What the Hell is that Orange Button Over There?

WARNING: This blog post is not really related to music in any way, and was written as part of RSS Awareness Day.

Let’s be frank: the Philippine Islands are definitely not as technologically advanced as other countries. From sluggish DSL to the delay in receiving new hardware like a legal iPhone, many Filipinos get the short end of the stick when it comes to the latest technology. Hardware aside, this is also true for software and internet utilities such as file converters or the Google Apps. While many Filipinos have more serious and pressing issues to attend to, I still consider it disappointing that many still consider Friendster as the best social app and IE as the browser of choice. Of course, my inherent nerdiness may have something to do with that, but I digress.

Today, I would like to explain what the hell that orange button over in my sidebar is. Now, many Filipinos frequent sites such as Multiply to get the latest updates on whatever. Of course, memorizing and typing the URL over and over again is tedious, and so is searching your bookmarks for the site. To remedy this situation, many websites (including this one) offer what is called an RSS feed, often designated using an orange logo featuring radio waves pointing north-east (like the one in the sidebar). The RSS feed informs people whenever the site has been updated, thus making it easier for people to be updated. RSS feeds of multiple sites can also be compiled together, thus making one’s daily reads much, much easier to access. Some sites even put in the whole posts inside the RSS feed, thus making visiting the actual website optional. Firefox even shows whether the site supports RSS, by placing the said orange logo next to the site’s URL in the Address Bar. Personally, RSS has been a godsend as I frequent 123 subscriptions (which would mean 123 websites) and counting, something that might prove chaotic if it weren’t for RSS.

RSS feeds alone do not do much however. When clicking the RSS button of a website, one must add the site’s RSS data into a feed aggregator, also called a news reader. By adding various websites’ RSS feeds into the aggregator, one can easily be updated to all of his/her favorite sites easily even if he/she has forgotten the URL or name of the website. News readers come in two different flavors, a desktop client or an online one. A desktop client is a news reader that is installed into one’s computer like regular software, while an online client is accessed through the internet using your internet browser of choice. There are advantages to each, of course. A desktop client saves feeds locally, making them accessible offline, but also taking up computer memory (duh). Another problem is portability, as you won’t be able to access them away from home. Online clients, on the other hand, cannot be accessed without internet, but can be accessed from anywhere with it. Examples of free desktop news readers include FeedDemon for Windows and NetNewsWire for Macs. For online clients, the new Yahoo Mail and Google’s Googe Reader both support feeds, integrating themselves into your mail accounts, making them easy to access, and both are free as well. Personally, I use Google Reader, as I subscribe to many websites that provide software utilities like Lifehacker, and accessing them from anywhere makes it easy to find utilities for tasks like converting a .DOCX file to .DOC or saving a Youtube video in MP4 or AVI formats, wherever I may be. I also subscribe to many blogs like ESPN’s TrueHoop blog (for NBA fans, this is a must) and the FAIL Blog (for humor). You can also subscribe to your friends’ Multiply pages and blogs using RSS (which is supported by Blogger, LiveJournal, and WordPress, the blogging clients I see Filipinos use the most).

As part of RSS awareness day, I do hope that some of you will try using RSS at least once. I was skeptical of it once as well, but I have not regretted switching to RSS (aside from the time that it can consume when you get engrossed in reading). Trust me when I say it’s made information a lot more accessible, and that it makes reading the internet a lot more efficient for me.

For more on RSS, Lifehacker has a post that shows the pros and cons of desktop and online news readers.

Some interesting RSS feeds:

For basketball fanatics, the aforementioned TrueHoop blog, Basketbawful, SLAMONLINE, and FREE DARKO are all great for analysis and news, though not really for results (for that I’d recommend just visiting Yahoo’s NBA page, which is faster than NBA.com by a longshot). I’d also mention Heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com, a website made by a disgruntled Cavs fan, but since Larry has been traded to the Bulls, the site is no longer updated. I’d still recommend reading through the archives at least once, though.

For the technologically-obsessed, there’s Lifehacker, the Download Squad, Giveaway of the Day, Quick Online Tips, and Appscout.

For humor, comic feeds like CTRL+ALT+DEL and Penny Arcade are both interesting webcomics on gaming. The FAIL Blog and I Can Has Cheezburger? are pioneers in this category as well.

For a pinoy twist, Jessica Zafra has a regularly updated blog, and a directory of Pinoy blogs exists (here’s another list). Other Filipino sites I’ve subscribed to are Philmusic.com (all-around Philippine music site), Raincontreras.com (Music Podcasts), Otistikako (Music Reviews, though it is no longer updated), and Tabachoi (Music Commentary, rarely updated though).

As a shameless plug, I’d ask for readers to subscribe to this site as well. Hale’s new album is next up, so you can use RSS to find out when it’s up, as soon as it is up.

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