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Set Up a Simple Syndication Feed Using RSS

You can set up outbound syndication for your Web site and expose your content to the world in one afternoon using an XML technology called RSS. For anyone who ever wanted to increase audience and traffic while maintaining content and presentation control, RSS is the answer. Find out how to do it, step by step.

n RSS XML feed is an extremely simple way to let external sites link to content on your Web site. If you're looking for a fast, painless way to do outbound syndication and find a larger audience for your content, RSS is going to be worth your time.

At its most basic, RSS generates a list of links, generated programmatically, to various resources on your site with a description of the content for each link. This XML feed is just a publicly accessible text file and therefore you can easily create your feed to automatically regenerate periodically. This way, new content updates are added to the list without any human effort. With RSS, your news feed can be as dynamic as you like.

And, because it's in XML, other sites can easily consume and display your content feed automatically, thereby driving traffic back to your site. This is a win-win situation for sites that want to increase their traffic while maintaining control of their content.

In this article, you'll learn what you need to create a feed, see a sample feed structure, walk through the code that creates the XML (in this case we've used ColdFusion). I'll also discuss additional steps to take for validating and implementing syndication for your site.

What You Need
To create the system to generate an RSS feed and make it publicly accessible, you will need three things: a server on the Internet where you can put the feed, a database that has descriptions of your content, and a server-side scripting language with access to your database.

  1. Decide where you will put the file on your Web site. You may want to have multiple feeds in the future, so consider putting it in a directory called "rss." Decide on a filename that you will not change and put it on your Web site in a location that can remain the same for the foreseeable future. Here's an example location and filename:
  2. Decide what content you want to put in the feed. Keep in mind that you will need, at a minimum, two pieces of information for each piece of content you want to syndicate: the title of the content and the URL. For example:

    Title: "Choosing the Right Web Services Management Platform"
    Link: http://www.devx.com/content/id/10549

    Optionally, there are additional fields you should include for each piece of content, for example:

    Description: When you deploy any application, you are expected to have a plan for management and maintenance of that codebase—that's part of the job. But developers have been so busy learning Web services that management issues have taken a back seat. Use these requirements as a checklist for investigating products that should underlie your company's vital Web services and facilitate their long-term management.

    Remember that the author field must contain a valid email address to validate as RSS. The PubDate filed must be properly formatted as a datetime field. For example:

    Author: justin.murray@hp.com (Justin Murray)
    PubDate: Tue, 21 Jan 2003 14:20:36 PST

  3. You can use whatever scripting language you like, anything from Perl to ASP. You must be able to do simple string manipulation, pull data from your database, and set the MIME type of the file being served to the browser.

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