Power User’s Guide to News

People appreciate news sites for their ability to provide an edited and selected overview of worthy topics. There is not a more classic embodiment of this than the DrudgeReport, and that is why the site draws tens of millions of viewers each day (Alltop has done a great job realizing this principle of news as well). However, what do you do when your interests are not represented at a singlular site like Drudge/Alltop, or you want to create a hub to easily monitor and correspond with your “Tribe”? You need to roll your own news by pooling together many different streams of content across the web and distilling them down.

Mostly because I enjoy learning new things, I comb through roughly a thousand articles each day in Google Reader alone, and I gradually have figured out what works to help me cope with the heavy load. Of everything I have tried, the Read-It-Later plug-in has been phenomenal.

Having separate sets of actionable items (Gmail starred items), and items you want to get around to reading (Twitter favorites, GoogReader starred items, etc.) is inefficient and goes against our instincts about news. You must pick one repository to aggregate, star, and tag articles. That means taking all of your various streams of information and having them pushed to one place. I chose Google Reader to aggregate content since the items I mark during regular browsing and feed items can be combined through Read-It-Later (FriendFeed might also be a solid option). An additional benefit of the Read-It-Later integration is that now I have multiple options for handling content in Google Reader; I can star items to an actionable list, tag them as before, or simply select articles for future reading. NewsGator is fantastic in this respect also….it probably is a more powerful option than Google Reader, but I am just used to Google Reader.

I will really have my act together when I work out the best way to apply supplemental tools like Yahoo Pipes and Yotify to my RSS feeds. Both are extremely useful for generating unique feeds and removing duplicates; although, most of the fine filtering still has to be done by you (quickly combing through your feeds and highlighting items of interest using Read-It-Later). For news, I don’t like the idea of applying filters that are too exclusionary since I don’t want to miss something unique. There are many neat services out there like AideRSS that try to simplfy the filtering process, but they shouldn’t be relied upon entirely for filtering out the noise. They do supply excellent metadata that have the potential to augment the pipes you construct on your own. The more data available, the more informed your decisions can be about your feeds.

I would really like to see effective implementations of customizable feed dashboards. I know you can accomplish this to some extent using a Netvibes page, but I think that it is something that is still underdeveloped.

I realize I have had a ton of coffee so this post might be a bit scattered, so I will summarize.

• Aggregate content feeds in an RSS Reader (scour web for useful sources of content and subscribe)

• Push feed items and discovered content to a dedicated reading list with Read-It-Later

• Tag useful knowledge and star actionable items (downloading apps, contacting people, etc.)

• Generate relevant feeds and remove duplicates using Yahoo Pipes/Yotify/Google Alerts

• Use all available data to augment the discovery power of filters

• Break down your reading into chunks to avoid exhaustion

• Try to organize things into a dashboard so you can prioritize your reading activity

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