Review: Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom | WebReference

Review: Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom

Review: Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom

Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom Book Cover Author: Ben Hammersley
Total Pages: 272
Publisher: O'Reilly
Copyright: 2005
ISBN: 0596008813

Two of the fastest growing technologies on the Web today are RSS and Atom. What are RSS and Atom? According to author Ben Hammersley: "The original, and still the most common, use for RSS and Atom is to provide a content syndication feed: a consistent, machine-readable file that allows Web sites to share their content with other applications in a standard way." These XML-based feeds are used for many things such as providing news headlines, blog postings, notification of product updates, calendar of events, even advertising. The feeds are an easy way to keep track of more Web sites in less time. From a Web development standpoint, they are an excellent method to use to keep visitors linked to your site without them being there. (The acronym RSS is usually interpreted as "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Summary," depending on who is promoting it. According to Dave Winer, one of its creators, "There is no consensus on what RSS stands for, so it's not an acronym, it's a name.")

In order to help Web developers gain a better understanding of these technologies, Ben Hammersley wrote a book on the subject, Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom. Ben is a writer for the British national press and has authored a previous book on RSS, Content Syndication with RSS. Both books are published by O'Reilly.

[Ed. Note: Last week, we posted an excerpt from the book Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom. The topic comes from Chapter 8: Parsing and Using Feeds.]

The book begins with a short, concise history of the RSS and Atom technologies. Even though the path to the current version of RSS has led in some strange directions, the author handles the task well, minmizing any confusion.

For the next step (instead of jumping right in and beginning programming), the book takes a look at some of the applications that will be reading the feeds you eventually make. This helps to give the developer a better idea of how his/her feeds will be used.

Next, all the necessary details for creating the feeds using RSS 2.0, 1.0, and Atom are covered. While there are some excellent RSS feed generators that will do the work for you, the hand coding instructions provided aren't difficult to comprehend. Beginning with the basic structure of the feed, and continuing through to the more complex optional subelements, the author provides crisp and clear explanations. The presentation makes it easy to get to the heart of the matter and begin setting up feeds.

Once you've gained an understanding of creating feeds, the author then delves into the fine art of creating feeds from other Web sites. For instance, have you ever wanted Doonesbury delivered on a daily basis? Or perhaps you need to set up a feed to track FedEx packages. There are several more like these included in the book, along with detailed instructions for creating each one.

The book has an excellent chapter in the back, "The XML You Need for RSS." Its purpose is to help you gain enough knowledge of XML to create feeds without having to learn the whole language. According to the author: "The general overview of XML in this appendix should be more than sufficient to enable you to work with the RSS documents."

Overall, the book offers a thorough presentation of RSS and Atom in an easy to understand manner. Using a conversational style of writing, the author manages to make the reader feel comfortable with a subject that can sometimes seem difficult. If you want to learn how to create your own RSS and Atom feeds, or just want to get up to speed with the latest technology, Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom will prove to be a valuable asset to your library. If you're interested in a free sample, "Chapter 8: Parsing and Using Feeds" is available online here at WebReference.

Created: June 6, 2005