How can we manage our intake of online news and information to ensure we see what we want without wading through streams of content?
Hector Peebles, multimedia and community editor and David Kernohan, Jisc programme manager, share their thoughts on how to be at the forefront of social media trends, whilst keeping up to date with current affairs and continuing to digest information for work or pleasure.
Hector and David have put their heads together to provide you with information on the tools you can use to help you manage your time and track topics of interest.
1. Use your RSS feed wisely
RSS is a great way to keep up to date with subjects that interest you. Most sites will have RSS buttons on certain streams, in fact once you start looking you’ll find them everywhere.
Applications such as Google Reader will help you to keep track of interesting topics on the web. You can simply subscribe to your favourite feeds and then information comes into Reader when it is posted so that you don’t need to visit the website directly.
2. Bookmark as you go
Delicious is another handy programme which allows you to bookmark items as you are browsing the internet on the go, wherever you are logged on. You can then sign into your Delicious account and view all the items that have caught your interest in your own time. Delicious also generates RSS feeds so you can share what you are bookmarking.
3. Monitor multiple tweets
Tweetdeck allows you to set up a variety of columns to monitor the subjects that interest you from Twitter (the 140 word character microblogging site). You can search by phrase or hash tag, filter out terms that are uninteresting to you and monitor messages to multiple accounts. You can download Tweetdeck to many devices, or use a web interface via your browser.
Similar to Tweetdeck is Janetter. It supports multiple columns for searches and filters, so you can pick up all the stuff you want to read on twitter, and avoid what you don't. Take a look at both and see which of the two interfaces work best for you.
4. Find some good blogs and follow them
In any area of interest, there are certain key bloggers that link to interesting material from across the web – introducing you to many new people to follow and interact with. David says,
“I’m interested in Open Education, so I follow Stephen Downes and Alan Levine who will remark on and point to interesting blogs elsewhere.”
By signing up for your favourite blogger’s RSS feed their updates will be sent to you rather than you needing to keep checking for their latest post.
5. Roll your own ‘newspaper’
Paper.li and Scoop.it allow you to create your own pages/paper on specific subjects. Set your page up and then receive an RSS feed, Twitter or Facebook notifications; once set up you can follow other users who cover subjects that you’re interested in.
The websites can do the work for you gathering news and information from across the net and displaying it in an easily viewable way.
6. Rationalise your mailing lists
We all end up signed up to numerous mailing lists often covering a wide variety of our interests. Have a think about those lists that you really want to receive information from and see if you can receive weekly summaries rather than daily alerts. Consider unsubscribing from the rest to limit the clutter in your inbox.
Many ‘mainstream’ media websites do ‘around the web’ or ‘on the blogs’ type summaries, these can be useful for getting a sense of what is going on in the world in general. Though few of these take blog commentary as seriously as traditional media, so do beware.
Be digitally literate – we all create online information and the better quality it is the easier it is when we need to find out about something.
Here are a few tips on how to assess the quality of content and how to keep your content strong. Before you read or share something have a think...
- Who has written this? Are they an expert in the field taking about factual information or is their piece more opinion-based?
- What is their ‘angle’? Have they an easily identifiable bias or ideological standpoint?
- Is it well written? If it is readable and well structured the author has probably spent some more time on it and it might be useful. Posts and articles that are written sloppily can often be dashed off and poorly argued.
- Is the author linking to other material in the area? Are they a part of the conversation?
David’s final piece of advice is,
“Be very careful with your time... don’t graze information, remember what you are looking for and why. You cannot read the entire internet, (though I’ve tried!).”
This article originally featured in issue 35 of Jisc Inform (UK web archive).