Blogs are great, but there are so many of them how can you read them all? With a bit of help you can.
I had heard about "Aggregators" but never bothered finding out about them, or trying one, until today...
Whats an Aggregator?
News aggregators are desktop or Web applications that are used to retrieve and display RSS feeds from various news sources.
Whats an RSS feed?
RSS stands for 'Rich Site Summary', 'RDF Site Summary' or 'Really Simple Syndication' depending on who you ask. An RSS feed is an XML formatted document with a summary of the site and its content used for syndicating content from online sources. You see the RSS feed on news sites and blogs usually in the form of a small orange "XML icon" or a text link like the "Syndicate this site (XML)" link seen on Typepad Blogs. The actual RSS feed XML for this blog looks like this:
How can an Aggregator help?
The Aggregator looks at the RSS feeds you specify and returns any new or changed content from those sites. In a few seconds it's scanned many sites and returned only what is new.
You can then scan and read only the posts you choose either in the aggregator or at the relevant site. This allows many sites to be reviewed very quickly.
There are two main types of aggregators, local or web based. I decided I wanted a locally installed one and after a little searching found RSS Bandit: a .NET RSS desktop feed aggregator. RSS Bandit first implementation was started by Dare Obasanjo and documented in the MSDN article: Building a Desktop News Aggregator. It is now an Open Source project and is hosted at Sourceforge.net.
From my experience so far its a great piece of software that allows simple setup, reading and browser viewing of RSS feeds in a familiar and easy to learn interface. It comes with some feeds preset and you can add others by right clicking on a sites RSS icon/link and choosing "Subscribe in Default Aggregator".
As an example of how it works this is the RSS feed from this Blog seen in RSS Bandit.
You can also see "CAD FORUM" blog has 9 new messages and selecting it would display these. Selecting Search Folder>Unread Items would display all unread items from all blogs. At the time I did this I had 72 active feeds. RSS Bandit scans these in a few seconds and displays all new unread posts filtered in the "Unread" folder. Two feeds show errors where I had put in an incorrect address. RSS Bandit found these and it also can validate an RSS feed for errors in formatting & structure.
You can download RSS Bandit from the RSS Bandit Homepage
For a good article about how RSS Bandit came about and a far better technical explaination of the whole RSS, XML, and .net thing is seen in this article Building a Desktop News Aggregator
Summary: Dare Obasanjo builds a C# application that retrieves and displays news feeds from various Web sites. The application utilizes XPath, XSLT, XML Schema, the DOM, and XML Serialization in the .NET Framework. (12 printed pages)