What is RSS, anyway?

RSS is a way of sharing information between remote IT systems by means of a semi-structured, text file.   Semi-structured means that the RSS feed has a structured format but allows full control over what information is included in it.  So no 2 feeds will have the exact same structure; however all RSS feeds have enough common characteristics to be understandable by an RSS reader.

This RSS <channel> has 6 defined attributes, namely title, link, description, language, pubDate, and notes.   The first 3 of these are standard for most RSS Feeds and the convention is to use the names 'title', 'link', and 'description' but there is nothing to stop any given feed from using alternate names for these.

Another characteristic of all RSS feeds is their repeating group of <items>.  The <channel> can have any number of <items>, and these all will have the exact same set of attributes (usually, 'title', 'link'. and 'description' at least).  The values within these attributes will obviously differ, from <item> to <item>. 

An RSS file with 2 items could look something like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
        <title>Example RSS Feed</title>
<description>This is an example of what an RSS file looks like</description> <language>en-ie</language> <pubDate>31-12-2016</pubDate> <notes>
This is an example of an extra field that can be added.
The norm is to use title, link, and description fields
but the fields can be called whatever you want and there's
no limit to the number of fields you can have.
</notes> <item> <title>How to create an RSS feed</title> <link>http://www.mysite.ie/blogs/creating_rss_feeds.</link> <pubDate>Jan 1, 2010</pubDate> <author>Joe Bloggs</author>
<description><![CDATA[ This blog brings you, step-by-step, through the process of sharing information using an RSS Feed. ]]></description> </item>
<item> <title>How to include an RSS feed in your website</title> <link>http://www.mysite.ie/blogs/consuming_rss_feeds.</link> <pubDate>Jan 2, 2010</pubDate> <author>Joe Bloggs</author>
<description><![CDATA[ This blog shows how to incorporate RSS data into your website. ]]></description> </item>


Example of the RSS consumer in action

The following example, reads the RSS feed at http://feeds.reuters.com/reuters/oddlyEnoughNews.
The optional accordion display is enabled in this section's 'Reuters Oddly Enough News' content type, which has been configured to look for the default 'title', 'link', and 'description' fields in every <item> (by leaving all the questions, that Site Manager asked, blank):

Configurable Options

Normally, you only need to supply the URL of the feed to get results.  However, you can tweak how the RSS is displayed if you like:

  • 'Feed Headline Field' can be set to 'none' to suppress it.  This woud make the headline 'Reuters: Oddly Enough' disappear from above.
  • 'Feed Link Field' can be set to 'none' to stop the headline from linking to the RSS feed source.
  • Item Description Field' can be set to 'none' to suppress it altogether.  Do not suppress this unless you are going to link to the page referenced by the <item>'s Link Field (see next bullet point).
  • 'Item Link Field' can be set to 'none' to suppress the 'Read More' link that appears after the description (if a <link> was defined within the RSS feed's <item>). 
    If yourRSS feed includes, say, <url>http://something/something...</url> in each item, simply type 'url' into this field to make it use this value when creating links.
  • 'Item Link Text' defaults to 'Read More' but if you don't like that, type something else here.
  • 'Accordion Output' is optional.  If it is turned on, none of the settings you put in HTML_... fields (below) will be used.  This is because special ones are needed to make the accordion functionality work.

Skinning the output

Advanced users, with knowledge of HTML can tweak the RSS output by adding to the following fields.
Please note: These HTML tweaks only work if accordion output is turned off.

Modifying these fields is not necessary; If you leave these blank, the system will apply the following settings automatically:

  • 'HTML_Before_Feed_Headline':  <h3>
  • 'HTML_After_Feed_Headline': </h3>
  • 'HTML_Before_Item_Headline': <b>
  • 'HTML_After_Item_Headline':  </b>
  • 'HTML_Before_Item_Description':  <br>
  • 'HTML_After_Item_Description': <br><br>

This means that, if you leave these fields blank (and if accordion output is turned off), the system will output an RSS feed that looks something like this:

RSS Feed Headline

First RSS Item Headline
RSS item description text.
Read More

2nd RSS Item Headline
A different piece of  description text.
Read More