Current awareness has been on my mind recently as I begin the New Year. Most people pick up a free newspaper on the train or bus, or listen to the radio, and it's apparent than many rely on Facebook. Not the highest quality or most reliable sources.
High quality current awareness services are only available to professionals. It’s normally provided by in-house information specialists to scholars, lawyers, doctors and others. But in my view, everyone is entitled to quality low cost alerts from a trustworthy curator.
How much time have you got?
Information professionals use many methods to keep their clients and customers up to date. I use RSS feeds, email alerts, government, and newspaper websites to bring everything together for you. Sifting through the information takes time. For instance if you are assiduous, you can sift through numerous email alerts in in-boxes already brimming with unread items. You may have set up lists on Twitter, check Google News, look at Newsmap, or set up RSS feeds.
If you want a quick view of what is going on in the world, Google News is an option. It provides comprehensive up-to-date news coverage, aggregated from sources all over the world. But the service is only as good as the news they include. Stories from the Daily Mail shouldn't appear in any news service but there they are. There are suspicions that the algorithms behind the search engine are biased. So in combination, I'm cautious.
Newsmap has been around for some time too. However in a textual world, it is refreshing to see colour and pattern. It is a visually pleasing news aggregation tool that organises news stories, by popularity and volume of reporting. So you can instantly see what is going on and how much coverage it's receiving. You can select which topics and countries you want to see by ticking and unticking the boxes.
RSS (really simple syndication) is not a new technology and has been around for ages. There has been a suggestion that it is declining in popularity. For instance certain sites have reduced or removed support for the service. Some previously popular readers such as Google Reader have been discontinued but they are widely supported elsewhere. Without getting too technical, certain browsers – Explorer – include RSS support, whilst Chrome doesn’t.
However I’ve found that many news publishers continue to produce efficient RSS feeds. This is the perfect solution for many current awareness service issues. I’ve found that Netvibes works well because it is flexible and easy to use. I gather the majority of my feeds in one place so I can identify relevant stories quickly and efficiently for you.
As an information professional, my primary aim is to find ways of identifying reliable current awareness. So let me start hand curating news for you. I want to prove that this kind of service is not just for companies, universities, and other professional services. Get in touch with Iris Briefings to find out more.