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How I Went from RSS Like to RSS Love

Recently, a fundraiser mentioned to me that she wasn’t always good about checking her RSS reader. That’s why she was late thanking me for linking to her website in one of my posts.

That reminded me that it took me forever to embrace RSS (really simple syndication). I set up an RSS reader, Google Reader, but I was lackadaisical about checking the feeds and organizing them. I preferred just reading whatever came via email, such as newsletters and emailings of blog posts. Checking my RSS reader was one more chore I wasn’t really happy about.

At some point, however, I got serious about setting up a listening post so that I could monitor how well my blog posts were being picked up and linked to by other bloggers. As a result, I added my own blog to my reader and some Google Alerts for my own name and blog. I also added to the reader a couple of sites that could track links to my blog, such as Ice Rocket.

By tracking myself, I found the motivation to check the RSS reader frequently. I became fond of reading other blog posts in the reader too, and started adding more sites to the reader and then organizing them. To preserve the blog posts that I really liked and wanted to share with others, or use in my research, or wanted to read more carefully, I set up Delicious and started bookmarking those posts. Delicious allows tagging, so that became a way to organize posts by topic or keyword.

Now I am a devotee of RSS and check my RSS reader first thing every morning. I noticed that RSS has it all over email when it comes to tracking what other blogs are doing. Email feeds of blog posts typically arrive the day after the posting. Email newsletters are fine, but they do not contain breaking news and information. RSS brings blog posts to the reader almost immediately.

RSS is probably not on the top of most people’s list when they are on the Internet. I think that because when I compare the number of people who subscribe to my own weekly newsletter and the number of people who subscribe to my RSS feed, the newsletter is way more popular. I mean giant inequality here. I would characterize the difference as being like a horde compared to a handful.

There are some best practices when it comes to using RSS effectively I’ve found. The most obvious is to check the reader every day and dispose of the contents. It’s like your mail at the office…pitch, save, act on.

If you don’t “groom” your RSS reader frequently, the content grows rapidly and pretty soon you’re overwhelmed. That’s likely the reason people set up readers only to abandon them. Similarly, if you’re not getting much out of a particular blog’s posts, delete it from your reader. I find myself adding and deleting frequently. Once you have many subscriptions, you’ll want to start organizing them into folders if your reader has that capacity.

On the flip side, if you have a website or a blog, make sure your RSS button is really obvious for those of us who do use RSS. I frequently find myself searching all over a website for the RSS icon. I’m not even happy with the RSS icon on my own site, but don’t have control over it. If you’re in that situation, lobby for a bigger and more visible RSS button.

If you are interested in using RSS as part of your listening post, here are some resources:

How are you listening? Do you use RSS or something else? What reader do you like? What other resources should we list here?

Photo by Getty Images

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How I Went from RSS Like to RSS Love originally appeared on About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 at 06:05:38.

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