Wednesday, May 25, 2005

what is syndication and why do I care?

I'm procrastinating a bit. I should be writing right now, but finals just ended, I'm trying to taper off the caffeine, and it's taking a while to get focused. In the meantime, if you're a blog reader, what is syndication and why do you care?

Let's start with the important thing: why do you care? If, like me, you read more than one blog, it can be a pain to keep checking their web sites. It's especially a pain if, like the Gazette, the people who write the blogs don't post something every day. To deal with that problem, there are programs out there called "news aggregators" that watch the blogs for you. If there's anything new, they'll tell you about it. That way, you can keep up with more blogs in less time.

Syndication is how the blogs tell your aggregator that someone has posted a new blog entry. Most blogs have a link variously called a "news feed," "syndication feed," "RSS feed," or "XML link." For example, for any blog on, that link will be the name of the blog followed by "/index.xml". For this blog, it's "". Other blogs have different names for the link. Most will put the link on their main page.

To use syndication, you plug the link into your news aggregation software. If you're looking for news aggregation software, I have a few suggestions.

My favorite is built into Thunderbird, which is an e-mail program. I use Thunderbird to read e-mail, so this makes it easy to keep up with blogs, too, all in one place. Other e-mail programs might understand aggregation as well: check the help files.

If you don't want to change e-mail programs, you might consider the web browser Firefox with the Sage plugin. Firefox is my current web browser of choice. Sage turns it into a news aggregator as well.

Otherwise, you can run a Google search to turn up several stand-alone aggregators. If you click on this link, you'll get software for Windows. Here's a link for Mac users. Unix folks: y'all can enter your own search strings. :-) I haven't played with any of these programs, so you'll have to experiment to find one you like.

Correction: the correct URL for Blogger blogs ends in /atom.xml, not /index.xml. For this one, it's

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