Why You Should Use RSS/Atom Feeds: Pros And Cons Of Syndication

Just a few years ago, everyone would go to Google to find news about their favorite topics. Searching for news and information is fine but this can be a problem if you are not looking for anything in particular and just want to stay updated. Today, if you are somewhat techВ savvy, you would use Feeds to deliver you theВ best news all in one place. Surprisingly, Feeds are still unknown to many people. To some, Feeds are different and different is scary. Feeds are syndicated content which means they are delivered to you instead of you finding it. They are often paired with RSS or Atom which are two competing formats. Some questions most people ask when they are introduced to Feeds are: Why change the way we browse theВ web? and What are the pros and cons of using Feeds? Ive been using Feeds for a few years now there are many clear advantages butВ alsoВ some hidden disadvantages.



Why You Should Use Feeds


Feeds, as we know, are Syndicated Content. What exactly does this mean? Syndicated content is a fancy way of saying, The news/posts are delivered to you. Now in order to get a Feed, you must have a Feed Reader. This can be an online service such as Google Reader or a standaloneВ application such as Liferea for Linux. After youve opened your reader app, you may notice that it looks similar to email. That is probably the easiest wayВ to describe it. Feeds are posts that are deliveredВ to you like email. You can subscribeВ to many different feeds and they will all get delivered to your reader everytime they make a new post. The main advantage of Feeds is time. Lets say you have a routine. You go online, check your email, and visit your usual sites. Visiting your usual sites can be time-consuming and you can easily get sidetracked. Having all your usual sites deliver posts to your reader is as easy and quick as email. Many people check sites only to find that nothing is new. This canВ be a big waste ofВ time when you factor in all the sites youВ visit.

Another advantage of using Feeds is ads. Some sites have lots of ads and you can extract just the content with Feeds. This is a pro but some feeds have ads built-in which is very annoying. Most good sites(like TechShift) wont serve ads in their feeds as it disrupts their readers. You can also use Feeds to shop. You can get the first jump on sweet deals on sites like craigslist. Lets say you are watching for a BlackBerry PlayBook on craigslist. Go to your local craigslist site and make a search for the term Blackberry Playbook. ScrollВ downВ to theВ bottom and you will notice the famous Feed symbol. Click that or copy the address. Then go to your favorite Feed Reader app and pasteВ the URL. Now instead of visiting craigslist every day for a deal, you will get a Feed every time someone posts something that matches the search term, Blackberry Playbook. Replace this with all your desired deals and you will become a bargain fiend.




After using Feeds for aВ few years, there are some cons that are not obvious right away. When I firstВ started using Feeds, I subscribed to many sites. This had an ill effect on my productivity. When you start to subscribe to 10-20 sites, blogsВ and searches, your reader app will be overwhelmed with hundreds of unread feeds. This can have a negative effect at first since you are new to it and you want to keep your reader up to date. This means having 0 unread feeds. I sort my feeds like my email. Newest feeds on top. After I browse through a few dozens, I simplyВ mark all as read.

Another con I notice is seeing the same posts one after another. When you start following blogs on the same niche, things can get redundant. For example, when Apple announced theВ iPhone 4, all of the sites I follows posted at least 1 article about it. After a while, I trimmed my list of subscribed sites and kept the ones that were interesting.

This isnt exactly a con, but not all feeds are delivered the same. Most feeds have embedded graphics or videos while some only deliver plain text. Some feeds deliver embedded iframes and as IВ said earlier, some serve ads. Most feeds only give a paragraph or so and you have to clickВ on the title which links to the main article. This makes sense as most sites want people to make a visit. Feeds should complement websites, not replace them. At first, I found the lack of consistency annoying but once you get the hang of it, its not so bad. Its not much different from a plainВ text email and a rich html email.



Feeding The Need

If you are like me, you want to stay updated on things that matter. They great thing about feeds is convenience. Having websites deliver content to you is like getting a magazine subscription. I wake up, brew some coffee and open my reader. This feeds my need to stay current. If I get tired of reading, I just mark all as read and Im good. Managing your Feed Reader is a skill but its not much different from managing email. There are some annoyances but the pros outweigh the cons. If you are not using Feeds, what are you waiting for? The easiest way is to go to Google Reader and set up one up. On your way, be sure to add TechShift to your subscribed list.

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