Reaching Stuff Simplified: RSS

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been experimenting with ways to connect with you, our Bridgeland readers. The web can feel like a vast, hard-to-navigate maze sometimes, and we wanted to make sure that we’re as accessible to you now on the web as we were when our print edition arrived in your mailbox each month.

One way we’re doing this is through our weekly newsletter, of course, but there’s also something you can do to keep in the loop as new articles come up on the site. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of Bridgeland News.

Whoa, I just sensed your eyes glazing over. RSS: you’ve probably seen the name, or a little squiggly orange icon on sites, and wondered, what is that anyway?

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, and it’s a deceptively simple tool for receiving anything from the latest headlines to full stories from frequently updated websites like ours, without having to remind yourself to navigate over to the site. You can also use it to track news from your specific neighborhood — by getting updates every time we post news that is tagged to that neighborhood’s page on our site.

RSS is really simple — maybe a bit too simple. It’s acquired an unwarranted mystique over time, because the simplicity of the tool itself has lent it to all kinds of applications, from “live” bookmarks on your browser that can give a peek at recent headlines to stand-alone readers that can show you articles from a number of different news sources.

In the interest of trying to demystify RSS, I thought I’d give you a quick overview of just two options for receiving RSS feeds.

The first is “live” bookmarks. Think of these as bookmarks on steroids: they can bring you to a website like a regular bookmark, but they can also show you the latest headlines that have posted on the site.

These RSS bookmarks are part of your browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and each browser is a bit different in how they handle them. On our RSS page, I’ve posted links to the bookmark instructions for the 3 major browsers. Just follow the directions for your browser, and when it comes time to subscribe to a Bridgeland feed, there’s a listing of all the ones we make available on the bottom of the RSS page.

A second option is an RSS reader. Google has one that’s pretty easy to use, and doesn’t require you to download and install software on your computer. Just sign up for a Google account, then go to the Bridgeland News RSS page and subscribe to the feeds you want, specifying Google Reader as your application of choice. A Google page will appear, asking if you want to add the subscription to your reader – say yes, and you’re on your way.

One final caveat: neither bookmarks nor readers are going to give you the full “Bridgeland” experience. They don’t show you photos or comments; they can’t get you to the Bridgeland Directory, and many won’t show you our articles in full. Think of them as a simple way to catch up on what we’re posting, and a reminder to stop by the site.

So give it a try and have some fun with it. Try a couple of different ways to get RSS feeds, and see what works best for you.

last revised: June 11, 2009