How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the G-Bomb

by Brian Keaney

I have a pretty varied set of interests, and nowhere is this more clear than by the list of 100 or so blogs and websites to which I  subscribe.  Thrown in the mix are some comic strips (who doesn’t love Calvin and Hobbes?),  a couple good political ones, a fair number focusing on economics, a few newspaper columnists I enjoy, and a folder I simply labeled “Learn,” because whether it is Constitutional law or cognitive psychology, I am constantly discovering something new from them.

A few months ago I transfered all of my feeds into Thunderbird.  I thought it would be convenient to have them in the same place as my email, and it theory it would be.  The problem is that Thunderbird did a lousy job with them.  It was difficult to add and remove feeds, and hours and days later the same feeds would get repeated .  I’d go back to check what was new, and would instead find a week-old post somehow landed in the feed again and was showing up as unread.

I went back to Google Reader, and I’m so glad I did.  I have become completely enamored with Google.  No matter what program you are running, it just works.  No error messages, no crashes, no lost data.  Add to that a web-functionality so you can find your work wherever you are, and throw in the myriad of great new programs that are constantly coming out, and it all adds up for me.

Not only are there far fewer problems with Google Reader (actually, I can’t think of any), it has a much greater functionality as well.  One of my favorite features is the popular items thread.  As you use Google programs more and more, it begins to learn what you like.  Many others have written very eloquently on the privacy concerns this entails, but I’ve come to terms with them.  I’ve accepted that this is a brave new world we are in, and I trust Google not to be evil.

Using the popular items thread, Google suggests things that people with similar interests also enjoy.  If peanut butter often  shows up in my account history, and others who like peanut butter also like jelly, it starts suggesting feeds on jelly as well.  A fair number of my now daily reads have been discovered this way.

More and more I find myself suggesting these tools to my clients.  If you are going to be a leader in your field, be it in commerce or politics or anything else, you will do well not only to keep on top of the latest developments, but to be constantly discovering and considering new perspectives as well.

Using Reader’s Send To feature, you can also easily send a link to your favorite social media program.  Say your city posts a notice on its website that a meeting is taking place to discus a new development in your neighborhood.  Since you are subscribed to the city’s RSS feed, it pops up in your Reader.  With just the click of a button you send it out to your constituents (and anyone else who follows you) on Twitter.  Soon after, the state releases a report saying that crime in your city is down 15%, and you pass it along as well.  The next week a fundraiser is being held for the local elementary school, and you use your network to promote that, too.

These are feeds you are probably going to be following anyway, and passing the information along only takes a minute of your time.  In the process, you become a central hub for information of concern to your constituents (or business partners, or customers, etc).  It also helps brand you as someone in the know, an expert in your field.  That won’t hurt the next time someone goes to cast a ballot, or makes a decision about where to buy a widget.

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