Thanks for all the support!

I want to post a quick note in thanks to everyone who’s been sending so much support for my way for my next adventure. I’m working hard on a next big blog post but am just slammed with things to do regarding this transition. I’ll be posting more details on my consulting aims, with the same disclosure of hopefully valuable information as was the case with my last post, as soon as I can.

If I owe you a phone call, expect to hear from me later today or tomorrow. Thanks again!

Open Sourcing My TechCrunch Work Flow

Yesterday was my last day at TechCrunch. It’s been a good run but I’m excited to get back into consulting for non profit organizations and startup businesses. This is a post about how I did my research while writing for TechCrunch, written in the belief that the more valuable information a person shares the more likely they are to be hired to share even more information as a consultant. 🙂

I may also try to continue writing professionally, I haven’t decided yet. Michael Arrington and I parted ways on very good terms. If you enjoyed my writing at TechCrunch, watch this space for more that’s similar but definitely not the same. If you are a loyal reader of this blog from before my time at TechCrunch, I hope you’ll enjoy my return to writing things similar to what I wrote before.

One of the things I’m most excited about regarding this transition is that the research methods I used to train people in are no longer a trade secret. Those tactics, specifically ways to use RSS, were what got me the job at TechCrunch and were a big part of my everyday work flow there. Though many of the stories I wrote came from press releases and TechCrunch contacts, I live in Portland, Oregon (not San Francisco) and had to come up with the vast majority of my stories on my own.

The following is a description of my feed reading methodology. It’s how I break stories, if not in the first place then into the larger blogosphere. It’s a work flow that I believe can be applied in almost any sector. I’m looking forward to helping a variety of people learn to use these tools so they can be put to use for more than just bloggers blogging about the blogosphere. This is a big picture of what I know now and I know that a week from now I’ll have more to offer. I haven’t included any discussion about small things like filtering feeds, scraping feeds or using RSS and email together but there’s a lot more that can be done with RSS for research than I feel like writing about this morning. My plan for consulting is to offer customized training in the use of these tools, other related practices and whatever else I learn about in the future.

How To Read Feeds & Rock the Blogosphere

RSS feeds make it possible to consume far more information at a faster pace than would otherwise be possible for the human brain. That said, many people experience a new level of information overload once they begin reading feeds. Here’s an overview of how I read thousands of RSS feeds without breaking a sweat.

Using a Startpage

I’ve recently added the use of a startpage or single page aggregator to my workflow to compliment my regular feed reading. I’ve drug the link to OriginalSignal and now PageFlakes onto my toolbar and I give it a click a couple of times an hour. It provides a quick and easy way to see if my competitors have written anything new since the last time I looked. Almost anything can be read by RSS feed, so you can display almost anything on a startpage. These services fulfill a very specific function for a person working on the web – they provide a one click view of updates from various sources, inside the browser and distinct from the more heavy duty environment of a feed reader.

Organizing a Feed Reader

I use Newsgator’s desktop feed reader for Macs, NetNewsWire, to subscribe to RSS feeds. It’s the fastest and most reliable RSS reading tool I’ve found yet. It’s nice to be able to read my feeds when I’m not online, too.

I am subscribed to thousands of RSS feeds and currently have thousands of unread items in my feed reader – that suits me just fine. The secret is to organize those feeds so that the most important information is easy to access. I have several folders that include feeds from the blogs of companies I wrote about at TechCrunch, news search feeds for those companies and other high priority topics. I refresh and check those folders frequently throughout the day. I keep everything else in low priority folders that I only check if I find the time. That way I end up reading 100% of what’s most important and probably 10% of what’s unimportant enough to miss.

Finding the right feeds is a whole topic in and of itself that I’ll save for another time, but I will say that it is very helpful to subscribe to feeds without a moment’s hesitation. As long as they are well organized, even a list of feeds that you almost never read will be more likely to catch your attention that something didn’t subscribe to in the first place. I also subscribe to a lot of news, blog and web searches that never have any results – but that I will want to see right away in the event that those searches do result in something.

High Priority Sources

The single most helpful tool for me in my efforts to blog about news events first has been an RSS to IM/SMS notification tool. I use Zaptxt to subscribe to very high priority feeds. It sends me an IM and SMS whenever a high-profile company blog is updated and in a number of other circomstances. There are quite a few services that offer this functionality now and it’s invaluable. A big part of taking a prominent position in the blogosphere is writing first on a topic. That’s a large part of what got me the job at TechCrunch and it’s something that an increasing number of people are clearly trying to do.

In sectors where people are already using tools like the above, I expect further developments to emerge that differentiate writers’ handling of the huge amount of information available. New tools and new practices. It’s a very exciting time to be someone who works with information.

Those practices described above are relatively simple but they worked well for me to get and do my job at TechCrunch. In six months of writing the majority of the posts there, I helped the site grow from 75,000 subscribers to almost twice that number at its peak last Tuesday. Over the last six months the blog has gone from the 9th most linked to blog on the web to now the 6th most linked to.

Michael Arrington is a larger than life person that clearly deserves the vast majority of the credit for the success that blog has had in the 18 months it’s been online, but I’m proud of my time there as well. I’m excited now to share what I’ve learned about working on the web and I hope you’ll join me here on this blog for that conversation. Drop me a line if you’re interested in doing some work together.

Chinese Video Game Gold Farmers

Wagner James Au has a great post over at Gigaom about the growing industry of people in China who play video games like World of Warcraft and then sell the items they acquire in-game to US and European game players on eBay. It’s a bizarre world we live in these days and this is a good picture of one of the stranger parts of it. If you haven’t seen Au’s blog on Second Life, New World Notes, it’s totally worth checking out too.

Can’t help but think of the latest episode of the podcast Technometria, a great show that amongst other things referenced this week a quote (I can’t remember who from) stating that in the future of computing “the world would become magical.” I thought that was shockingly sad, as the world is so magical already! In fact, I can’t help but think that properly tending the relationship between the magic being created on the web and the the magic that already exists in meat-space (as it’s called) is essential. Failure to do so seems very dangerous.

Not sure how to put the above two paragraphs together, but I think they are related. Just a few things I’m thinking about. I don’t think that Chinese gold farms are particularly magical, but there is something going on there. There is a lot of magic emerging online. Dealing with information overload alone may require some serious magic, for example.

Women on TechMeme

Don’t look now but women are making more of an appearance on TechMeme, the automated tech blogosphere buzz tracker, than usual. It’s often derided as an insiders’ boys’ club but today you’ll find a discussion of CNet’s obnoxious story Top 10 Girl Geeks of All Time and a Mama Musings/Nancy White meme about a cute baby video. Highest on the page right now is some good Katie Fehrenbacher reporting, but that’s nothing new. The CNet story was the top story when I woke up. (I should have used another example perhaps – that story is totally going to end up having a bunch of dudes circled around it kicking it while it’s down and that’s not the point I’m trying to make – I swear!) Jeneane Sessum hypothesized that there was an algorithm adjustment but it’s more likely a slow news day, to be honest. If Techmeme is going to be worth reading in the long run, though, it’s going to have to include more womens’ blogs. That won’t happen by manual inclusion by Gabe Rivera (ok, fine Gabe) but the way it will happen is as every blog gets indexed there: linkage. Blogs already included in Meme can link to blogs not included and thus introduce Gabe’s robot to the new blogs.

So if my personal blog here is still included in Techmeme’s index, I’m going to shoot to get this post on it by linking to one of the top stories. (Update: Success! Within about 30 minutes I was on the list discussing that ridiculous CNet story.) Then I’ll link over to a couple of people who should be indexed there, just in case they aren’t. Marnie Webb wrote an interesting post this month about an activist camp in SecondLife, as did Ruby Sinreich, Beth Kanter wrote about Revver ads in nonprofit videos online. Those folks are already blogosphere heavyweights, but this is just a proof of concept and I need to get back to work. 😉

Maybe this is silly, but maybe it’s this simple to change who’s included in Techmeme. Those blogs I’m linking to may need to be linked to the same links on Meme that I linked to early in the post though – in other words, they may need to be participating in these particular conversations already. I don’t know, it’s a mystery. And of course getting on Techmeme presumes that those blogs link to the same URL as other people indexed within the same half day or so that conversation first emerges. That’s not something that everyone is interested in or in a position to do – but that’s the nature of Techmeme.

My blog was first included there when Barb Dybwad linked to me writing about something. I may have neglected this blog for long enough that it’s no longer indexed by Techmeme, I don’t know. I remember when I first made it onto the site, though. It was very exciting and a huge traffic spike for this humble little blog. Let’s see if we can get some of that Meme love spread around.

Courts: Craigslist Not a Publisher (Good) Videoblogger Not A Journalist (Bad)

Two court cases worth watching in recent days: one court ruled that Craigslist isn’t responsible for discriminatory housing ads users post on its site and another kept SF videoblogger Josh Wolf in prison possibly for the duration of a grand jury regarding a protest. The Craigslist ruling is complicated in its implications and may not be 100% good news for the web. The company has said throughout, by the way, that they hope the “flag as offensive” option would help with situations like this. Good discussion of case complications at the Chicagoist.

On Josh Wolf the video blogger, if you consider a videoblogger a journalist (and I think you should), then it’s important that if Wolf is detained for the duration of the grand jury (until July) then the NYT says “Mr. Wolf, who has served 88 days, will be the longest-incarcerated journalist in recent American history, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.” Here’s Wolf’s site.

Testing Amberjack

Ugh, another test. Are there any RSS subscribers anymore?
Tour button code:Click to start tour!