Different Tools For Different Folks

I’ve been meaning to write about my personal technology toolkit for a few weeks. Reading about executive dashboards at Jive reminded me again.

My main goals are to be able to connect with people, keep track of what friends and colleagues are up to, and spot emerging patterns in my areas of interest as they’re happening.

Component A: Google Reader
Google Reader Tags
Recently I reorganized my feeds to be sorted by XFN tags, plus a few other categories. I stretched the definitions a bit.

  • “Neighbor” is anyone in the Portland metro area.
  • “Colleague” refers to anyone working on something I consider related to my own professional interests, whether they’re technically in the same field or not.
  • “Contact” includes feeds from my contacts on Flickr, Ma.gnolia, and del.icio.us.
  • “Muse” is any blog not in one of those categories that I’m excited or inspired to see. It creates some interesting emergent behaviors.

I can tell when my mom posts because suddenly I have new items under “parent”, “neighbor”, “met”. It creates an interesting subconscious motivation to read the posts by the people I have the most connection with first, because the game of using a feed reader is to make the numbers (unread post counts) all move toward zero, and what does that faster than reading items that are counted in more than one category?

I also have a few tags that have nothing to do with my relationship with the feeds’ writers.

  • “News” encompasses both traditional news sources, and the blogs of companies whose services I use.
  • “Fun” is my daily comics, plus a couple of low-volume sites like The Food Whore.
  • “Research” is for search feeds on my name, projects I’m working on, and other things where I want to know if there’s new mentions somewhere.
  • “Bucket” is the category for everything else. I’m interested enough to subscribe, but not enough that it’s in another category. I skim it when I’m bored or procrastinating (which are often the same thing).

This is already pretty long, so I’ll save the other pieces for other posts.

3 responses to “Different Tools For Different Folks

  1. Whoa, Audrey, that is really cool. I have used XFN tags for labeling links in my blogroll, but not to organize feed sources. Great idea! Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I use a priority-based tagging approach. Most feeds fall into what I’ve not-so-creatively dubbed a-list, b-list, c-list, and d-list. Which roughly translate into must-read-asap, must-read-sometime, should-read, and read-if-I-get-a-chance.

    Which feeds go where? It’s totally subjective. I’ll put a feed into whichever category reflects its importance to me.

    I also have a tag for comment feeds I subscribe to, as well as a “watching” tag which is things like search feeds and so on.

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