EL’s Guide to RSS Feeds (or how I learned to stop grouching and love the blog)

Hey guys! I’m writing this post in an effort to make this whole blogging thing more interesting and interactive for everybody.

You all are making some funny, insightful, and generally brilliant entries, so why is nobody commenting on them? Part of the problem is that there’s no good way to keep track of your friends’ new entries like on Tumblr, Facebook or other more conventional blogging sites. If you don’t see the information, you’re not going to comment on it, so the awesome discussions that could be happening simply aren’t. At this point I think we’re all frustrated with feeling like we’re typing into empty air.

Let’s fix that. My proposed solution: an RSS feed.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, an RSS feed is a way to track other people’s new blog entries. Check out my sidebar — the “Fellow Writers” column is a constantly-updating stream of new posts from people who write interesting things. It’s just like your friends page, newsfeed or dashboard on other sites — only this is a feed you have to set up yourself. Unfortunately WordPress is rather obtuse at times and doesn’t have a good built-in system, so last Saturday I sat down and devised a way to make this work.

Follow these steps and you’ll have a feed of your own set up in no time!

 

Setting Up The Feed

1. Go find blogs that you’re interested in tracking. Ask your friends for their addresses, or collect the links of other sites you’d like to follow.

2. Make a list of the blogs’ URLs in a Word or Notepad document for easy access. We’re going to copy and paste them shortly.

3. Add /feed/ to the end of each of the URLs. For example: blogs.is.vt.edu/elower/feed/ .

4. Go to http://rssmix.com/, an easy-to-use site that’ll walk you through the most important part of this process.

5. Copy and paste your list of URLs into the box on the site and hit “Create“.

6. The next screen will tell you that the blogs you’ve been listed have been added. (If a 301 error or another message comes up, that’s okay — try hitting the back button and making sure all your slashes were in the right place.) Under that it will say, “Mix Created! Your new RSS file is here.” Click that link and wait for it to open in a new window.

7. Do not be afraid of the jumbled wall of HTML that appears! It’s harmless, I promise. It’s just the link in the URL that you want. Copy the URL in the searchbar.

 8. Go to your WordPress dashboard. Click on Appearance in the left-hand menu, then click on Widgets.

9. Your RSS Feed widget is probably at the bottom of the screen in the Inactive Widgets list. Click and drag it into one of the sidebar columns on the right-hand side of your screen.

10. Click on the downward-facing triangle on the right side of the RSS Feed widget. This should open it and give you options to enter an RSS feed URL, title your feed, and adjust the number and content of the posts that will show up.

11. Paste your RSS feed’s URL into the appropriate place, think of a clever title, adjust the number of posts to you liking, and then hit save.

12. Go to your blog and check out your newly created feed. Rock on.

 

And that’s it! Now go forth and run snide commentary on one another’s entries and let the actual conversations begin.

If you’ve got any questions about the process, let me know and I’ll do my best to help out. Cheers!

5 Comments

Filed under Blogging About Blogging

5 Responses to EL’s Guide to RSS Feeds (or how I learned to stop grouching and love the blog)

  1. The RSS feed is really shiny and brilliant – though, admittedly I already need to update mine. Also, this is a very good tutorial; much better than the weird babble conversation we had when you discovered this. (Though, that’s mostly because most of my conversations turn into babble when I remember them. Also, I had really no idea what was going on.) One step closer to making WordPress tolerable.

    • Erika

      Yeah, it is mildly annoying to have to go through and change the URL every time you want to add somebody to your feed, but there you go. At least we’re getting somewhere!

  2. Gardner Campbell

    Thanks! Great tutorial. I’ve put it on the motherblog as a page so it’ll be accessible even after the original post scrolls off the front page.

    Two more quick thoughts:

    1. Bloggers can create their own motherblogs if they want to and syndicate their favorite bloggers into that space. Here’s an example: http://blogs.is.vt.edu/lookatit/. In this case, you just make another blog (be sure to sign in first or the system won’t let you proceed) and use the Syndication button on the dashboard to bring in the blogs you want to read.
    2. Google Reader also works well as a way to keep track of blogs and other RSS-feedable stuff.
    3. I’m still working on the premium theme makeover for the motherblog and I’d love to have help and suggestions (google on wordpress premium themes, especially woo themes, and let me know what you think. I hope we can make the motherblog look and feel more interesting, soon.

    Great work! Thanks!

    Dr. C.

    • Erika

      You bring up some good points there — I’ll have to try the syndication page for kicks and see how that works sometime. I’ll check out those themes as well.

      No problem!

  3. Christina

    Hi Erika,

    As you know, I’m a big fan of this WordPress feature, and I think your tutorial is awesome! Between this and Dr. Campbell’s suggestion to make mini-motherblogs, I think this has the potential to help connect these blogs and ourselves more closely than we’ve done already, and I look forward to seeing these feeds on more pages soon.

    Great entry!
    Christina

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