August 28, 2003

RSS and SharpReader

I have been spending a lot of time lately coming up to speed with what's happening out there in the world of blogging and content syndication (which for some reason are inextricably tied together these days). RSS is taking off and going mainstream - it is no longer a geeky TLA for the nerderatti to throw around during LAN parties.

RSS is a VERY nifty XML-based de facto standard for news/content syndication/publication, invented by this gentleman who goes by the name of Dave Winer and whom it is an understatement of this millenium to refer to as a prolific blogger. It is a means of describing content using standard markup that RSS-enabled parsers (read XML parsers) can chew on and present to a user in a multitude of ways -- a GUI, an HTML page/snippet, you name it.

Which brings me to the second thing on the title -- SharpReader. This is one of them way-cool (a prerequisite for such a nomination is that it is free :-) applications that do aggregation of syndicated content published using RSS. SharpReader is manufactured in C# by Luke Hutteman whose website (and not Mr.Skywalker's) happens to be the "I'm Feeling Lucky" hit on Google for the search term "Luke". In case you bothered to wonder why I used "manufacture": hey, products in the software industry seem to be "Released To Manufacturing". That must surely mean a lot of manual labor goes into releasing, say, a copy of Windows XP?.

Anyway, I can never get to the point, can I? SharpReader is a well-designed content aggregator that mimics the behavior of MS Outlook except that the contents of folders are links to sites that publish their news in RSS. And now since most self-respecting news sites (including Yahoo, the latest inductee into the club) publish their news in RSS too, I have most of my news and commentary coming to my SharpReader "inbox" that I scan every night at home. Voila! - my dream come true (I hate going to 10,000 websites to read my news).

This exercise of installing SharpReader has opened me up to a score of blogs by popular authors that I didn't know blogged! Don Box, Chris Sells, Adam Bosworth, the list goes on and on... And it took me SharpReader to realize that since recently, Don, Chris and I are colleagues ;-)


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