Using a syndication feed!

What is a feed?
A Web feed is a quick and simple way of delivering website content to the world. Instead of starting up a web browser and laboriously navigating to a site, you install a small program called a feed reader which automatically collects the headlines and downloads them to your computer, rather like email messages.

Every time a new story is posted on the site, its headline appears in your reader, and you can then decide whether you want to click on the headline and read the whole story or skim to the next piece of news.

Each list of headlines is called a feed, and you can sign up to many different feeds from different websites and keep them all stored in a single place for instant access. Being able to skim read a large number of web site headlines like this can significantly reduce the time it takes to access all your favourite sites.

It’s like having a very efficient butler who cuts out all the headlines from your favourite newspapers and serves them to you nicely arranged on a tray, and you don’t even have to pay holiday benefits! The most popular type of feed technology is called RSS (Really Simple Syndication), but you may also come across Atom or RDF feeds which operate in much the same way. There are now also a number of online services which offer feed reading functionality (see below).

How to use a feed.
 In order to use a feed you need to download and install a feed reader program or sign up to an online reader service. There are lots of different types available and many of them are free of charge. Here is a selection of the most useful and popular ones:

FeedReader – a free Windows program which is simple to use and install.
Sauce Reader– a free Windows program with a familiar MS Office-style interface.
Fastbuzz – free service collects feeds and delivers them via email.
AmphetaDesk – a free Windows and Apple Mac program with unusual scrolling page interface.

You can find a comprehensive list of feed readers at this page of Google search results and at this page also.

Once you have installed the software, navigate to the site of your choice and click on the RSS feed icon, which may be orange in colour and/or have XML or RSS written on it. A page will load with ugly text on it, ignore that and simply copy the web address from the address bar of the browser, and paste it into the ‘create new feed’ section of your feed reader.

Ferret feeds
To make life easy peasy for eager Ferret readers, not only have we provided an RSS link for use as above, but also automatic link icons to six of the most popular online feed reading services. To use the latter, simply click on the icon of the service you want – Yahoo! MSN, Bloglines, Feedburner, Feedster or Newsgator – and join up and/or subscribe as necessary. That’s it. Then you can read to your heart’s content every time we post some new goodness!

More information on RSS and feed usage.