I’ve been meaning to learn more about all this “syndication”, “feed” and “RSS” stuff for a while now and I think I’ve finally got a start. I also think I’m digging it. Many sites produce a “feed” or a summary of your web content in a generic form that can be read by feed readers. Movable Type, Word Press, Blurty, and Live Journal seem to be doing this automatically, since I had no problem adding feeds from any of my friends on those services even though I’m pretty sure many of them have no idea what a feed is. Blogger and Blogspot can produce feeds but only if you turn them on and set them up in the settings>Site Feed section. By default they’re turned off. You can choose RSS or Atom ( the two major formats).
I discovered all this after trying Bloglines. It’s a web based feed reader. I just typed in the URLs of the blogs I read and if there was a feed (or several formats of feed) to be found Bloglines found them and let me subscribe. The immediate appeal of this is being able to go to one web page and see all the blogs I read, much like a “friends” page on LJ or Blurty. At first I thought I wasn’t really going to like Bloglines for several reasons. First, I like to see people’s individual styles and personalities on their websites, and second, unless you know what you’re doing and customize your own feed, comments are usually not included. Then I realized that Bloglines was still an awesome tool.
Normally I open all the blogs I read (using Firefox I right click my blogs folder and choose “open in tabs” which opens every blog in the folder in its own tab). I then have to look at each one and see if there are any new entries to be read. Now with bloglines, I just go to that one page and if anyone has updated since the last time I looked, the entry will appear on my list (as well as the number of new entries appearing in parentheses next to the feed name on the left). Any entries I’ve already seen will not. I can, if I choose however, view all content from the last hour, day, week, etc. I basically use it as a notification tool. If there are any new entries I will click the link and go to that person’s blog to be greeted by their personal style and see all the comments on the entry. I think syndication is probably going to become more and more popular and widespread.
For my site, MT produces three different formats of feed by default. I go a step further and use Feedburner for my feed. This is a website which allows you to put in the URL of your feed (any of the formats) and it provides you one link to put on your page so that no matter what format people want, they can all use that same single URL and feedburner will provide whatever format they need.
I’m still very new to this myself so I can’t really say if Feedburner always works, and I’m really just beginning to comprehend all of this, but I would highly encourage any bloggers to try and learn more about it. If nothing else, try to provide a feed of your blog for those who do prefer to use feed readers to keep track of their content. It seems most blogs are pretty much providing some feed capabilities without any user knowledge being needed, but as previously mentioned, in the case of Blogger or Blogspot you will have to do st least some minimal setup. I know you’ll need to turn feeds on, but I’m not sure what you would put in the required fields. I’d be happy to help any of you who want to try and enable it but don’t know what to do.