RSS may be like radio, but my RSS reader is my personal newspaper

The March 2009 issue of Stratenotes, en route to your mailbox as I type this, includes a suggestion that readers learn more about RSS technology. I’m happy to say the piece includes three links to this blog. (If this is your first visit here, welcome!) One link is to something I wrote last fall, referring to a piece by marketing guru Seth Godin comparing RSS to radio. Lately I’ve been thinking my RSS reader–the piece of software I use to read my RSS feeds–is a little more like a newspaper. Let me explain.

Most RSS readers (or “feed readers”) allow you to sort individual feeds into folders, kind of like how you’d sort files on your computer or saved messages in your preferred e-mail client. How your folders are labeled and sorted is up to you. My client is set up kind of like sections of a custom newspaper–I have my Current Events section, with feeds from CNN, Google News, and NPR; my Sports section, fed by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the St. Louis Cardinals; Local news from the Lawrence Journal-World and the University Daily Kansan; Education (the U.S. Department of Education, Educause, and others); and tons of special interest sections based on personal and professional interests. I’m also experimenting with the filtering feature my client (NetNewsWire; Mac-only, free, and easy to use) provides–I’ve got a few filters set up to show me all items matching given parameters.

NetNewsWireScreenSnapz001.jpg

The end result? I’m currently getting information from 106 feeds via my own, personal, customized electronic newspaper. (I’ve trimmed this down lately; I’ve usually got a few hundred in there). I’m able to quickly skim these information services for news and features that interest me.

I hope that, if you’re not using an RSS reader yet to keep up on news that interests you, then this has piqued your interest. If you’re still not sure, take a few minutes to download a news reader like NetNewsWire (or its Windows counterpart FeedDemon) or configure a web-based reader like Google Reader. Coming to this summer’s SIM conference? We’ll also be happy to help you get up and running with RSS, Twitter, or other technology that can help you keep up with an ever-expanding information stream.

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.