What’s this XML thingy?

July 22, 2003

[XML Icon]The Tall Skinny One asked me to write about RSS, XML, and other TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Hopefully he’s been so occupied with his pilgrimage that he hasn’t noticed that it’s taken me two months to get around to it.

You may have stumbled across blogs that have that XML icon somewhere on the page, or possibly an RSS icon. You may have noticed that I have separated my blogroll into two pieces, “other blogs” and “blogs with XML”. You probably haven’t noticed that at the bottom of my right-hand column, it says, “Syndicate this site (XML)”. It is not a completely geeky thing. It is a good thing that will save you time.

How do you keep up with all the blogs you’re interested in? Chances are you click on each link in your blogroll (or perhaps someone else’s blogroll), and see if anything is new. But thanks to the wonders of RSS, I don’t have to do that for my “blogs with XML”. Instead, I fire up NetNewsWire Lite, a free RSS reader for Mac OS X. (You can find an RSS reader for any computer platform.) It goes out and checks all my favorite XML-equipped blogs, informing me when someone posts something that I haven’t read. What’s more, I have it set up to check for new posts every 30 minutes, so I know pretty quickly when something is new — without going to each blog and checking it myself.

Give it a try! First, go out and get yourself an RSS reader. Then go down to the link at the bottom of my right-hand column that says, “Syndicate this site (XML)”. Now here’s the trick: Don’t click the link. Instead, if you’re a Mac user, Control-click it and select “Copy Link to Clipboard”. On Windows, right-click and you should find something similar.

Now fire up your RSS reader. It probably comes initially subscribed to a bunch of stuff. (I think RSS was originally created for news, but people discovered it to be useful for blogs.) Tell the program you want to subscribe to something. When it prompts you for the RSS URL, paste in the link you copied. Now you’ve subscribed to Blog One Another! Click around and see how your RSS reader works. The next time I post something, it’ll show up. How cool is that?

Now let’s say you have a blog of your own. How do you go about syndicating it so that I can subscribe? Let’s make it harder and say you’re using Blogger. Well, one possibility is to upgrade to Blogger Pro, which I believe offers RSS support. But say you’re a tightwad who doesn’t like to pay when there are free alternatives. What you do then is add your blog to blogmatrix, which will scan your blog periodically and generate RSS for you. Don’t forget to publicize what you’ve done — otherwise I won’t know that I can point my RSS reader at your blog. You will have to modifying your template to add a link to your RSS URL. It’s not that hard; blogmatrix will show you what to copy and paste.

So now I hope you will find a way to add an RSS feed to your blog, publicized with an XML link. …You see, my blogroll has grown and I’m tired of clicking on your blog to see whether you’ve written anything. Why should I do that when, through the wonders of XML, I can have a computer check for me? Help me use my time more efficiently!

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

4 responses to What’s this XML thingy?

  1. Thank You for explaining that, never quite knew what that was…

  2. Like I said, give it a try: Download some kind of RSS reader, fire it up, and just leave it running, letting it check for new postings. It’s fun when the reader essentially tells you, “One of the blogs you like has a new entry.”

  3. unfortunately, blogmatrix (www.blogmatrix.com) is going away.

  4. Ok, I followed a link on blogmatrix to blogstreet.com and added an rss feed for my blog including a “syndicate this site” link in the sidebar of my blog. I hope this means I have “added XML” to my blog, if not, please let me know 😉