In today’s Web 2.0 world, learning how to hand-code an RSS file can often seem as necessary as learning how to create and edit the code behind a PDF document. That’s because businesses that want to use RSS will quickly find there are a whole host of applications happy to automatically create RSS feeds of their content.
These include everything from blog systems to content management platforms to search engines to now even operating systems themselves. However, as is often the case with applications that automatically create Web pages, you may quickly find that an automatically generated RSS feed doesn’t provide all the information you want it to, or that it uses one RSS standard and your business needs will be better served by a competing RSS standard.
Luckily, editing RSS files is pretty easy, in most cases even easier than creating a basic HTML file. That’s because, for the most part, everything in RSS is easily readable by humans and conforms to long-standing metadata conventions.
In general, opening up the RSS files that your business is using in a standard text editor should give you a quick understanding of the information contained within your feeds.
One of the tougher tasks when dealing with RSS feeds is exactly which RSS version and standard should be used. Going back to its earliest days, when the word “RSS” stood for everything from “RDF Site Summary” to “Really Simple Syndication” and competing groups were releasing slightly different versions of RSS, there has been some confusion over exactly how to set up a proper RSS file.
In addition, the fairly recent introduction of Atom, which was intended to clear up some of the RSS inconsistencies and place syndication more firmly within the XML standard, has, at least for the time being, succeeded mainly in creating yet another version of syndication that must be dealt with.
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Even in this current, multiformat RSS environment, the similarities are much greater than the differences, and anyone who learns how to edit and create feeds in one format should have no problem learning how to do it in one of the competing formats.
For those willing to dirty their hands, fire up a text editor, and start creating and editing feed files, there are plenty of detailed resources for learning the ins and outs of the standards.
Good places to start include AtomEnabled (www.atomenabled.org); a step-by-step guide on creating an RSS 2.01 feed, located at www.xul.fr/en-xml-rss.html; and the home of the RSS Advisory Board (www.rssboard.org ).
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