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© 2004 Delphi Plus Members Lounge
An RSS primer used with the permission
of the Zone Gazette on Delphi Forums.


Exploring and Learning about Delphi Forums
RSS: A Primer for the Beginner

You might have noticed a little orange icon on some webpages recently, that says either RSS or XML. XML You click on it, and get a bunch of nonsense coding. What the heck is that? What it is, is the coding for an RSS feed, and it's all much simpler than it looks. First - trust me on this - ignore all that coding!
The only thing you're interested in, is the URL that appears in the address window, when you click the little orange button. If you're like me, you got discouraged, because no one bothered to explain it to you - the RSS beginner.

What is RSS?
Let's start at the very beginning. RSS is RDF Site Summary, or Rich Site Summary (RDF is Resource Description Format), or Really Simple Syndication, depending on whose explanation you're reading. Let's just think of it as Really Simple Syndication, since that's what we want - really simple. What it really is, is a headline with a link, and (usually) a short summary of what the link contains. On Delphi, there is no summary - what shows is the thread title, and the number of messages that thread currently contains, or if you're using My Yahoo, the date the last message was posted.

Well, then what's XML?
XML is eXtensible Markup Language. Think of XML as the newer version of HTML that you might already be familiar with.

Why would I want to use it?
The advantage to using an RSS reader, is that you can check for activity in forums, your favorite news sources, your calendar, or your favorite blog quickly and easily, all without having to actually go to the webpage or site. For sites with lots of ads and graphics, it's a real bonus!

I don't understand - how do I see it?
You need to either download an RSS reader, or use an online one to see the XML feeds. See the end of this article for some suggestions on readers. What you'll likely see, are either two, or three frames in your RSS browser window. The left frame, should give you a list of webpages to choose from. As you find new sites you want to add, you'll click on the orange XML button, get the URL, and add it to your reader.
The right frame will show you the summaries, and also the content, if you click on the choice in the left frame. (Example is shown below.)

RSS on Delphi
RSS feeds are currently in open beta testing on Delphi. Here's the announcement:

"Delphi Forums is pleased to announce that Forum discussions are now available as RSS feeds.

RSS technology allows you to keep up with your favorite Web sites right from your desktop. A growing number of sites, especially blogs and news sites, offer RSS feeds. With an RSS reader on your desktop, you can read the "headlines" from multiple Web sites without visiting each one individually. (With Delphi's RSS feeds, each discussion title is a headline.) When you see something that interests you, you select that item to read more.

There are two main types of RSS readers—special software that you use only to read RSS feeds, and add-ons that you can install to allow your existing Web browser or email software to read RSS feeds CNET's Download.com has several RSS readers, some free, that you can download). Some personalized Web portals like Yahoo's "My Yahoo!" service allow you to include RSS feeds in your personalized content.

An RSS feed is basically a page on the Internet with some special code in it that allows it to be read by RSS readers. Click here to see what the RSS feed of the Member Service Forum looks like. What you'll see a bunch of computer code. That's OK, because what you really need is the Web address (URL) of the RSS feed in order to add it to your RSS reader. You'll see that URL in the address box of your Web browser when you click on an RSS feed. Once you have the RSS feed's address, you'll need to consult the user guide for your reader in order to figure out how to add the feed to your favorites."

Delphi's RSS feeds are still new, so if you have any problems or comments, please post them in the Hosts' Forum so we can improve the service.

Do I put an RSS feed link on my start page, my webpage, or what? How do I see the RSS feed?
First, you'll need an RSS reader to see the feed. Think of this as a special news reader browser. While some might come as plug-ins installed in your browser, most are a stand-alone browser-type format. If you use My Yahoo, they have an RSS viewer built in, and you can add your favorite Delphi Forums to your My Yahoo page. To get the codes for your forum, click on the attachment in this message. Once you get the URL code, your RSS reader will have a place to insert the URL.

How can I make an RSS feed to just show the messages in one folder?
You can specify a folder by adding "&folders=1" to the URL to limit the display to items from folder #1, for example. You can also change the number of latest discussions by adding "&count=10" to display up to the 10 latest discussions (any number from 1 to 10 will work). If you want to display more than 1 folder, but not all of them, seperate the folder numbers with a comma.

Private folders and private forums will not show on your RSS feeds, so no need to worry that your confidential information will be displayed.

What reader should I get?
Check the list at CNet, but here are a few things we've found:

  • Sage (an RSS/Atom reader) installed in Firefox
  • Active Web Reader is free from Deskshare, is very simple to use, and contains a pop up blocker.
  • Bloglines has a web-based RSS viewer, that will also search for your favorite blogs or other XML feeds. This means no downloads are involved. You just sign in, and update your feeds.
  • Opera has an RSS feed already installed in their mail program.

Create a Calendar with RSS
Create your own forum, family, or group calendar at RSSCalendar.

Here's one we created for the Zone Gazette.

Create an XML button using no image at all:
XML


[a href="http://acx.prospero.com/dir-app/acx/activeContent.aspx?
webtag=hosts&type=discussions&fmt=rss"]
[span style="font-family: verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; font-weight:bold;
text-decoration:none; color: white; background-color: #F60; border:1px solid;
border-color: #FC9 #630 #330 #F96; padding:0px 3px 0px 3px; margin:0px;"]XML[/span][/a]

Replace brackets with < >, and your webtag where it says hosts. Also, we have inserted <br /> tags into the URL to avoid stretching the screen display, you will want to remove those for actual use.

Add your forum RSS feed to My Yahoo:
Add to My Yahoo


[a href="http://add.my.yahoo.com/rss?
url=http%3A%2F%2Facx%2Eprospero%2Ecom%2Fdir%2Dapp%2Facx%2FactiveContent%2Easpx%3F
webtag%3Dhosts%26type%3Ddiscussions%26fmt%3Drss"]
[img border=0 src="http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/us/my/addtomyyahoo2.gif"][/a]

Please be sure to let us know how we can help you learn more about RSS and XML.

Additional resources:
RSS Feeds from AARP
Introduction to RSS News Feeds



© 2004 Delphi Plus Members Lounge. The above article, copyright of The Zone Gazette, on Delphi Forums was used with permission.


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