A Fairly Simple Explanation of RSS

Posted by: on Mar 8, 2010 | 2 Comments

This guest post is authored by Ben Eubanks. Ben is an HR professional from Huntsville, AL. He lives much of his life online. Don’t believe it? Catch him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via email. His blog, UpstartHR, is about many things, including human resources, leadership, and ninjas.

If you’re not familiar with RSS, I have a fairly simple explanation for you.

RSS is a simply an Internet technology standard that allows busy people to receive updates to web-based content of interest. You might have figured that much out by now. But basically, that’s the essence of an RSS feed – you subscribe and then receive new content automatically in your feed reader.

People use RSS every day to help them read the news and stay on top of new topics. I think RSS has some benefits for the workplace, too, but this quote from Oscar Berg tells us why RSS is not being adopted in the workplace (yet):

The same reasoning applies to RSS – there is no other way to fully understand the benefits of RSS. Although it is quite easy to explain the benefits of RSS when compared to traditonal information seeking, you will not truly understand these benefits until you let RSS change your own consumption patterns. When you have done this, it is fairly easy to translate these benefits to a business context and to envision how RSS could be used within an enterprise context.

My RSS success story

I can still remember the first time I used RSS. It was amazing. It was soon after I really started getting into reading and following blogs online. Every morning I opened up 10 tabs in Firefox and checked my favorite sites one by one to see if there were any updates. After a week or two of doing that, I realized I could sign up for email updates. That cut down on my visits to the sites, but then it cluttered up my inbox, taking time from things that needed to be replied to.

Then I discovered RSS. I had been using Gmail for a few months and clicked over to my Google Reader for the first time to see what it was. I realized that I could add the feeds for each of the sites I followed and it would collect them to view in one place. I was blown away. Where I had been spending maybe 30 minutes a day typing URLs and looking to see if any of the sites had any new content I was now able to just open my RSS reader and start browsing. I cut my time down to 10 minutes a day with that simple step. From then on I was hooked!

Taking RSS to work

Now for the hard part. How can I use RSS feeds at work to save me time and effort? To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this one out. I have some ideas, though…

  • News (professional development, baby!)
  • Team updates (what’s everyone working on?)
  • Project updates (great way to document a project timeline)
  • Set up a special shared tag in Google Reader and share all items in that with your team
  • Open job updates (recruiters?)
  • New employee feed (orientation?)

I just scraped these from my cranium with a little effort. There are so many great tools for using RSS feeds. Do you know of more? How could you use RSS at work?

Image by Paul Watson.


  1. Ben Eubanks
    March 9, 2010

    Thanks for letting me participate, Mike. I appreciate it.

  2. Guest Post Blitz #6 | UpstartHR
    June 18, 2010

    […] what it means. Yes, it sounds technical. No, it’s really not. Everyone should at least have a basic understanding of RSS so you can understand some of the ways it ties into your daily […]