What is "RSS"? And is it "Really Simple" as is sometimes claimed?

The truth is that "RSS" is not "Really Simple" for those who are just starting out with RSS, although I believe it is not that difficult and is definitely something worth getting to know.

"RSS" does not stand for "Rather Special kind of Subscribing," but I'm going to suggest that to you as a good way to describe what RSS is all about. My purpose is to simplify (and perhaps at times to oversimplify) RSS so that you will know enough to be able to take advantage of the RSS feeds on the OPC Web site.

When you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine, ordinarily you give your address to the publisher and the publisher sends the newspaper or magazine to that address. RSS is similar, but different. (That's why I describe it as a "Rather Special kind of Subscribing.")

How is it similar? With both, you get something new to read on a regular basis. How is it different? With RSS, you do not give your address to the publisher and the publisher does not send the newspaper or magazine to that address! Those are big differences, which makes it easy to understand why (at least in the beginning) it is not easy to understand how "subscribing" to an RSS new "feed" works.

Here's something that may help. Let's imagine that you have a personal butler. He knows the newpapers and/or magazines in which you have an interest. You send him out to the newsstand, and he comes back with the top headlines of newspapers or magazines in which you have an interest. You look at the headlines, and decide for which ones you'd like to read the entire article. You send out your butler again, and he comes back with those (and with only those) articles.

Well, that's how RSS works. Your "butler" is called an RSS "Reader" (not a good name, since you're really the reader; the "butler" is only there to retrieve the headlines and articles for you). You get to read what you want of "what's new," but you do not give your address to a publisher, nor does a publisher put you on a mailing list and send a newspaper or magazine to that address.

One advantage of that is that if a publisher does not have your email address, he cannot pass it along to anyone else (such as to a spammer). Another advantage is that you are in full control of the situation at all times: Whenever you want, you can "subscribe" or unsubscribe to an RSS news "feed" without beibng in any way dependent upon someone else. Just tell your "butler" (the RSS "Reader" sometimes called a "news aggregator") to start or to stop retrieveing headlines from a particular RSS news "feed."

Yes, you do need a "butler," and there are two kinds, just as there are two ways of retrieving email. For email, you can either use special software (e.g., Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Eudora, etc.) or go to a special place on the Web (e.g., gmail.com or hotmail.com). For RRR, you can download and install special software (an RSS "Reader" like the "Sage" add-on to the Firefox browser). For more options, look here:

Also, see these Wikipedia articles for more information on RSS and RSS Readers:

One final comment, for now you may have to add OPC RSS feeds manually. (Once you've gotten an RSS Reader, you'll know what I mean.) If so, the following information will be useful:

Enjoy!

Warm regards in Christ,

Barry Traver
Website Design and Technical Associate
Orthodox Presbyterian Church Web Site

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