A feed is a computer-generated document that lists your recent posts, and the content
they contain, in a computer-friendly format. Feeds are a cool and slightly geeky
tool that people use to keep up with their favorite sites. The essential idea is that a
site—say, a WordPress blog—provides a feed of recent posts. People who read that
blog can use another program—a browser or a feed reader—to subscribe to the feed.
Here’s the neat part. Once you subscribe to a feed, your browser or feed reader
automatically checks the sites you signed up with for new content. That saves you
from visiting the same site 47 times a day, or digging through an endless stream of
spammy notification messages in your email inbox. Best of all, one feed-reading
program tracks as many sites as you want.
NOTE Feeds have been around a long time—they’re far older than social networking sites like Twitter. The
advantage to them is that the feed-reading program does all the work—you don’t need to check sites for new
posts, read your emails, or click a link in a tweet. However, feeds today are a niche feature. The average person
doesn’t use them (or even know they exist), but plenty of computer geeks can’t live without them.
All WordPress sites automatically support feeds. In fact, you can take a look at the
feed your site sends out by adding /feed to the end of your website address. So if
you have a WordPress site at http://lazyfather.wordpress.com, you can see its feed
by requesting http://lazyfather.wordpress.com/feed.
NOTE On a self-hosted site, the /feed syntax works only if you use post titles in your permalinks, which you
definitely should (page 116). Otherwise, you’ll need to replace /feed with the more convoluted code /?feed=rss2.
Most browsers provide some sort of feed-reading feature.
To make reviewing feeds truly convenient, you can use a specialized feed-reading
program (or a feed-reading app, if you want to check feeds on a smartphone or
tablet). Good options include FeedDemon (www.feeddemon.com, Figure 12-16) for
Windows and NetNewsWire (http://netnewswireapp.com) for Mac addicts. Tablet
lovers can use feed-reading apps like Flipboard (http://flipboard.com) and feedly
(www.feedly.com) to stay current. All these programs let you read posts right inside
your feed reader, without making a separate trip to the website that publishes the