RSS Feeds: New Writers, New Audiences

Definition

One of the projects I’m pursuing within this blog is to explore new reading/writing technologies. The technology I’ve chosen to explore first is an RSS feed. (A more thorough definition.) Simply put, RSS feeds are like little notices that websites send out when their content changes. There are basically two types of sites (with exceptions) that make up most RSS-enabled sites: news sites like CNN.com or NYTimes.com) or blogs (Lessig.org or DMAC 2008).

Application

One of the reasons this technology is so great is that you don’t have to visit a site all the time to know when there’s something new to read. Getting those updates is easy. There are two ways to do it. You can either install a program called a feed-reader on your computer to check for feeds and download them periodically (FeedReader3 or SurfPack), or you can get an account at a feed-reading website (GoogleReader or BlogLines). Then you can either open the software on your computer to check for updates to your favorite sites, or you can visit your web account and do the same.

Reading-Writing-Rhetoric-Composition Thoughts

Disciplinary Awareness: More efficient participation with specific disciplinary interests. As more people in Rhet-Comp begin to blog their professional experiences and reflections, we will have the opportunity to rethink the knowledge-making process in our discipline. There are already many blogs out there sharing this work, and the ranks continue to fill. As a given reader finds more blogs relevant to her interests, she can set up an RSS reader to notify her when new content is available from those sites. Much more efficient than visiting all those sites periodically, only to find that most of the content hasn’t changed on most of them. RSS feeds might foster more conversations, both formal and informal, within and beyond the discipline. Furthermore, as the number of Rhet-Comp blogs grows, so will specific discussion pockets about pedagogy-scholarship.

Audience: Writers can deliver their content directly to their readers. It used to be that writer set their content adrift on a vast sea of websites (often deeply buried in Google’s search results), hoping that someone would read it, link to it, or be referred to it. Now, when someone updates their site or blog, they virtually knock on their reader’s door to deliver it. That’s not to say that the old method is dead, but there are new reading strategies emerging. Successful bloggers and newsites incorporate those new notions of audience into their rhetorical strategies.

I’ve included a set of detailed directions for getting yourself started with a simple feed reader.

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