Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Aggregator" software

For awhile now I've been hearing about RSS and Atom "feeds". These thingies, which are stored on web sites such as this one, are machine-readable summaries of "articles" - blog entries, news stories, and other articles. If you know how, you can "subscribe" to a bunch of these Atom and/or RSS feeds, and thereby get a list of new articles from many different sources delivered to one window on your computer. This is called "aggregation".

Trouble is, while I kept hearing about RSS/Atom itself, I never heard of any particular software or web site that would let me do this "aggregation". So finally I went searching for info.

Wikipedia has a software list, (and here's another) but doesn't have any information to help you choose between the dozens of programs. This article at wired has good reviews, but it's old. I've been unable to find any good, recent software reviews, but this one's okay and here's another.

If you read several blogs, aggregation software (or a web site) is a must-have. Once you have it, you can keep track of what dozens or hundreds of people are saying on their blogs. Sadly, I haven't found any desktop software that I like so far.

Feeds in NetVibes: If you haven't tried NetVibes, you should. Anyway, you can add a feed by following these steps:
  • At my blog, right click on the "Blog Feed" link and choose "Copy Link Location"
  • At NetVibes, Click "Add content" in the left corner, then click "Add my feed"
  • Paste the address and click Add.
Feeds in Firefox: (updated Dec. 29) Just today I found out that Firefox provides an easy way to use blog feeds. When you visit a blog, a "feed" icon () appears on the right side of the address bar. Click it for the option to make a "Live Bookmark", which is a group of bookmarks that is automatically updated to contain the current contents of the blog feed. You can choose to put the group on the Bookmarks Toolbar, or among the regular bookmarks.

By the way, from a technical standpoint, Atom is generally better than RSS (it was created as a response to limitations of RSS.)

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