â€˜Hackersâ€™ use RSS to satiate their appetites for news-on-demand
Iâ€™VE written about RSS feeds and how bloggers use them to â€œsyndicateâ€ their content for readers, who donâ€™t have to actually visit their sites to get their updates.
Iâ€™d attempt to explain RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication), but I think itâ€™s better left to encyclopaedias such as the online Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org).
What I know about RSS is that it summarises all my favourite blogs and news sitesâ€™ latest offerings, which I am then able to read on what is called an â€œaggregatorâ€, such as bloglines.com.
Why am I re-visiting the topic of RSS? Well, I found out recently that some smart undergraduate had â€œhackedâ€ into (or modified) the online edition of this newspaper and turned it into an RSS feed.
Read more at TODAYonline: [pdf]
This means netizens who know how to use RSS feeds no longer have to visit the TODAY website (www.todayonline.com) to get their daily dose of the nationâ€™s favourite newspaper.
Most free blogging services, such as blogger.com and wordpress.com, come with built-in RSS generators, which create webfeeds for people to subscribe to their content for free.
These updates are automatically downloaded by readers to read at their leisure, either at their computers or their mobile devices (mobile phones are increasingly being used to read syndicated feeds).
The undergraduate who created the RSS feed for TODAY, Chua U-Zyn (www.uzyn.com), a computer engineering undergraduate, explained that he did so because he had some difficulty reading the newspaperâ€™s online offerings when he was on the move.
Sure, todayonline offers subscribers free email news alerts, but the summaries were not good enough for U-Zyn, which prompted him to sit down and create the feed â€œsince I think it benefits me and might also benefit some other people who, like me, have a problem grabbing a physical copy of TODAY every morningâ€.
While Iâ€™m probably never going to know how U-Zyn coded the feed for this newspaper, some readers are thankful he did.
â€œAlthough I get the print version at the office, once Iâ€™m at work, Iâ€™m too busy. The full RSS feed before I get in is ideal!â€, wrote â€œOttermanâ€ (blog.sivasothi.com) in the comments section of U-Zynâ€™s blog post announcing the making of the feed.
â€œSubscribing to their email update was too painful for the eyes to parse through the loooooooooooooong email,â€ he also said.
The feed makes everything more user friendly, added â€œbingxiongâ€ (bingxiong.blogsome.com).
While TODAYâ€™s sign-up process for the email news alert updates is simple enough and gives readers the options of either full text of news articles or hypertext links delivered to their email inboxes, it seems that reading RSS feeds is the way forward for some netizens, especially those accustomed to reading many sites at a go.
For myself, utilising RSS feeds allows me to speed-read up to 300 blogs and news sites a day without actually visiting any of these sites.
Itâ€™s come to a point where RSS feeds have become so much the norm, that for some of us netizens, a blog isnâ€™t a blog unless itâ€™s got an
RSS feed built in. This is whether or not youâ€™ve invested $2 million in a colourful website for the blog, and are giving away cars as prizes.
These days, most news agencies such as the BBC (bbc.co.uk), CNN (cnn.com) and Channel NewsAsia (channelnewsasia.com) have RSS feeds built into their websites, underlining the importance of this particular Web tool.
Some of these news sites even have separate feeds for different categories of news, such as sports and entertainment. But I can understand why some websites arenâ€™t quick enough to adopt RSS as a means of distributing their content.
Commercial interests dictate that eyeballs are required at their sites so advertisers get their moneyâ€™s worth. As a result, webmasters tend to be preoccupied with trying to merely drive traffic to their sites.
Hereâ€™s something for webmasters to note: You can insert advertisements within RSS feeds. Furthermore, it is the contents of a website â€” more than any colourful layout â€” that attracts readers and makes them want to get hold of the siteâ€™s content as easily as possible.
And it is telling that this is probably the only local newspaper whose online version has been â€œhackedâ€ so that readers can get hold of articles more conveniently.
Mr Miyagi aka Benjamin Lee has been entertaining readers at miyagi.sg for over two years, and canâ€™t wait for the day technology allows him to actually comprehend all of the 300-plus articles a day he reads via RSS feeds.