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Creating your own RSS Feed

by Tom Johnson on Dec 5, 2006 •
categories: technical-writingweb-design

If you have a traditional website, you can still create an RSS feed for it. The feed file is incredibly simple -- see this site: http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2175271

Basically the RSS files consists of just a few tags: title, description, and link. Each of these three tags is nested in an item tag. All the items collectively are nested in a channel tag. And then there are some generic statements at the top, and a closing rss tag at the bottom. Here are some other resources in creating an RSS file:

Create your feed by filling in a form: http://www.webdevtips.co.uk/webdevtips/codegen/rss.shtml

Strangely, the feed generator added a line of code at the top that made the feed invalid. Easily delete it, though.

Validate your feed: http://feedvalidator.org

XML doesn't allow any errors, so if you messed up one tag, the entire feed doesn't show. That's why it's important to validate the feed.

Convert RSS feed to Javascript so you can paste into an HTML site: http://www.rss-to-javascript.com/p/138.html If you use SharePoint, you can add an RSS feed to it easily via the Smiling Goat Feedreader Web part. Only one major flaw: the Smiling Goat Feedreader doesn't support authenticated feeds. To me, this makes the feedreader almost worthless, because I bet most people use SharePoint behind the company firewall -- in other words, on servers requiring authentication. The only way to get the feedreader to work is by putting your feed file on a public-accessible server. Perhaps the programmers felt this would encourage corporate transparency.

Feeddigest.com also allows you to combine different feeds, but only up to 5. After that, it's a paid model. However, the aggregated feeds are stylish and integrate easily into your site.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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