Really Simple Syndication (RSS) has taken off in a big way. Just as satellite television beams more channels into your home than you can watch, RSS allows to you display an endless amount of other peoples content. Whilst RSS XML feeds are plenty, there's not as much in the way of clear, simple instruction when it comes to making use of those feeds.
If you're one of the webmasters who uses a content management system that makes using RSS XML feeds as simple as specifying a feed URL then you're fortunate in that respect. For others, the options available tend to be offered by developers of the software and the usage instructions provided can often be riddled with technical jargon. Many cry, "Use my feed", but fewer tell you how.
One of the best and easiest ways I've found to show the content from an RSS XML feed on one of my websites is to use a ready made PHP parser. Now, don't worry about what that means, just think of it as somthing that someone has already created; a blackbox that makes it easy for you to use content from RSS feeds and display it on your website.
For this guide, I've used MagpieRSS because it's compact, works well and is distributed under the GPL, which basically means it's free for you to use. Now, MagpieRSS is written in PHP so you'll need a compatible hosting account that allows you to execute PHP scripts.
For the purposes of this guide, I'm assuming you've some level of basic knowledge about websites e.g. you know how to FTP, change file permissions etc. Covering the basics of running a website is beyond the scope of this article.
Instead, let's cover what are probably the most difficult steps; displaying the content from an RSS feed on your website.
1. Download the latest stable release of MagpieRSS.
2. Extract the contents of the ZIP file onto your computer.
3. The core files you need from the ZIP package are rss_cache.inc, rss_fetch.inc, rss_parse.inc, rss_utils.inc. You'll also need the extlib folder together with the Snoopy.class.inc file inside of it.
4. Create a new file to display your RSS feed. I've called mine, index.php. Inside this file, copy and paste the contents of the file referred to below and save it.
5. Upload all of the files and the folder mentioned in steps 3 and 4 to your hosting account. Put them into the desired location, but ensure that the Snoopy.class.inc file is still within the extlib folder.
6. Then visit the file you created in step 4 using your web browser.
That's the basics of it. Once you've got this far, customising the way you present the content of the feed is relatively easy. Just refer back to the MagpieRSS website for guidance on how to do this.