How to create your own RSS feeds

RSS has stood for several things over the years as competing standards have emerged. I feel that Really Simple Syndication is the best abbreviation and I use it to refer to all of the competing standards (which is, I admit, not entirely correct). You have probably seen the little orange feed icon on web sites; if not, look at the left column of this site (assuming you are reading this at my technology and humor site) and you should see the orange icon for each of my RSS feeds. RSS allows people to subscribe to your site and easily tell when it has been updated, or even to read complete articles that you publish without opening their web browser.

To create a feed, you have to create an XML file with any name that you wish, but preferable something that is descriptive of the content that you will be feeding. For instance the RSS feed for my computer tutorials is called http://feeds.feedburner.com/ballweb/UHNG.

Okay, now it is time to get down to business. Open your favorite text editor; notepad, gedit, vim, emacs, joe, edlin, or whatever and type the following:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">

These two lines tell the web server, web browser, and feed reader that the contents are in XML that has been formated to the RSS 2.0 standard. Next type in the following lines:

<channel>
<title>the name of your feed</title>
<description>the description of your feed</description>
<link>the link to your site, or a page on your site</link>

The channel tag tells the XML parser that the following information is for a RSS channel. In my example of the tutorials feed, I use Carson F. Ball's tutorials for the name of the feed, Tutorials written by Carson F. Ball. for the description, and http://carson.ballweb.org/tutorials.php for the link. Next, type the following lines:

<item>
<title>the title of the item</title>
<description>the description of the item</description>
<link>the link to the page containing your item</link>
</item>

You will need one item section for each news item that you wish to place in your feed. Think of the title tag as the headline for your news story. The description tag is typically the first paragraph of a story but could also be the first line or, for short items, the entire article. The link tag provides a link to the page containing the complete story and should be in the form of http://www.mysite.com/page.html. Finally, close all of your open tags by entering the next couple of lines.

</channel>
</rss>

Now all you have to do is to place this file on you web site in the same location as your web pages. To make it easier for people to find your RSS feed, you can use the orange icon found on this (or any other site using it) the link to your feed. Also, many web browsers will let users subscribe to a feed easily (and advertise you feed for you in the address bar) if you add a line to each of your web pages.

Under the head tag of your web pages, enter the following line: <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="the title of your feed" href="the file name of your feed (i.e. http://feeds.feedburner.com/ballweb/UHNG)">. If you have multiple RSS feeds, you may add one of these lines for each of them.

Now you should be all set to give the world summaries of your constantly changing content. If you like this article, don't understand something, or just want to tell me where to subscribe to your news feed, click on the contact link. If you would like to reprint this article in your newsletter, please see my reprint policy.


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Last edited: 2017-09-18

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