Feeds vs Favourites

For years, people have used bookmarks (or favourites) to save and organize sites they have discovered online and want to visit again. To bookmark a website, you simply click the Bookmark (or Favourite) button on your browser when you run across something that interests you. It is still a perfectly valid and reasonable way to keep an eye on sites that do not provide frequently updated content, or that do not offer feeds, such as many shopping and business sites. However, more and more sites are offered with RSS.

What is the point of feeds if people still use bookmarks? Feeds make it easier to read and manage dynamic content, content that is regularly and frequently updated, like blogs and news. Whenever the blog which you have subscribed to feeds posted a new entry, you will be notified via your feed reader. Clicking a certain blog in your list makes the entry display in your reader.

What if you want to go from your feed reader back to the original website? Simply click the link in your feed reader, and you are directed away from your reader and sent to the actual blog entry on the site.

Bookmarks have their place, especially when you just want to flag something for later, but if you want to see the latest headlines from Google... etc, feeds and you will be tighter.

Feeding the Masses

The act of publishing those links and feeds is called syndication. Anyone who posts on the internet can syndicate a feed. Gathering all the feeds in one place is called aggregation, although most of us just called it subscribing.

Suppose you have a list of 20 blogs you like to read, and visiting each blog daily takes an hour or more. It would be fantastic to be able to check those all at once, saving time.

Fortunately, content distributors, known as newsreaders or feed readers, have got you back. These handy services syndicate the content, allowing you to subscribe to it. Think of it like you are customizing your own newspaper, gathering all the headlines and snippets of your favorite websites in one central location to read at your leisure.

The Scoop on Feeds

A feed is the data format used to deliver frequently updated content, such as your blog entries. You may have seen websites with links or references to labels such as RSS, Atom, or XML. These are essentially assorted flavors of the same thing, a way you can get site updates without having to actually visit the site.
  • RSS stands for a few different things, different people has different definitions. Recent definitions claim that it stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS is the most commonly used term you will find for feeds, as its primary job is to deliver regularly updated content such as blogs and podcasts.
  • Atom is just another type of feed, for all intents and purposes. Atom has some technical goodies that make it slightly different to those who program such things, but for your purpose, it is just a matter of preference and what the site you are reading chooses to publish.
  • XML is not, technically a feed at all, but the technology used to create the feeds. However, due to some misconceptions, it is most often used to reference a feed, just like RSS and Atom. You may sometimes see icons or links for XML along with RSS or Atom.


Technorati is a site that indexes, or crawls your site to read and collect all your content. It is like a newsreader but a very large public one. By registering your site with Technorati, you are essentially giving them the go-ahead to index your website for relevant links and information.

Claiming your blog with Technorati also lets them confirm that you are the author or co-author of the site. You are then free to use all of Technorati's services to promote or increase the visibility of your blog. People perusing Technorati can click your links or profile and learn more about you and the blogs you author. You can also use Technorati to surf for anything you may be looking for.

Searching the tag system on Technorati is extensive and impressive. After you claim your blog, you will end up in their search results, and your post will also end up in the Technorati tag pages. The best part is that you do not necessarily have to tag your entries to get in there. Contributing requires that you have a blog that supports categories and an RSS/Atom feed. If they are both operating, it does this automatically.


Tags are useful, categories are useful too. Whether you are writing a personal journal-style blog or a business blog, keeping things tidy is a good idea. But if you want to have every post you ever do totally uncategorized, by all means do that. However, do not forget about the benefits of keeping things in order. For one, your readers can look through your entries according to what interest them.

Most blogging software platforms and hosted blogs give you the ability to categorize your blog entries. When you write and publish a blog entry, you can file it into a specified category that you can create. Typically, a list of your categories is displayed in the sidebar of your blog or website. A reader can then select the category from either a link list or a drop-down box and see all the entries you filed in that category. You can cross-categorize entries in as many categories as you like.

Categories are typically standard in most blogging tools. A little poking and prodding will produce a spot in your blog's control panel where you can add your categories ahead of time as a timesaver. When you get around to posting an entry, you can quickly assign it to your preset categories.

Benefits of Tags

You do not necessarily need to choose between tags and categories. Both have their benefits, and many website owners and bloggers utilize both. The pros of using categories are just simple organization of your blog entries, and if people who read your site like a particular post in a certain category, they know just where to find others like it. Tags present a better method of finding specific information. You can choose to use one or the other. Or combine them and give your readers the option to usse whichever method they prefer.

Tagging is wildly popular and will continue to become the standard over categories. Tagging can actually make your site much more usable and feature-rich. Tags are more detail oriented than simple categories. Over time, the tags you accumulate on your site will make finding content much easier, allowing readers to search more efficiently and more specifically.

For personal blogs, tagging can be more of a frivolous effort, but if your blog is information specific, or if your site is a community atmosphere where many people congregate, tagging can become really useful for your readers.

Finding the Interesting Stuff with Tags

As people continue to tag items on websites, it starts to create something similar to categories only much more specific in manner. Before tags, bloggers and website developers lumped content into categories. Readers would then be able to sift through that category to find what they were looking for.

Tags allow much more specific categorization and thus allow people to search more effectively. When a substential base of tags is created on a site, people can zero in more closely on the content of their choice. A good tag base saves people time by pinpointing what they are loking for.

Sites using tags often provide a tag cloud, or a group of tags that are popular on that site. The tags in the tag cloud are usually varied in font size. The larger, more prominent words are tags that have the most content entries associated with that tag word, within the site.

The nature of tags and the dynamic content they describe means that they are flexible and user oriented, and therefore associated with sites boasting Web 2.0, which is the new generation of internet, relying more on user-friendly, dynamic methods of presenting information.

For many sites using tags as a method of categorization, the site's users are not limited to one person's point of view regarding a particular subject. Some websites allow their visitors to assign their own tags to materials within the site. The more often people tag a particular item, the more diverse the tags become, and discovering that item becomes more likely when someone does a search. Not every website allows users to tag items. In the case of blogs, the tagging is up to the blog owner.

Tagging your Content

A tag is a simple keyword that is used to associate or describe the content of something, such as a blog entry, a video, or an image. Generally, people use various tags to describe items they have published on the web. You are putting a label on something, be it a blog entry or a photograph. You are identifying the item with relevant keywords to describe it in simple terms.

Choosing a handful of keywords helps readers find exactly what they are looking for in your blog. Regardless of what you are tagging, there is at least one word to describe what it is. Making your content easily searchable is the objective here. The more detailed your list of tags, the more ways your blog post is accessible.

The bottom line is, be descriptive and choose thoughtfully.


The term trackback refers to a relatively simple process. A trackback itself is an acknowledgement, a way for blog authors to be alerted when another blog is discussing or linking to a particular entry. Trackbacks originated as a way for bloggers to acknowledge one another through pinging, which is the term used to describe the act of sending a trackback alert. In order for this to work, both sites need to have the trackback features enabled.

You may wonder why tracking back to someone's entry is useful. Bloggers like to know when someone is talking about their entries, especially when that talk is positive. A blogger's readers might want to see what other readers are saying about a particular blog entry, and with trackbacks, they can easily find a list of the sites that reference it. People may find these stuff interesting, and it helps to keep things flowing in a serendipitous manner.


A ping is your blog's way of signaling other blogs or websites that you have written a blog entry directly referencing or relevant to one of their entries. Your blog can send out a ping to the other blog to notify it that you wrote a pertinent entry, but provided the blog you pinged has trackbacks enabled, your ping will display itself in the form of a trackback on the correlating blog entry.

Some sites collect pings as a way for people to see what has been updated in the blogosphere. You can visit sites like Technorati, Weblogs, or NewsGator for extensive lists of fresh content from blogs everywhere. You can ping one or all of them when you update your blog.

You can ping a site like this in one of these two ways:
  • Your blog software or hosted service may have a place to enter a list of sites you want to ping every time you update. This varies with each type of blog solution, but most have the option.
  • You can ping each site manually or take advantage of a pinging service, and do it all in one shot. Pinging services save you time to put on that fresh top coat before you head out.