This set of notes is for people who think they might want to use news feeds, sometimes known as RSS feeds or, less commonly, atom feeds. It is not about making them.
Every effort will be made to avoid technical language as far as possible.
What Is a News Feed? edit
This is part of the list of news feeds available on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's web site as of early afternoon, 13 October, 2011.
The graphic to the left is the kind of thing you see when you follow one of the links in the list above using a recent version of either the Internet Explorer browser or the Firefox browser. (Other browsers may produce different results. More about this momentarily.)
This was the content of the news feed when accessed. This news feed really was about news, so it consisted of summaries of fifteen news stories. Each summary includes a link to the full story, a hint about what the story is about, a photograph, and a title for the story. What you cannot see is that the news feed is built in such a way that it provides you with the most up-to-date information for a given topic.
News feeds don't have to contain pictures and they don't have to be about news as such. To the right is a news feed containing summary information about job advertisements. Each item in the news feeds includes the job's title, a link to the full advertisement and some summary information about the job.
All news feed items are dated so that the software that you use to read them can present the items to you in chronological order. For instance, at the instant when I viewed the news feed to the right one of the banquet server jobs was the most recently advertised in the feed, so it's at the top.
You can expect to see news feeds referred to using various words: subscribe, syndicate or syndication, feed, rss and xml. For you, as a user, these are all the same thing.
Why Use News Feeds? edit
Most of us would like to keep up with change and events without spending enormous amounts of time in front of a computer screen. News feeds can help.
- We have already seen that news feeds tell us when web sites have been updated. This means that we do not have to visit a site unless it contains new information of interest to us.
- A news feed includes the title and a summary of the content of a new item on a web site. This means that we can quickly decide whether it is worth reading the entire item.
- A news feed is a list of items that you have not reviewed yet. Once you expand an item to decide whether to want to read it in its entirety on its corresponding web site it will be marked read and will be made to disappear before you visit that news feed again. This means that when you look at the news feed for a web site you can easily discern which items you have considered reading and which items remain to be considered. Of course if an item is marked read you can always mark it unread so that you can look at it again. More about this momentarily.
News feeds are the basis for very efficient ways of dealing with incoming information.
Special Importance of News Feeds for Careers Area edit
Job Advertisements edit
Although many activities contribute to success in finding and keeping a job the effective and efficient use of on-line job sites is still of importance. If a job seeker has to perform the same search repeatedly for a suitable set of jobs on a job site and then keep reviewing many of the same jobs for the second or subsequent times then they are wasting valuable time. Better that they should learn to use the news feed systems available on the better job sites. In this way they can afford to build multiple well-tuned searches, convert them to news feeds and then simply watch for new jobs to appear in those feeds. Not only do they save time. Chances are they will apply earlier than other candidates because they will learn about newly advertised jobs sooner.
Keeping Up-to-date As a Career or Employment Specialist edit
Career and employment specialists need to maintain and apply specialist knowledge or awareness in an array of topics, including social psychology, psychopathology, labour markets and so on. This requires a considerable investment in time yet much of the material needed to stay up-to-date is available on the web. Definitely an application for news feeds.
Preparing to Read News Feeds edit
There are many ways of reading news feeds. Here we offer descriptions of a set of software configurations that are simple and easy to use. Once you have become accustomed to working with news feeds you might find that you want to try some of the other options available.
This set of notes provides information for Microsoft Windows XP computers only.
The Microsoft Internet Explorer browser has built-in support for news feeds. However, most users who use news feeds prefer the services available with the Google Reader. We will therefore show how to use Google Reader with three of the popular browsers.
Install Google Reader edit
Come back to this page after you have completed the following steps.
Obtain a Google reader account.
Go to Google and select 'Reader' under the 'more' menu item.
Log in to Google Reader.
Having logged in you might find it most convenient to bookmark the Google Reader page in some way.
Install the Chrome RSS Subscription Extension, If You Use the Chrome Browser edit
Go to the Google RSS Subscription Extension page using Chrome and add the extension. Although this add-on is not really necessary you may find that it helps you.
Reading and Using Feeds edit
You need to bring some news feeds into Google Reader before you can read them. However, you probably won't be very interested in doing that until you can see what it's like to read and otherwise process a feed.
When you open Google Reader, and assuming that you have collected some news feeds, they will be listed on the left, if they contain new items. The numbers in the feed titles indicate the numbers of unread items. The number in the top, lefthand corner is the total number of unread news feed items. Google Reader displays a selection of your news items on the right.
When you click on a news feed to select it—in this case on the BBC Africa news feed—Google Reader opens the list of news items in the right panel.
When you click on one of the news items it expands.
Not only that, Google Reader will mark the news item 'read'; that is, the 'Mark as read' will be checked by the program and the number of news items left to read will have fallen by one. However, by unchecking this box you can mark an item as unread so that you can come back to it again—as shown here.
If you now click on the first line of the news item then the collection of items is in the state it was in before you started examining it. It's up to you whether you leave news items marked read or not.
Often you will scan a list of news items and find that none appear to be of interest. In this case you can simply click on the 'Mark all as read' button.
Google Reader will indicate that it has honoured your request.
And now that the Beth's Blog news feed is empty of new items it disappears from the list of feeds when you select a different feed.
But suddenly you regret your decision to mark all those news items read! Because you seem to remember that one of them might have been of interest.
Not a huge problem! Look for the downward pointing triangle above the slider for the list of blogs and click on it. Now click on 'Show all' in the resulting menu to see all of the news feeds listed, and select Beth's Blog. Now click on 'all items' in the right panel and read the item that seemed to interest you. Just remember to go back to that menu in the left panel to click on 'Show updated.'
Review: Why News Feeds Are Really Good for Job Seekers edit
- You find out about new job advertisements quickly. You are therefore in a more competitive position with respect to other job seekers.
- You do not have to visit a job web site unless there appears to be a suitable job there for you.
- You might find it easier to set up several news feeds for a job site than to use one complicated job search query.
- A list of potential jobs can be scanned very quickly when it is presented as a news feed.
- A good lead can be kept in the news feed unread as a reminder to keep working on it.
- Individual jobs that are not of interest can be easily discarded from a news feed so that only those with true potential get attention.
Getting a Feed Into Google Reader edit
Make it easy for yourself to open Google Reader whenever you want to use it.
- Open Google Reader in a new tab and then come back to this page.
- Go back to the tab where you opened Google Reader, then drag-and-drop the Google Reader icon at the left end of the Google Reader URL in the address bar to your browser menu bar under the address bar. Now you should see the icon on the menu bar. (Remember to come back to this page.)
Getting a feed is also called subscribing.
Almost Fail-proof Method edit
There might be ways of getting a feed into Google Reader that you would find more convenient that this.
But this method has the virtue of working in almost every condition.
Here's a typical situation. You have searched a job site, in this case [eluta.ca] for suitable job vacancies in your geographical area. Now you want to subscribe to this feed in Google Reader. News feeds may be labelled or distinguished in various ways. On this site the news feed is 'under' a red button labelled 'RSS.' Since the button displays a link in the browser status bar when you hover your mouse over it you know it has a link associated with it.
Right-click on the RSS button and click on the 'Copy link address' or 'Copy shortcut' or 'Copy link location' menu item, depending on which is available in your browser.
Now open Google Reader, click on 'Add a subscription.'
Paste the link into the edit box that opens. Then click on 'Add.'
Google Reader subscribes to the news feed from eluta.ca and lists the job advertisements that it finds in the feed.
Other Methods edit
To be written.
No feed! edit
Sometimes you will encounter a blog that lacks a news feed. This often happens when the blog's author has omitted to choose options for their blog appropriately. Simply inform the author of what you have noticed.
There are also many pages that change frequently for which it would be very suitable to have news feeds that lack them. There are various items of software that can construct news feeds automatically for these pages. More about these as time permits.
Other Aspect of Working With Feeds edit