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In this blog forest professionals around the world share their ideas and experiences on forest information management and sharing with the global forestry community. Besides the blog posts you can find GFIS workshop material here.
03 May · Tue 2011
What is RSS?
RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content
as an RSS Feed for others. RSS allows aggregators, such as GFIS, on the
internet to view and use the information you provide from your website. RSS has
become very popular and widely supported, providing the best way currently
available to promote information from a website.
How can it benefit you?
Simply by providing an RSS feed on your website you benefit in many ways. RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows users to stay easily informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites they possess interest for. If you create separate RSS feeds for your organizations news, events, publications, projects etc. that you wish to promote to others, then users from all over the web can subscribe.
Now they can stay up-to-date with your organization by
getting notifications when you release something new, instead of manually
checking your website. You gain more traffic and increase
the number of repeat visitors to your site.
What does an RSS Feed look like?
Seeing is believing! Before creating an RSS feed, you should have a basic understanding of what it actually is. In short, an RSS feed is a web file. Just like any HTML file you see on websites. The only difference is that an RSS feed is created using XML markup language, not HTML. Here is the simplest example of an RSS feed:
Analyzing RSS Feed Elements
It may appear difficult at first, but when you view the code line-by-line, it becomes more clear.
Now, look closer at these RSS feed elements in the code above and learn a bit more about each of them.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
The first line tells RSS readers what kind of file is that. Just like <HTML> tag in the HTML document, the very first line in RSS feed tells that it's an XML file. It can also declare the version of XML that is used on the feed and the encoding type for compatibility issues.
The second line is an opening tag to the website RSS feed. This piece of string declares feed readers what version an RSS feed is using. This tag is required.
The third line is a channel element. It tells how the following items relate to each other. Channels use items, descriptions and link tags to describe the content. It is like an RSS feed headline.
Now that is where the actual content of an RSS feed begins. The item element shows feed readers where updates are displayed. Every new item means that new information was added to the feed.
The title element is the name of an item. Like the title for a web page, RSS title displays the necessary information to the human reader. It is just like the title (subject) of an email message.
The description element describes the content of the item. It is usually a short phrase or sentence that tells reader about the content of message.
And finally there is a link tag. This tag always contains the URL (link)
of the web page where the article or any kind of news is displayed.
Create an RSS Feed
Now you have a basic understanding of how an RSS feed looks like and what it actually contains in it self. Now it is time for you to create your own RSS feed for your website.All you have to do now is open any text editor, like Notepad on Windows. Copy the following code below.
Now paste that code above into the text editor window. Then simply replace that information between opening and closing tags. Change the title, description and link of a channel. Also change the same elements within the <item> </item> tags with your own.
When you are done with that, press Save As button and save the file
using the XML extension, like feed.xml for example. Now all you have
to do is upload the XML file to your server. Once you have done this, you have
successfully created an RSS feed for others to use.
Validate Your RSS Feed
You have just made your very first RSS feed. Now comes the question, is it written correctly? When changing the information you might have corrupted your file a little bit. Even one tiny mistake, like deleting item tag or not including a channel tag can cause you problems.
You can check your file for any syntax errors using this free Feed Validator service. Simply enter the URL of your RSS feed and click Validate button. If you named your file feed.xml, then enter: http://www.yourdomain.com/feed.xml.
Let Visitors Subscribe to Your RSS Feed
By now you are probably wondering how your visitors will subscribe to
your feed if no one knows about it except you. It is very easy. All you have to
do is simply provide a link on your website to your RSS feed such as in the URL
You can actually link to your RSS feed using static HTML links. However, some people might simply ignore a static link. In that case, you can provide your visitors with an orange icon that you see on many websites.
So what you can do is, simply search for such images on Google Image search by typing in RSS button in a search field. You should come up with many choices. Save your chosen button to your hard drive and then upload that image to your website. Put the image into every page of your site using this code:
It is important for you to create and check the links to verify their health!
How do you link it with GFIS for all to see?
GFIS receives thousands of visitors each day interested in forests and forestry, therefore it is of great benefit to you to provide your feed for GFIS to harvest every day. You must simply create an account on GFIS, and submit your feed. Now your organization is part of the GFIS community, a community determined to share and promote forestry information for all to see!
Best of Luck!
The GFIS Team