Last week I wrote a column asking whether or not blog search was dead. In the column, I lamented how blog search has waned in usefulness from the major providers and explained some the biggest problems with blog search today.
But with blog search being rendered almost irrelevant, staying on top of one’s topic of interest is becoming more and more difficult. There seems to be no one solution to this problem and, over the years, I’ve actually found many different ways to keep up to date.
Here are four of my favorites, complete with how they work and their advantages and disadvantages. As you’ll see, no system is perfect, but by using some or all of these systems together, you can keep on top of your field pretty easily.
If you access Twitter Search and do a quick check for your topic of interest, you’ll also get the chance to subscribe to an RSS feed of the search, thus being notified whenever new tweets meet your criteria.
Twitter search is both timely and thorough. You will find out about new articles of interest within minutes. It is also a great way to locate new Twitter users to follow and interact with.
You can also use the “Advanced Search” feature to narrow your results down to questions, posts with links, etc.
Noise. Twitter searches carry a much larger volume than just about anything else. Feeds that might generate a few dozen “hits” on a blog search feed suddenly produce hundreds or thousands of results. Be careful with the keywords you choose lest your RSS reader become overrun.
I briefly mentioned Regator in my first column. It is a very exclusive blog search engine that hand selects the sites it searches from. By registering for an account and then adding keywords to your “My Regator” panel, you can then subscribe to an RSS feed of your relevant phrases and search terms.
Density. Every Regator search result is going to be something you want to read. Nearly every result is relevant and comes from a high-quality blog. Won’t overload your RSS, even with basic keywords.
The biggest drawback is that there just isn’t a lot of results. Regator, by being human-edited, trades thoroughness for quality. I typically check my new Regator results first, but still have to quickly move on to other services or I miss critical information.
Every Delicious search, whether it is a regular one, a tag one or subscriptions within your account, can be viewed via RSS. This can give you a stream of pages bookmarked with the relevant keywords.
Delicious has a great ability for finding obscure and interesting links. Best of all, since the list is comprised of items added to people’s own account, relevancy is hiigh and the vast majority of the links will pertain to your topic.
The downside is that links are added to your list by when they were bookmarked, not when they were posted. It is not uncommon to find links that are months, or even years old. Also, links are often repeated heavily, making the list seem redundant after a period of time.
Social News Feeds
Relevancy is very high. Virtually anything in these feeds, especially if you only view the “popular” articles and not all new submissions, is going to be something to read. On most topics, the number of new posts is kept fairly reasonable.
As with Regator, completeness is traded in for relevance. These feeds do not tell all of the news and always come with a slant related to their audience. The new submission feeds, if offered, are often too noisy and spammy to be much help.
Furthermore, if you’re only reading about an article or topic AFTER it has been posted to Digg, its likely a sign that something is wrong elsewhere with your alerts. I use this primarily as a “sanity check” to catch stories that were missed.
In the end, these are just some of the tools that you can use and, in the future, I may highlight some companies that are working on solutions for combining multiple streams of data into one feed you can use.
The bottom line though is that staying on top of your designated topic is not as simple as subscribing to a fictional newspaper and reading the news every morning, it takes work and effort.
At this time, technolgica solutions have not caught up to the problem and solving it is going to require a mix of patience ingenuity and powerful tools.
There are no easy answers, but there are definitely a few creative ones to be found.