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New Guest Post On Library Tech Talk

Are you getting annoyed with Google Reader, or feeling overwhelmed when it regularly say “1000+ unread?” Check out my guest post over at Library Tech Talk about an alternative that is much less overwhelming and much more visually pleasing.

“Google Reader is a great tool for organizing all the blogs, sites, and content you subscribe to, but it’s not always the most visually stunning. It’s a list of endless posts from various blogs, and it can be overwhelming, especially when you have 1000+ items unread. That’s where Flipboard comes in!”

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New Ways to Discover Content

People have been discussing the demise of RSS for a while. Even in the library world, Lauren Pressley had a great post not too long ago about how she is ditching RSS for Facebook and Twitter. This doesn’t point to the uselessness of RSS though, it points to the development of interesting, beautiful, and intuitive new ways to discover content.

RSS is far from dead. I still use my Google Reader, not to mention Twitter for content discovery. But I’ve also been playing with a several other services and apps to stay current, get new ideas, and serendipitously find things I didn’t even know I was looking for.

Alltop

Alltop is a site that aggregates some of the top resources from around the web on certain subjects. They bill it as a “online magazine rack of the web” collecting headlines from various blogs and online sources. You can look at all the popular posts in topics like design, science, food, and they even have a page for libraries.

Paper.li

Whereas Alltop is a magazine rack, Paper.li is a customizable newspaper for the web. You can use your Facebook stream or Twitter lists that you’ve created to make a daily web newspaper. Playing around with it, I created a paper called The Info Pro Intelligencer using my librarians Twitter list. Paper.li then, after creating a list, selects content from the list and then displays stories, videos, and pictures following a newspaper format on a daily basis. You can even set it up to tweet when the most current issue is available.

Flipboard

flipboard app for ipad

Flipboard is an app for the iPad that again describes itself as a “social magazine.” You can use lists or individual feeds from Twitter or you can use your Facebook profile to create different e-magazines that parallel your interests. You can also share any of the stories right from the app. It’s a really beautiful design, and a very different way of discovering content than staring at a list of tweets.

Pulse

Another iPad app, Pulse breaks out of the newspaper/magazine mold and creates an entirely new way of viewing news that interests you. It is a really intuitive way of viewing content (Steve Jobs even featured it in his keynote about the iPad). You can subscribe to certain blogs or feeds and it automatically populates itself whenever you open it. And unlike an RSS reader, things don’t keep piling up. You just get the most recent 25 or so posts.

The model of trying to read everything is impossible. There is simply too much content out there. You can’t be scared, as Bobbi Newman states, to declare bankruptcy on your reader and mark all as read. Better yet, instead of letting things pile up and feeling like you have to read them all, try using services that allow you to pop-in and pop-out of the stream of content. You won’t miss anything.

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Ambient Awareness in Twitter for Reference

A couple of days ago I was able to help a patron on Twitter with a question that they had about citations. It wasn’t directly addressed to the library though, so I almost missed it. A savvy marketing professor actually referred the student to the library on Twitter, which was very helpful.

This got me thinking though. There are likely a lot of potential library related questions on Twitter from our patrons that we miss because they might not be asking us or thinking of the library when they tweet. Patrons may be talking about proper citation or research though not @replying or DMing the library.

So, to remedy this and catch some of these questions I set up several alerts using Twitter’s advanced search. You can take advantage of the Boolean nature of the advanced search to make your searches very specific. I set up searches for:

  • Tweets containing the word library
  • Tweets containing the word cite
  • Tweets containing the word research
  • Tweets containing the word paper
  • Tweets containing the word need AND book OR article OR books OR articles

All of these alerts I set up were within a 10-25 mile radius of the college to keep it targeted locally and keep hits managable. I keep these alerts in a folder in Google Reader.

Different libraries might run different searches. For example a public library around this time may run a search having to do with “tax help” or “taxes.” The searches can be tailored to your specific community, and they can be modified over time. I may find that some of the searches I’m running never return any useful hits. But something like the word “cite” or “citation” is not used that often. When it is, there’s a decent chance it’s something a library can help with.

What do other folks think? Are there other searches you would run? Is this just going out and looking for more work?