I was reminded in the comments that Google Reader has long been gone, and that I’d forgotten to update the article. How ironic! Well, never fear, because Feedly is your Google Reader replacement, and it has its own IFTTT channel. So, whenever you read “Google Reader” in this article, substitute it with “Feedly”!
Technology, the internet, social media, internet marketing are all incredibly fast moving industries. How on earth do you keep up to date with what is happening? How do you find what is important and fit in reading the relevant stuff in your busy schedule?
The answer is, you can’t. It is literally impossible to keep up with every relevant story in your industry, and it is best to stop even trying. It is, however, possible to keep your finger on the pulse, and to keep up to date with some of the important stuff. This article is about giving you some of the tools to help you achieve this. As my business is web design, development and social media, it’s part of my job to keep on top of all this.
I’m only going to dip my toe in the subject; there are literally hundreds of different tools out there that aim to make the job of digesting information easier. I’ll be discussing some of the tools and techniques that I use on a daily basis which help me keep up to date with my areas of interest.
The Central Hub:
Google Reader Feedly & IFTTT
Update- please read my update above. Google Reader is no more. Use Feedly instead, which has its own IFTTT Channel!
Google Reader is known as a “web based aggregator”. Putting this in English, it is a tool that enables you to pull content from web sites so that you can be notified of new articles and read them. Most blogs and news sites offer RSS or atom feeds that you can subscribe to. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are the most popular types of news feeds on the internet. Most blogs and news sites offer RSS feeds, and this gives you a way of being notified when new posts are released.
Google Reader is the centre of my reading system, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it. The web-based version is very easy to use as well as being powerful. There are also many different mobile apps.
These are the ones I use on a daily basis:
My top tip for you is not to try and read every article that comes up, but to mark them to read for later. To do this I just “star” all the articles that look potentially interesting and then mark all as read.
I’ve set up a number of recipes using the fantastic IFTTT to add my starred articles to various services to help me digest the information later. These will depend on the way you want to work, but could include Evernote, Pinboard, Pocket and Instapaper.
I’m not going to tell you what feeds to subscribe to because we’re all different. However, if you read on you will discover ways for finding new content. You can also subscribe to my cool articles list if that interests you.
Instapaper and Pocket
All my starred articles are added to Pocket (which used to be called Read it Later). This helps me to read my interesting articles distraction free. It gets rid of sidebars and unnecessary clutter and formats it in a beautiful way across the web app, table and smartphone apps. It also helps you keep an archive of your articles to retrieve later.
I also use Instapaper, but I tend to use this to keep the articles I really want to keep for the future. There isn’t a particular reason for using Pocket for all my articles and Instapaper for archiving- you could do it the other way round if you want, or you could just use one service.
Turn your Reading list into a Podcast with SoundGecko
I don’t often get time to read all the interesting articles I star in Google Reader. I do spend quite a bit of time each week driving, and it made me wonder if there was a way I could convert my reading list into a podcast. Well, it is possible with a service called SoundGecko.
Sound Gecko turns any article or RSS feed into a podcast which you can subscribe to in your podcast player (iTunes for example). It does a pretty good job despite the voice being a little robotic. It does occasionally pronounce things wrong, but I have been very impressed overall and I know the developers are working on this all the time and there are plans to introduce different accents and voices.
The free version only allows 1 RSS feed, but the pro version isn’t very expensive ($4.95 per month) and allows up to 6 feeds. I connect my Google Reader Starred articles RSS feed to SoundGecko which gives me a podcast of all the important articles. If you don’t know your starred articles feed is for Google Reader you’re probably out of luck. The feeds page disappeared from Google Reader after last year’s redesign. They feeds are still active, but if you didn’t enable your feed at the time you won’t be able to enable it now. There is a way round by an IFTTT hack. Just connect your starred articles in Google Reader to Delicious, Instapaper or Diigo and then get the RSS feed from there.
As well as creating your own podcast from your reading material, you can subscribe to specifically made podcasts. You can listen to these on your phone, tablet or computer.
There are so many apps to use and I won’t be recommending any specific apps, but again the technique is to subscribe to the feeds that are going to be of interest to you.
Here are some podcasts that I find interesting and keep me up to date with the latest:
- The Next Web Daily Dose (Social Media, Technology)
- The LifeHacker Show (Technology, Life Hacks, Social Media, Downloads)
- Boagworld (Web Design, Accessibility)
- Security Now (Internet security)
There are just too many podcasts to list here, if you have any good examples I’d love to know- please let me know in the comments. The great thing with podcasts are that you can listen to them wherever you are, and they are not dependant on you looking at something. That means they are ideal to use when driving or just resting your eyes in bed!
Since the world wide web is mainly a visual medium, watching videos (either tutorials or video blogs) can be a fantastic way of keeping up with what is happening. I am a big fan of Vimeo, but when it comes to tutorials and news, YouTube is king.
By subscribing to various YouTube Channels, you can keep up to date with the latest news, techniques and ideas. You can watch them on your computer, smartphone or tablet and even (using a tool such as SaveVid) save them to your hard drive for future backup.
Here are some of the YouTube channels I subscribe to:
(Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+)
I couldn’t write an article on keeping up to date with things without writing about social networks. Whilst I personally find Google Reader and RSS feeds the best way for me, I couldn’t do without Twitter. I am constantly discovering great new articles on Twitter from people I follow and I sometimes even add RSS feeds to Google Reader if I discover a number of great articles from the same website.
The key is to find a number of people who are good at finding good articles. I tend to tweet all the articles that I find interesting, so by all means follow me on Twitter- @iagdotme.
StumbleUpon is another fantastic network that helps you discover new content and it is very good at doing so. StumbleUpon has been around for ages, but it has made many improvements over the years. If you stopped using it, do try it again- you may be surprised!
Remember to put the people you find in relevant circles. You can have different circles for different subjects you find interesting.I’ve put together a “Cool Geeks” circle for all the people I find interesting.
Please feel free to use my Cool Geeks Circle and if you have any circles you find helpful, please feel free to share them by adding the link in the comments below.
I haven’t mentioned Flipboard, Summify or other aggregators. Why? Well, although I do love them and use them from time to time, they don’t give me the control that I need. It’s sometimes good to be given a summary of articles that an algorithm thinks I should be reading, but I’d rather add web feeds from web sites that I know I will find interesting. It’s a personal thing, so if you’re not a control freak like me, then please do use Flipboard- it is a beautiful app to use.
If you want to subscribe to the articles I’ve found interesting (i.e. ones that I have starred on Google Reader), then you can subscribe to my Cool Articles Feed. You can also follow me on Twitter @iagdotme.
Finally, I thought I’d end with a short video from web designer Paul Boag on how he manages reading up on things. He does things slightly differently, but I do think what he has to say is interesting.
As ever, please do let me know if you have any thoughts in the comments below…
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