Handle the infoglut

How do you keep up with what’s going on in the world? Apart from reading and listening to SmallBizPod’s offerings, that is. A regular newspaper, The Economist, Real Business, Radio 4, …

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17th September 2007 at 8:46 am

How do you keep up with what’s going on in the world? Apart from reading and listening to SmallBizPod’s offerings, that is. A regular newspaper, The Economist, Real Business, Radio 4, tv news? Lots of different sources compete for your attention and there are only so many hours in the day.

One answer might be to consider some kind of news aggregator which picks up lots of the stuff of interest as it happens and presents it to you all in one place. I’ve used loads of these things and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. But one has survived all the changes on my desktop. Ever since it first came out, Netvibes has been the only aggregator that I haven’t dumped.

And, now, it’s the only one I use. It’s totally intuitive: a bunch of tabs organise my world by topic and, within each tab, the various feeds appear. What’s a feed? It could be the New York Times, The Financial Times or Fast Company. Or it could be my favourite bloggers, a weather forecast or a search for a particular term. Here’s a reduced size screenshot to give you some idea of the first place I turn each day:

Netvibes

You can see the tabs at the top. I have rather a lot of them because I am tracking a lot of business, technology and environmental topics. You can have as many or as few tabs as you like. Those with a red bracketed number to the left of the tab name are the ones that contain unread items. You can see that half a dozen tabs contain unread stuff.

Inside the tab – I have the Cleantech one open – the same principle applies, You can see that GreenBiz.com contains some unread items.

If you click on an item, it throws up either the full original posting or an extract. You can read it within Netvibes or click on the title to be taken to the original story.

It’s a matter of moments to scan the headlines in each feed and just click on those that interest you. Once done, you can click on the unread items count and clear them. (It cancels out the feeling of guilt, when you see a count of items you didn’t want to read anyway.)

Plenty of options exist for ‘prettying up’ Netvibes. I’m happy to let the tabs do the work for me. I head for ‘Ego’ (to see what’s being said about me, if anything) then ‘Must read’ first. Then pick off the others according to the work at hand. I’ve even hooked it up to my email accounts so I can see what’s awaiting my attention without diving over to my email client.

If this interests you, look for the orange icon that appears on so many web pages these days. (There are a couple to the top right of this very page.) If you don’t get a Netvibes option when you click on it, just right click it, choose ‘Copy link location’ then paste the link into Netvibes’ ‘Add content’ dialogue.

Don’t worry about being overwhelmed, especially following a holiday. Think of it as your daily dip in the river of news.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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