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Jerry Lawson : Importance of RSS

January 21, 2005

Jerry Lawson, author of The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers and publisher of four blogs, posted an excellent piece on RSS feeds for Federal Lawyers on his Federal Lawyers Blog. It’s a good read for all of us.

Lawson, who understood what the Internet was all about and where it was headed almost a decade ago (that’s 500 years ago Internet time), explains why RSS may be the brightest answer to the Internet dilemma of how to keep up with the sheer volume of information. I took some great points from the article.

RSS is a way of letting your computer “pre-process” large amounts of web site updates. You let your computer do more work, so you do less. Jerry’s right – goes back to let your ‘fingers do the walking’ when folks no longer had to walk around town shopping for services. No more browsing Web sites. Information you want is delivered to you, no in an email or on Web browser but in an easy to read and follow method on something called a news aggregator.

Lawson points out knowledgeable observers believe that one of the reasons blogs have become so popular is because most blog software creates an RSS feed automatically, thus making these sites much easier to monitor.

Finally, Lawson makes a couple points driving home the impact of RSS:

  • Some information professionals like law librarians and newspaper reporters use [news aggregators] to monitor current developments at hundreds of web sites every day. This would be impractical using only a web browser, but RSS and news readers make it very feasible. Even if you are only interested in monitoring 20 web sites, not 200, RSS feeds and a news reader will save you a lot of time.
  • The Washington Post alone has 125 RSS feeds (yes, you read that correctly: One Hundred Twenty Five), designed to make it easier to stay on top of developments in specialized areas. The Post also has links to more detailed information on tools needed to use RSS and the benefits of using RSS.

Sounds nuts, but I think we are going to look back in a couple years and laugh about going to Web sites to browse & search for content. With RSS, our computers are going to do the walking.

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