RSS and news aggregators

Ang was asking me on the weekend about how I can keep across so many weblogs (120+ last time I checked). The answer is RSS and news aggregators.

I could write a piece on weblogs and syndication, but Diego Doval has already written one: an introduction to weblogs, part two: syndication, so I’ll save my breath 😉 Suffice to say that most weblog software outputs a file called an RSS feed (or Atom feed) that a piece of software called a news aggregator can read to “deliver” the latest updates from weblogs and news sites to your computer without having to go to every single site.

However, I will mention what I use (note that I use Mac OS X – you’ll have to use Google to find PC variations). For news aggregation I use Ranchero’s most excellent NetNewsWire (NNW). I have been using this software since I first got my Mac laptop, and boy has it grown. I personally love the power and immense flexibility of the program, but it may be overkill for many people.

On my Powerbook (with it’s ultra-portable 12″ screen) I especially love the combined view, which is reminiscent of the aggregator provided by Radio Userland (although more powerful IMO). However, at work (where I have a fair bit more screen real estate) the “widescreen view” is proving pretty useful too.

However, with all the bells and whistles, it may be a bit confusing for some people to get started, so I checked out NewsFire again (I haven’t looked at it in some time), and it’s come a long way too. It’s also half the price of NNW (in fairness I must say that NNW is definitely worth the extra $$ if you need the features).

Both NNW and NewsFire support external weblog editors, which allow you to easily post an item from your aggregator to your weblog using software on your Mac, rather than the web-based interfaces on many blog tools (like Blogger and Movable Type). Again, Ranchero have a top little application called MarsEdit that comes with NNW (although you can buy it separately as well) to do the job. Ecto is an alternative.

Digressing for a quick tip, Blogger sites (which are hosted at blogspot.com) don’t automatically list the Atom feed in the default templates. If you come across a blogspot.com site, try appending /atom.xml at the end of the homepage address to get the Atom feed – i.e. the Atom feed for http://amyalisha.blogspot.com is http://amyalisha.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Anyways, I hope that helps someone on the Mac get their weblog fix a bit easier in future.

One thought on “RSS and news aggregators

  1. FYI – I’ve been trying out http://www.bloglines.com as an online aggregator over the past few days… looks like it could be a good answer to the “multiple machines” problem. This works well for me at the moment because I’m now only accessing blogs online (wouldn’t work if you wanted to say, download then read on the train).

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