Basically, the RSS (Really Simply Syndication) system was set up so that you would be able to go to one place to check on all of the websites you follow to see what is actually new. Once you read the new items, it marks the article as read, and you won't see it again unless you go back in your history.
You can see the Wikipedia article here if you don't want to read my explanation.
The "one place" that you go is called your RSS reader. This can be either a downloaded program, or an online website. My personal preference is Google Reader. Google Reader is free, is integrated with your standard Google account, and is pretty darn simple to use. Setup is a breeze, and within seconds, you are ready to start "catching" RSS feeds.
Here is a Google Reader Screenshot. Notice that you can organize your feeds into folders, so that you can look at specific topics at one time and ignore others.
On the extreme left, you can see all the different sites I follow. The numbers next to the titles are the number of individual posts/articles/updates that I haven't looked at yet. In the main window, you can see that I have two unread items. Depending on the site, you will see either just a summary, or the whole post. If you click on any link on the unread item, your browser will take you to the actual site in a new window or tab.
Finding RSS feeds
It may be hard to find, but almost every site these days has an RSS link. The RSS link looks like this:
When you reach a site that you want to follow, you would click on the little orange button, and it will bring up a screen that asks you how you want to subscribe to the feed:
On that dropdown that says "Subscribe to this feed using:" choose Google Reader. In most cases, one you select Google Reader and click on "Subscribe Now", it should take you to the actual Google Reader interface. Occasionally, it will say that you haven't subscribed to this feed and gives a button to subscribe, so you would click on that button and you are done!
If you successfully subscribed, Google Reader will show the last 10 or so posts in that feed. After that, it will automatically grab the new content from the subscribed site and have it waiting for you the next time you log in.
I started with this short tutorial because I use RSS feeds daily for a myriad of different tasks. Next post will focus on actual applications of RSS feeds.
Also, I found a decent video tutorial for Google Reader here.
Comments? Questions? Please leave a comment!