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Tracking packages - A perfect job for a feed reader

What? Bloglines icon

Tracking packages demonstrates a benefit of using a feed reader

Feed readers, also called "RSS readers" and "news aggregators", are designed to collect (aggregate) information feeds from the sources you specify, and alert you when there's something new. Consider which is easier; visiting each web site you regularly read, or going to one place that keeps an updated list of the new information on those sites?

Bloglines is my current feed reader, and package tracking is a recent addition to the service. There are many feed readers to choose from, but I'm not sure they can all track packages (I'm sure this will be a standard cabability in the future, or even better, package delivery services will all start publishing tracking feeds.)

Why?

Feed readers are perfect for "disposable" information that's only valueable for a while

Tracking packages is one of many reasons to use Bloglines. The service is perfect for managing this kind of information, since it does the work of checking for updates, and the information isn't valuable after the package is delivered. You can also use a feed reader for keeping up to date on other disposible information, like current traffic conditions in your area and new messages in your groups and mailing lists.

Let computers alert you of status changes & new information

Why spend effort on a task that's perfectly suited to computers? I recently ordered something online, and just got a "your order has shipped" email message that includes the tracking #. Rather than having to constantly check on the status, I just plugged the tracking # into Bloglines, which will alert me when there's new information about the package.

SCREENSHOT: Bloglines package tracking

Feed readers are not just for blogging!

Many people think Bloglines and other feed readers are just tools for people who are "into blogging". They are indeed a great way to keep up with constantly-changing information, such as blogs, but they're useful for much more than that. We'll soon start to see more benefits of feed readers, because RSS — and "web feeds" in general — are versitile and powerful technologies/ideas. We're just starting to see innovations in how feeds can be used (for example, to keep up to date on the status of a package).

RSS newspaper icon

Feeds are used for syndicating much of the news information on the Internet right now. News agencies & web sites have known about the advantages of syndication for a long time — think AP. But they're using syndication so their servers can exchange news information; Feed readers allow people to start realizing the benefits of syndication for all kinds of content. For example, all this incoming information generated by syndication soon leads to a need for more efficient ways to manage it, which leads to the use of feed readers to bringing it all together in one place.

To see if a web site you read provides a feed, look for the words like "Site Feed", "Atom", "RSS", or "XML" often in small orange buttons, like this: RSS icon ATOM icon XML icon. Update: A new movement has has been started to standardize on a universal feed icon that looks like this: Feed icon

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of why you'd want to use a feed reader. Most (like Bloglines) are free, and it's easy to get started!