Website developers, including those who create websites for their congregations, are always looking for ways to keep the content fresh and up-to-date. One of the most useful applications to help reach this goal is RSS – Really Simple Syndication.
Without RSS, adding content (sometimes called “curating”) involves searching other websites for material, copying the web address (URL) and maybe a short summary to add to one’s site. It can be a time-consuming task, checking sites regularly to see if anything new has been added. RSS solves this by, in effect, bringing the content to your site.
RSS allows frequently updated information such as blogs, news, audio and video to be collected from a remote source and displayed on one’s website, usually as headlines and summaries with live links to the complete content.
Sites which publish regularly updated content add “RSS feeds” which are picked up using software called “aggregators” and put into formats that can easily be added to web pages.
Congregations in the Diocese of Newark who are using the Church Website Project (CWP) are already taking advantage of RSS feeds: at the bottom of the home page are the latest entries from News from the Diocese of Newark and the Episcopal News Service.
These plug-ins are essentially aggregators as our Director of Communications and Technology, Nina Nicholson, has created an RSS feed for front page posts from the Diocese of Newark, as well as one for the Bishop’s blog.
Congregations which have non-CWP websites can add their own aggregators for any content. Sites which have RSS feeds available are usually identified with thes symbol show above. Clicking on the symbol reveals the URL for the use of the aggregator. The URL for diocesan news is dioceseofnewark.org/rss.xml; for the Bishop’s blog it is dioceseofnewark.org/bishops-blog-rss.
There is a range of software for aggregators to be found by simply Googling “aggregators.” Two which I have found to be easy to use are RSS Include (rssinclude.com) and FeedWind (feed.mikle.com). Both allow one to modify the look and feel of the display on the web page, including column width, fonts and font colors, rate of refresh, etc. Once the choices are made, the snippet of code to be placed on the web page is provided. One needs only to select, copy and paste the snippet in the code view of the web page to make it work.
An example of how this functions on a non-CWP website can be found at christchurchpompton.org/announcementsList.php.
In summary, RSS feeds and aggregators enormously aids the goal of every webmaster to bring fresh content to one’s website. The tools are low-cost/no-cost and fairly easy to implement.
More information about RSS can be found at mnot.net/rss/tutorial.