Girl Interrupted

Saturday, November 26, 2005

[+/-] Blogger HOWTO: Syndication

So what exactly is syndication? What is this Really Simple Syndication (RSS) I keep hearing about? And how is this useful for my Blog? What's in it for me? Well, I'll tell you. (Click to drop down more). Syndication is ...
    ...(as far as I understand it) a way of letting certain webpages (like Google, for example) and other incomprehensible internet machine thingies (such as information aggregation tools) know when your site (eg, your blog) has been updated. Aggregators (or newsreaders) scan these feeds, and let you know whenever the site has been updated. They're kind of like your own personalized newspaper, with everything you've chosen to read, and none of the crap (unless someone has added AdSense to their feeds, or something).

    Personally, I find it very useful to install RSS feeds in my Links Toolbar in my Firefox browser, so that I have a pull down menu of the latest headlines (eg from IOL, the BBC, slashdot, Amazon.com, etc), the latest posts on my friends blogs (see my blogroll in the sidebar), etc etc. Basically, it cuts down on the time I have to spend surfing to sites that possibly haven't changed, or sites with lots of images (like the news sites), that take ages to load.

    (UPDATE: I've recently discovered Bloglines, which is a great way of tracking your feeds! All my feeds go into a nice little frame on the left of my screen, organised into various folders as I like, and only the sites that have been updated since I last checked Bloglines are highlighted, with the number of new posts in brackets after the title. Cuts HOURS off my surfing time).

    What use is it to you on your blog? Well, providing tools to make your readers' lives easier is always a Good Thing. And, it can help improve your readership/blog traffic (ever seen those "These Blogs have Just been Updated" lists - well...). And if you're into buttons and things, you can even add a tracker to your webpage to advertise how many people are feeding off you: How many people are feeding off me?

    How does one read syndication feeds? Two ways, basically: an installed desktop program, or an online reader. I won't go into the installed desktop versions (cause I don't use them, and know nothing about them, but I'm sure you can Google for a good one. Feedburner recommends a few), but I do use online readers (mostly, the ones built into my Firefox browser, but anyway [and now Bloglines). Newsgator, Bloglines, My Yahoo also do aggregators. Apparently Google/Gmail is experimenting with one too. (UPDATE: Yep, its called Google Reader)

    So how can I make use of this awesome tool, I hear you ask? Follow these easy steps (for Blogger blogs - sorry, you LiveJournal and other users, I don't know how this works for your platforms) (Also, I have assumed some knowledge of html, but really, if you have half a brain and can follow instructions like click here and copy-paste there, you really shouldn'thave any problems):

    1) Enable your site feed: Click on "Settings", then "Site Feed", and select Publish Site Feed (Yes), and Descriptions (Short or Full, your choice - full is better, in my opinion). Copy the "Site Feed URL" and paste it temporarily somewhere (or write it on a post-it note or something). It should be something like http://yourblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml. Save your settings and republish.

    From here, you can continue with these instructions for an ordinary feed, or look at Improbulus's instructions for burning a feed with Feedburner (highly recommended).

    2) Choose a nice picture (sorry, sorry, "icon"), for your feed (like the ones below, for example) and host it via BlogExplosion's PhotoHut, Flickr, or some other image sharing tool. You can also host it by posting the images to your Blog in a temporary post, and then extracting the URL for that image, then deleting your temporary post. (Sounds complicated, but its really not - if you've done it for your profile photo, you'll know exactly what I mean. If not, leave a comment asking for help and I'll get back to you), or click here for Blogger's instructions on uploading pictures.

    Update: if you're just providing an ordinary feed, and not tailoring it to specific aggregators or readers like Google Reader or Bloglines, its best to use the RSS standard image: . If everyone adopts this standard, it will help to minimise confusion, and you can get it in different colours too, not just orange (although thats a debate all on its own whether the orange should be standard too). You can read more about the adoption of this standard, or download images for your own use, at http://feedicons.com.

    3) Add the image to your sidebar (or wherever you want to put your feed), and turn it into an image link. Que?? Simple: Click on "Template", scroll down to the html with your sidebar (like, maybe just after where you put your blogmap, huh?), and add your image by pasting the following html at your chosen position:
    <img src="put-your-image-URL-here"> (Note, this is the "img tag").

    4) Turn that image into a link. On the left of the img tag you've just added, add the anchor tag for your site feed: <a href="your-site-feed-here">. On the right of the img tag, add the closing anchor tag: </a>. So now you should have something like this:
    <a href="your-site-feed-here> <img src="your-image-URL-here></a>

    Now, there are a number of ways to add your site feed URL (this is what you put in "your-site-feed-here", after the href= ):

    1. add the whole site feed url (the one you copy-pasted/wrote on a post-it in step one), as in <a href="http://your-blog-url/atom.xml>.
    2. add <a href="atom.xml">.
    3. add <a href="<$BlogSiteFeedUrl$>" title="Atom feed">

    I don't know if any one is better than another - perhaps (2) or (3) if you ever decide to change your Blog URL, but maybe (1) is better for search engine optimisation (SEO). I dunno - I'm not an html/internet boffin.

    So far so good.

    5) Save your template changes and republish.

    Now, if you click on the image, you should be forwarded to a page of xml/html-looking garbage - don't worry, The Computer knows what its for, and that's just fine. Hopefully, your readers will know what that's for too.

    The following drop down sections contain subscription buttons for various specific feed readers and news aggregators. Click the type of feed you'd like (full, truncated or headline only) and click on your chosen feed reader's button from there:

    Full feeds
      SmartFeed - by Feedburner Smart Feed

      Add to My Yahoo
      Add to My MSNAdd to My AOLAdd to My FeedsterAdd to NewsGator
      Add to BlogFlux
      Add to BloglinesAdd to Google ReaderAdd to News is FreeAdd to NewsBurst

      Add to Bot A BlogAdd to Bottom FeederAdd to FeedDemonAdd to Headline ViewerMobile RSS

      Add to del.icio.usAdd to FurlAdd to Spurl

      Add to AmphetaDeskAdd to Asawu



      Powered by FeedBlitz


      How many people have subscribed to this feed?
      How many people are feeding off me?

    Truncated feeds
      SmartFeed - by Feedburner Smart Feed

      Add to My Yahoo
      Add to My MSNAdd to My AOLAdd to My FeedsterAdd to NewsGator
      Add to BlogFlux
      Add to BloglinesAdd to Google ReaderAdd to News is FreeAdd to NewsBurst

      Add to Bot A BlogAdd to Bottom FeederAdd to FeedDemonAdd to Headline ViewerMobile RSS

      Add to del.icio.usAdd to FurlAdd to Spurl

      Add to AmphetaDeskAdd to Asawu



      Powered by FeedBlitz


      How many people have subscribed to this feed?
      How many people are feeding off me?

    Headline only feeds
      SmartFeed - by Feedburner Smart Feed

      Add to My Yahoo
      Add to My MSNAdd to My AOLAdd to My FeedsterAdd to NewsGator
      Add to BlogFlux
      Add to BloglinesAdd to Google ReaderAdd to News is FreeAdd to NewsBurst

      Add to Bot A BlogAdd to Bottom FeederAdd to FeedDemonAdd to Headline ViewerMobile RSS

      Add to del.icio.usAdd to FurlAdd to Spurl

      Add to AmphetaDeskAdd to Asawu



      Powered by FeedBlitz


      How many people have subscribed to this feed?
      How many people are feeding off me?
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