RSS is Good, Isn’t It?!

My son gets a weekly magazine delivered to our home. It’s full of his favourite comic strips by fantastic authors and artists, he gets the pleasure of receiving something in the post just for him, and (even better) it doesn’t come with a load of plastic tat like you get with magazines in the supermarket. It’s not packed full of ads either, apart from a few for the comic book company’s workshops and merchandise, which I consider a small trade-off. Wouldn’t it be awesome to get a magazine full of articles by your favourite bloggers every week? Anyway, that’s kind of what RSS is like.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, and in a nutshell is a web feed that allows users to see when new content has been published to a site they follow.

From Wikipedia:

RSS...is a web feed that allows users and applications to access updates to websites in a standardized, computer-readable format. Subscribing to RSS feeds can allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator, which constantly monitor sites for new content, removing the need for the user to manually check them. News aggregators (or "RSS readers") can be built into a browser, installed on a desktop computer, or installed on a mobile device.

I have to confess to being a bit rubbish about using RSS until now. I signed up for RSS reader Feedly ages ago, but just sort of forgot to check it. I don’t think I curated my feed all that well, as it always seemed to end up with a load of posts from big platforms that I didn’t actually want to read at the top of my feed. I’m also trying to read a lot less on my phone when I’m at home, and pick up actual physical books more often.

No doubt part of it too was the fact that I got most of my links from Twitter, and there always seemed to be something to read. Now that I don’t use Twitter I find it a little harder to keep up to date with all the people I used to follow. Not all of them have made it over to Mastodon, and lots of people post with less frequency. So recently I set myself the task of getting back into RSS. I updated my feed, and followed a bunch of people whose writing I love and respect. So far it’s been good! I’m following quite a lot of people, but the amount of content hasn’t got too overwhelming yet. Perhaps that would happen if I left it more than a couple of days, and I’d feel like I was missing out.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some people’s blogs have a note to the effect of “It looks like you’re reading this in RSS...”. There’s obviously some way to detect that, which is pretty cool. I need to figure out how to do that*!

RSS feels quite “indie web”, which is nice, but also it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of people are actively using it outside of the indie web bubble. I’m sure that’s not strictly true, there are probably plenty of communities who are using it (and I’ll wager a lot more are using it unknowingly, by subscribing to podcasts). But speaking to my non-web-dev friends, I can’t imagine there are many at all who actively subscribe to RSS, or even know what it is. It sure beats doomscrolling though.

Anyway, you can subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed too ☺️

* Please don’t write in, if I think about it for more than two minutes I have some idea.

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