Why I use RSS

I’m not generally one glued to my phone much (though Pokemon GO may change that), and I’m not on high alert for those new Facebook status updates. I do however have a few websites and feeds that, on occasion, I want to check for new updates (some of which rarely have any). For a time I would keep many pages open or bookmarked, just to check them every once in a while for new posts or updates. This often left me out of the loop (I’d forget about them), and using a lot more browser memory (I normally have at least 20 tabs open as-is). Thanks to RSS, I no longer have to check for new YouTube videos and Tweets, nor new Anime episodes and Manga issues.RSS typically stands for Rich Site Summary, and it (like Atom feeds), provide basic “live” feeds of things like Blogs and news websites. You’ll know if a page supports it when you see the icon:16px-feed-icon-svg. Clicking on it, you’ll be met with an XML page with a bunch of code, detailing the posts and updates from the attached page. This alone isn’t particularly useful. What makes RSS powerful is when a reader (or “aggregator”) application reads the feeds. By giving such a program an RSS link, it can display a list of posts or updates from the associated page or service, and even automatically notify when new posts were made.

Choosing an RSS reader

I’ve tested my share of applications (obviously ones available on Linux), and while many work (some better than others), the one that I’ve stuck with is RSSOwl. While it may not look fancy or shiny, it does the trick and has some pretty nice features. Some options that I like include:

  • Feed organization through folders
  • Filtering, to hide/remove posts for undesired topics based on key words
  • Automatic updates, with options to set the frequency
  • Automatic cleanup, to remove old posts from the lists
  • Popup notifications, to alert when new posts are available

Getting feeds

While I originally started using RSS for just a couple things (notably YouTube), every once in a while I discover yet another source of feeds. The best part is, even if a page doesn’t offer a feed, some 3rd party websites offer feeds, such as for Twitter. These are things I currently follow using RSS:

  • YouTube
    • While natively supported, the feed links themselves can be obtained through websites such as this
  • Twitter
    • This one doesn’t support it, but I found a 3rd party website that handles it very well
  • Anime
    • It’s nice to know when new downloads are available for shows, and Nyaa not only offers feeds, but can generate them based on your exact search criteria.
  • Manga
    • Took me a lot of searching, but I finally discovered MangaFox, which offers per-issue feeds, so it’s easy to find out when the latest issues come out.
  • Steam news
    • While writing this, I discovered Steam has full support for RSS for some of its news feeds, including Groups and Games. The easiest way to find it is to click on one of the news articles, and to the right there will be a Subscribe to RSS Feed button.
  • GitHub
    • As described on this post, GitHub supports both feeds for single repositories, as well as global feeds for your accounts.
  • Various Blogs and News articles
    • As previously mentioned, these can be found with the RSS Icon (16px-feed-icon-svg) typically to the side or the bottom of pages.

Overall, using RSS has been a great time saver, and helps me keep up to date on things, especially those obscure ones I’d often miss. While there are certainly alternatives to this, such as having native apps for all of these services, being able to check all of it in a single place is very convenient. Not only this, but it’s non-intrusive. RSS doesn’t require subscribing using a registered account, or even an email address. Sure it can be handy to receive emails to get updates, but I find my inbox quickly gets cluttered with all the notifications. Personally, I most of all like being notified when a YouTube video comes out from someone who makes videos only a few times a year, and to follow Tweets for a few people, without even having a Twitter account.

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