The Blog

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

What Is RSS

A Guide to Using RSS,
Which Helps You Scan
Vast Array of Web Sites

If you read a dozen or more online news sites every day, managing them all
can be difficult.

In the most popular Web browser, Microsoft's Internet
Explorer, you have to laboriously open them one at a time. You can open each
in a separate window, but the windows pile up in the task bar at the bottom
of the screen, making a visual mess that is hard to navigate.

One good solution is to use a more modern browser with a feature called
tabbed browsing. These browsers -- such as Firefox for Windows PCs and Apple
Computer's Macintosh models; or Apple's own Safari browser for the Mac --
allow you to open many pages simultaneously, in the same window. Each page
is marked by a file-folder-style tab, and you can switch among them by just
clicking on the tabs.

But even tabbed browsers have a limit. If you try to open dozens, or scores,
of Web pages at once, the tabs either become too small to show what Web site
they represent, or they slide off the screen and can't be easily seen.

So power users have been employing a system called RSS that allows them to
quickly scan large numbers of newsy, frequently updated Web sites. RSS,
which stands for Really Simple Syndication, is a kind of computer code that
Web site owners can add to their sites to make them easier to scan quickly.

When interpreted by special RSS-savvy software programs called "news
readers" or "news aggregators," the RSS code allows these programs to
display only the headlines and short summaries of these news sites' latest
articles. This is called an "RSS feed." Users can "subscribe" to various
feeds and quickly scan the headlines and summaries. Then, if they so choose,
they can click on a link to read the entire article.

Some RSS addicts regularly scan hundreds of such feeds each day. The
news-reader software keeps scooping up the freshest headlines from the RSS
feeds, and signals when new headlines are available.

RSS, and a competing syndication system called Atom, were first used by
people who write Web logs, or blogs -- newsy, diary-type Web sites where
entries are added in sequence. Later, the Web sites of traditional news
organizations added RSS feeds.

For awhile, the use of these feeds was mainly the province of techies. The
reader software you needed to use them wasn't well known to mainstream Web
surfers, and the process of subscribing to a feed involved clicking on an
orange button on the site unhelpfully labeled "XML," which is the name of
the computer language in which the RSS code is written. If you clicked on
these buttons in a standard Web browser, all you saw was a page of

Now, however, RSS feeds are going mainstream. Both the Firefox and Safari
browsers have built-in, easy-to-use RSS readers. There also are some add-in
news readers for Internet Explorer, and even for Microsoft's Outlook email

In Firefox, whenever you reach a Web page with an RSS feed, an orange icon
appears at the lower right of the screen. If you click on the icon, Firefox
lets you add the feed to your browser as if it were a bookmark. But these
bookmarks are "live." They are constantly receiving new headlines from the
feed. When you click on them, a drop-down list of the freshest headlines
appears. Click on the headline, and the story appears.

In the latest version of the Safari browser, called Safari RSS, Apple has
gone even further. When Safari reaches a page with an RSS feed, an icon
labeled "RSS" appears next to the Web address at the top of the screen. If
you click on it, you can add the feed as if it were a bookmark, as in
Firefox. But Safari can instantly generate a beautifully laid-out special
Web page that displays all the headlines and summaries from one, or even
all, of your RSS feeds.

There also are some products, such as Feed Scout (
1), that add a special toolbar to Internet
Explorer, giving that aging browser the ability to act as an RSS reader.

Of course, you also can use a stand-alone news reader. These contain many
more features than the browsers do for managing and organizing feeds.

Examples of news readers for Windows include FeedDemon and Awasu. On the
Mac, my favorite is NetNewsWire. All these readers, and many others, are
available for download at 2.

Some other products, notably NewsGator, take a different approach. They add
RSS capabilities to email programs, and treat RSS headlines and summaries
like email. NewsGator, also available at, effectively turns
Microsoft Outlook into a news reader.

Some news readers don't require any software at all. They are simply Web
sites that allow you to subscribe to, and search, RSS feeds. One is called
BlogLines, at 3. Another is
PubSub, at 4. Feedster, at 5, is a search engine for RSS
feeds. It specializes in custom RSS feeds comprised of items it finds on
specific topics you search for.

Whichever approach you choose, if you are a news-oriented Web surfer who
wants the latest stuff from a broad range of sources, RSS can be a great

Unbridled Etiquette

Unbridled Etiquette

Don't you know about the new fashion honey?
All you need are looks and a whole lotta money.”

-Billy Joel

A few weeks ago, Mark Hebert at WHAS TV in Louisville did a story about the Kentucky Labor Cabinet hiring a consultant to teach employees proper manners.

The employees were told they needed to bathe daily and wear real gold and silver instead of the fake stuff.

The consultant said that “conservative dress was a symbol of conservative political beliefs.”

The story made me angry. I’m still mad about the state firing park workers with long hair and tattoos. I thought this was another example of Fletcher’s team treating state employees like servants at their country clubs.

Then I realized the problem. The consultant did not understand the techniques necessary to work in state government.

Instead of telling employees to take a bath, she needed to be teaching things they really need to know.

For example, there is a proper way to greet a road contractor. A state employee needs to use phrases like “money is no object” and “your wish is my command” in the presence of any contractor who contributed to the Governor’s campaign.

Otherwise, the employees will find themselves fired or transferred to Paducah. Proper manners can save a state employee’s career.

The Governor’s political staff needs to follow a different code when dealing with contractors. They should extend the right hand for a firm handshake and keep the left jacket pocket exposed so the road contractor can stuff a wad of checks in it.

A political staffer should always wear a suit or jacket. Preferably one with big pockets.

Many people have seen guests who will not leave a party at the proper ending time. The manners consultant may have addressed that situation in her training.

State supervisors need to know how to ask people to leave state government jobs so that the Governor’s friends can take their places.

The term for a person staying late at a party is called a “straggler.” The term for someone trying to keep a merit job is called a “Democrat.”

There is a proper way to deal with both.

With a “straggler” you should walk the guest to the door and hope they politely leave.

With a “Democrat” you should transfer them to a job far from their homes and hope they politely retire.

I’m not sure if the manners consultant discussed written communications. A handwritten note is an important social tool but email is gauche.

There is a penalty called the “indictment” for those in state government who make this social faux pas.

An indictment is almost as serious as not being listed on the social register.

Holding a door open is a part of good manners. Governor Fletcher showed his mastery of etiquette by putting in a secret door to his office. The $5000 door was seen as a waste of taxpayers’ money but actually was the first step in helping the Governor follow proper social procedures.

Instead of encountering an ill mannered reporter, who may or may not have bathed, the Governor can avoid contact with that ilk.

It would probably be a good idea to add a secret door to the Franklin County courthouse so that the Governor’s staff can avoid reporters as indictments are handed down.

Bad manners breed bad manners and the Governor’s staff does not want to fall to the level of reporters.

Especially since I have never seen a reporter wearing a Rolex.

If any of the Governor’s appointees are convicted of a crime, it will send all their manners training right out the window.

The consultant for the Labor Cabinet said that conservative dress is equated with conservative thought.

Bright orange prison jump suits send the wrong fashion message. People will think they are radical, liberal, Democrats.

Being seen as a Democrat would be harder on the Fletcher people than a stay in the big house.

They won’t be able to flash real gold and silver in jail and I am not sure if daily bathing is part of the routine.

If Fletcher staff people are convicted, they will have to add a special new etiquette program.

Maintaining good manners as they make “Unbridled Spirit” license plates.

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group and bathes on a regular basis. You can write to him at and read other things he has written at