Archive for : October, 2015

Blogging Basics-What is the need of RSS/Atom feeds?


What the heck is it?

RSS, as it turns out was initially Rich Site Summary, a way to deliver web content that changes regularly as the nature of web changed from a predominantly static one to dynamic one over the years. There was a need to keep the contents of a website updated and the users informed. Over the time, Rich Site Summary got transformed into Really Simple Syndication, over the period of time through a number of upgrades and feature additions and improvements.

In the words of Wikipedia …

RSS feeds enable publishers to syndicate data automatically. A standard XML file format ensures compatibility with many different machines/programs. RSS feeds also benefit users who want to receive timely updates from favourite websites or to aggregate data from many sites.

Subscribing to a website RSS removes the need for the user to manually check the website for new content. Instead, their browser constantly monitors the site and informs the user of any updates. The browser can also be commanded to automatically download the new data for the user.

So, fairly speaking RSS/Atom is a way to deliver the contents of your website or blog to the internet, the people, and ofcourse, to what are called feed aggregators and also content scraper sites which essentially take hold of your RSS/Atom feeds, copy the contents and then republish the same in order to be ranked in search engine results (SERP’s), which, in some cases could prove harmful for your own blog/website as such contents might appear to the search engine bots to be duplicate and thus a low ranked site like your blog might get hit in search engine results. Anyhow, delivering your contents over RSS/Atom feeds is a pretty important way to keep your blog readers engaged with your site. You might ask how? This works in a simple way. There are two different parts to this. The Feed needs to be generated to be consumed. This has to be done by specialized software applications that keep a track of changes on your blog/website and do the required work to transform your content rich blogpost into a easily readable and consumable feed. This can be done with the help of applications like Google’s FeedBurner, a free to use application that lets you “Burn the Feeds” out of your blog/website’s contents. This essentially formats the content into a compatible format required for RSS/Atom feeds, and makes it available for users to subscribe to. Now, whenever you make a new blogpost, the feed burning software converts the contents into the required format to make it available in RSS/Atom formats, and updates and informs all the subscribers about the new update.

With this, we now come to the second part of RSS/Atom Feeds, Feed subscription. For a user to be informed about the new updates on your blog/website, a user needs to be subscribed to your blog’s RSS/Atom feeds. This helps the user be informed about the updates on your blog/website without even visiting your site. The user, if he/she wants can read the contents there itself using specialized applications like Feed Readers, a number of which come for a variety of platforms ranging from Desktop to Mobile based applications. Apart from that, a number of these feed burners like Google’s FeedBurner allows users to subscribe to the blog/website, by providing their email addresses, which means that whenever there is an update on the blog/website they subscribed to, the same is sent to them over email. This does have a downside and that is that in such a scenario, if the content is served right to the user, by the means of the application (feed readers), or email, there’s a small possibility that the user might not visit your site for updates. This is however is better than the user forgetting and not visiting your site, isn’t it? There are ways to try and ensure that users come back to your site if the content feels interesting. The blogger can do a small trick and give just a part of the content in the RSS/Atom feeds so that just a small excerpt of the blogpost is delivered over in the RSS feed, and if a user is interested, they will come to your blog/site to check out the post. Though this is not something everyone likes, as who doesn’t like things easily offered to them at their ease?

Proceeding further, we took a series of screenshots to help you burn feeds of your blog for consumption by the public, using Google’s FeedBurner, one of the most widely used FeedBurner services available, mostly because it’s just as good as it could have been and the icing on the cake being FeedBurner being completely free to use. Depending upon your previous blogs and feeds you have already burnt using your Google account, FeedBurner will show you the list of other feeds that it is currently serving once you log in with your Google account on

Add a new feed in FeedBurner:

  1. Just as the screengrab below, you will be presented with the FeedBurner home page once you log in. If you already have feeds added in FeedBurner, you will be displayed the list along with the feed title and the number of subscribers all these feeds have. To add another feed, all you have to do is just enter the address of your blog in the text box provided.
    Add a new Feed in Feedburner

    Add a new Feed in Feedburner

  2. Once you enter the address of your blog (for which you want to add a new feed) in the text box provided, and hit Next >> you will be taken to a second page to verify the source of the feed to use in order to build a new feed for your blog in FeedBurner. Remember, this source is the one created by your blogging platform by structuring and formatting the dynamic contents of your blog in the format specified for the respective feed format (RSS or Atom) You may choose either of the two.
    Feedburner - Add feed source

    Feedburner – Add feed source

  3. The next step verifies the blog address and the feed addresses and now gives you the option to customize a few things like the Title of the Feed and the address at which your blog’s feed will be available on. You can customize both (subject to availability of the address, in case of the feed url).
    Feedburner - Finalize Feed

    Feedburner – Finalize Feed

  4. You click Next>> and your new blog’s FeedBurner feed is live. You get some additional options to monitor your feed and the statistics associated with your blog’s feeds in the next screen.
    Feedburner - Finalizing the feeds with options

    Feedburner – Finalizing the feeds with options

  5. And you are done.
    FeedBurner - Feed added

    FeedBurner – Feed added

 So, finally, getting to the point, Why should I create (burn) an RSS/Atom feed? It may have different uses from perspectives of a user, a visitor and on part of the owner or the person behind the blog/website. For a regular reader/visitor/user/consumer, an subscribing to RSS/Atom feed is like your daily subscription of the newspaper. Everything else can fail but not the Newspaper delivery into your home. Your feedreader makes sure that you don’t miss on to any content, posted anywhere on the web, at any time (of course, if you have subscribed to and since the time you have subscribed to). This works like a newspaper. It collects all the news (content) from everywhere and delivers it to you, every single day, without fail. Which essentially means that you don’t miss out on your favourite stuff, on your favourite website/blog as soon as it gets updated with new content, without even needing you to check it out. As for the Blog/Website owner, it’s a great tool to reach out to the potential reader base. It is obviously easier to send your readers emails as soon as you publish that stunning article you worked on for a good 3 hours, or that long story that you have been writing for the entire last week. Feed burner applications like Google’s FeedBurner manage all of it. All you have to do is to make it available for the visitors to subscribe to your site’s feeds, and they get delivered all of your latest content, over mail, or over an update in their favourite RSS readers.

With this, we believe, we just added a bit to help you blog better. Do let us know of your responses in the comments below.

Blogging basics-Adding Tables

By now, you must have got a lot of idea about blogging. Blogging is not just about putting together your thoughts and publishing it all online. It’s a lot more than that. Especially, when you have plans to and you aspire to be read by people, you need to take this quite seriously. A lot of times, a blogpost required you to add some data to make certain things clearer to your readers, more importantly, adding a pinch of genuinity to what you have written. Adding some data to support your writeup does wonders (given that the data that you have added is correct). A general rule of thumb one should always follow is to quote the source of text, if you are using any external data, while using such data in your blogs. This allows the readers to check out the data source themselves, if they would want to, further adding to your trustworthiness.

Now, the problem arises when you are required to add such data in your blogs. By default, most of the blogging platforms, including some of the most popular platforms like WordPress and Blogger do not have a native support for adding tables to a blogpost. By native support, we mean to say that neither WordPress nor blogger gives you-the user, an option to add a table at the click of a button. This means either you have to add a plugin in WordPress to be able to add a table and display the data in a tabular form, or you do this by inserting HTML code for table with all the data in it. Now, the question is, for a regular user who is not very comfortable with HTML and stuff, which, most of the blogging community is initially is not, what would they do? Even, for experienced users who are pretty much comfortable with HTML markups and codes, adding a table by the means of code is a daunting task which becomes a pain if the data to be displayed is large. Thus for everyone, there has to be a workaround for this daunting task of adding tabular data in blogposts.

So, for everyone who, at some point in time or the other felt the need to display some tabular data in their blogs, and ended up doing that in either a crude form, by the help of an image, or using MS Excel or some other spreadsheet application. Now the problem in using a spreadsheet application to make your table and then use it in the form of HTML code is the fact that when converted to HTML, any data coming from MS office applications have tonnes of unnecessary code that makes your blogpost a bigger html file to load on a computer, and thus makes your blog slow. To get this done easily with a little effort, we are here with a pretty easy and faster solution. Tableizer! If you follow this blog, you probably might recall us telling you about Tableizer, among some other tools useful in blogging in a previous post.

Tableizer Home page

Tableizer Home page

How to use it? It’s pretty easy. All you have do is, prepare your table on a spreadsheet application like MS Excel, copy it from there and paste it all here in the box provided on the tableizer page. Post that, you can setup a few options like Font Size, Colour of the table header i.e. the first row of the table which usually holds all the column names, and fonts names to be used in the CSS style for the table. You can alternatively tell tableizer not to use any CSS styles for the table by checking the No CSS Styles checkbox. Once you are done, Tableize It! and you will get the HTML code to be added to your blogpost which, when rendered will be displayed as a properly formatted table with all the data in it. To help you go through this easily, here we are demonstrating the steps.

    1. Prepare your data table in MS Excel or any other spreadsheet program you like.
      Tabular Data in MS Excel

      Tabular Data in MS Excel

    2. Once the data is ready in the spreadsheet application, copy it from there and paste it in the box provided in the tableizer page. You can set up the options to customize the look and feel of the table.
      Tableizer in Action

      Tableizer in Action

    3. Once everything is done, you have to click the button Tableize it! and it’s done. You will get the HTML code of the table and a visual display of the table that is created.
      The Tableizer Output

      The Tableizer Output

    4. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can copy the HTML code shown in the above screenshot. You will need to paste this code in your blogger blog’s HTML section of your blogpost. The same result can be achieved by placing the HTML code in the Text section in WordPress while writing a blogpost.
      Table code in blogger blogpost

      Table code in blogger blogpost

    5. Save and publish the blogpost, and you will get the desired table in the blogpost with all the formatting displayed as was expected.
Blogpost with added table

Blogpost with added table

So, with this, we conclude this small post to help you add a table in your blogposts, with ease, without wasting too much time in formatting everything from top to bottom, and then pulling out your hair in frustration when it doesn’t work the way you wanted. Do let us know if you find this post helpful, and also, in case you know better ways to add tables in blogposts, afterall, we all are here to share knowledge with each other.