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Getting Started with RSS: The Fifteen-Minute Tutorial

By popular demand, this is a short introduction to RSS, a tool for tracking headlines and new content on Web sites. This tutorial uses Bloglines, a free, Web-based RSS aggregator (reader).

RSS is a bit baffling at first. Once you step in, though, you’ll have an immediate “ah hah.” These directions were written to get you from baffled to “ah hah” in less than fifteen minutes.

RSS Tutorial

In this brief tutorial, following a brief explanation of RSS, you’ll get signed up to the feed (the headlines for new entries) for Resource Shelf, Gary Price’s invaluable site for staying up to date on a wide variety of Internet resources. (You can always unsubscribe to it later, in seconds, if it’s not your cup of tea.) Then learn about several related tools for using RSS, including several good finding aids for locating other feeds.

What the Heck is RSS?

I love RSS (the acronym means various things, but my favorite definition is “Really Simple Syndication”). Using this new Internet headline service, I can track all kinds of news provided by new and familiar sources, from Dilbert to the New York Times, without filling up my e-mail box or tying a string around my finger to check various Web sites. The news comes to me as headlines and brief abstracts (with one-click access to the entire article) through my RSS reader (aggregator).

I. Using an Aggregator for the First Time

1. Go to and set up a (free) account

2. Now you need an RSS feed to add to Bloglines. Bloglines will suggest a few. I unsubscribed to most of those and looked for my own. There are various RSS finding aids, but let’s just focus on Resource Shelf for now, unless you have a few more that interest you.

If you look at Gary’s site,, you will see an orange button on the lower left-hand side that says “XML.” That’s a link to a funny-looking file:

That’s the address to the RSS feed. This is the address you will use in step 3 to add to Bloglines.

3. Now let’s add this feed to Bloglines.

Inside Bloglines, go to:

Manage Subscriptions

Follow this link, and where it says:



(the entire URL, including the “resource.xml” part)

Then click the “Subscribe” button.

(For right now, don’t worry about OPL or Folder. You can learn about those later.)

4. Read the Feed

Now you can read headlines and summaries from the blogs you are subscribed to. (Some blogs supply you with the full text of their entries, and some blogs, such as Dilbert, provide images, as well.)

You should now be at the main reading window for Bloglines. Resource Shelf will be on the left, in the subscription pane. Click on the title (it is probably bolded). The summaries of the feeds display on the right.

II. Tools for Finding Blogs and Feeds

Want to try other aggregators? To start with, try Newzcrawler and Amphetadesk. Most aggregators are clients (software you install on your computer); some, like Bloglines, are Web-based tools.

To Find More Feeds…

Random good luck: sites will often advertise their RSS feed with a link labeled “Syndicate” or a small rectangular orange icon that says “XML.”

Use to find library-related feeds.

Med librarians, take note: provdes RSS feeds for PubMed.

Places to find more feeds include:


You can use Bloglines, Daypop, and Moreover to create custom search feeds (and this capability is showing up all over).

Bon appetit!

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