Give Me Ten Minutes and I’ll Make You an RSS Believer

Legal professionals are massive consumers of Internet information, who are also pressed for time. So the ability to sift through that information in a fast, efficient manner makes life easier. That’s what RSS provides. RSS is an underlying technology; you don’t have to know its inner workings to use it. RSS is used by feed aggregators, which are websites that collect and filter news. It is also used by feed readers, which are desktop applications that do essentially the same thing.

Check Out Feeds in NewsGator Online

Try it out right now. Go to the feed aggregator NewsGator Online and look at the top stories. This is interesting, but not much different from Yahoo! News. Things get much more compelling when we go deeper.

Feedgator folders Look at the little folders in the upper left corner of the screen. The number in parenthesis shows you the number of articles for a given feed or folder full of feeds. Click on the “Technology” link. The folder list opens up, revealing four news sources: Engadget, FlickrBlog, Scobelizer, and TechCrunch. Click on the “Engadget” link.

Feedgator folder opened In the main page area you’ll see the latest stories from Engadget, which is a website for people who are really into electronic gadgets. Each story contains a short abstract, so you can tell whether you want to read the story or not. You can do the same thing with FlickrBlog, Scobelizer, and TechCrunch. In short order, you can scan through dozens of articles. When you see one you like, click on the article title to read the whole article.

Add Law-Related Feeds

Let’s assume you want to check out articles about IP law. NewsGator by default doesn’t include feeds for law-related news and blogs. Thankfully it is easy to add feeds to the list. Just click on the “Add Feeds” link in the upper left corner of the NewsGator page, above the folder list.

We’ll use the “Browse by Category” option to find a few feeds. Click on the “Law” link. The Law page asks you to select a subcategory. Select “Technology Law” and you’ll be sent to a page with a handful of blogs. Follow the “Internet Cases” row to the right and click the “subscribe” button. Notice that the feed for the Internet Cases blog now shows up in the feed list in the upper left corner of the NewsGator page.

This is a good start, but you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Tech LawForum feed, would you? In the main screen area, note the grey tabs, one of which is titled “URL and Import.” You have three options for the TLF feed. Enter your preferred feed address from this list into the “Feed URL” box:

add Tech LawForum to FeedGator After you hit the “Add Feed” button, the feed will show up in your My Feeds folder list. It may have a strange number like [Feed 1324668]. Once you click on the feed link, the NewsGator page will refresh and you’ll see the feed’s proper title.

Register with NewsGator

At this point hopefully you’re seeing the value of RSS feeds, and you want to register for NewsGator’s free service. Click the “Register” link in the right corner of the screen and fill in the mercifully brief registration form.

Remove Unwanted Feeds

Once you’ve registered, you may want to get rid of many of the default feeds. Select a feed folder or individual feed and right-click to unsubscribe.

Add Feeds On the Fly

News websites and blogs almost universally have RSS feeds now. The next time you come across a website that looks like a worthy addition to your feed list, there are a couple of ways you can go about it.

  1. Some sites will display a NewsGator button. Just click the button to add the site to your NewsGator feed list.
  2. All sites with a feed will have a text link that says “Add Feed,” “Subscribe,” “RSS Feed,” or something similar. They may also display an orange RSS feed button. When you find the feed link or button on a site, right-click on the link to copy it. Then go to “Add Feeds” in NewsGator and paste the feed URL into the form. This sounds time-consuming, but in practice it only takes a few seconds.

That’s Just the Beginning

As you might expect, NewsGator isn’t the only game in town. Google, Yahoo!, and many other players provide free online feed aggregation services. There are also many desktop feed readers, many of which are free. For a more in-depth discussion of RSS and how you can use it to best advantage, check outC|Net’s RSS primer. You can do much more with RSS feeds than simply read the latest news. Tom Mighell and Dennis Kennedy put together an even more detailed primer on RSS that explains RSS more fully. Advanced users create custom feeds, integrate feeds into their own blogs, and perform other wizardry. Once you start with RSS, you’ll wonder how you ever used the Web without it.