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Want to know the latest about whatever without searching? Set up an RSS feed.

Search the Web for the acronym "RSS" and you'll find it stands for everything from the Remote Surveillance System described in a Tom Clancy novel, to the Royal Statistical Society of Jordan. The current "hip" meaning, however, is "Really Simple Syndication."

Think of RSS as old ticker tapes or news wire feeds that delivered financial information or the latest news to the media.

To an accounting professional, RSS means staying abreast--nearly effortlessly--on the latest accounting news, tax code changes or, if you're so inclined, the hottest news out of Hollywood RSS is a wonderful time saver because it brings information to you and eliminates the need to search the Web to find it.

Many Web sites and information sources put their news, content updates, blog entries, forum postings and other new information in RSS XML format, and feed it out to the Web. All you have to do is download an RSS feed reader to read the XML format when it goes out on the Web, checks for what's new and lets you know that new information is available.

The information you request usually arrives in a format that includes a headline, blurb and link. This lets you quickly skim the list of what's new and select what you want to read.

Topics Are Nearly Unlimited

You can choose to stay abreast of almost any topic you desire from the growing list of feed sources. Once you download a reader and choose your favorite topics, you usually can select where you want the information delivered. With some readers, also called aggregators, you can choose to receive the feed into a Microsoft Office Outlook folder, your home page or an exclusive RSS screen.

Think of a Web site you go to frequently--trade, sports, entertainment, business and finance, publication, or media site. Want to know if the site has an RSS feed? Go to the home page and look for an RSS symbol, typically on a left hand bar or located near the bottom of the screen. Click on the symbol and your RSS reader program will walk you through the "subscription" process.

If you don't know where to start looking for an RSS content source, simply choose from the "starter" topics offered by the site from which you've download the RSS feed reader. By the way, there are a number of RSS feed readers--some free and others available for a small charge. Here are four examples:

* Windows -- SharpReader

(www.sharpreader.net)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

* Macintosh -- NetNewsWire

(http://ranchero.com/netnewswire)

* Linux (GNOME)

Straw (www.nongnu.org/straw)

* All three platforms -- AmphetaDesk

(www.disobey.com/amphetadesk)

After you download the RSS feed reader, the download site usually offers topical feeds for the choosing. As time goes by, you'll run across other sites, news outlets, blogs or information sources you'll want to add to your RSS feed list.

RSS feeds are getting a lot more attention among businesses large and small. The number of people using RSS feed readers is still tiny. MarketingSherpa estimates a mere 250,000 people used them last year, but that number should increase dramatically in the months ahead because RSS reading capabilities are now being incorporated into the next generation of browsers, including FireFox and the next version of Safari.

After you become familiar--and hooked--on the information that RSS "feeds" you every day, you're sure to think of how to put this technology to work for your business in another way. For example, enable your Web site to feed original or subscription content to clients. After establishing your feed (just browse the Web for more about setting up an RSS feed), inform your clients, encourage them to set up and receive your feed. They'll think of you whenever valuable information arrives!

Rick Richardson, CPA.CITP, is CEO and founder of Richardson Media & Technologies, LLC. The AICPA recently presented him with the first annual Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) Lifetime Achievement Award for his extensive work with the CPA profession over the last 25 years. Prior to forming his own company, Mr. Richardson spent 28 years with Ernst & Young in its technology area, including 12 years as National Director of Technology.
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Title Annotation:up to date information of accounting services
Author:Richardson, Rick
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:691
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