Back in the antediluvian period before the Web, if you saw the term syndication it usually meant one of two things:
- A bunch of folks got together to invest in something expensive and risky, like a racehorse for breeding.
- An old but successful TV series was recycled on a secondary network or specialty cable channel.
Times have changed of course, and today syndication has an Internet meaning as well. Generally syndication means that one makes Web content more widely available – not just on the site where it was generated – but through a variety of sources. Let’s take this blog post as an example. You can obviously visit this site to read it, but what if you don’t know about the site? It is up to the content provider – in this case myself – to make it more widely known and available – promote it if you will.
There are a number of tools to use in order to syndicate my content:
- First there are plug-ins that work with WordPress to auto-publish a notification on a site like Twitter. All I can do there is announce a new post via a Tweet – there would not be enough room to republish the post in its entirety. I’ve got one of these set up for Twitter and I had to apply to Twitter itself to get permission to have this capability. It was a bit geeky but I managed. Twitter thinks I am a Web developer now. The Tweet links back here to read the post.
There are other Twitter plugins which randomly publish and re-publish announcements about my older posts on Twitter, but I’m not that much of a narcissist to do that.
- The second way is through an RSS feed. RSS (Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication) is supported by the WordPress software, and hence each post I make becomes part of an XML based document called a feed. Now this document looks pretty ugly on its own with lots of tags, so I can send it to a service called Feedburner that makes it more readable. From there I can transfer the feed to a Newsreader called Feedly where it can be read like a magazine or integrated with other feeds. Feedly is a rather cool site that can summarize all the blogs I might be interested in and present all the new posts in one place. This saves a lot of time checking each blogger’s website for new stuff.
On the surface RSS seems like a really great idea, but I don’t think the major Web destinations like Google, Yahoo! or Facebook like it all that much. They’d rather have your eyeballs on their site directly. I’m wondering if eventually it’ll disappear like some other ill-fated Web protocols (Gopher comes to mind.)
- A third and very easy way is to use a site called IFTTT which means IF This Then That. IFTTT is a collection of Web Scripts called Recipes. Each Recipe takes one action (such as publishing a WordPress post) and does another as a result (like putting a notification on Facebook.) There’s a lot you can do with IFTTT, and if you saw a note about this blog on Facebook that is how it got there. IFTTT is a bit slow to update but it works well, and it took no time at all to set up.
One might wonder why I’d go to all this trouble for a blog that’s just my ramblings for friends and family. Well, I enjoy the creative aspects of blog writing and if I can make it more freely available why not try? Besides I get to learn about some new technology. Well, new to me I suppose – the geeks out there have done this stuff since 2007 in all likelihood. I am still more of a social media caterpillar than a social media butterfly.