What Is RSS?
Communication has always been a fundamental human need. It has evolved from simple gestures and verbal language to written words, print, and the internet.
In the early days, communication was very local, often limited to two people engaging in conversation. However, with the advent of the internet, those conversations transformed into blogs, and now people exchange ideas through blog posts.
Enough of this playful introduction, though. Today, I want to discuss what RSS is. If you're already familiar with it, maybe you can refine my understanding, so I encourage you to read on.
While direct methods of communication are valuable, they require both parties to be engaged simultaneously, making them inefficient for information exchange between two individuals. Group methods, where many people gather and one person speaks while others listen, solved the efficiency problem.
Thanks to technological advancements, particularly the internet, it became possible to communicate with an unlimited number of people. The issue of scale was resolved. Furthermore, this communication became asynchronous, with information accessible at any time and place. The simplest form of this is a website, accessible via a web link.
However, websites have their limitations, primarily providing a one-way flow of information. During the search for better solutions, someone came up with what we now call blogs. These are websites where various types of information are posted, typically in textual form (like this one), but they can also include audio and images.
It turned out that feedback could easily be integrated as well, in the form of comments. Any reader could leave their thoughts at the bottom of the page. This began to resemble a conversation.
To complete this communication ecosystem, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) was introduced. It's simply a link that, when refreshed by a suitable program called an RSS reader, almost instantly notifies us of new information.
After this lengthy introduction, I want to explain why this is cool.
Why RSS is Great
Blogs, and even some websites, provide links that are easy to copy. RSS readers, of which there are many, can easily digest such links, keeping us almost up-to-date with the latest information. Additionally, unread posts queue up, so they don't disturb or interrupt your current work. You can simply go through the articles during your free time.
Another important aspect is what I call the "well of happiness" (RSS feeds), where you choose the content you want to read. It's like creating your dream newspaper. You're no longer dependent on someone else's choices for a universal newspaper; instead, you select your own authors, quality, and quantity of articles to read.
I've read somewhere that thousands of blogs are created every day, so there's an enormous variety of content. If you don't like something or find it boring, you can remove it from your reader with a single click. And it's gone.
All of this creates an efficient and very personal way of communicating. With RSS, you can comment on every article, engaging directly with the author. Traditional newspapers lack this feature. Yes, I know that most articles now have an email address or website link, but only on blogs can you leave a comment without leaving the article you're reading.
I also have to mention one of RSS's benefits: it delivers information in a stripped-down format, focusing on the text, without all the clutter, ads, and unnecessary distractions.
Downsides of RSS
For some, the simplicity of RSS is a downside. Websites are colorful and interactive, while RSS feeds are often plain XML. Of course, RSS readers can interpret and display the target website, but some might find it less visually appealing.
Complexity is another perceived downside. First, you need an RSS reader. Then you have to add feeds, configure settings, search for content, and know how to use the reader. Some people might even say it's not the "internet" (i.e., a web browser), so they can't use it. However, it's like anything else: until you have a need for it, you might not use it (just like with email clients).
Another drawback is that not all content can be extracted via RSS. Some interesting content on websites isn't included in RSS feeds, so you have to manually refresh the page.
Sometimes, there can be an overwhelming number of articles. On certain websites, the diversity and quantity of articles can be too much to handle in a short period. Moreover, if you subscribe to multiple RSS sources, it can be challenging to keep up. However, unlike television, the content that comes through RSS patiently waits for you to read it or delete it. You're not forced into anything, and sometimes, RSS can be an inspiring source, guiding your thinking in a direction you've chosen.
My RSS Experience
I should share what's in my RSS reader. I've mainly added blogs related to personal development. One of the more interesting ones is Zen Habits, as well as Lifehacker, and a few others I stumbled upon and decided to follow. Some feeds don't survive the selection process because they're not frequently updated, or the content doesn't interest me. Often, I come across new feeds by chance and automatically add them.
The funniest thing is that I have this blog in my RSS reader to see how it looks each time and to give it one final read-through after publishing, just in case there are any errors. But that's just a little quirk.
How to Get Started
There are many methods, but I'll share the best one: Just start. Type the relevant keyword into Google and start enjoying all the benefits without dwelling on the drawbacks.
You won't need to invest much time at all initially. However, the long-term gains are substantial. For me, the biggest benefit is not wasting time searching for content I want to read, getting lost on various random websites, and losing track of the topic. Now, I know that a well of happiness with a dozen or so interesting articles is always waiting for me, saving the time I might have wasted browsing news portals that have everything and nothing.