Monday, May 6, 2013

4 hints for finding useful RSS feeds on a specific topic [curating series, part 2]

Great! Now we’re convinced that curating is an acceptable term for collecting and sorting information on a specific topic (you can’t argue with the Oxford Dictionary), and that curating RSS feeds can have some very tangible professional benefits.

But finding useful information on the web can make you feel like a city-dweller staring at the edge of a forest. Where’s the path through that wall of underbrush? How do you find these great RSS feeds?

Know what you’re looking for.
This seems obvious, I know. Here’s the thing: you’ve got to be specific. Without first deciding what—specifically—you want to accomplish with your collection of RSS feeds, you’re going to get pulled off-topic and wind up with a bunch of unrelated content. For example, I was interested in learning about current trends in public relations.

If you’ve got multiple topics, work with them one at a time. Many RSS readers will let you have different folders for different topics, but I’ll get to that in my next post.

Use the power of crowdsourcing.
The proverbial forest
The method championed by @Casuist (my professor) is to search on social bookmarking sites like or diigo.

Why not just use Google?

Because using social bookmarking sites means that you’re only searching links that have already been deemed useful by other users. You’re cutting out much of the “noise” in your search results. Pay attention to the tags users are putting on the links you like. Use those to further refine your search. Tip: If you have trouble finding links that cough up an RSS feed, try adding “blog” to your search terms.

There used to be a very handy greasemonkey script for delicious that would allow you to sort the search results by popularity (i.e. how many users have bookmarked it), but sadly this no longer works.

If anyone’s got a tip on how to sort links by popularity on a social bookmarking site, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Take advantage of your networks.
Look at your social networking: Who are you following that posts about your topic? Do they have a blog? Grab those RSS feeds – you’re already following the authors because you know they have quality content to offer.

Also, those people whose tweets you make a point of seeking out because you know they’re going to be great? When they recommend a blogger or news site, take the time to check it out. Because those influencers are, in turn, influenced by others, and it’s a good bet that you may find their recommended sites useful.

Remember that you’re an expert.
Have a look at the links you’ve shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Are there ones there that relate to your topic? Tip: you can connect delicious to your twitter account so it will automatically add links that you tweet, and tag those links with the hashtags you use. This makes it easier to find links later, since Twitter doesn’t archive your tweets for very long.

The nitty-gritty.
Once you’ve found a promising link through one of the methods above, click on it, read it to see if it’s indeed worthwhile content, and look for the RSS feed button. It generally looks kind of like the orange button you see on the right. Sometimes it's a different colour.

Collect these awesome RSS feeds in your feed reader of choice. With the recent demise of Google Reader, blog posts about the “best RSS reader” are abundant, and one of the leaders seems to be Feedly. Netvibes is another option. The mechanics of adding and organizing your feeds will depend on the reader you choose.

In the next post, I’ll talk about actually curating your feeds (publishing them for feedback, removing ones that under- or over-perform, and making sure they’re on-topic).