Nancy Shoemaker

So what is this RSS stuff that Nancy’s yammering on about?

For a quick introduction, see this short and amusing video. Or see this quick intro to using RSS to show AAUW headlines on your Google home page.

For some details see her talk to the NC Center for NonProfits conference: Beyond E-mail.
On the other hand, here’s what you need to know:

  1. A site is “syndicated” (or “RSS-enabled,” or has “feeds”) if the site’s web pages have “helper” files (the “feeds”) that give information about the content on the site. As an example, the AAUW NC web site has several RSS feeds for the different categories of news items. These list the dates that articles were posted, along with author, title and description information. For a list of the national RSS feeds, see
  2. When a site is “syndicated”, there will be RSS icons (RSS png 14x14, RSS text icon) or links with the words “rss” or “xml” or “atom” that point to those “helper” files.
  3. Now the “helper” files are useful for programs. They’re not meant for people to read. So if you click one one (try it now: RSS png 14x14), you’ll see a document that, depending on your browser, may be very hard to read. But computer programs can read it just fine, and they can generate output like
    • the AAUW headlines on the right of this page under the “What’s New at AAUW” Heading, and
    • the AAUW NC and AAUW headlines at the bottom of, for instance, the Raleigh/Wake County branch site.
  4. What does this mean to you? Well, you can get updated when the site changes, just like the Raleigh/Wake County site is automagically updated when this site (the AAUW NC site) changes. You can use an RSS reader (see the paper referenced at the top or check out RSSOwl), watch for tools at Google or Yahoo! where you can add the RSS address, or simply use your regular e-mail program. If your e-mail program doesn’t already support “subscribing” to RSS feeds, you can still read “rss” via e-mail: just copy the address of the RSS file (the one the icon or RSS link takes you to) and paste it into the box you’ll find at Click submit, then enter your e-mail address, click subscribe, and voila! After you respond to a confirmation e-mail, you’ll get an e-mail whenever the content that the feed is describing is updating!

Best wishes. Please contact Nancy if you’ve got questions or want to schedule a web conference where these ideas can be demonstrated!

In the meantime, see this post for links to short video clips demonstrating some of these features.

RSS links to explore:

If you are going to use an RSS Reader (or if you’re using RSSFwd and don’t mind more e-mail), try these links to RSS files:


  • With the release of Windows Vista and IE 7 in early 2008, RSS support is getting more widely distributed. It’s getting easier and easier to “subscribe” to feeds, so you may be able to subscribe with a couple of clicks – no copy and paste required.
  • “Copy the address” just means “right-click” or “option-click” on the link and select the menu item like “copy address” to put the address on the clipboard. Then you’ll be able to paste the link into the Feedblitz box. You can also copy the address by selecting it in the address bar of your browser (the program you use to surf the Internet).
  • RSS stands for “really simple syndication” or “rich site summary.” It is a not quite standardized format with a few variations, but most recently released tools can handle that variation fine.
  • RSS files are written in XML, so sometimes they are referred to as XML files, but XML has many application beyond RSS. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. It is related to HTML, HyperText Markup Language (the lingua franca of the web), and SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Lanuage (a complex system that’s in wide use for a variety of structured document applications and which formed the basis for HTML and XML).


27-Oct-06: original post
8-Feb-07: updates to add STEM feed and clarify subscription tools.
27-Feb-07: updates to add links to post with video links
10-Apr-07: added mention of “atom,” default feed format for bloglines
24-Oct-07: updated for new and new
26-Ju-08: changed a reference to RSS to “syndicated” to include ATOM feeds and added the following footnote.
10-Sep-09: changed references to RSSfwd (now defunct) to feedblitz

Welcome to those of you who found this page from the reference in the 2008 AAUW Leadership DVD series section on Communication. If you have questions or would like to arrange a virtual (or live) workshop for your region/state/branch, feel free to contact