panel on the left you will now see 23 Things Oxford under the Subscriptions heading. In the main section of the page you will see the latest update from the blog. To view previous updates scroll down the main section or you can use the 'N' and 'P' keys to move through the udpates.
Your next step is to locate some more blogs and websites to subscribe to.

Be aware that not all website/blogs have buttons like the one on this blog which allow you to easily subscribe to feeds using Google Reader. In some cases you will have to copy and paste the feed's URL into your reader following the steps below:
• Once you have located the site's RSS feed right click on the link and choose 'Copy Shortcut'
• Open another tab or window and sign in to your Google Reader account

• Click the 'Add Subscription' button at the top of the left-hand navigation panel. Right click in the text box that appears and choose 'Paste'.

Finally click 'Add' and you will see the site's feed added to your subscriptions. Try adding 3 or 4 different feeds.

Extra Task (optional)

share your feeds
  • when you have set up some RSS feeds in your reader, click on the “share” button. You can add a comment on the item you have chosen to share if you like.
  • Click the “setting” button, and chose “reader settings”
  • Click “folders and tags”
  • View the “public page” of your shared items.
  • Add this link into your blog, and write a short comment about how this functionality might be useful.

Take a screenshot of your Google Reader page, and load it into your blog. Label it “Thing 6”

Thing 7 - MyLibrary RSS reader

Your NHS ATHENS password will also let you set up an RSS reader.
(if you need a reminder of your NHS ATHENS password, please ask Isla, Alison or Anna).


  • Go to and login with your ATHENS password (login button is on the top right-hand corner)
  • The section called “My Update” is the RSS reader.
  • Open another web page, and find an RSS feed that you find interesting.
  • Highlight and copy the address (URL) of this feed
  • Return to the MyLibrary page, and click “add feed” button
  • Paste the address/URL into the URL box, and give the feed a name that makes sense to you.
  • See the message that states “The feed has been added successfully” and click “continue to MyLibrary”
  • Add more RSS feeds as you wish.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page – and register for email alerts of the RSS feeds if you wish.


Take a screenshot of your Google Reader page, and load it into your blog. Label it “Thing 7”


Write a blog entry about your impressions of RSS in general. Do you think it could be useful? Which of the 3 ways of gathering RSS feeds did you like most, and why?
  • What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?
  • How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?
  • Which method of finding feeds did you find easiest to use?
  • What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels?

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