Whether you like or despise it, the repository of modern knowlege is the world wide web (WWW). Breaking news is cast as it happens by citizens with web enabled phones, old standards like the Sydney Morning Herald is read world wide on the web. The Million Book Project is one of several attempts in progress to put the world's books on-line, free for everyone.
The problem is, the way we access all of this is via a computer, and computers are not everyone's friend. Piloted by the average user computers can range from being surgically accurate to diabolically distracting.
I am very busy with my life; family, AtkinsTechnicolour, and Picpress all need my time, so how do I pick up the scalpel and avoid distraction....by using these 5 methods:
- Smart searching. The choice and arrangement of the words you enter in your favorite search engine can prevent hours wading of through sludge. Before diving into page 2 and 3 of the search results, rearrange or re-choose your search words. The web and all of it's rat-holes has a multitude of languages, if you can learn the lingo of your area of interest you will move around much faster.
- Experts. Identify the people that are the leaders in your field of interest. You can find them being referenced at popular websites. Google uses software that raises the most referenced websites up in the search rankings, so look at those sites that rise to the top. Beware of Google's paid search ads, these are the areas to the right and on the top of the results section, what you are looking for is on the left just below the top panel of results. When you find sites of interest, note the authors of the information, and start looking for more of their commentary.
- RSS. When you find a website with information you value, look for an "RSS" logo. If it has this logo, then you can subscribe to it's "feed". RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a way of getting the headlines from a website. You need an RSS reader, Google has a free one available, then all you do is paste the address of all the sites you value into the reader, and then view the reader when you wish. Instantly you will be skimming the headlines, one click on the items of interest will allow you to read more. I currently watch 9 sites at a glance, it is similar to skimming a newspaper.
- Podcasts. Imagine having a radio or TV program devoted to your favorite topic that appears for free, regularly. You can pause and rewind, listen or watch it at your leisure. No more breakfast radio in the car! There are thousands of podcasts covering many subjects, many are well made by people who are true experts in their field. Podcasts can be audio or video. I firmly believe this is the future of media, television programs will be seriously threatened by this product of the internet. You will need a computer and an mp3 player to make the best use of podcasts. iTunes (available for Mac or PC) makes it easy. On the home page of our website you will find links to some of my favorites, I can keep up with about five different podcasts each week.
- Discipline. A little bit each day is the secret, set aside the time, to search, read and listen, then switch it off and get on with life. It is very easy to get distracted on the internet. My routine is; listen to podcasts while walking or driving (30 minutes), then over lunch at my desk skim the RSS feed (15 minutes). From these two sources I can keep on top my areas of interest.
Warning to internet fans; don't think the best information is only fed through the WWW. My trip to PMA in February netted me more info in 5 days than a year of Googling. Sometimes you have to go to the source. Happy surfing. Paul Atkins