About Feeds

Or, "What is that 'XML' button?"

When you see one of these icons -- Link to a feed or Feed Icon -- it means that you can sign up to get the latest news and information from that web site. This is done with something called a "feed," and it can help you tame the overload of information on the web.

Why would I want to do that?

There are a number of reasons you might want to subscribe to a feed:

  • You want to be alerted when something has been added to a site, but you don't want to visit it every day.
  • You want to be able to browse a simple listing of titles, and only read the things that interest you.
  • You want to have a single place on the web where information comes to you, rather than having to go out and browse for it.
  • You need to keep on top of many active sites, but visiting all of them regularly has become a chore.

Who offers feeds?

Many Carleton websites offer feeds, as do many major news sites, like the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC.

How do I subscribe to a feed?

Subscribing to a feed is not like subscribing to a magazine or email newsletter, because you don't need to get anyone's permission or pay a fee. You can usually do it in just a couple of clicks, and you can unsubscribe whenever you want.

There are several tools that you can use to receive the latest information from a site. Here are some of the most popular ways:

  • If you have a My Yahoo or some other personalized home page, you can add the feed to it. The latest entries to the feed will then appear on your home page.
  • If you use the Firefox browser, you can add a feed as a Live Bookmark.
    • A live bookmark automatically gets the feed's latest entries and puts them in your bookmarks or your bookmark bar.
    • Just click on the orange icon (in Firefox 1.5 it's next to the page URL; in Firefox 1.0 it's in the lower-right corner of the window) to create a Live Bookmark.
    • If you put it in your Bookmarks toolbar, it will show up as a menu with the latest entries.
    • More information on Firefox Live Bookmarks
  • If you use the Safari browser, you can read the feed by clicking the blue "RSS" button in the URL area. (RSS is one technical term for a feed.)
    • If you bookmark the feed, Safari will keep track of the feed and tell you how many new items have been added.
  • You can download a Newsreader and use it to subscribe to and read feeds.
    • Newsreaders are separate from your browser, and they often have nice features specifically for browsing feeds -- like showing you which items you have read.
    • Typically, you need to copy the URL of the feed and paste it into your newsreader.
    • There are hundreds of newsreaders. Popular Mac newsreaders are NetNewsWire and NewsFire; popular PC newsreaders are FeedDemon and NewzCrawler.
  • You can set up an online news service for yourself.
    • This is like a newsreader, but because it is part of a website, you can access it from anywhere.
    • One popular news service is Feedly.

Still confused?

Don't worry. Feeds are a new concept that is only gradually taking root on the web. You can contact the Web Services Group if you have any questions about this service.

Not finding a feed you want?

Is there some information on Carleton's website that you would like to subscribe to, but you don't see a feed icon? Please contact the Web Services Group and we'll see if we can help.