Putting the Web to Work for You - Part 1

11 Jul 2009
Posted by Vanessa

I am by no means an early adopter on the web. To my circle of friends and acquaintances though, I am the web chick1. The people I socialize with on a daily basis, aside from my colleagues of course, are for the most part using the internet as a resource: to look up movie times, read online articles, find recipes, read reviews of products for the home, or research projects for their children’s essay’s for school – all very useful stuff.

This post is dedicated to friends and acquaintances from groups and organizations I have volunteered with, busy folks that could save time and energy from some of the following applications (if they could just find the time to dive in and try them out!)

Part 1 – Finding Stuff I’d Like to Know More About

The thing that makes searching the web for something specific so frustrating for people is the sheer volume of information out there.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “I don’t really look for anything particular online, I just like to ‘surf’”. Erm, I don’t think so. You look for a lot the same stuff over and over again. It’s ok, we all do. Here are my three favorite ways to not only find what I’m looking for, but have it find me.

1) RSS Feeds

Save time by subscribing. Maybe you already regularly receive notification of your latest favorite blog posts by email. But you can also find RSS feeds published frequently grouped by all kinds of interests. The CBC RSS Feeds, for example, allow you to access updated CBC News, Sports, Entertainment, blogs & other CBC content CBC content by using an RSS Reader (Like Google Reader) or by integrating an RSS feed into your blog, email or other interface.

The latest RSS feeds are constantly updated as new stories are published. When you go to your reader (or feed aggregator), it will have collected all those nice new stories into a tidy list for you to browse at your convenience!

2) Twitter

“Oh I don’t want to Twitter – it sounds like a such waste of time hearing about people report about their daily activities and I have enough real-life friends to keep up with.”

The cool thing about Twitter is that there really are come pretty sharp people out there who have just read an article about exactly the thing you were just searching for to no avail. And they want you to know about it!

Twitterfall is a way of viewing the latest ‘tweets’ of any key words you type in. Updates ‘fall’ from the top of the screen as people out there in Twitterland Tweet them! Twitterfall was even used at UKs Daily Telegraph to allow journalists there to view breaking news posted by users to Twitter.

3) Google News Alerts

Give Google homework! Get the latest on a celebrity or sports team. Google News Alerts are emails automatically sent to you by Google when it finds new articles in a topic of interest set by you. Set it up with specific key words that are likely to appear in articles about your topic and Google finds them and kindly let you know. Nice.

More freakishly useful web thingys to come…


1. It seems that globally, the average Internet user spends 11.5 hours online per month, but for the average Internet user in North America the number is more than twice that amount. Compared then, to an average of 25ish hours online, my estimated 120-180 hours a month, makes me at the very least, more experienced than the average user.