If you sometimes miss your favorite TV shows because you forget when they air, mytvrss has a novel and easy-to-use solution. You simply check the boxes for any shows you want reminders for and it creates a custom RSS feed for you. Then add it your feed reader and you’ll get an update the day an episode is airing plus some background information.

Here’s an example of the reminder for a recent episode of The Office:

The Office S06E10 Shareholders Meeting
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:00 PM

Title: “Shareholders Meeting”
Air date: 11/19/2009

Episode summary on
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Kudos to the folks behind the site for creating a dead simple and unobtrusive solution to one of life’s little annoyances.

What is RSS?

What is RSS exactly? Maybe this question has been answered satisfactorily before now, but I’m going to give it a try as well. As I said before, I want to occasionally write posts that explain things in non technical, why-is-this-useful-to-me terms. So it makes sense that the first one of these (tagged “non-techy“) is about RSS itself.

In my mind, the simplest explanation of RSS is that it’s sort of like plumbing or electrical wiring. They are in the walls of your home and available at any time. You can use water or electricity for a million different things, but plumbing or wiring don’t do anything all by themselves. But you’re glad you have power and water because they your clothes washer and dryer are useless without them.

So in this analogy, RSS is simply a way of delivering information to you in the same way that pipes and wires deliver water and electricity to you. Similarly, RSS doesn’t do anything all by itself. With home utilities there are three main components: the producer, the conduit and the consumer. Essentially, the water has to come from somewhere else, has to have a way to get to you and you need a way to use it.

The same goes for RSS, like so:

Producer Conduit Consumer
Electricity Power Plant Wiring Toaster
Water Water Company Pipes Faucet
RSS Information Source RSS Feed RSS Reader

So for to use RSS to deliver information you need:

  1. An information source, such as a website
  2. A RSS feed, which is a web address like typically provided by the website with a button
  3. A RSS reader, which is a tool to gather all that information over time from RSS feeds and present that information to you

And that’s pretty much what RSS is. I plan on creating future entries explaining each of the three items above in further detail and also explaining what is meant by “flavors” of RSS and what RSS is good for.

But wait, what does RSS actually stand for?!? The answer is there’s no one definitive answer. It could stand for “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary”, but honestly I don’t think it matters anymore. These days RSS is a catch-all term that encompasses the whole idea of delivering information to you as new pieces are created rather than a specific technology or term.

What is All Things RSS?

Since this is the first post on All Things RSS, I guess it’s best to spell out the intentions I have for the site. I want ATR to be a great place for:

  • Discovering new or novel ways of using RSS
  • Covering both personal and enterprise RSS use
  • News on RSS-centric software, services, applications and tools
  • Tips and techniques on getting the most and relevant useful information out of RSS feeds

I’ve been interested in RSS personally and professionally for many years and have been the maintainer of the free, open-source rss2email project for quite some time. Even now, years after RSS has gone mainstream, people are still cooking up new and better ways to produce, synthesize and receive information through RSS. My goal with All Things RSS is to motivate me to keep up with new developments and trends around RSS and use the site as a place to collect, report, analyze and explain.

In my day-job life, I always have to wear two hats: one technical, one not.  I’d like to continue that pattern here by occasionally stepping back from the buzzwords to give less-technical explanations of why this or that aspect of RSS is cool and why it’s useful to you. RSS can be fun if you know your Perl, Python or PHP but there are plenty of great ways to make information delivery easier for the folks who don’t want or need to know the gory details.

So that’s it: a quick summary of what I hope to use the site for. Welcome aboard and we’ll see what happens next.

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