‘For Kids’ Tutorial: RSS

Allright, so if some of you keep up with tech news any at all, you may have heard the ‘Web 2.0’ term used in reference to stuff like Facebook or Myspace.  This is basically talking about a great new trend on the web during that time in which users have a lot more interaction with sites and the other people that use them.  It also means that the web is making itself more usable, giving you many more ways that you can customize it the way that you like.

One of the main ways that web designers and developers are making this happen is through RSS.  This stands for a lot of things for different people, but one of the most common use is “Real Simple Syndication”.  RSS is sort of an advanced form of HTML that makes up its own tags so that it can be recognized to a lot of different programs such as an RSS news reader or even iTunes.  RSS allows you to import content from a site in many ways.  For a good explanation, take a look at this video..

You can take the RSS feed from this site you are reading right now, for example.  If you are using a newer web browser, you may notice the following logo to the left in your address bar.  For example, The RSS feed for my site is right here.  You can plug that address into any one of these RSS reader programs, or perhaps Google Reader, a cool service that can do this for you online through any computer.  Once you do this, like the video says, you’ll be able to read the content of many sites without even actually going to them.

But RSS doesn’t just consist of news.  For something that you’ll probably be way more interested in, I want to introduce you to Twitter, a web application using RSS that is becoming insanely popular.  If you’ve used instant messaging programs like AOL’s AIM or have used text messages on your cell phone, you might already have an idea of what you can do with this.  Think of Twitter as a mix of blogging, text messaging and instant messaging.  Like a text message, you can send a short message to friends, but all of them instead of just one.  Plus, you can do it from your computer instead of a cell phone if you’d like.

But Twitter works best when you “follow” as many friends and information sources as you can.  For an example, check out my “With Friends” section on my Twitter page.  You might see messages from any of my friends or from news sources like CNN or National Public Radio.  Since I am following a lot of people, it changes all the time with new information.  This works much like an RSS reader, but only for these messages.  Also, you can import these messages as an actual RSS feed if you’d like!  Much like instant messaging, you can also send direct messages to friends to ask them questions or to tell them something cool.  All you have to do is add “@username” anywhere inside your message.  For instance,  if you wanted to send me something you could say: “Hey, @Danielrh9 – Did you watch The Simpsons last night?”  The @ symbol is sort of a code that tells Twitter that you are talking to someone directly.  Just like email, you can also send it to multiple people.

Here’s the homework for you guys for the week.  Create a Twitter page tomorrow, and make sure that you all follow each other.  Just be aware of what you post on the internet.  Always remember to never give out your full name, where you live, stuff like that. Create a couple of messages to send to your friends in class, such as a joke or something.  Also, add me to your friends and I’ll send out a preview of what we’ll be doing next week.

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