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RSS at UIC

     
 
     
RSS at the ACCC
 

Figure 1: The ACCC RSS News Feed

Notice the orange RSS button on the ACCC home page? (Follow the red arrow in the top right corner of the screen shot.) Perhaps you've seen buttons like this elsewhere. RSS is a new way to keep track of new things on a Web pages without have to visit them. The ACCC has recently added an "RSS Feed" for the news items on the ACCC home page and for the UICNEWS news articles.

ACCC Home page with RSS link in Firefox
 
     
What is RSS?
 

RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary ) is an XML-based format for distributing Web content such as the ACCC news items. Of course RSS was originally used by news services to provide up to date information and news summaries. The RSS format allowed the news content to be easily syndicated in a very quick manner. The RSS standard has evolved into a popular way to distribute all types of up to date information.

Here's how it works:

  1. Webmasters provide "RSS feeds", which are usually headlines that are links to complete articles.
  2. You use RSS readers or "news aggregators" to collect and monitor your favorite of these RSS feeds in a single location.
  3. The webmasters might change the headlines in their RSS feeds at any time.
  4. Your RSS reader checks with the news site on a regular basis and will have the updated headline list a short while after it's updated.

Web pages that have RSS feeds have an RSS button similar to the one the ACCC has on its home page. The way you subscribe depends on what type of "news aggregator" you are using. You can:

  • Read headlines and news messages in a stand-alone RSS reader.
  • Read news items using a Web-based news aggregator.
  • Read the most recent postings of your "friends" in blogs.
  • Read headlines and messages via the bookmarks feature of the Mozilla Firefox Web browser or the Mozilla Thunderbird email program that goes with it.
 
     
-- RSS Standards
 

Standards? They're great! We've got lots of them.

  • scriptingNews, Userland Software, December 1997.
  • RSS 0.90, Netscape, March 1999. Designed for the Netscape Netcenter, included the scriptingNews format; used for: http://www.my.netscape.com
  • scriptingNews 2.0b1, Userland Software, May 1999. RSS 0.9 plus new scriptingNews stuff; used for: http://my.userland.com
  • RSS 0.91, Netscape, July 1999. scriptingNews 2.0b1 added to RSS 9.0
  • RSS 0.91, Userland, June 2000.
  • RSS 1.0, private group, August 2000. published as a proposal; a brand-new format and is not compatible with all the other standards.
  • RSS 0.92, Userland; December 2000. 0.91 with optional elements
  • MetaweblogAPI, March 2002. RSS 0.92 plus XML-RPC is used for blogging.
  • RSS 2.0, Dave Winer, September 2002. 0.92 with optional elements; Dave Winer by the person who was largely responsible for the RSS work at Userland. Includes MetaweblogAPI API.
  • RSS 2.0 spec was released by Harvard Law School, July 2003. (Dave Winer gave it to them because they are non-commercial.)

No, it's not particularly important for you to know about all these standards. Most RSS readers or news aggregators support several of them. But a mismatch might happen, and now you'll know.

In particular, RSS 1.0 is not compatible with RSS 0.9, 0.91, 0.92, and 2.0.

Want to know more? See History of RSS.

 
     
How do I get subscribed to an RSS feed and read the news in an RSS reader or news aggregator?
   
     
If you are using Firefox:
 

Why Firefox? Because it does RSS seamlessly and because ACCC recommends that everyone use Firefox rather than Internet Explorer for security reasons -- not to mention that it's a nice browser -- and it is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so most everyone has access to a news aggregator in Firefox.

Don't have Firefox yet? Mozilla Firefox for Windows or Macs is free and can be downloaded at:
http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
The Web page is very clever and will figure out whether you want the Windows or Mac version and give the right one. (Unfortunately, you can't do away with Internet Explorer altogether; there are still some Web pages that won't work in anything but IE. But please try to keep your IE use at a minimum.)

  1. Click on the orange square in the bottom right corner of the Firefox window -- follow the red arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen shot above.
  2. Click on Subscribe to ACCC NEWS RSS.
  3. The Add Bookmark dialog box will open, with the name of the bookmark already filled in as ACCC Homepage.
  4. Select Bookmarks Toolbar Folder for Create In: and the link to the ACCC news items will be on toolbar below the main menu, where the Google search box is.

Figure 2. Using a Firefox Live Bookmark

After that, just click on ACCC Homepage in your Firefox bookmarks and the headlines of the most recent ACCC news items will be listed. And you can click on a headline to go straight to the news item. Firefox calls this a "live bookmark" because it will be updated shortly after we change the ACCC news page. Way cool!

ACCC news in Firefox
 
     
If you are using the Thunderbird email program:
 

Why Thunderbird? Because it does RSS seamlessly also, and because it is the email program that belongs with Firefox.

Thunderbird is easy to use and does everything you'd want it to. A lot like Firefox, in that way. If you're in search of a new email program, check Thunderbird out. It's nice -- and it does RSS really easily. Better than Firefox.

In Thunderbird, you add an "account" for RSS News and Blogs, then add the RSS feeds as "mailboxes" in that account. So:

  1. Select Tools -> Account Settings...
  2. Click Add Account (at the bottom left).
  3. Thunderbird will ask you what kind of account you want to set up. Click RSS News & Blogs.
  4. Thunderbird will then tell you to enter a name for the account. I used News & Blogs.
  5. The next screen it will ask you to verify the name. Click Finish.
  6. You will be back in Account Settings... Click OK to close it.
  7. Select Tools -> Account Settings... to reopen it.
  8. Click on News & Blogs in the folder list on the left side; the News & Blogs options will appear on the right.

  9. The News & Blogs options:
    • Select Check for new articles every xx minutes. The default is 100; I changed it to 10. Maybe 30 or 60 makes more sense.
    • Check for new articles at startup -- up to you.
    • By default, Show the article summary instead of loading the Web page isn't checked. Leave it that way. You get the chance to choose this separately for each Web page.
  10. To add a news feed, click the Manage Subscriptions button.

  11. Back in Thunderbird, the Add button. In the Feed URL: box, paste the URL for the feed that you want to add, http://www.accc.uic.edu/home/news.rss for the ACCC news. Since the ACCC News are news articles with descriptive titles, it makes sense to click Show the article summary instead of loading the Web page for it.
    .
  12. Click OK to close the Feed URL dialog, then OK to close the Manage your RSS Subscriptions dialog, then OK again to close Account Settings.

Figure 3. Using a News & Blogs in Thunderbird

Then, in Thunderbird, if you click on News & Blogs in the Folders panel on the left side, the right side has links to the things you can do with news and blogs.

Reading News in Thunderbird

Click on the name of a news "folder", such as ACCC Homepage, and the headlines of the most recent news items will be listed as the subject of email messages.

  • When you set up the RSS feed with Show the article summary instead of loading the Web page, the URL is given in the headers when you open a news item.
  • When you do not set it up with Show the article summary instead of loading the Web page, the body of the message is the news item. Or the Doonesbury comic, as the case may be.
 
     
If you are using a Web Log:
 

First, make sure your blog account provider supports the display of syndicated RSS content. If so, go to the ACCC home page, then:

  • In Windows, right-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.
  • On Macs, Control-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.

Then add the URL you've copied, http://www.accc.uic.edu/home/news.rss, into the appropriate area of your blog provider. Please check the help pages for your service, as this location varies by provider.

 
     
-- For example, if you use LiveJournal:
 

Here is how to do it if you have an account on LiveJournal, http://www.livejournal.com, a large, free, hosted Weblog community. (Over 860,000 users update their LiveJournal blogs each week!)

LiveJournal Friends pages are RSS Feeds

"Syndication" is an important part of LiveJournal -- you can designate other LiveJournal users as "Friends" and their recent postings will be collected for you on your Friends page. That's a relative of RSS without your having to set it up.

LiveJournal Accounts for Outside News Feeds

You can also add other RSS feeds to your Friends page.

  1. Login to your LiveJournal account and go to http://www.livejournal.com/syn/
  2. There are 20 or so feeds listed on the page; you can add any of them to your friends page by clicking in the box in front of their name and clicking Add Selected.

There are many other syndicated feeds that have "accounts" on LiveJournal, including UIC ACCC news (account name uicaccc). Those feeds you can add by URL. Here's how to add the ACCC news feed:

  1. Go to the ACCC home page.
    • In Windows, right-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.
    • On Macs, Control-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.
  2. Login to your LiveJournal account and go to http://www.livejournal.com/syn/
  3. Paste http://www.accc.uic.edu/home/news.rss into the Feed URL: box at the bottom of the page and click Add Feed.
  4. The ACCC news is a LiveJournal news feed with the "account" uicaccc; LiveJournal will identify it from the URL.
  5. On a new window, LJ will ask: Add syndicated feed uicaccc as a friend? Click the Add uicaccc button.
  6. Now the ACCC News is a LJ friend and the news items will appear in your Friends page.

If you are a LiveJournal paid member, you create new accounts for news feeds that don't already have accounts. The process is the same as adding by URL, but LJ will ask you for an account name for the feed. You have to select an account name that isn't already in use. After you create the account for the news feed, any LJ member can use it.

 
     
If you are using another RSS reader or news aggregator:
 

Copy the location indicated by the RSS button on the ACCC Homepage:

  • In Windows, right-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.
  • On Macs, Control-click on the orange RSS button and select Copy Link Location or however your browser puts it.

And then check the instructions for your individual program/service to find out what to do with it.

 
     
Some URLs with more info:
 

http://asprss.com/FAQ.asp
http://www.newarchitectmag.com/archives/2000/02/eisenzopf/
http://www.webreference.com/perl/tutorial/8/index.html
http://bmw.ws.utk.edu/xml/rss/examples/
http://feedonfeeds.com/
http://www.feedforall.com/rss-glossary.htm

 


2005-5-9  cso@uic.edu
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