Currently aware

In his post for thing 4 David Green proudly proclaims

Fact: RSS and Twitter are my top 2 favourite things on the Internet

And you know what? I whole heartedly agree with him. In fact I may just stop this post here because there’s little I can add to what he has already said. But that would be lazy, so here’s my take on the Internet’s top 2.

My name is Emma and I am a Twitter addict. And for the record I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Since I started using Twitter properly, and by properly I mean actively engaging, I feel a connection to the profession that I wasn’t aware could ever be possible. My followers and followees keep me on my toes, they make me aware of current issues, share their experiences and most importantly keep me smiling through the grey days.

There was a lot of talk a while back about whether Twitter was an RSS killer. For me it’s definitely not. It acts as a wonderful addition to RSS as it broadens the range of articles and blog posts I am pointed to. What I increasingly found however was that when I was checking Twitter I rarely had the time to really follow up on the links I saw. I needed a solution to this and so have recently started using the wonderful Read It Later to well, um, store stuff to read later. With this addition Twitter has become for me a second RSS reader.

My top 5 follows for current awareness

I am a firm believer that RSS has changed the way the web works and that the world would be a poorer place without it. Through my RSS reader I am able to keep up to date with all of my favourite blogs and websites without having to remember or find the time to navigate to their sites regularly to check for updates. I find it increasingly hard to believe that we ever did things that way. Okay, it might have worked when we had 3-5 favourite sites, but there’s no way I could maintain that system with the 92 sites I currently subscribe to.

My top 5 subscriptions for current awareness

Making the web work for you

Last week Jess and I ran a session called ‘Making the web work for you’ as part of a seminar series for researchers. The aim of the session was to introduce researchers to some online tools for finding and managing information. We covered the following:

  • RSS feeds
  • start pages
  • search alerts
  • table of contents alerts
  • blogs
  • Twitter
  • social bookmarking

The session had fairly poor attendance with only 3 of the 6 who had booked actually turning up. If we run it again we need to think more about how we market it to ensure researchers see the relevance of these tools to their work. The small number did however aid the second half of the session in which we had a group discussion about the nature of finding and managing information.

We gave the group two prompts to get the discussion started:

  1. How do you currently find information about your topic?
  2. How might you use some of the tools we have introduced today to get this information in future?

In answer to the first question the most common approach was to visit the websites of a few trusted sources or to read their print publications. This however seemed to be a fairly ad hoc process which they followed when time allowed. When asked how they kept up with and collaborated with their peers each said they were members of professional networks but their interaction with these was largely through organised events and newsletters.

Two of the attendees had no previous experience using any of the tools we had introduced. The second question brought out a lot of their fears about this new technology. Their main reservation was that RSS feeds would lead to information overload. We tried to reassure them that they are still in control – it’s up to them which sites they subscribe to and how often they read them. It’s about routine and a realisation that there’s no obligation to read every update in full.

Another concern that kept coming up was about relevance and authority. For example there’s still a perception that the only people on Twitter are celebrities and people talking about what they had for lunch. What we aimed to show them through examples was that the same trusted sources whose websites they visited and other researchers within their fields were also providing information through blogs, Twitter, Delicious and many other social media sites.

By the end of the session the two attendees who had no prior experience both said they would start by creating iGoogle pages and setting up alerts for the regular searches they run on e-journals databases. One was keen to explore Delicious and the other I think I’d almost convinced to try out Twitter.

Please update your feed

I’m taking a quick blogging break from Library Day in the Life to beg a favour from you.

I have just put the RSS feed for this blog through Feedburner. If you are an exisiting subscriber could you please update your feed to this brand spanking new one. It will take just 1 minute of your time.

Why I didn’t do it when I moved from to I do not know, it would have made life a whole lot easier.