This piece first appeared on the Until It’s Not Fun newsletter.
Much like my discovery of IRC, I recently found a technology called RSS … and have since been wondering why nobody is talking about it and why I even had to discover it in the first place.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a way for anyone that makes content on the internet to broadcast out “Hey I just made a new post and here it is!” Have you ever seen that little orange symbol that looks like a rotated Wi-Fi symbol? That is a link to a website’s RSS feed!
Let’s say I really love Until It’s Not Fun and I love what they are doing and want to know every time they post. I also really like the r/mycology subreddit and want to follow that. I also want to keep up with @themarymclane on Twitter. How would I follow these things while avoiding all of Reddit’s ads and NSFW subs and also avoid The Twitter Algorithm?
RSS feeds, baby. RSS feeds.
RSS feeds are files that describe the content (date, author, description, etc.) and point to where it is located on the website. This feed updates any time the website is updated. While some sites don’t advertise it, most sites that have content that changes have an RSS feed. You can find them by searching the page (or the page source) for “RSS”.
We need something to listen for those changes on all of the feeds we are following so we don’t have to manually refresh each of these pages. This is what is known as an aggregator that listens to these feeds and (you guessed it) aggregates them. All of the content in the feeds you subscribe to get combined and delivered to one place for you to dig through. To reiterate, RSS delivers only the content you subscribe to and it’s all in the same place!
The aggregator is like a really good intern; they sit there all day and refresh the pages you want then delivers the updates to your desk whenever you ask.
This is such a life hack. Once you know about RSS feeds, you can start looking for content you actually enjoy rather than be pushed around by the algorithms. You don’t have to scroll past all your old high school acquaintances baby/partying posts and ads to find the stuff you actually like.
When I look at my feed throughout the day, I see the important things that bring value to my life. Events happening in Bend, some news sites I frequent, tech blogs and news, a few actually valuable subreddits. We have here the ability here to take back some control of our digital lives.
- Want to follow the latest NASA mission? They have specific RSS feeds for each mission directly from NASA’s website.
- Like xkcd comics? They’ve got an RSS feed delivering comics right to my browser.
- Book reviews? New York Times has an RSS feed for their book review column.
Get the content that brings value to your life and ignore all the other shit.
If you want to get started, I recommend Feedbin as an aggregator and You Need Feeds for some starter feeds to follow and more information! Then start finding the content you like and add them to Feedbin.
A handclasp over the miles,