About RSS Feeds Link to heading

Do you read my blog semi-regularly and keep refreshing the article list to check if I published something new? Let me introduce you to RSS feeds:1

RSS (RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed that allows users and applications to access updates to websites in a standardized, computer-readable format. Subscribing to RSS feeds can allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator, which constantly monitor sites for new content, removing the need for the user to manually check them. News aggregators (or “RSS readers”) can be built into a browser, installed on a desktop computer, or installed on a mobile device.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS

Why should you consider using RSS?

  • Aggregate as many information sources and as many topics as you like
  • Get a better cross-section of the news than what strangers’ likes and machine learning can deliver
  • Don’t lose your feed when a platform dies (Exhibit A: Twitter)2
  • Avoid the outrage machine of modern social media3
  • Avoid having your feed gamed by bots
  • Avoid much of the vapid, self-congratulatory and artificial posts that are popular in machine learning-directed social media feeds

With the current decline of traditional social media platforms, RSS feeds may be experiencing something of a Renaissance. Maybe it’s just me, but people once more seem willing to take the time to curate their own news feeds instead of relying on Twitter et al. to serve them up the news of the day.

It takes some time to curate your own collection of RSS feeds, but it will probably remain relatively stable and useful for several years (excluding a change in your interests and the occasional blogger quitting).

My RSS Feeds Link to heading

If you took a close look at the icons on the front page, you may have noticed that the rightmost icon is the RSS feed icon. It contains a link to the RSS feed for all the posts of this blog.

And not just titles or short descriptions! Unlike many commercial offerings I publish the full text of each post via the RSS feed.

Unfortunately I can’t promise that the occasional diagrams, math and code in my posts will render well in your RSS reader, but neither do they in mine (Newsboat is plain-text only). For those posts there is usually an option to open a regular browser and visit the website.

There are two RSS feeds, one for each language version:

You can simply add these to the RSS reader of your choice. For example, the e-mail client Thunderbird supports RSS natively. There are many, many more free RSS readers out there on the web, just spend a few minutes searching for them.

Personally, I use the command line RSS reader Newsboat. I like its no-nonsense approach to news very much, but I’ll freely admit it’s probably not mainstream material.

By the way, this is a zero tracking website. Neither the blog nor the RSS feed track whether or how you access any of the content on this website. The only info I see is aggregate monthly traffic in MB and HTTP hits, which tells me nothing. As it should.

Finding more RSS Feeds to Follow Link to heading

So, you like RSS but aren’t keen on setting up new software just for one blog? Fair enough. There are millions of other feeds on the web. But how do you find them?

  • News websites (e.g. BBC or The Guardian) almost always offer an RSS feed with their content, usually a headline, short description and link to the main article. Some news outlets also offer full-text RSS feeds for subscribers.
  • Any website created with WordPress has an RSS feed built-in. You can access it by adding /feed to the end of the URL. For examples and details see the WordPress RSS Feed help section. WordPress is supposed to power around 40% of the web, but regardless of the numbers it’s a lot of websites.
  • Static website builders like Hugo also create RSS feeds. In this case you have to add /index.xml to the blog URL, for example: https://seanfobbe.com/posts/index.xml
  • My own blog roll is available via GitHub. It contains a list of URLs, tags and comments that are Newsboat-compatible, but you can also just copy & paste them into your own feed reader.

  1. Not be confused with the Royal Statistical Society, who also go by the acronym ‘RSS’. ↩︎

  2. To be entirely fair, you can also lose your Mastodon account if your instance unexpectedly goes down, but you can prevent this by making regular backups. I doubt that most users are comfortable with doing their backups themselves, but at least the functionality is not terribly difficult to operate once you have located it. ↩︎

  3. Traditional media does have its own outrage mechanics, but you can keep this contained in individual feeds and stack your overall feed with fun science blogs, knitting tips or whatever you are currently into. ↩︎