I’ll just spit it out: RSS is the best thing on the internet that you aren’t using. You probably don’t even know it exists.
Wow. This is a tough one. Let’s start with what RSS is:
- RSS stands for three words that absolutely no one cares about and don’t help anyone 
- RSS gives you a way to follow all the content published on your favorite sites
- It is the answer to the “I like this site a lot but how am I going to remember to check for updates?” problem
- It is also the answer to the “I have a few minutes free and want to look at some internet but I’m not sure what to look at” problem
- Oh, it is also the answer to the “I want to spend my time doing something more educational/valuable/entertaining/tailored than checking Facebook” problem
- RSS apps are where I spend the majority of my internet free time. Seriously, it is like better internet
- It has been around for over 15 years so, wow, you really haven’t heard of it?
TL;DR - RSS tracks and collects all the updates from your favorite sites so you never miss anything and always have something to read.
The price for this little gem? Zero dollars. You can login on Feedly and then spend the rest of your RSS days never paying anything. Feedly makes money if you decide you want pro features. I still don’t use the pro features.
But, hopefully your bullshit meters are going off. If RSS is so great and is so free then really there must be SOME thing wrong with it. Why isn’t everyone using it? Why aren’t YOU using it?
You aren’t using RSS for two reasons.
- There is no company motivated and incentivized to get you to use RSS. No company owns RSS. It is a free and open standard
- RSS has a learning curve
If RSS was owned by a company then they would be advertising and trying to make the on boarding process easy for you. Instead, if you want to get started with RSS you will be faced with a blank wall of nothing. Cool. You sign up and your reward is nothing. People never get started with RSS because it only works if you figure out which sites you actually want to follow . So one way RSS could suck is if you can’t find any sites you care about reading.
Oh, but that isn’t all. If you just follow a ton of giant sites indiscriminately then RSS will also suck for you because you will be overwhelmed by a flood of low quality content and will spend all your time skipping things. The best way to use RSS is to only follow sites where you actually might want to read everything they right .
So, what I want you to know is that RSS is this amazing free technology that helps you follow your favorite sites and always have things that you want to read. It is great. But it only works if you carefully curate the sites that you follow and give it some time.
Here is the part where I ask you to think. Are there any sites that you like so much that you would would want to see everything they post? Maybe you like this site . If you stumbled across this site and liked the footnotes or the pictures or whatever, then it is even possible that you thought “I like this, I would want to see more of this whenever there is more of this published”. What do you do in that situation? Bookmark the site and try to remember to come back to it? Subscribe via email and get stupid emails every time a new post goes up? Follow on Twitter or Facebook and hope to not miss updates?
All of those options are hot trash. No friend. You don’t do any of those. You open up your RSS app and subscribe to this website. Whenever new content is published it will be there in your RSS app. Then, when you are waiting for the subway, waiting in line at the grocery store, at work and sneaking some escape on your phone, or whatever  you can just open your RSS app and there is a list of things that you want to read waiting for you.
So, back to the thinking. Are there any sites that you like enough that you would want to know when they have updates. All of their updates. Not that you have to read everything, but where you would at least read most of the articles and at least glance at all of the titles. The best sites for RSS are the ones that don’t update too often. Daily updates? ok, fine I guess. Weekly updates? Perfect. RSS will make sure you never miss those updates. Can you think of any? One? Two? Well whatever, I’ll write a short follow up with some sites I like on RSS to help.
Enough thinking, time to get going. The free-est and therefore best place for you to get started is Feedly. Head over there, login to get started, then grab their iPhone app while you're at it. Yes, just login as if you already have an account. If you want to pay them money then sure, go ahead and do that, but otherwise no need to create an account, just login like you belong there. I use google to login. Feel free to use Facebook or whatever, it doesn’t matter and they don’t get access to anything. It is just a login. Now, if you are RSSing on your laptop you can do it at feedly.com if you are on your phone then you will like the app.
To add more sites just use the search in the upper right corner. If the site is popular then just typing the name in will bring it up and let you add it to the list of sites you follow. If there aren’t many subscribers, like ::cough:: this site  then you may have to search for the site by address or even by rss address. If you look at most sites you will find that they have an rss feed address stashed somewhere for you to use. Here it isn’t really stashed so much as super blatant. Just scroll up to the top and copy the address under that “RSS” link next to ABOUT.
Basically your goal should be to sign up for a small handful of sites that you actually really want to read. Five? That’s a cool number. Two? That isn’t very many. I currently follow 56. That sounds like a lot but most of them publish less than once a week. Some less than once a month. I’ve also been using RSS for years, so I’ve built up that list over time and actively delete any site that fails the “I want to read the majority of these posts” test.
Then… well then you read stuff. Feedly will show you a bunch of recent posts from each site you add, but the main attraction is to let it fill up with new updates and come back in a day or two when you have time. Tada. New posts with things that you want to read.
If you really get into it, like me, then you might someday spend a few bucks on an RSS reader app. I did and my RSS reader is my most used app. No rush on that, but if you already use RSS and hate read this whole thing just to see how I try to convince people to use RSS then I’ll link to my iOS RSS reader of choice so you can hate that too. Reeder. Reeder is amazing. You should think about those hate issues though.
It stands for Rich Site Summary or sometimes Really Simple Syndication. Great. Thanks people who name things with really shitty names. That doesn’t help anyone ↩
You don’t even really set up an account, you just act like you already have one and login with google or facebook ↩
Twitter is struggling with this exact problem ↩
This one! Please god let it be this one! ↩
Ok, there are some people who happily follow a ton of sites and never get through everything in their RSS feeds. But those people lead miserable lives of self doubt and loathing. Don’t be those people ↩
You don’t, but come one, at least be polite and nod or something. I’m right here ↩
Is this a subliminal message? Is it working? Fucking subscribe already ↩
yes, I know that everyone brings their phones to the bathroom and I got over it in 2010. If you are reading this on the crapper then I am kind of impressed that you are making the extra effort to check the footnotes while you do your thing ↩
Awwwww mega :( :( :( :( ↩
I’m making a lot of assumptions about people actually wanting to do any of this ↩
Or Tada, nothing! Like I said, the on boarding for RSS is the challenge. It just takes time to find sites that you actually want to read or to remember the sites you found in the past but forgot about ↩