My personal information processing pipeline!
In this blog I talked about a generic concept of operations associated with a conceptual information lifecycle.
however with the advent of RSS, we now have an Open and Simple way for applications to publish, for users to locate and subscribe and for subscribed content to be accessed, processed and ultimately scanned and consumed, discussed, archived and subsequently retrieved
In this article talk about my personal application of tools and techniques to that lifecycle.
- Publishing, I used to use radio for all of my web publishing, either directly through the Radio Userland Web UI, or through MailEdit which provides an email interface which I can use through my BlackBerry. MailEdit uses a number of directives to define for example the title for the entry and the categories that it belongs to. I use autotext on the BlackBerry to make entering these easier. I now use Blogmedia that uses the BlogWare SW. I tend to write the entries in Word though because the screen area is bigger and because of the spell checking, and then just paste and post. You can read my blog here
- Location, like most people I locate RSS feeds in a wide variety of ways. The primary way is through other people’s recommendations, but I also subscribe to some key magazines like eWeek and InfoWorld. You can find a list of the RSS feeds that I subscribe to here. The list in contained in an OPML file. If you download it you will be able to import it into most RSS aggregators. In addition I have a few searches that return their results as RSS feeds. I personally use Feedster as my RSS search engine.
- Subscription, I subscribe to all of my RSS feeds, Atom feeds and NNTP feeds using NewsGator which is a plug-in for Outlook 2003. I really like the Outlook environment and use it for my personal email so it seemed a natural choice for me but there are many other options. I will talk later about why NewsGator is such a powerful tool. I use the NewsGator online service as well because it allows me to access my feeds from the web and synchronize all of my machines and keep a single copy of my subscriptions. Subscribing in NewsGator is as simple is right clicking on any feed in IE.
- Access and processing, all of my feeds are delivered into a separate local outlook PST file, i.e. not my mail file, each feed has its own folder which is automatically created. For feeds that just have a link to a web site, i.e. they don’t include enough information to assess whether you want to read the item I use a custom style sheet which grabs the web page and saves that instead of the RSS description.
- Scanning, I have far to many subscriptions to read them all so its key that I am able to scan through them all really quickly. This is one of the key strengths of Outlook 2003. I simply create a search folder, which shows only unread entries from every folder under my root folder. By doing this I get a single list, (grouped by folder name), which I can very quickly scan. I also create a button on my toolbar that sets all entries in the search folder read, I click this each time I complete a scan. As I scan I do one of two things, I flag an entry for follow up, or I open it in my browser. Once that’s done I am ready to start reading.
- Consuming/reading, OK so now I have a few flagged items in outlook which I want to come back to later, so I ignore these, they are easy to find because I have a search folder that aggregates all flagged items. I also have maybe 20-30 articles that I want to read in more detail, write a blog entry about, forward to someone etc. How do I manage all of those open browser windows, I use MyIE2. MyIE2 is a wrapper for IE that implements a tabbed UI, I find this fantastic because it allows me to open as many windows as I want and then come back to them for some serious reading. In addition as I read I often want to open more windows and I can do that in the background with a middle mouse button click on the link. Once all of my background windows have opened I can go and review their tabs. I can delete windows as I read them with a double click on each tab. It gets a bit better than this though, because I have two monitors I have Outlook on may main monitor when I am scanning, MyIE2 sits out of the way but visible on my second monitor. Once I start reading I switch them over. One other great little MyIE2 feature is that if I have 20 web pages waiting to read and I want to restart my PC, no problem, I just save them as a group and reopen the whole group of pages later.
- Discussion, I don’t tend to have enough time to do a lot of commenting on other people’s blog entries, but if I do I do it while reading from the web page for that entry.
- Archive, all of my blogs sit in a PST file, which is fairly scalable, however I auto-archive items that are a few months old to a separate PST. This makes no difference to retrieval because the tool I use searches both. In addition I often use Google to search online, but I find it easier to find things I have seen and want to find again by reviewing my personal archive.
- Retrieval, I have tried lots of local search tools but in the end I settled on X1. X1 indexes all of my outlook feeds, emails, contacts, and files, (and promises to do Notes soon). It has some great features. As you type it shows you the matching documents in real time, its easy to filter the results based on full text, subject, author, folder, date etc. It has a great preview window, which is particularly good for files. X1 just sits on my second monitor waiting to jump into action.