The Canadian Public Relations Society

Two tools to combat filter failure

In Social Media on February 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

There’s no such thing as information overload according to journalist, author, educator and internet guru Clay Shirky, there’s only filter failure.  The need to categorize and make choices about what media we consume is nothing new.  By the 1500’s – only 60 years after the invention of the printing press  – there were already more books than an average literate person could read in a lifetime.  The challenge of the industrial and information ages is the same:  the need to design filters that provide us the information we want without cluttering our lives with a veritable haystack of information we don’t. For some, the growth of the Internet and our increased reliance on technology has only aggravated the problem.  However, technology can also help solve the problems it creates. There are free filters to help find, categorize and save relevant information.

Most news, websites and blogs have RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) that you can plug into your RSS reader (such as Google Reader) to review, share and save. Any webpage with this symbol can be syndicated:

Think of RSS as an active bookmark that fetches content, be it the latest CPRS Calgary Blog post or the latest MP3 of CBC’s The Calgary Eyeopener, and saves it for you in your RSS reader.  So rather than spending your time continually chugging through the same webpages, you can open up Google Reader, for example, and quickly review your feeds where all the new content is waiting for you. Tagging, saving or sharing any piece of content is simple. You can save your RSS feeds in topical categories and even access them on a BlackBerry using a free app called Viigo. Using RSS can help you digest all the webpages you regularly visit faster.

Do you often find yourself searching Google for a certain topic to catch all the new search results?  If so, you should set up an alert.

Google Alerts are effectively a free media monitoring service. They scour the Internet for your search terms and send you an email when new results are found.  They are extremely simple to use and can be set up in less than five minutes. Simply enter your search term, select which media you want to monitor and the number of results you want per email. You can associate the alert with any email address and will receive emails according to the frequency settings you set for each alert.

Both of these tools are simple timesavers that manage the flow of information online and help keep your own information filters from failing.

For another step by step explanation of RSS in plain English check out this video.

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