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Friday, 1 March 2013

Managing news

I was asked today how I manage to stay abreast of business and technology developments. Suffice to say there is no rocket science in the answer, but it occurred to me that I do a number of things and have a certain workflow for processing news that others might find of interest. This post documents what I find works well, others may have different solutions. But here is my approach:

  1. It all starts with having an inquisitive mind. You need to question and research. That's a founding philosophy. Be interested in a small number of topics, develop a hunger for truth.
  2. Use twitter as a news source. Everything gets tweeted these day and its an ideal source for sifting through items to find things of interest.
  3. When you find someone or an organisation that tweets things of interest, follow them. Check out who they follow and follow those that look interesting as well (this sometimes feels a stalkery, but its why follow lists are public so get over it). Watch who the interesting people mention in their tweets and follow them as well. Don't ignore the email suggestions of people to follow from twitter - this is a really useful service that has given me numerous great sources. Whatever they use to produce those recommendations really works, so check the recommendations out and follow the interesting ones.
  4. Pay particular attention to the independent minded commentators on topics of interest. Make a point of working out who they are. It takes time, but usually there are a few key people - their opinions are usually very well researched and they tend to focus on their reputation, not maximising clicks. Their opinion is preferable to the mainstream press IMHO.
  5. Use lists in twitter to group interesting sources into topics, so you can easily see what's new on a given topic without wading through a huge timeline. The twitter website is almost unusable for lists, don't bother, get a decent twitter client. I use Tweetbot on iOS and Mac that is sublime for managing lists. There will be other clients for other platforms, but I don't use them so can't advise; google is your friend. Focus on how easy it is to manage lists, as a lot of clients (including the official twitter app the last time I looked) are no better than the website.
  6. If you see something in the mainstream press, be suspicious. Most mainstream press summarise and spin the content to give you a pre-packaged opinion. It's like a ready-meal though - you don't know when it's beef and when it's horse. I could add another word to the end of that sentence. Follow links to the article's source or google if the source isn't linked. Assume any mainstream opinion is dubious and seek out your own opinion based on facts, not a summary of those facts. Be hungry for facts, they matter.
  7. There's too much content for our brains, so you need help to remember it. Bookmarks are useless; links stop working and the link is rarely visual enough to prompt your memory. I now clip everything to Evernote. This is a truly fantastic app available on most platforms. Instead of saving a link you save the content to the cloud. Run, don't walk to download it. Setup notebooks to organise your clippings. I have it on all my devices, so my evernote content is automatically synced everywhere; perfect!
  8. Use a 'read later' service that integrates with your browser and twitter client to reduce friction on clipping content. I use InstaPaper, but others are available. This is critical because when you find something interesting you can clip to InstaPaper and read it when you have time, even when there's no network (usually on the train for me). I have InstaPaper setup so the favourite button automatically clips to Evernote. So, I review articles in InstaPaper and favourite those I want to keep, ensuring anything of interest gets saved to Evernote. As most twitter clients integrate with read later services this ensures you have a frictionless way of getting content to Evernote. This workflow is perfectly for me. I don't know if other read later services integrate with Evernote. For me this is a critical requirement, so go check it out.
  9. Grab your choice of magazine app; FlipBoard, Zite, etc and explore the content sources. Connect it to your read-later app to clip contents as per twitter.
  10. I used to use RSS, but have pretty much transitioned away from it now. I'd need an RSS reader to integrate with InstaPaper and/or Evernote if this was a source of news for me.

Apologies that my workflow is a little iOS/Mac centric, but I don't use other platforms. I'm sure there are equally good workflows available elsewhere. The apps I mention, TweetBot, InstaPaper, Evernote and their integration, are really important to my workflow.


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