In recent months, I reorganized my news flow. As I don’t use those regular news apps like Google News or similar, my main source of News was Twitter and a public media news app. Somehow it wasn’t really organized and I simply missed some news, while getting a lot of unwanted content around. Especially comments on Twitter, that caused me to avoid political news at some point, annoyed me. So I switched to old but working web feeds with standards like RSS.
RSS - the beginning of web feeds
RSS (short for RDF Site Summary or Rich Site Summary) is an old but still well-adopted standard for providing content and content updates to users. You probably heard of it or saw its icon . The initial version was created in 1995 and evolved since then to the RSS 2.0.1 standard from 2003, which we use basically everywhere these days. As your Twitter, Facebook or Mastodon Feed, it provides the most recent content of a page (like blog or news articles). These days adoption is slowly dropped due to the rise of social media channels, but still, it’s around and used by a lot of people.
Why web feeds are great
First of all, they are free of comment sections. You get the content you are subscribing for and no annoying comments you are not interested in. Besides that, you also get all content, not just the one that happens to appear because some algorithm or simply bad timing let you see. It simply reduces noise and allows you to decide what you enjoy or not. Also, some newspapers and blogs offer an RSS feed per category which helps to nail down your interests.
Another aspect is discoverability. There is this icon that tells you that a page offers a web feed. When you use a browser add-on, it can even auto-detect those feeds and offer you a one-click subscription or opening the feed in your web feed reader. There is no need to sign up for a newsletter, which makes web feeds more privacy friendly and faster to use.
Finally, they are already around. This technology is old but adopted. You can find them in basically every popular blogging software. Newspapers offer them, podcasts use them to inform their listeners, even YouTube channels and Github repositories offer web feeds by default.
How I read web feeds
For my own setup, I use a Nextcloud app called Nextcloud News. It provides a web interface and an API that I can use to organize my feed subscriptions and synchronize them between devices. This way reading news on my Notebook works great and I can continue seamlessly on my phone. On my phone, I use an app with the same name, which integrates wonderfully with the whole setup. To make use of the discoverability of RSS feeds, I need one additional plugin for my browser, since Firefox dropped RSS support. It’s called “Awesome RSS” and provides the already mentioned one-click integration, so I can subscribe to feeds easily.
What I love about web feeds is that they allow you to create your very personal news mix. Completely without any pseudo-smart algorithms and service providers that make money out of your reading habits or ads. But to make it easier for you to get started, let me give you some Feed URLs. You can just add to your feed reader:
- https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/feeds/guidance.xml The NCSC is the British department for internet security, they provide some very nice tutorials and articles about recent breaches, improvements for daily security, and more
- https://infosec-handbook.eu/blog/index.xml Quite similar to NCSC but made by people in their free time with a focus on security interested people
- https://opensource.com/feed OpenSource.com provides articles about open source projects including ideas about topics like open organization and project management
- https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/index.html The overview page for all kinds of RSS feeds of the New York Times
- https://fedoramagazine.org/feed/ Provides updates about the Fedora projects and a lot of beginner-friendly tutorials
- https://www.xkcd.com/rss.xml For your regular XKCD comic
- https://kevq.uk/feed/ Blog of Kev Quirk and his daily fight with his devices, quite amusing and for sure also helpful
- https://shivering-isles.com/feed.xml And finally, of course, you should subscribe to my blog :D
- https://firstname.lastname@example.org Oh and did you know you can subscribe to my Mastodon feed as well when you don’t have a mastodon account?
When you are interested in open source, there are a ton of so-called “planets”. Those are feed collections by projects which are usually made of the combination of multiple RSS feeds of people and organizations working on projects.
- https://fdroid.gitlab.io/planet/atom.xml When you are interested in F-droid or free software on Android
- https://planet.mozilla.org/ When you are interested in Firefox or the general Mozilla’s development process
- https://fedoraproject.org/people/atom.xml When you are interested in the people behind Fedora
- https://planet.gnome.org/rss20.xml And of course Planet GNOME for people behind the GNOME Desktop environment
All in all, using web feeds like RSS is an awesome solution to get your very personal news mix and find the things you are interested in without the need of a shady social media or the right timing for the algorithm to show it. It also reduced the numbers of emails you get as you are able to unsubscribe from various newsletters. When there are new articles, they simply show up in your news app that you check once a day.
I hope you found some helpful tips and help web feeds to grow back to their old importance. So everyone can access media easily and fit their interests.
When you want to discuss with me each out via social media or write an email. No matter what, make sure you don’t miss the next article 😉