In the Know: Stay on Top of Your Field with Feeds
Need to stay on top of the breaking news or hottest trends in your line of work? Or are you a blogger who wants to keep up with your niche without a ton of surfing? If you’re like me, you like to get the most bang for your precious time — and you don’t want to waste it spending hours searching for the best and hottest stuff in your field.
The solution: Get all the top news in your field in one feed reader.
With the right setup, you can monitor the top sites without a lot of browsing and without having to check the sites throughout the day to see what’s hot. You can do it in 10-15 minutes a day, especially if you batch-process your feeds by only checking once (or twice at the most) at a certain set time each day. Minimal time, maximum knowledge.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do that. In this example, we’ll assume that you’re a blogger who needs to keep up with the latest GTD news — but you can use any topic that interests you.
1. Google Reader. You can use any feed reader, really. Bloglines, Netvibes, Thunderbird, anything. But I recommend Google Reader, only because the interface is easy to use and it’s so easy to crank through your posts using the “j” and “k” shortcut keys. In this example, I’ll be using Google Reader, but you can substitute any feed reader of your choice.
2. Technorati. Go to technorati.com, and in the search field at the top, search for “gtd” and select “in blog posts”. A search results page with GTD posts will come up. If you’re only interested in the posts from the blogs with the highest “authority” (most links to their blog), do a second search, selecting “a lot of authority” from the drop down filter menu, and searching again. On this new search, find the little orange RSS logo with the word “Subscribe”. Click on that, and subscribe to this search in Reader. Add the feed to a new folder — in this case, we’ll call it “GTD”.
3. Digg. Go to digg.com, and in the top right corner, enter “gtd” in the search box. If you want to further filter the results, you can do a second search and select the drop down filter that says “Front page stories”. I don’t recommend this for most topics (including GTD), as many of the best posts don’t make it to the front page. For technology topics, you can select this option. At any rate, there’s a little orange RSS logo on the right side of the search page. Click on that and subscribe, putting the new Digg gtd feed in your GTD folder.
4. Del.icio.us. Same thing as the above two steps, but in this case I recommend going to the del.icio.us popular page for GTD (or whatever tag you like), and click on the “RSS feed for this page” link at the bottom. Again, add to the GTD folder in Reader.
5. Flickr. This isn’t necessary, but for a topic like GTD, it’s always cool to see pics of people’s Moleskines and other cool tools. If you want this option, go to flickr.com’s gtd tag page (or whatever tag interests you), and subscribe (at the bottom).
6. Other services. If there are other similar social services you like, just do the same thing — search for “gtd” or go to the GTD tag page and subscribe, putting the feed in your GTD folder in Reader.
7. Top blogs. If that’s not enough for you, you can find the top blogs in your field, and subscribe. Lifehack.org, of course, should be one of them. Add these feeds to the same folder.
8. All the news that’s fit to feed. OK, you should now have a nice list of feeds in one folder, with all the hot news and posts in them. You will, of course, find some duplicates, but it’s better to see a story twice (and then you’ll know it’s really hot) than to miss it, if you really want to stay on top of things. Over time, you’ll get a feel for which of the feeds are giving you the most value, and unsubscribe to the rest.
9. Set a time. Only read your feeds at one certain time of the day. Let’s say 10 a.m. — never check them first thing in the morning or you’ll get stuck reading them for hours and never get anything done. When 10 a.m. rolls around (you already did your Most Important Task by then), set a timer for 10 (or 15) minutes. Open Reader, go to the folder, and get through as much as possible in that time. With practice, you can get through all of them quickly.
10. Crank through them. When you open your Google Reader, go to your special folder, and crank through it. Use the “j” key to move quickly from one post to the next (use the “k” key to go back to the previous item), and quickly browse through the new posts. If you see one of interest, middle-click on it to open it in a new tab, and keep reading through the rest of the posts in your folder. When you get through them all, you can now go to the tabs you opened, with the best of the posts from the folder, and peruse them at leisure. Or bookmark them for later.
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