A little exploration into RSS feeds

As we learned in class and were tested on during our first exam RSS feeds compile information from a number of Web sites all into one place for a reader. Like our one reading said they are like Web butlers, bringing us all the information on a particular subject right to a single page on our computer screens. After setting up my Google Reader in class I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I was playing with different options and settings on my Google account. I came across my RSS reader and decided that I was going to try it more thoroughly and then report my findings for my entry on the class blog. Since we only discussed them briefly, I figured most people would forget about their subscription quickly and never explore them more. I wanted to see how efficiently they worked and if they pulled up information on some obscure topics that I could think of. The following are some of my findings:

1.) A good starting point for research- I began researching a paper for another class on the American Civil Liberties Union. This group has many books about them in the shelves of Mckeldin, but the paper called for more information on their current involvments in U.S. politics. I typed “ACLU” into the search bar and was only presented with two headlines. However, both of these headlines lead me to sites with more information about the ACLU listed on them. From this discovery, I began looking at the RSS feeder as an alternative to a general search engine and wikipedia combined. It offereed more specific answers within the searches, but offered me more information and places to search. This RSS feed was similar to wikipedia because it was a good starting point for basic research

2.) A great way to explore additional information on topics you already like- Something that I really enjoyed about this feeder is being able to gather information not only on topics I was interested in, but related ideas as well. For example, I read a non-fiction book a fewweeks back about a women who escaped a polygamist community in Utah. When I entered her name into the search I realized that this camp combined with one in Texas and this womans ‘family’ were actually among the women and children taken during the raids last spring. The reader extended the information I learned in the book and brought it to current times.

3.) A friend to reporters- This was one of the things that was first presented to us with the RSS readers, but it is so helpful that I wanted to mention it again. Readers are especially helpful in finding story ideas because instead of searching all over the internet for various headlines or current events. Stories about your particular beat or area of interest are pulled from sites across the Web and filed into your personal Reader. This allows ideas to all be in one place and easily organized, offering less stress of developing a story idea and saving you as a reporter time.

RSS Feeders offer journalists and curious people a chance to save time and enjoy the news. Instead of spending hours seeking out stories on various Web sites, feeders like Google Reader and Yahoo! bring you headlines and articles from a multitude of sites. There are also specific readers set up to follow only stories on particular sunjects such as New York Time’s Health Reader. Sites many times have links listed right on there that allow readers to link to a RSS feeder that gives their headlines. Some other sites have different topics already formed and have RSS feeders constantly sending the latest headlines to the links on their site (See: http://arstechnica.com/site/rss.ars)

Overall, this little helpful tool is one that people should explore a little more. It offers a lot of information with very little work involved searching for it.Comments on how people use RSS feeds and if people enjoy using them or not are always welcome.

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