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Making an RSS Feed

Everyday more and more websites, news services and blogs are adding RSS content. RSS is a method of syndicating content.The concept of aggregating content in one central location or repository is very appealing. Consumers have become tired of push technology, RSS allows users the flexibility to regain control of their content. RSS feed creators provide content without forcing it on consumers. In fact with RSS consumers are able to choose the content they wish to view.

How to Make an RSS Feed
RSS feeds contain what are referred to as "items". The items are usually connected in some way and contain a common theme or other similarity.

The following feed http://www.notepage.net/feed.xml contains eight items. The items are all SMS and paging related news articles that would likely benefit someone interested in the wireless market.

Each item contains:

  • title
  • description
  • link

The title and description should be written to describe the content and the link should reference the webpage that contains that actual content.

Like html, the xml file uses open and close tags to designate the title, description and link. Tags are enclosed in brackets <>, like standard html and the close tag contains a forward slash /.

The following is what an item in a xml file looks like:

<title>The Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>The description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.linkgoeshere.com</link>

As I mentioned earlier, an RSS feeds contains items and like the tags above, an open and close tag is used to distinguish between items.

<item>
<title>The Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>The description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.linkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

<item>
<title>Another Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>Another description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.anotherlinkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

Now an RSS Feed is a series of items, these items are chained together to create what is called a "Channel".

The Channel appears at the top of the file and tells people how the items relate to each other. Like items channels use title, description and link tags to describe its content. The open channel tag <chanel> occurs before the first item and the close tag </channel> occurs after the last item.

<channel>
<title>The Channel Title Goes Here</title>
<description>The explanation of how the items are related goes here</description>
<link>http://www.directoryoflinksgohere</link>

<item>
<title>The Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>The description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.linkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

<item>
<title>Another Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>Another description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.anotherlinkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

</channel>

Finally you will need to designate the file by indicating it is an XML file by inserting xml and rss defining tags at the beginning and </rss> at the very end.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>

<title>The Channel Title Goes Here</title>
<description>The explanation of how the items are related goes here</description>
<link>http://www.directoryoflinksgohere</link>

<item>
<title>The Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>The description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.linkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

<item>
<title>Another Title Goes Here</title>
<descritpion>Another description goes here</description>
<link>http://www.anotherlinkgoeshere.com</link>
</item>

</channel>
</rss>

When you save the file be sure to save it as an xml file.

Warning
If you create the file using Dreamweaver or a similar tool becareful that it does not strip out tags it feels are redundant. In order to be be an RSS feed your file needs at bare minimum that tags that were discussed above, and the file will not be valid if tags are stripped out.

I found a cool little free program that helped in xml file creation called First Object Editor http://www.firstobject.com/

If the above seems difficult consider using FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com , software that makes creating, editing and publishing RSS easy.

Validation
As my math teacher use to say, check your work! Once your file is complete and uploaded einter it into the feed validator at http://feedvalidator.org

Syndication / Submission
If you've made it this far you are in good shape it is time to "syndicate" your content! Submit your RSS feed (the xml file you created) to sites just like you would submit a web page. Some of the more popular sites that accept RSS files can be found at:
http://www.rss-specifications.com/rss-submission.htm

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc. http://www.notepage.net and FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com. Other resource sites by Sharon can be found at http://www.softwaremarketingresource.com and http://www.rss-specifications.com

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This article may be used freely in opt-in publications and websites, provided that the resource box is included and the links are active. A courtesy copy of the issue or a link to any online posting would be greatly appreciated send an email to sharon@notepage.net .

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