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RSS feeds

April 13, 2011

RSS feeds

RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication  or Rich Site Summary an alternative Summary.

It is a set of web feed format used to publish frequently updated works such as blog entries, news headlines, podcasts and video in a standardized format. Every time this RSS icon is displayed, e.g. on top of my blog  you can click on it and subscribe to my blog via a feed reader or an aggregator. Feed readers then regularly check your subscription feeds for new content, downloading any updates that it finds. An aggregator works in a quite similar way checking for large number of individual RSS files , returning to a given site once an hour or so. An aggregator refers to a web site or computer software that aggregates a specific type of information from multiple online sources.

The most commonly known web-based aggregators are reader applications on the web, e.g Google Reader. These are meant for personal use and are hosted on remote servers. Client software aggregators, e.g. Feedreader are installed applications designed to collect Web feed subscriptions and group them together using a user-friendly interface (Wikipedia 2011).

What are the benefits and disadvantages of using RSS feed?


  • new way of interacting with the internet – user is more proactive
  • helps to filter and organise the vast amount of information on the web and settle on preferred sources of information – greater personalization
  • varying levels of granularity – used has the choice and control to specify what information he wants to receive
  • content is first displayed as summary description allowing user to get a quick overview
  • saves time and effort
  • convenient – as the chosen sources are automatically delivered to the chosen Reader – no long searches for updates
  • simple, flexible and useful
  • no spam or viruses
  • easy to subscribe or to unsubscribe
  • RSS can monitor news and search engines for specific keywords
  • creating a customized, up-to-date resource for their academic work.
    Shaw follows the RSS feeds
  • Users can subscribe to feeds independently, tailoring the content they receive to their unique interests and needs.
  • RSS can offer an alternative to e-mail newsletters, which raise concerns about privacy and spam.
  • efficient way for students to keep in touch with faculty, stay informed about coursework and other academic activities, and follow developments in their fields of study, which for many will be an important skill in their professional lives.
  • facilitates collaboration projects that can be subscribed via RSS feeds notifying the group about new contributions
  • Faculty use RSS to help them efficiently use the Internet to exchange disciplinary information and increase awareness of important developments.
  • possibility to create your own RSS feed


I am not sure it there are any disadvantages at all as there is no risk attached to receive some spam, and you can unsubscribe with on click if you do not want to receive the feed any longer. Sure the RSS feeds you want to subscribe must be chosen with deliberation, and pages that might look promising first site turn out to be from less value – contentwise or they are just slowly updated, so the process to located online sources of trust might be a time-consuming task. Relying only on RSS feeds might reduce the range of information and the serendipity that comes from browsing the web and finding new websites.

Another potential disadvantage is that not all content is appropriate for RSS, such as a published article that is not going to change and that still various protocols exists and that there is a disagreement among developers about how the tools should work.

Personally I find the idea of RSS quite appealing that information from different sources are directly delivered to my reader, but considering that I would subscribe to my own blog I would become desperate considering my many and lengthy blog entries that I produce often daily. Checking the reader and find out how many new feeds are in there has a similar negative effect as entering the forum and find out that 30 or more messages were posted during one day. I think that is another potential disadvantage subscribing to too many sources and getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information. That is why the number of my subscriptions is relative low at the moment, considering my limited time, and I prefer to check the blogs from my peers manually and leave a comment once in a while. However, the down  side of placing limits on the overflow of online information is that you cut yourself off from resources that might prove valuable.

Comparing the number of visitors on my blog with the number of subscriptions it seems that I am not the only one who prefers to visit, but not to subscribe. Not sure if others made the same experience.

Finishing H810 I think it is worth considering accessibility implications that comes with RSS feeds. Not the RSS file format, but the way how an RSS feed is displayed may cause problems. Accessibility strongly depends on the individual application itself, the operations system on which it runs and the assistive device being used.

Besides the H807 course material that I used to l create this summary of the benefits and disadvantages of using RSS feed, did I also draw on material from Educause. Long-time MAODE students might know their downloadable pdf-files ‘7 Things you should know about …’ . Unfortunately they cannot be subscribed via RSS feeds, but here is the file about what you should know about RSS feeds.

You might find this video that I found on YouTube from Common Craft really helpful. Have a look at ‘RSS feed in Plain English‘.


Educause (2011) 7 Things you should know about … Available from (accessed 13 April 2011)

Wikipedia (2011) News aggregator Available from (accessed 13 April 2011).

From → H807

One Comment
  1. Sylvia – this is a great video link – put so simply! Thanks!

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