COM0015 – Blog #1: The best stuff, and how I find it

As we’ve seen in our reading, there a ton of great ways to monitor what’s happening among online communities, and to track new content as it is shared with the world. For me, though, nothing holds a candle to the late, lamented Google Reader. It was easy to use, it was free, and it had a clean, simple interface that I found led to a great user experience.

Until I come across a monitoring tool that captures my heart and bandwidth the way that Google Reader did, my preferred approach is an ad-hoc one, using Instagram and Facebook searches.

Solid listening skills

I’m in control

There are two reasons that I prefer to do manual searches of mainstream sites like Instagram and Facebook for the purpose of social media monitoring. The first is that it gives me the illusion of control; I type in the keywords or hashtags I want to search, and I determine for myself if what comes up is relevant or not. Of course, I know that I’m still at the mercy of the platforms’ algorithms, and that I’m not seeing everything. Nonetheless, a part of me still feels that what I find through manual searches and analytics tracked on a spreadsheet will be more accurate.

The second reason is that, because these Instagram and Facebook are now so ubiquitous, they are considered “safe” by the IT group at my work. I am trying to explore tools like delicious.com and diigo.com, because they are new(er), they are still blocked by the firewalls that IT has set up; this means that if I come across something interesting while surfing at my desk, in order to save it to most social bookmarking sites, I would need to go to the “trouble” of finding that same content using the browser on my cell phone (thereby eating into my own data plan) and bookmarking it there.

Where’s the good stuff?

My two go-to sources of news and updates are Jezebel and CBC.

Jezebel is a prime spot for feminist commentary on cultural trends, from the trivial, like the latest Snapchat filter, to the revolutionary, like the #metoo movement. Jezebel is owned by the same company as Gizmodo (Gawker Media), and the two sites cross-publish from time to time. So when I make my regular visits to Jezebel for its take on news and culture, I am also often presented with tech articles from Gizmodo, where I can get more technical information about the tools supporting or driving the trends.

CBC is more closely tied to my organizational interests. Working for a government department, much of my time is spent preparing for and responding to news coverage. CBC, being a national news site, covers federal policies and spending very frequently, and I need to know what they’re saying about my department and Minister so that I can anticipate their reaction to upcoming issues, as well as the questions they are likely to have for us. CBC also has really interesting radio programs that talk about the place of tech in our culture, and about apps in development (e.g. Spark, Quirks and Quarks, Day 6), and through that I often learn about broader industry issues that will help my professional development.

Photo credit: paulsgraham.ca

A new listening tool? That sounds scary to me…

As I said, Facebook and Instagram, being such mainstream tools, are the ones which I am most comfortable. But I know that, in order to advance in the communications field, I need to change my social media habits. The New York Times published an interesting article related to this recently, Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do. The crux of the article is:

“Habits are powerful. We persist with many of them because we tend to give undue emphasis to the present. Trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forgo something I already enjoy. That cost is immediate, while any benefits — even if they are large — will be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant”.

There might be better monitoring tools out there, but after a work day spent at the computer, when I get home, I’m often ready to unplug, rather than hopping back online and exploring new tools. So, my question for you, dear reader: how do you push yourself to try new tools? How many monitoring platforms did you experiment with before deciding on your favourites?

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