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How To Use The Internet

I always thought I knew how to use the internet – you type some stuff into Google and then click around until you find what you need.  Getting this blog up and running, however, has exposed me to a whole new world that I never new existed.  Before I get comments telling me to join the 21st century – to be fair – it is not like there is something out there to update me on what is useful on the internet vs. what is nonsense like most of the internet.  So, what was new to me this week?  And I’ll pause for dramatic effect.  RSS.

RSS is everywhere on the internet, but I only paid attention to it once I knew what it was.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  Think of it like a broadcasting service (like radio), but for the internet.  Here is how it works, let’s say that there is information out there that changes regularly – a favorite blog perhaps.  So instead of fiendishly checking back to this hypothetical blog everyday to see if it has been updated (and judging from my blog stats there seems to be one person out there that does this), you can just get plugged into the RSS feed for the blog and it will send you the most recent post when it gets posted.

This is all pretty amazing because with RSS, the internet comes to you when it changes.  Since most relevant information and most of my internet activity is on a few sites, it is way better for me to get their RSS feeds and then to check those feeds on my RSS reader in one place.   Weather, news, events, favorite sites all show up in one place as they change.  You can even get a feed off of craigslist that informs you when what you want to buy/rent/have gets posted – now that is pretty sweet. 

How do you get yourself set up to receive RSS feeds?  Most sites that I googled made it seem really complicated, but after a while I figured it out.  It only takes two steps, but let’s use an example.  I happen to like a blog called Cooking with Amy.  You can find Amy’s blog here:  http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/ her recipes help me get inspired to actually cook every now and then.

Step 1 is to get the right software/web site to “see” the RSS feed.  In order to see an RSS feed, you need to get an RSS reader.  This is kind of like getting a radio to hear radio waves.  I found the easiest one to use is Google Reader, which you can access here: http://www.reader.google.com/.  There are many different types of readers that you can use.  I like Google’s because it integrates with my gmail account.

Step 2 is to get your RSS reader to pick up the news, blogs and content that you want.  You do this in Google Reader by clicking on the “add subscription” link on the left.  Once the Reader prompts you to add the subscription, you type in the web address of the information that you want to be updated on.  So for Amy’s site, you just type in http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/ or for this site you would type in https://newtome.wordpress.com/.  That’s it!

If you want to earn your blackbelt in RSS, you can also create your own RSS feed.  Since I am internet challenged, I found it difficult to follow the sites advising on how to create your own feed.  It boils down to doing three things in the following order:

1:  Start a website or blog.

2:  Get an RSS feed creator.  One place that works for me is http://www.feedburner.com/.

3:  Type in the address to the website that you want the feed to broadcast from when the feed creator prompts you.

Now that I have stretched to the limits of my technological prowess, I thought I would wrap it up with something new I learned on the topic that I wrote about last week.  Another wrench in my “person with the most votes wins” conception of the Democratic Primary is that a candidate needs to win a majority of the delegates to win the nomination.  This is usually not a problem, but as long as Edwards keeps coming in a close third – he will decide who will be the next Democratic candidate for the presidency.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, since in a case where Edwards can influence the nomination, the wishes of more voters will be taken into account (a benefit of having a parliamentary democracy).  For example, if the final tally is 45% Obama, 40% Clinton and 15% Edwards, then under a simple – more votes = victory scenario – only 45% of voters get a say in the policies that the nominee will support.  On the other hand, if a majority is necessary then a Clinton-Edwards allegiance will ensure that 55% of the voters get a say in the nominee’s policies.   Finally, I just saw in the news that Clinton is taking legal action to re-instate the delegates from the Michigan and Florida primaries…this nomination is guaranteed to get crazy.

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