Someone once asked me if “I had been to the end of the internet and back.” I laughed and assured them that while many folks don’t know where to begin exploring the internet it is an endless world that could never be conquered in any semblance of the word.
Admittedly, I certainly spend more time online than the average person. I don’t watch any television shows regularly. I only semi-follow Georgia and Furman football and Duke basketball. I haven’t touched a gaming console in years. If I have free time I will often spend it online engaging content about the topics I’m most interested in, figuring out how to make a dollar, and connecting with people.
I always love trying out the latest gadgets and websites (the most recent of which I’m trying is FourSquare), and over the years I’ve certainly seen many tech things come and go. Remember Napster, AIM, Hotmail, My Yahoo, and mp3.com?
Recently I began thinking about ways in which I find content online and how I try to be efficient with my time on the computer. I thought I’d share them, and I’d love to hear ways you do this as well.
1. Twitter and Facebook – Facebook used to be a great place to just catch up with friends and see what was going on in their lives. Now, I often find myself discovering interesting articles, hilarious videos, and recommendations regarding everything under the sun from my friends.
Twitter dwarfs Facebook in this regard.
While Twitter is often stereotyped as a world where people tell each other what they ate for lunch, I find my main use of it is discovering hand picked links and recommendations from people I follow that have connections to my interests. They’re often personal friends, people in ministry, politicos, or other figures who have something interesting to say. If these social-networking sites seem overwhelming or pointless to you remember: We all have something interesting to contribute to the conversation.
2. RSS Feeds – Before micro-blogging hit it big time, the way I most often kept up with blogs and sites that updated frequently was through their RSS feeds. Most sites that update often have an RSS feed, and by using an RSS feed reader you can subscribe to all of your favorite sites and check one website that will notify you when these sites have new content. If you follow more than a couple blogs you definitely need to get started on this. I always laugh when I find out someone goes to a blog each day to see if there have been any updates — save time and your sanity. Formerly, I used Netvibes.com to follow my favorite sites but I have recently converted over to Google Reader and would highly recommend it to anyone. However, be warned, the days of reading through tons of articles in a feed reader are dwindling due to more people discovering the “best” content through others on social networking sites.
RSS Feeds explained in plain english
4. Set up alerts for specifics things that interest you – It can seem overwhelming to try and keep up with the latest content regarding one’s more specific interests. Do you like to know what is going in the world of your organization, educational institution, or other specific entity? The best way I’ve found is to set up custom searches on my favorite sites. First, I get a weekly digest of the latest relevant Google results for certain topics from Google Alerts. Second, I have saved searches on Twitter for another set of topics so I can see in real time what people have to say about them. Lastly, if there are specific items I’m looking to buy that aren’t found regularly on eBay then I set up a custom search on eBay that emails when any new items appear.
5. Content Aggregation Sites – There is only so much time in a day and sifting through news, blogs, and websites isn’t the most productive way to spend it. Fortunately, there are many websites that serve as clearing houses for the most important things going on in a specific area of interest. You may have to search a little to find one for your specific interest but some of the ones I use are DrudgeReport.com, Google News, PoliticalNetNews.com, WesleyReport.com.
5. Email – I only receive about one or two email “forwards” a week. I’m talking about ones with a link to a funny youtube video, with a picture of a rabbit with a pancake on its head, and the like. These days (at least for my generation) people seem to only send me a link to a website if it is one I really need to visit. I’m thankful for this, and one way to make forwarding great content easy is to use custom Google Groups in your Gmail account which you can set up for specific groups of friends or associates. This way you can send the content quickly to those who would find it most relevant.