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Pulling and Pushing Data

What's the difference between an RSS feed and an EMail?

February 13th, 2008 • General •
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I've recently received an email from an individual asking me why I'd use an RSS feed as opposed to a regular email?

I've been using RSS since I've started my Micro ISV blog, but for those who don't know what an RSS feed is, I'll refer you to my Beginner's Guide To RSS.

Using a blog system, whether it's WordPress, TypePad, or Blogger, when a new article or post is published, the system automatically generates an RSS feed of your latest posts to an XML file. Your audience uses their Feed Reader to read that file and translate the format into something readable.

The RSS feed is what is considered a pull methodology. You have to produce quality content for a member of your community to subscribe to your RSS feed (a.k.a. a subscriber to your site). The more quality content you provide, the more subscribers you'll have returning for more content.

The email aspect of this equation is strictly a push mentality. You obviously need a collection of email addresses, but you are sending, or pushing, content out to your audience to update them to your latest posts.

Which one to use on my site?

My recommendation: use both.

Internet surfers and general users of the Internet give me the deer-in-headlights look when I mention RSS feeds, but technologists generally perk up.

As for the question, the RSS feed has been referred to as the "email for the web" and I definitely agree. It's a lot easier than maintaining a list of email addresses. As soon as your post is published, that post will automatically appear in their feed reader (provided they have a feed reader).

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Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, he replies, "Programming."

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