Five Tools For Drinking From The Firehose

Over the last few weeks I’ve presented to a number of groups around ‘101’ social media topics – how to get started, practical pointers, and ethical issues in social media. 

People often express shock at the sheer volume of tools and information out there in social media. It can be overwhelming, for sure.

So how can you avoid drowning in information? What are some of the best ways to filter through the noise and find the signal?

Google Reader

RSS will save your sanity when you start to get involved in social media. Instead of having to check 10, 20 or 100 sites for changes all the time, RSS feeds let you pull all of the updates into one place.

I always look to Google Reader when recommending a particular RSS reader – it’s web-based so it’s cross-platform, it’s available remotely and it’s easy to use. Other options include Feed Demon and Bloglines.

PostRank

If your RSS reader is getting clogged with too many feeds, PostRank may be your saviour.

My “A-list” of blogs alone covers about 50 sites. It’s a rare day when I can get to all of them. PostRank (formerly known as AideRSS) helps to filter your feeds by the level of “engagement” on posts. If you’re busy, just ask for the best posts out of your subscriptions, and read a few. If you have more time on your hands, read a few more. If you use Google Reader, the process is made even easier through PostRank’s Firefox extension, which lets you apply that filtering directly in your reader.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck just keeps getting better and has become the automatic choice for many people due to its powerful sorting functionality. If you follow any significant number of people, the volume of conversation flowing through Twitter can be overwhelming. Tweetdeck helps you to manage this through grouping your followers and setting-up searches for the terms that are important to you.

MicroPlaza

MicroPlaza aggregates all of the links posted on Twitter by people you follow, and a list of all the people who posted those same links. You can subscribe to that list via RSS and pull it into your RSS reader, further reducing the effort required to consume all this information. If, like me, you use Twitter to populate your reading list, that can be a powerful tool.

Still, if you follow a lot of people you could drown under that list of links. Fortunately, MicroPlaza lets you create groups of people you trust, aggregate their links and subscribe to just those links. Voila – your own personal newsfeed.

Delicious

Want to avoid having to trawl through the noise to get to the interesting posts? Why not make use of other peoples’ recommendations?

Delicious lets you subscribe via RSS to the bookmarks of other people. Create a network of people who you trust and you can subscribe to that, too. Alternatively, search for key terms that are important to you and subscribe to those results. You instantly have a continuing feed of sites that other people have found sufficiently valuable to save.

These are five of the key tools I use to keep things manageable. What do you use?

  • Nice roundup of news filters. First time I’ve seen MicroPlaza mentioned. Looking forward to checking it out.

  • Hi Dave,
    Have you had the chance to test drive feedly? (http://www.feedly.com) I would be interested in your feedback given that you clearly understand this space.
    Thanks,
    Edwin

  • Hi Dave,

    thanks for mentioning MicroPlaza!

    We’re still in beta, but people who would be interested to use it only need to follow @microplaza on Twitter. I regularly send them invite code per DM …

  • Great post. Really helpful. Interested in everything, with limited time, I am often overwhelmed. I learned a few new options to help contain the chaos. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the mention Dave! Don’t know if you’ve tried it but we also have a Google Reader extension (for Firefox). Take a look @ http://gr.aiderss.com

    Edwin, we’ve had a number of feedly users ask us for PostRank integration – would love to chat about that (ilya at aiderss dot com) 🙂

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  • Anita Lobo

    Excellent headline and very useful content! Good work Dave.

  • Question: I’m using Flock (Firefox social extension, I guess you’d call it) instead of Firefox for Google Reader, GMail, my socials (including FF). Which would you recommend, Flock (I don’t really like it’s search interface as much as Firefox’s) or Firefox itself?
    Right now I’m leaving Flock open to stay in contact w/my socials and opening up Firefox as my search browser. Clunky but working until I figure out which works better for me. I’m checking into Firefox extensions to see if I can make Firefox more Flocky socially while retaining that search browser look/feel/capability.