If you’ve been wondering what those little orange buttons that say “XML” on people’s weblogs are for, or why there are links to “syndicate this weblog” that look like gibberish when you follow them, you should know about News Aggregators.

Aggregators are a type of software that monitors special files called “RSS Feeds” or “Atom Feeds” on weblog-style websites (like this one) and let you know when something new has been posted or when the content of an article has changed. The advantage to using a system like this is that you don’t have to spend your time visiting each of the websites you’re interested in following, but instead only see those with material you haven’t read.

I switched over to using a web-based aggregator called Bloglines a couple months back, and have been really impressed with the application. Since it’s web based, I can follow the news I want just as easily from the office as I can from home. Because it’s centralized, it actually reduces the load on the sites I watch, as their news feeds only get loaded once per hour for the whole Bloglines service, rather than once per hour per user. It also automatically generates the “Reading Material” sidebar for my site, which lists each of the feeds I keep an eye on through their service.

If you use aggregators, I recommend taking a look at it. If you follow a lot of news sites, but don’t use an aggregator, I recommend it as well. Here’s a link to subscribe to my weblog to get you started. (Aha! The ulterior motive!)

subscribe with bloglines