http://lawlibtech.com/archives/000324.htmlI've posted several entries about RSS resources and tools. This week I thought I'd define RSS for those of you who aren't familiar with it. I have a LOT of information on RSS to share with you, so I'll start with the basics, then continue posting on RSS tools and content.
I could tell you that RSS is an xml format for syndication of current web content. I could also tell you that it stands for Rich Site Summary OR RDF Site Summary OR Really Simple Syndication. But none of that really means much to most people. So let's discuss what RSS will do for you.
RSS allows you to receive notification of current content without having to visit the web site of interest to determine if it has been updated. This is powerful stuff, since it means that with the right tools you can monitor a large number of sites in a relatively short period of time.
RSS became popular with the growth of blogs as a way for people to keep up with their favs. But it is being used increasingly by a variety of websites including those with commercial news content. For the researcher that's what makes it so useful. More and more valuable content is becoming available via RSS everyday. Anyone who needs to monitor current news on a regular basis will need to understand and use RSS in some form going forward.
If a web site and/or blog chooses to make its content available via RSS, they create a file that is automatically updated whenever the web site's content is updated. The file contains basic information about the updated content, including the title, date and usually a brief extract.
The file itself is pretty ugly, though not really all that complex. That's because it's not meant to be read by a person. Instead, the file is typically read by an RSS aggregator of some kind, which nicely formats the information and makes it easy to read by the end user.
If you're the curious type, and would like to see what a basic RSS file looks like, take a look at the one available for TVC Alert on the Virtual Chase. Note that all the text is enclosed in tags. The ones at the top of the file include information about the "channel" or source of the information provided. The rest of the file is broken up into single items with tags to indicate whether the text is a title, link, description, etc. It's hard to read because it's really not MEANT to be read in this format, but trust me, it's much easier to understand than say, a MARC record.
For those of you who are sitting on the edge of your seats, and can't wait for the next installment before getting started with RSS, take a look at the bibliography I compiled for the SCALL Institute. There are a number of excellent articles listed that will allow you to jump to the head of the class. Also, Jenny Levine's recent presentation at Computers in Libraries is available on the web and includes a wealth of information on "Unleashing the Power of RSS."