Click one of the two links below to subscribe and get the latest information published here on Colorado Railroads.
Now, if you're wondering what a feed is, how it works with your e-mail or what a reader is, keep reading! I'll explain each to help you understand. Let's start with what a feed is.
"You'll have to pardon Joe; he's off his feed today." In this sense, being off your feed is the trouble of being unable to enjoy your food.
What? Is this what they mean by feed? I thought it's what you do when you get hungry! Actually, the web version of feed has less to do with stuffing your face than it has to do with Jefferson Airplane's final instruction in their song White Rabbit: "Feed your head." Feeds give your brain the latest information from a site. The meaning comes from the world of broadcast news, where a feed was the stream of information (audio and video) distributed to local channels from the network (ABC, CBS, NBC) by satellite.
Have you ever clicked on an orange button like the one above or an orange RSS button and gotten a page full of text that's hard to read or even some gobbledygook that starts with "<xml docstyle blah blah..."? That is a feed and a raw one at that. Do you want to look at it that way? Heck no! That's what a reader is for. We'll get to that in a second, but for now, just know this: a feed is a bunch of text and code (data) that the site you're visiting puts together so that folks don't have to visit that site everyday to find out the latest. Like broadcast media, instead of a person having to fly to ABC's headquarters in New York to get the latest news or the current episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition and fly it back to Denver, the feed is pulled in by the satellite receiver in Denver when they are ready for it.
So you're an e-mail nut. Your inbox is a testimony of neatness and order, checked ritually with thoroughness that would make an administrative assistant green with envy. Each e-mail you've received since the account was created is meticulously filed and accessible in a moment. If anyone wanted to see you panicked and confused, they would simply close your e-mail down for 15 minutes. You're just that attached.
If that's you, then an e-mail subscription is your ticket. It's like getting a newsletter in your snail mail from a group you like or cause you support. Sign up using the form offered by the link. a Feedburner powered blog like Colorado Railroads, Feedburner will send you a confirmation E-mail. Once you click that link in the e-mail, you prove that you're a person wanting that information at that address. Every day, or every post for other blogs, you'll get an e-mail containing the latest from the site offering the feed. On quiet days, if there are no posts, you will not see an e-mail from that site.
If this is for you, subscribe by E-mail to Colorado Railroads today!
If your inbox is crowded enough with urgent and not-so-urgent missives, consider using a reader. It's like subscribing to a newspaper or a BBS that you put together with things you want to read about. When you go to read a newspaper, you don't expect to see a letter written to you directly or a reminder to pay your utility bill. Instead you expect to see interesting or helpful information that is open to everyone. You could read it every day or every week or even once a year. The longer you wait, the bigger the paper gets, but it doesn't sit in your inbox.
When you subscribe using a reader, you have to visit or open your reader, which in turn pulls in all the new posts from the sites to which you have subscribed. If you've already seen the post, it won't tell you about it.
There are all sorts of reader applications out there for Windows, Macs, iPhones, and Blackberries and most other mobile devices. A web-based reader such as Google Reader only requires a browser window and an account. Any software updates or improvements happen on the web end, meaning you don't have to upgrade. The flip side of that is that you must be connected to the internet, which might not be possible at all times in all places you could use your reader.
The other option is to download and install a reader program. Even if you're offline for most of the day, if your feedreader can connect once, it can grab all the current feeds and hold them until you're ready to read them. The down-side is that your feed reader will eventually go out of date, requiring an update, or an upgrade.
There you have it: feeds and feed readers. If you have more questions, there are some other places that might have your answers, like Wikipedia or About.com, or you can always ask me directly and I'll do my best.