Sunday, November 03, 2013

How to Stay on Top of What's Trending in Your Field

"How do you know all of this stuff?" That's a question I have been asked many times throughout my career. At the same time, it's a question I have asked of others. We are all at some point on a continuum where we are hopefully a little smarter than yesterday but not as smart a we will be tomorrow.

Once upon a time, staying on top of what was important meant getting acquainted with the local library, reading the hallmark books in one's field, and subscribing to major publications. Today, staying abreast of what is important is easier.

A Three-Pronged Approach
Google News
I use Google News as my one-stop shop for general news. On my homepage (, one of my black bar links is set to Google News. While on the Google News page, clicking on the cog in the upper-right corner allows personalization of  the page. You are get the type of information you want in the amount you want.

Reading Google News in the morning gives me a broad overview of world, national, and local news. I also get information on sports, entertainment, technology, and the weather forecast.

While I follow quite a few people on Twitter, I have identified 68 whose content is so consistently good I don't want to miss it. In Twitter, I created a list called "Inner Circle" and assigned those people to that list. Among them, I have included CNN Breaking News.

In Hootsuite, I created a stream for the "Inner Circle" list. Reading that one stream let's me know what people I respect think is important. If they are reading and tweeting about an article, I will generally click to check it out for myself. With CNN Breaking News, I know about the latest important stories as they happen.

The Internet is full of great blogs related to just about any topic imaginable. Once you identify a blog whose content you want to follow, there is no need to go to that blog on a regular basis. Use the power of RSS to bring all of that information to one place.

I use Feedly as my RSS aggregator. To learn about the concept of RSS and about Feedly, read this post from March 2013. Whenever I come across a blog good enough that I want to read its new content whenever produced, I add the URL to Feedly. I can forget about the blog. The new content goes to Feedly, so that I can look one place and see all of the new content from all of the blogs to which I have subscribed.

Technology is a moving target, but by subscribing to the top technology blogs, when anything significant happens, I know about it. I recommend Engadget, Lifehacker, PC World, PhoneScoop, and Tech Crunch. I am constantly learning about free resources new and old through Free Technology for Teachers. I enjoy though leaders such as Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, and 99U.

For me, this three-pronged approach provides what I need without being overwhelming. I can access the material from anywhere and fine-tune the sources as need be.

How do you stay on top of what's important?

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