How to Follow a Blog With RSS
So, your friends are leaving MySpace in a mass exodus of biblical proportions. You’ve subscribed to dozens, maybe even hundreds, of blogs there. The process is simple – at the top of their blog is a link that you can click on that says “Subscribe”. Every day, you check your blog list to see who has posted a new blog (designated by “NEW” next to the blog). Nothing could be easier, right?
Wrong! Subscribing to a friend’s blog with RSS is just as easy. In fact, I actually think it’s a little easier, if you do it the easy way.
When I first learned about RSS, and what it was (it means “Really Simple Syndication”), I was very confused, and almost gave up even trying to learn about it. There were no real tutorials, or even simple instructions. I had to piece together what to do by reading a ton of websites done by people who speak fluent Geek and had no idea how to translate Geek into English.
I asked a friend or two who are smarter than me, and who I thought might have a clue. Only one friend was able to somewhat explain it to me, but I believe she may have also just been learning about it. However, she did get me on the right track, and from there I sort of figured it out on my own. (Thank you Leah!)
I am no expert on all of the ways that RSS can be used. I can only tell you what did and did not work for me. There may be even easier methods of following a blog using RSS. If someone knows of one, please let me know, and I’ll include a link to it here on this blog post.
The first thing you need to do is decide what you want to use as your RSS Reader. Explaining what a reader is isn’t easy, but allow me to try. It’s like a customizable newspaper (remember those?) that will only show you the news you want to read about.
For most people, your browser automatically serves as an RSS Reader. But I find that method highly cumbersome and difficult to navigate. In short, it’s a royal pain in the ass!
What I found was that services like Yahoo! and Google provide you with a reader that is much easier to use, understand, and customize. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will stick with the Yahoo! Reader, as it’s the one I’m most familiar with. I’m sure that the Google Reader is just as good, but I don’t have personal experience with it. If you don’t already have a Yahoo! account, you can sign up with one very easily.
Once you’re signed in to your Yahoo! account, click on the link for your MyYahoo page. Alternatively, you can use http://my.yahoo.com to access it. If you’ve just signed up, or haven’t already customized your MyYahoo page, it will look similar to this:
The first thing you’ll notice are the modules (boxes) on the page. Those modules can be moved around to where you like them, or you can add or delete more. You can also minimize them, so just the title shows. I’ll be showing you how to do some of those things later on in this tutorial.
If you’d like to get the lay of the land, or if you’re like me, and want things to look exactly how you’d want them to look, then I suggest clicking on the “Learn More” link at the top.
If you’re ready to dig right in, and start subscribing to your friends’ blogs, then the first thing you need to do is click on the “New Tab” link. A tab is like a folder in a filing cabinet. It’s the best way to organize your RSS feeds.
A box will pop up asking you to confirm that you wanted to create a new tab. Click “yes”. You will then be asked to name your tab – type in a name, and press “enter”. You should have a page that looks similar to this:
Next, you’ll want to change the appearance of your very blank page. Clicking on “Change Appearance” will allow you to choose a color theme, change the layout, and select which font size you’d prefer.
Personally, I prefer to use a 3 column layout. (I’ve circled this in red) This works great if your screen resolution is set to 1024 x 768. If your resolution is lower than that (800 x 600), then a 3 column layout won’t work as well for you, as you’ll have to scroll to the right to see the 3rd column. If that’s the case, then I would select the 2 column layout. (I’ve circled this in green) When you’ve chosen what you want, click “I’m Done”. You won’t see any changes immediately. But you’ve set the stage for what’s to come next.
Now you’re ready to start subscribing to your friends’ blogs! Choose a blog (I’ll use mine as an example). Make sure you’re on the HOME page of the blog, not on an individual blog post. (Check the URL if you’re unsure) Find the little orange square with the white lines that designates an RSS feed. Most bloggers keep this in the upper right corner, but you can find it elsewhere as well. Click on the one that’s marked “Posts”.
Alternatively, you can click on the square orange symbol in your URL bar, and choose “Subscribe to RSS”. Again, make sure you choose the one for “posts” and not for “comments”.
You should be automatically re-directed to your MyYahoo page (if not, choose the button that says +MyYahoo), where it will ask you to confirm that you want to add this feed to your page. Click “Keep It”.
Notice that it plopped your module on your main tab, instead of the tab you created. To remedy that, you’ll need to drag and drop the module to the correct tab. Hover your mouse over the title bar of the module. Your mouse should change to a 4-way arrow. Click and hold down the mouse button. A small box will appear – drag the box onto the tab that you’ve created, and release the mouse button. The module should disappear from your main tab. Click on the tab you created to verify that the module has in fact been moved there.
Repeat this process for every blog you subscribe to. When you’re finished, go back to MyYahoo, and click on the tab that you’ve created. You should see that all of the blogs you’ve subscribed to are in the left column, with the first blog you subscribed to at the bottom, and the last blog you subscribed to at the top.
Now it’s time to organize your page. You have 3 columns to work with, but at this stage, I recommend only using 2 of them. The way I organize it is, everything that I read on a daily basis goes into the left column. Things that I read occasionally I put in the center column. The right column is reserved for another type of subscription (comments).
To move your modules around, use the same technique you used when you moved the modules from the main tab to the tab you created. Only this time, you’re moving them around the page, instead. As you move your modules, you’ll see a “highlight” above or below other modules (I’ve circled this in red). This shows you where to “drop” your module when you’re ready (I’ve circled this in green).
Now that you’ve subscribed to the blogs, and have them organized in your reader, what do you do to keep track of any comments you may have left on their blogs?
Some blogs are set up so that you can check a box before you submit your comment so that you receive an email about follow up comments. That’s one way to do it, and it’s familiar to those of us who have used MySpace notifications.
However, some blogs aren’t set up that way. And there’s always the possibility that you forget to check the box (which I do way too frequently). So what do you do, then? For the sake of consistency, I also subscribe to the comments of any blogs that I’ve commented on. You do it the same way you did when you subscribed to the blog posts, only this time, you make sure that you’re NOT on the home page of the blog – instead, you want to be on the actual blog post that you commented on.
Again, you will usually see the little orange box, only this time it will specify that you’re subscribing to the comments. If you don’t see it, you can find it in the URL bar. Be careful to click on the appropriate link in the drop down menu, though.
When you subscribe to a comment feed, organize it the same way you did for the post feeds, only this time, move your comments to the right column. Alternatively, you could create another tab just for comments.
And there you have it, folks. RSS explained. This is just the basics. There are many other ways you can customize your feed reader, such as: making it so you can read the blog without ever having to leave your reader, determining how each person’s blog is “fed” to your reader, getting alerts by text for when your favorite blogger posts something new, and sharing your module with others.
You can subscribe to more than just blogs, as well. If you have a favorite site that you frequent, such as news sites, you can add them, too. Play around with the settings, and see what everything does!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer everything.