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Published February 1, 2020 Updated February 4, 2023
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Syndication

Syndication is an open standard developed as early as 1995. It provides a way in which you can subscribe to a site and be automatically updated when new content is published. The following explains what syndication is, why it’s important, and how you can use it.

Feeds

We support multiple feeds on this site in an effort to make it simple for you to subscribe to all or specific topics of interest. Follow the link to subscribe or keep reading to learn how all this works.

Subscribing

When browsing this site or the web in general, look for this icon:

Syndicated Feed Icon

In our case, you can find this icon in the footer of this site. Seeing this icon indicates syndication is supported. You can subscribe to a feed multiple ways:

  • Clicking the icon will either render the associated feed or direct you to a page with more information. You can then copy the URL in your favorite feed reader to subscribe.

  • Alternatively, you can right-click on the icon — or associated link — to copy the URL and paste in your feed reader.

  • Should you want to subscribe to all feeds supported by a site, you can copy the site root URL into your feed reader and then select which feeds you want to subscribe to. For example, you can discover all feeds supported by this site by pasting https://www.alchemists.io into your feed reader.

Readers

Now that you know what feeds are and how to subscribe to them, you might want know which products/services to use. The following is a list of recommended readers in case you don’t have one already:

  • Feedbin - $5/month. A web-based service which syncs well with many applications. This is the one I’ve been using ever since Google Reeder was canceled.

  • Feedly - $8/month. A web-based service with a bunch of integrations. Haven’t used this, myself, but see people talk about it occasionally.

  • NewsBlur - Free for limited access or $36/year for unlimited access. Have not used this service or product but supports the web, iPad, iPhone, and Android platforms.

  • Reeder - $10 (macOS) / $5 (iOS). Makes a great companion to Feedbin should you want native application support. I use Feedbin with Reeder (iOS) to stay up-to-date on the latest news from my favorite sites when mobile.

  • lire - $20 (macOS) and $7 (iOS). A core feature is that it auto-detects summary feeds and pulls down full content as necessary so you don’t have to visit the main site. Feedbin has an account setting that will do this for you as well.

  • NetNewsWire - Free (macOS and iOS). Great choice for those that would like to get started without any cost.

Specification

There are multiple specifications which most, if not all, feed readers support:

  • RSS 2.0.0 - Also known as Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It was the first specification and hasn’t seen a lot of updates over the years.

  • Atom 1.0.0 - Originally developed by Google and is now under the RFC 4287 specification. Atom provides additional capabilities over the original RSS specification and is what this site uses. Additional resources can be found here:

  • JSON Feed 1.0.0 - This is a relatively new specification which uses JSON to render the syndicated feed. It hasn’t been well maintained so your mileage may vary.

Implementation

All feeds on this site are generated using Ruby RSS. To implement your own syndicated feed, the syntax for RSS::Maker makes this easy to do. CSS Tricks has guidelines worth following too. Lastly, you can use Feed Validator for linting your syndicated feed and ensuring it is of high quality.

As for making your web site discoverable by feed readers, you only need to add a link to the various feeds in the <head> if your HTML document. Example:

<link title="Alchemists - News" rel="alternate" href="/feeds/news.xml" type="application/atom+xml">

The above allows non-technical folks to copy and paste your web site URL into their feed reader and then be prompted with the choice to subscribe to all or a select group of feeds. 🎉