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Overwhelmed by infoglut? Finally, there’s an easy way to stay on top of the news. And you can do it by looking at one — yes, only one — window on your computer desktop. The online wizard behind this is RSS, or “really simple syndication.” Simply put, it’s a way of funneling dynamic Web site headlines to harried newshounds. If a headline looks interesting, users just click on it, and their Web browser takes them to the article. If they don’t click, they haven’t lost any time waiting for a page to download. It’s one thing to have headlines appear in digest form in a Web browser. But RSS improves on this by actively scanning the Web, and looking for what you’ve instructed it to search for. That way, if something significant happens in the litigation between The SCO Group Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., for example, you’ll be alerted with a discreetly flashing icon. RSS is a by-product of the blogging revolution. The keepers of Web logs, or blogs, usually run headlines and other updates from Web sites they like. Programmers figured out a way to automate these updates, and a few smart bloggers realized that they could stream, or “feed,” headlines and digests of articles dynamically. At first, RSS was only a tool for geeks, but in recent months it has gone mainstream. The online versions of The New York Times and The Washington Post feature RSS feeds, as do webzines like Slate. To be a part of the RSS revolution, you have to do a couple of things. First, download a news aggregator, or reader. Then subscribe to RSS feeds, so that you’ll have something to scan. There are two main kinds of newsreaders: stand-alone programs, like SharpReader for Windows and NetNewsWire (and its free “lite” version) for the Macintosh; and those that work with a browser, like Bloglines. The one you use depends on your computer’s operating system, and whether you mind having different programs open at the same time. Stand-alones are quicker and easier to configure, but many people simply prefer having everything in their Internet Explorer window. Then comes the fun part: the content. Not every Web site is RSS-friendly. But plenty of business and legal news sites are, as well as the seemingly billions of blogs and “blawgs” (law blogs) in cyberspace. To find out if a site offers a newsfeed, simply look for an orange “XML” button, or an “RSS” link, which is usually found on the side of the page where you’ll find other links. Clicking on the button or link will take you to the news site’s URL. Then either drag that URL or copy and paste it into the subscribe box of your newsreader. (Corporate Counsel’s Web site, corpcounsel.com, and its sibling site, law.com, should have an RSS feed by early summer.) Here’s a look at some legal- and business-oriented feeds, which feature easy-to-parse headlines with interesting material. Not surprisingly, the list is heavily weighted toward legal sites that feature articles on legal technology, intellectual property, and other cutting-edge topics; lawyers in those fields tend to be early tech adopters. A good start for legal news is Netlawblog ( netlawblog.com). The actual blawg is interesting; it’s mostly on RSS and other tech-related subjects. But, like most blogs, it’s got a comprehensive list of links to other law-related topics, everything from IP and tech guru Lawrence Lessig’s site (which provides good commentary on open source software and IP issues) to the American Bar Association (whose blog is in an unappealing message-board format that doesn’t inspire much exploration). Minuses: Updates can be slow, and it’s hard to find the “subscribe” link; it’s on the lower right of the page. Our former American Lawyer Media colleague (and regular contributor to this space) Robert Ambrogi has a blawg at legaline.com. Now editorial director of Washington, D.C.-based marketing firm Jaffe Associates Inc., Ambrogi tracks legal Web sites and offers links to the news and other resources of interest to the profession. He’s an engaging writer, and doesn’t go on at length, unlike many of his counterparts in the blawg universe. But he doesn’t update his feed that often. A more irreverent look at “Law, Technology, and Their Intersection” can be found at LawLawLaw ( lawlawlaw.com). Clock Tower Law Group founder Erik Heels compiles news on such tech law developments as the battle over e-mail spam and cybersquatting, along with computer industry news. Almost alone in this crowd, the page has a variety of clear, easy-to-find “XML” subscription buttons, prominently displayed on the left side of the page, which are broken down by subject matter and companies. That makes it easier to pick a topic of interest for your RSS feed, instead of having to sign on for the whole feed. At Baby and Baggage, bgbg.blogspot.com, Reed Smith IP lawyer Denise Howell holds forth, in a stylish and entertaining way, on everything from legal and business news to other legal Web sites. While her subject matter is usually serious, her style and sense of graphics definitely isn’t. Her links betray an eclectic mind; they connect to everything from sociologist Amitai Etzioni’s Responsive Community site to Dan Gillmor’s San Jose Mercury News tech business and culture columns. One drawback: I’ve encountered glitches on Howell’s feed, with headlines not always showing up. Benefits Blawg ( benefitscounsel.com) is a newsfeed and Web site that offers relief from the usual blawg fare of tech intrigue and IP issues. The exhaustive blawg is maintained by Philadelphia benefits lawyer B. Janell Grenier. A couple of quibbles: Headlines can be cryptic on her feed, and it’s really hard to find her RSS link (it’s toward the bottom of the right column, in a pale shade of gray). Curious about the twists and turns of SCO’s legal campaign against the Linux operating system and “open source” software community? Turn to Groklaw, at groklaw.net/backend/GrokLaw.rdf. Its editor, paralegal Pamela Jones, has gathered the legal documents and links to articles and commentary surrounding the case in one place. Clear headlines and frequent updates make subscribing to her RSS feed a must for SCO/Linux litigation followers. Another big legal battle — between music companies and file-sharers — has a blog and newsfeed at Copyfight ( corante.com/copyfight). Editor Donna Wentworth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation keeps readers up-to-date on legal issues surrounding peer-to-peer networks and other IP battles, with, naturally, a slant toward file-sharing rights. The site has clear headlines and frequent updates, but the link to subscribe is almost hidden at the bottom of the page. There are, literally, thousands more sites to feed into your newsreader. If you need help finding a feed on a given topic, visit feedster.com, which is sort of a Google for RSS newsfeeds. Just remember that the idea is to save time, not get entangled in another layer of info overload. NEWSHOUNDS RSS newsreaders are easily downloadable. Below are a few links to some of the most popular tools. They include stand-alone newsreaders, which are separate software programs, and newsreaders that work in conjunction with a Web browser. Windows: SharpReader ( www.sharpreader.net). Free, but donations are welcome; handles all RSS versions; news alert appears on the Windows task bar at the bottom of the screen; requires Windows 98 and later versions. Macintosh: NetNewsWire ( ranchero.com/netnewswire/). Comes in both “lite” and full versions ($40); drag and drop the “xml” button into newsreader; for Mac OS X only. Web Browser (all platforms): Bloglines ( bloglines.com). Register as a member for free, and subscribe to RSS feeds, which then appear in a browser window; good for those who don’t want to install separate newsreader software on their PCs.

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