Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Really Simple, Devious Guide to RSS

This is one of very few selfish posts on this blog, as you will soon see. If you already know what RSS feeds are, you may be more interested in skipping to one of my more technical posts. For the curious or those who, like myself just a year ago, have never used RSS, I urge you to continue reading and learn of my devious plans...

What is RSS? Wikipedia tells us that "RSS (abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format." Simply put, it allows authors on the web to say "hey everyone, I've published something new!" and people who are interested in the author's website to be informed of the new content.

How does it work? How do I use RSS? Technically, the author of a site sets up an XML standard-formatted file somewhere on their site. When they add new content, they also update the XML file. There are many sites (like Blogger) that automatically update this file when new content is added.

You use a program, called an "aggregator", to stay up-to-date with an author's latest content (e.g. to know automatically when a new blog post is published). A feed aggregator, more commonly known as a feed reader, is an online or offline tool that keeps track of your subscriptions (by checking those XML files) and shows when your favorite sites have new content to be viewed. You have the option to just view summaries, view full content of new articles, or go to the author's website. There are many feed readers available, but I personally prefer Google Reader. Using the Google Reader gadget on my iGoogle home page means I have quick access to my favorite content every time I open my web browser, as you can see at right (click to enlarge).

How is any of this selfish or devious? I'm glad you asked. I know you're thinking up til this point you've seen nothing but great information. But of course my purpose is to enlist as many new Game Developer Journey readers as possible! :)

Click either of the links shown in the screenshot at left (click to enlarge) to subscribe to GDJ. If you click the icon at the top (shown in IE7) you will be taken to the general feed page; the URL displayed at the top of the page can be copied into ANY feed reader of your choice. Clicking either link shown near the bottom of the screenshot allows you to subscribe to the feed using a specific reader.

So now you know that anytime you see the orange feed icon above or see a link on a page that simply says "RSS", you can subscribe to keep up-to-date with that site. My hope, of course, is that you will subscribe to GDJ and also provide some feedback! I've found numerous game developer blogs with only a few posts or that are now defunct, so please feel free to offer your insights and help me stay motivated to post frequently. If you have any questions, let me know with a comment and I will respond soon.

Until next time, happy (GDJ) reading! ;)

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