Information Overload - We all suffer from it in the internet age. Soooo much information out there, wouldn't you agree? But if you're like me, you are constantly being amazed at "wow, I'm really glad so-and-so posted that article on their blog - I really learned something USEFUL". So that person mentally gets added to your favorites, but what are the odds you are going to catch the next great article from the same person. The odds are extremely HIGH if you take advantage of RSS feeds. You've seen the little orange RSS icon all over the internet - now let me show you how to take advantage of it.
RSS stands for really simple syndication. Most sites that produce a stream of new content will provide a URL to the RSS feed so that you can subscribe to the feed. The very first thing that you will need to take advantage of RSS is a "feed aggregator" or application that lets you see all your feeds. You can download apps that do this (and even Outlook has the feature) I've tried some different ones and my personal choice is not an installed app but a "cloud app" called Google Reader. If you have a Google account head on over to www.google.com/reader and if you don't have a Google account, what are you waiting for! (google accounts are free and have a simple sign up) I'm a big Google fan - Reader, Google Earth, Maps, Analytics, GMail, Picasa, Web Albums, YouTube etc etc - more things to blog about! ahhh, but let me stay on topic here: Google Reader
In the diagram below, you can see a few of my interests: Photography, Real Estate, and Technology. I have created folders for each of these topics in my Google Reader. Notice the layout - the left pane shows your feeds and the right side pane shows you the results of whatever you click on the left. I can click the Real Estate folder heading and it shows all the posts that fall under that category. Or I can click on a specific feed (like I have clicked here on Tech Savvy Agent) and you can see all the posts from that team.
The appearance of Reader window might remind you very much of an email window, the "unread" posts appear in bold and it shows you a number (or a count) of how many you have not read. Now... there's NO way you are going to actually read all the posts, but you should scan the headlines and read the ones of interest. Afterward, what I do is click the "mark all as read" button at the top so it clears out the "what's new" highlighting and that way when I come back, I'll focus on what ever is new since I last looked.
As you'll see above also, when you click on an article heading - the article will expand so that you can actually read it. Once open, you can click on the blue Title which is a link and takes you to the source site. Sometimes I like to do this so you can see it in context and learn more about the author from his or her site.
If you find a really terrific article, you can click on the star for the article so that it bookmarks it for you. You can then go back to review all your "starred" articles later.
Now that I've found ActiveRain, you can be sure that I will be building a folder for my favorite bloggers on that site. This is how you too can do it... On any person's blog page, scroll down and watch the right hand side. Underneath the links to all the archives you will see the icon noted RSS. When you click on it, it takes you to a page full of raw/unformatted text - smell that? that's pure RSS! What you want is the URL for the feed, so head on up to the address bar in your browser to copy the URL to the clipboard.
Next, head on over to Google Reader. At the top left of the window you will see a button to Add a Feed. Paste your feed URL and press Enter. This will add the feed and show you the contents.
The very next thing that I always do is to put it into a Folder to categorize it. In the left pane where you see the feed name, click the arrow at the right of the name where you get options. Here you can add to existing folder or you can choose to "create a new folder" if it is the first feed of it's kind. Note: you can actually mark feeds with more than one category, for instance you might tag it as both Real Estate and ActiveRain as both categories apply.
Finally, you might think that if you follow somebody in Twitter and/or Facebook, "why would I care about RSS feeds" Well, I still recommend that you follow your favorites there also. But, as you know the news feed rolls by so fast that you are bound to miss something along the way. Wtih RSS feeds, you don't have to be so worried about it. You wont miss anything.
So go out there and start subscribing to some RSS Feeds!
(Author's note: you can subscribe in RSS to any RainMaker in ActiveRain - that's one of the advantages to being a paid account holder is that your posts are fed publically to the whole web - good for SEO, good for RSS too! Just one caveat to consider for AR posts - some are "members only" and your RSS feed will not include these. So if you are watching AR members in RSS - don't assume that shows everything they have written)