Teaching Examples

6 great tools for news junkies
November 27, 2006, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

None of these require any downloads, and they work in any Web browser.

1. Technorati Mini opens a custom browser window that self-updates and lets you monitor a word, phrase or URL of your choosing. Use it on-the-fly as you keep an eye on current buzz about breaking news, or a new meme. You can keep more than one Mini window open to track multiple topics. (You do not need a Technorati login to do this.)

2. Your own del.icio.us network lets you reap the benefits of other people’s skills in selecting and sorting information. Take a look at my network (I chose to make it public; you can keep yours private, if you prefer). The list of names at top right there shows the people I have placed in my network. The list below that shows people who have place me in their network. (Obviously, the two don’t need to match.) You choose people whose choices you admire or respect. Then you get to see their selected pages, sites, blog posts — whatever they choose to save to their del.icio.us bookmarks.

You might add strangers to your network because whenever you search del.icio.us for a particular topic, that person’s links are always new to you, and valuable. How else can you find these wise folks who would be assets to your network? When you see a low number in the “save by” link — for example, “saved by 4 other people” — appearing after a link you saved that you think is really excellent, click it and scope out that person’s other links! If you like what you see, click “Add [name] to your network,” which appears at the top left when you are in that person’s bookmarks. You can always remove people from your network later if their links turn out to be less great than you had expected.

Now you understand, don’t you, why it’s called “social bookmarking”?

You’ll need to create a free user account at del.icio.us to do this.

3. Tailrank calls itself a “memetracker.” Its back-end software monitors 150,000 blogs (soon to increase, they say) to find interconnected conversations. The hottest topics are determined by how much a particular topic is being blogged about and linked to. The main page covers everything, and there are separate pages for technology, politics and entertainment news. You can also set up your own page to track only sites that you want to include (My Tail) — this part requires that you create a free user account. If you allow it, My Tail will determine which sites you visit frequently and import those. This is hit-or-miss — about half of the sites it found for me were not those I would have picked. But the other half were spot-on.

4. Techmeme works on principles similar to those of Tailrank (above), but — as you might expect — its focus is technology stories, including a lot of business deals among software companies and Web giants such as Google. It is neither gadget-oriented nor uber-geeky. I find it far more useful than any of the human-authored sites because it taps into all of those but serves up greater variety.

What’s most cool about both Tailrank and Techmeme is that you don’t have to bookmark or subscribe to any blogs to reap the benefits of millions of bloggers digging into and uncovering all kinds of useful information. Both of these sites sideline the mainstream media to discover what the public is talking about. Now, in many cases, that might be a story that appeared in the mainstream media. But in a lot of cases, it’s a story that has not broken yet. It’s a story that is bubbling up through the blogosphere and will likely appear in the news a couple of days or a week from now.

5. I Want Media is an old-fashioned human-authored site that keeps me up-to-date on the mainstream news about the mainstream media. Maybe I’m wrong to put it on a “tools” list, but for me, it is a great information tool. It’s updated weekdays from myriad sources including major newspapers, wire services, Editor & Publisher and Mediaweek (and before it shut down, the Press Gazette). Below the latest general headline links you’ll also find links to coverage of these categories: magazines and newspapers, television and radio, Internet and digital media, advertising and marketing, and media companies.

I like I Want Media more than Romenesko or TVNewser because it leaves out the gossip — I know that for many folks, that’s their favorite part, but I just don’t have time for it.

6. Last but not least, Bloglines is the tool that forever changed the way I read blogs. It’s a 100 percent Web-based tool (no downloads), and all you have to do to start using it is create a user account.

It’s NOT ONLY for reading blogs, by the way! Take a look at the BBC News feeds (look down the right-hand side for the orange icons) or the New York Times feeds — you can put these in your Bloglines!

You might have a bookmarked list of blogs (or news feeds from newspapers, etc.) that you check when you find the time. This is inefficient because you might often open the page and find that no updates have been made. With Bloglines, all of your subscriptions appear in a list down one side of the browser window — and the number of new items appears beside each link! No new items? Don’t open it today.

Also, Bloglines enables you to scan the high-volume blogs and news sites very efficiently in a plain-text format with big (linked) headlines. Want to read the whole thing? Just click the headline. You can edit each of your subscriptions (or the whole set at once) to display either summaries or full text of each post.

You can use Bloglines on most Internet-enabled mobile phones (bloglines.com/mobile) and on all of the computers you use — because it’s fully Web-based, Bloglines always has your complete list and keeps track of what you have already read. There’s no need to synchronize or copy your preferences from one computer to another. You can even check your Bloglines from a cyber cafe.

Once you have set up a Bloglines account, don’t log out! Then whenever you click the orange Feedburner icon on a site (like the one near the top right corner of this blog), you will instantly get the one-click option to “Subscribe with Bloglines.”

You can organize all of your feeds in folders with names you create. Editing and re-ordering these folders (and the subscription links inside them) is very easy. This system makes it possible for you to keep tabs on hundreds of news sources, sites and blogs with very little wasted time and effort.

Conclusion: You can manage your online information sources efficiently and effectively!

You can also harness the power of millions of other people online who are doing their best to manage their information sources.

Don’t be stuck using old-fashioned browser bookmarks that go out of date and are never on the computer you’re using when you need them! Take control of your online information environment, and you’ll make your news-junkie habit more manageable.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I was a Bloglines junkie for quite awhile. I wanted to see if it matched the usability of other news aggregator products and tried Newsgator and Google Reader.

Both failed to match Bloglines, but then something wonderful happened — Google completed redesign their Reader. Now, I can’t find a reason to use anything else.

It’s not quite as fast as Bloglines, but the intuitive nature and its organization makes for a compelling product. You should give it a try.

Comment by Patrick Beeson

Gosh, Patrick, I already have my life in Google Calendar, much of my e-mail in Gmail, and all of my computers defaulting to my customized Google home page … there’s still more?

Google is starting to scare me! (Grin!)

Comment by Mindy McAdams

there is another one, called Megite at http://www.megite.com

Comment by What's Happening Right Now

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