A few days ago, I sent a couple of links to a friend on a particular mutual topic of interest. I thought perhaps that she had already seen these links from Mashable and the Huffington Post as these are standard sources of information in our world, but I passed them along in case she had not. My friend was grateful to see these articles and she did inquire as to how I had found them. In both cases, I had seen these links posted in my Facebook news feed.
Generally, people seem surprised by the amount and kind of content I post to Facebook and Twitter, assuming that it takes an inordinate amount of to research and cull information. In fact, I have a few routines set up that help targeted information travel to me, and it's really not that time consuming. So read on for a few tips that may help you work smarter, not harder.
Prep Your Browser
With most of the services I use, most are accompanied by a tool called a bookmarklet that you install in your browser (i.e. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer). This allows you to save resources to that particular tool's website. You can also install these bookmarklets via browser extensions (Safari, Firefox) as well. The benefit of these tools is that you can utilize the services with just a click in your browser while surfing. For example, I'm interested in mobile learning these days and when I come across a useful article, I use the Diigo Safari extension to bookmark the web page to a list in Diigo. In turn, my Diigo list is available to any internet-connected computer and anyone that "follows" me in Diigo may come across my posted resource.
Here's a screenshot of my Safari browser, so you can see what it looks like. I've added a few annotations describing the tools to this image.
In addition to using these browser tools, I set time aside to purposely do research and post things, usually first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. If I'm at my desk during the day, I'll also montior social media as time allows. The tools I use have not varied much in the last year; I have a tried and true set that works for me. It's up to individuals to determine their tool preferences as I think these are very personal choices to make. Take a look at my list and choose one to try out.
For me, Facebook has become not just a place for posting personal and social information. I've also blended my professional life into this space, and tend to come across interesting related resources from people in my network. Facebook has almost taken the place of my newsreader which I still occassionally use to follow blogs.
Postpost is a new tool from the folks at yolink. Postpost takes your Facebook newsfeed and turns it into a one page online newspaper of sorts. I use this first thing in the morning to see what treasures my Facebook friend have unearthed and I share a few finds on Facebook using this tool. Instead of scrolling through lots of status messages and posts, I can easily see all content in one place.
Set up Google Alerts for topics and events that interest you. I have digests of links sent to me on a daily basis on topics such as global education, mobile learning, and Everyday Math. I have news, tweets, blogs, and video sent to me on a daily, weekly, or as it happens basis.
If you're looking for something that takes Google Alerts to another level, try Google Alerts enhanced with yolink. With this, yolink technology is applied to Google Alerts. yolink highlights your keywords in a search query, allowing you to quickly see if all your search terms are found in a result. That same highlighting feature happens with yolink Google Alerts; when I receive a yolink Google Alert email, I see my search terms highlighted within the email.
Another way to find information tailored to your interests is to create searches in Twitter. This technique is particularly useful when you need current or in the moment information. For instance, during the Global Education Conference last November, one could keep up with sessions by doing a search in Twitter using the tag #globaled10. Many live events designate tags like this, or simply searching by keywords can bring results.
There are many tools for managing Twitter, but I recommend using Tweetdeck to manage your searches. You can also create saved searches through the regular Twitter web interface. Here's an example of one my searches using Tweetdeck.
I probably use the social bookmarking tools Diigo and Delicious the most. Using their installed bookmarklet tools, I bookmark websites on the web for future reference. All of my bookmarks are organized by tags (keywords) and searchable within Delicious or Diigo. I particiularly like Diigo because you can share bookmarks to groups or create lists. When I'm looking for web sites on a particular topic, I often start my searches within services because all of their content has been vetted and found valuable by others on the web.
Note that Diigo has a setting where you can bookmark to Delicious at the same time. Also, the future of Delicious is unknown at this time as Yahoo seems to want to close or sell the service.
I'm not using Friendfeed that much, and should probably utilize it more regularly. It is a service that basically aggregates social media posts from people in your network. The feature is that is most useful to me is a daily email which contains the best of my Friendfeed. Not sure how these links are chosen, but it's a quick and easy way to see quality content posted by others.
I use two newsreaders to follow blogs and other content that have RSS feeds. I used to closely track information using newsreaders, but now I probably consult these about once a week. Subscribe to blogs and news sources using Google Reader, Netnewswire or another service; a commonly used analogy for this is that it's like a magazine subscription. Information is delivered to you on a regular basis in one place instead of you going and checking individual web sites for new information. Most newsreaders are searchable, so you can search your chosen set of blogs etc. for specific content. It's another way to leverage already vetted content.
Evernote is the newest tool in my aresnal. It can be used to organize information in a myriad of ways. Evernote is a web-based repository for notes, vidoes, and photos and be also accessed through a desktop application and phone app. I have various notebooks in Evernote for different topics, meetings, and organizations. Every time I take related notes, they are filed in each notebook. I can also take photos on my phone and put those photos into a notebook. Al of this information can be synced across the various ways of using Evernote.
In terms of saving articles, I'm finding that the Evernote extension in Safari is great for screen captures of articles that are filed into the aforementioned notebooks. Another recent use has been with receipts on business trips; I use my iPhone's camera to take photos of receipts and this really helps to keep things organized for reimbursement purposes.
Establish some key resources that people go to in your field on a regular basis. For example, if you're interested in technology innovation, check out TechCruch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, TechMeme, and Venture Beat. If you're an educator, check out Edutopia, the education section of the Huffington Post, Classroom 2.0, the NYT Learning Network, and Thinkfinity.
Each of aforementioned websites also have prescences on Twitter and Facebook. Use the search feature within these services to find their Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages. Additionally, they all have RSS feeds, and you can subscribe to these in an RSS reader. I love Netnewswire for this, but also highly recommend Google Reader as a cross-platform option.
Leveraging Twitter and Facebook networks is key to finding information, but keep in mind that these networks are only as valuable as the people you friend or follow. Follow lots of people related to your professional interests by using these tools, and your pool of information expands. Check out who your friends are following if you need recommendations.
Twitter lists are also a good way to find new contacts; here are a few of my lists that may help you get started with finding some interesting people to follow:
Lucy's List: Recommendations
Lucy's List: Assorted News Sources
Lucy's List: Conferences
All of this may seem like a lot of work, but if you invest some time in setting up a couple of tools, I think you'll quickly see the benefits. My other piece of advice would be that you condition yourself not to try and keep up with the flow of information that you inevitably will encounter. Jump into this river when you can and need to... learn to search these resoures so that you can find what you need quickly and efficiently.
If you have any other tips or recommended tools for monitoring information, share them in the comments!