In the modern era of the technological superhighway, we are bombarded with a constant drum of digital information. The task of sifting out information that may personally affect you or your profession is daunting. But imagine you have a personal assistant who summarizes all the new information in the world relevant to you.
Each day, your assistant presents you with a concise list of headlines to scan through, covering any topic you have an interest in, while leaving out topics you could care less about. Your list might include the latest cataract-surgery advances, news about your favorite college team, local headlines, the latest iPhone news and rumors, podcasts from National Public Radio, reviews of popular smartphone applications, new releases from your favorite artists or authors or the latest blog posts from stock analysts you like to follow.
Wish this were possible? With RSS, it is. If you aren’t familiar with the term “RSS,” perhaps you should get acquainted. RSS is generally accepted to stand for “Really Simple Syndication” and can greatly enhance your ability to sift through the ever-expanding universe of data available via the Internet.
This automated digital assistant will aggregate the headlines and articles, or “feeds,” you care about most. Using RSS, it is possible to efficiently review 200 to 300 feeds in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how deep into each article you go. Professional bloggers in the tech industry subscribe to RSS feeds from hundreds of websites, reviewing thousands of individual feeds daily.
RSS feeds are generated by virtually every website today. All you need is an RSS reader (also called a feed reader) to get you started. While many RSS readers exist, perhaps the simplest option is to direct your Web browser to an RSS reader website, such as Google Reader, Newsgator, Netvibes, or Bloglines. Other RSS readers require you to download and install software, such as NetNewsWire (Mac OS X) or FeedDemon (Windows).
It’s quite simple to add feeds of interest to your RSS reader, but the details are particular to the application you’re using. In most cases, all you need to do is copy and paste the URL into the reader for the particular website from which you want to pull feeds. If a website of interest is RSS-friendly, it often will display a button to click on to let you subscribe to the feed using the reader of your choice.
To see how easy this is, perhaps give Google Reader a try. Navigate to http://google.com/reader. You’ll have to create a Google account if you don’t have one already. Click “Add a subscription,” then type in “ophthalmology.” Browse the selections, and subscribe to your RSS feed of interest.
Try searching for a variety of personalized topics. Keep it simple. If you’re just getting started, you may want to only pick one or two feeds for each topic until you get the hang of it.
Most ophthalmology journals publish RSS feeds with abstracts from the most recent issues. A small selection of URLs for RSS feeds are listed below:
Note: Clicking on the links will not take you to a website! Right-click on the link, if you're working on a PC (Mac: control-click), then copy the URL and paste it into your RSS reader to pull the content from these sites. If you're in Firefox, clicking the above links will take you to a page where you have the option to add the feed to an RSS reader.
There are many mobile smartphone readers available from your application store for your individual device. You can test and configure those that suit you best. The Academy’s Eye Handbook, which is a mobile smartphone application, has a list of popular, ophthalmology-specific RSS feeds already built in.
As you become familiar with this concept, I am sure you will realize the power behind this technology. RSS feeds are a great tool in your technologic armamentarium.
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About the authors: Peter Lombard, MD, attended medical school at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed ophthalmology residency at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. A lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, he is in his first year of practice as the sole ophthalmologist at Naval Hospital Guam. He also practices part-time at the Island Eye and Retina Center in Tamuning, Guam. Ken Lord, MD, is a vitreo-retinal fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he recently completed residency. He attended medical school at the University of Utah and has a strong interest in medical informatics. An active member of the Utah National Guard, Dr. Lord is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.