We are suffering from information overload and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. There is no single tool that can take over as our automated infotention tool for detecting, filtering, organising and sharing relevant information. Check out Howard Rheingold’s screencasts on the subject for insights on how he chooses a wide variety of tools to help him manage the ‘noise’.
This is the mix of tools I am currently using to stay on top of the daily wave of data that I need to manage quickly for my work and academic research.
NetVibes is my preferred RSS tool to track a wide range of blogs. The trick is to organise multiple pages within the system, set up tabs in a coherent manner and to remember to go back to your pages on a regular basis. It’s very easy to forget that you are curating some great (even if obscure) material. I live in the hope that RSS is never killed off!
I use Twitter when I’m searching for more immediate material – news-breaking stuff, or material that people I follow have just discovered. I find the LISTS feature on Twitter particularly useful, as I have organised people I follow regularly in a handful of lists (academics, media types, people who understand social strategy etc). I have specific search tabs permanently open on my Twitter management tool (Hootsuite) to stay in touch with subjects I am interested in and monitor what specific people are saying (for instance, Howard Rheingold is on my academics list).
I’ve joined a few Facebook pages and groups, so I also get alerts from there. As a closed ecosystem, Facebook is a good way of finding what your peers are up to; not so great at discovering new knowledge outside your immediate networks.
FILTERING & ORGANISING
I find Diigo excellent for social bookmarking, and it works pretty well with Chrome and FireFox, if you’ve downloaded the relevant extensions to insert in your browser toolbar. One click, and you’ve bookmarked, tagged, highlighted text, created a sticky note, taken a snapshot of a page with the Awesome screenshot extension, stored it somewhere on a drive if you need to revisit and remix the content that you’ve just discovered. The search function on ‘my library’ combined with a decent attempt at tagging means that I can normally find material I have stored a while ago.
Diigo also enables me to follow other people and groups. I’m part of Rheingold’s Mind Amplifiers group, and I am alerted regularly whenever someone within the group finds something of interest and tags it as ‘MindAmp‘ on Diigo. Diigo can become a fundamental curating tool in the future. Like others, I migrated my Delicious bookmarks earlier this year, and continue to back everything up on Google bookmarks. Again, we live in a time when we have to hope that some of these tools have longevity.
I’m starting the third year of my PhD and have been using RefWorks to keep track of literature. It’s a decent system, but it’s a closed subscription model. I wish I had used Zotero when I started, but I am too far down the line to re-engineer my brain on that one, right now. Mendeley also holds promise for academic researchers.
Nothing quite beats Twitter for instant sharing. Using Hootsuite or Seesmic as my primary management tools, I can disseminate what I find quickly. The downside is that Twitter remains the curation tool for ‘now’ – it can never compete with a wiki.
I think more can be done with Twitter hashtags – Tweetchat is an excellent, if asynchronous, way of holding a group chat.
When something is really interesting, or it’s a video link, I embed that in one of my blogs, and write around that. It’s a way of personal branding, I guess – but I also, to date, have found no substitute for the ease of use and flexibility of the blog for essay-type, more reflective writing. Scott Rosenberg nailed it: with a blog you can say everything. And it also functions as an archive of sorts; and if you’re using WordPress it’s also likely to have longevity as a technology.
And now Google+
It’s early days, but Google+ is either going to be a game-changer or another Wave damp squib. I like a lot of what I have seen though my discomfort about large companies like Google and Facebook helping me ‘curate’ MY information still makes me uncomfortable. To date, I’ve really enjoyed using Hangout, been incredibly underwhelmed by Sparks, and generally I am not sure Google+ is going to be a social network – but it may yet become a powerful sharing tool because of the integration with all the other Google applications we all use – from Gmail to Google documents. As others have pointed out, Microsoft stands more to lose from Google+ than Facebook, at this juncture.