The web technology “RSS” is about to turn 10 years old. It is definitely one of the more confusing technology names around, since it has had several meanings over the years (now most commonly read as “Really Simple Syndication”), and is often used more generically to refer to a family of “web feed” formats (including ones that are technically not RSS, such as Atom).
Leaving such confusion aside, RSS has been hugely successful in making regularly updated web content more efficiently accessible. But I know many web users who still aren't using it regularly. If you read more than more than a couple blogs or other regularly updated news sources, then you likely should be making use of RSS to make your reading of those sources more efficient.
Therefore, this posting is partially intended as a primer for those who are still new to RSS (if you are already using it, skip to the next paragraph). First, for a general introduction to RSS, see the first paragraph at the RSS Wikipedia entry, and watch the excellent four-minute Common Craft video "RSS in Plain English" at YouTube. Then included below is information on Google Reader—one of the more popular "feed reader" applications—and step-by-step instructions on how to get set up using it (it is free and easy!).
But I've also got something really helpful for the readers of this blog who already use RSS. If you are in the Learning and Development industry (and you likely are, in one capacity or another, if you are reading Element K Blog), there are many superb blogs that you might want to keep up with. Most RSS-reader applications allow you to import feeds from a standard OPML file (a type of XML file). I have created just such a file that provides the following RSS feeds for you, all at once:
- Five blogs from top industry organizations and magazines.
- All six Bersin analyst's blogs.
- All five Brandon Hall analyst's blogs.
- Nineteen other L&D industry book authors, conference speakers, and other experts.
- ...And, of course, Element K Blog, too.
That's right...within a matter of minutes you could have three-dozen top L&D industry blogs set up in your Google Reader so you can more easily keep up with the latest trends and insights from the learning field. Right-click this link and download and save the file:
OPML File: Learning_Industry_Blog_Feeds.xml
Then use the file in your favorite RSS reader application (see its import function), or follow the instructions I'll provide below to get started with Google Reader and import it there. Enjoy!
Using Google Reader
For those who are new to Google Reader, I recommend first watching the video "Google Reader for Beginners".
Then, follow these steps to get started:
- If necessary, create an account with Google.
- Once you are logged in to your new Google account, click My Account in the upper right.
- Check the My Products section to see if Reader is already included. If it is, then click Reader to access the Google Reader application. If it isn't, then under Try Something New, click More. Under Communicate, Show & Share, click Reader.
- To add an RSS feed one at a time, click the Add a Subscription button at the top left. So, for example, to add the RSS feed for Element K Blog, you would copy and paste the RSS feed URL (see the link in our right-nav), which is:
When a feed is added, it will appear along the left, typically with a number in parentheses indicating how many new postings there are for you to read. You can access older postings for that feed by simply scrolling down the page on the right. As you view postings for a particular feed, they will be marked as "read", and the number in parentheses will decrease until you have no further unread postings remaining.
- To import a set of feeds provided in an OPML file (such as the one I provided for you to download above):
a. Click Manage Subscriptions at the far bottom left of the page.
b. Click the Import/Export link, which is at the far right in the row of links under the Settings heading.
c. Click Browse and locate the desired OPML file, such as the one I've provided to you in this blog posting (see above).
d. The feeds will all be imported and the subscriptions section of the Manage Subscriptions area will be displayed. You will see all of the feeds that were imported, and on the far right, under the Change Folders button for each, you will see the folder each is included under.
e. To start reading the blog postings from these feeds, click the link near the top-left, <<Back to Google Reader. You will now see all of the feeds included, sorted into folders, along the left.
There are various other preferences and aspects to Google Reader, so I encourage you to spend a little time exploring the application. But the above should be plenty to get you started at least!
— Thomas Stone (Tom_Stone@elementk.com)