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RSS & Categories

Let’s imagine that “you have something to say,” and that other people agree with you.  They “hang on your every word,” and wait, impatiently, for your next, “jewel of wisdom”.  Okay, okay, you would be rare if that was, or will become, the case, but let’s go back to the start… you have something to say.

You are going to write it down in a blog, and you don’t want people to text, email, or call you, asking when you plan to post something new. What to do?  It’s already done for you, if you are using WordPress to blog, and have created one or more categories for the types of postings you are making.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is the process by which people can “subscribe” to your blog, and automatically receive your latest postings (without you having to do anything other than create the blog posting, and assign at least one category to the post).

RSS started long before WordPress became popular.  The concept can be understood if you understand what “syndication” means when you are talking about newspapers or magazines (the “printed on paper” kind).  You might want to receive a magazine, every month, and you don’t want to have to go down to the book store or news stand to buy it each month.  So, you buy a “subscription” to the magazine, let them know your mailing address, and every month, the postman delivers the latest copy to your mailbox (or to your P.O. Box).  The same concept applied to subscribing to a newspaper.  It was delivered to you, without you having to go get it somewhere.  *Having just written this, I am aware that the “printed on paper” world is passing away, and giving way to the digital world, just as “cursive” writing is becoming obsolete.

An RSS “feed” is the chronological list of links (newest at the top of the page) of postings for a site.  WordPress actually creates a separate “RSS feed” for each “category” you create on your site.  A “category” is a word or two that broadly describes the type of content you have included in a post.  So, you might want to write posts about sports, food, and reading, and use the same WP site for all three.  You could create a “sports”, “food”, and a “reading” category in your WP site.  Then, when you write a blog post about food, you assign the “food” category to that posting.  The RSS feed for the “food” category shows all postings that have been assigned to the “food” category, with the newest at the top of the list.

But, what if you write a post about “how certain foods can effect athletes in certain sports”?  Do you label the post as just “food” or just “sports”?  The answer is, you can label a post by one or more categories.  That means the same blog article can show up in the two different lists.  People that are only interested in food will see the blog entry and all the others related to food, and people that are only interested in sports will see the entry and all the others related to sports.

What if you wanted to use a WordPress.com site to keep the class notes you take for each of your classes.  Would you have to create a separate WP site for each class?  No.  You could use one site and create a category for each course. e.g. READING101, SPANISH211, ECON220  Then, you could actually use email to type up your notes during class, and assign that “post” to the correct category.  When you want to review your notes, you go to the RSS feed for that class and there are your notes, listed chronologically from the latest, at the top.

You might ask, “Why would I want to keep my notes in a WordPress site?”  Well, you could take a picture of notes on the whiteboard and post that image, via email post to your site easily.  You could record a class lecture by making a “post via voice” from your phone to the site.  You could share your notes to a selected few (a study group) by giving them access to your course notes site.  You could create links to other related sites on the Internet, including YouTube videos, audio recordings, RSS feeds by experts in the field of study, etc.


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