October 29, 2009

Searching Through Web Content, Part Two of Three, Twitter

It's not known how many Twitter users there are now. It is estimated to be about 18 million at the end of 2009. That's a lot of information flying around the web. So how do you sort through the tweets about what Ashton Kutcher's doing and what someone had for lunch and find information you can use?

I use HootSuite, but other popular programs like TweetDeck and Seesmic allow you to save a search. Here's how it works in HootSuite. I have the option to save a column in the window. I can have Search Term, KeyWord, or group users together. For example I have a Keyword column called Illustrator|Photoshop|InDesign. This finds all the Twitter feeds that have those Keywords in them. I find tutorials, and advice on the Adobe programs I use.

Search Columns can be very powerful. You can customize your searches to find words, exclude words and focus your searches.

Here are examples of ways to search for information on a company called Luxul Wireless:
"luxul" and "wireless" = searches for tweets that contain both words
"luxul wireless" = searches for the exact phrase
luxul or wireless = searches for one or the other
luxul -wireless = searches for luxul but not wireless
luxul since:2009-02-02 = search for luxul since the date entered
luxul until:2009-02-02 = search for luxul up to the date entered
luxul filter:links = searches for luxul tweets with a url in the post

With these options you can tweak your searches to find exactly what your looking for.

Another way to find info about a certain topic are Twitter HashTags. HashTags are words that follow the # symbol. For example #HomeAutomation is a HashTag used to focus information about Home Automation products and services. The idea is to let people follow subjects instead of people to find what they are looking for, or post to others with their interests. I use the site hashtags.org to find HashTags on subjects I am interested in. I then set up searches to watch Twitter and report to me when someone posts to those Hashtags.

So there you have it, with a little bit effort you can find the information your looking for, monitor what people are saying about subjects your interested in and really keep you eye on Twitter.

In part three I will discuss how to set a web search to deliver content to your inbox.

October 07, 2009

Searching Through Web Content, Part One of Three, RSS Feeds

I'm always searching the web for content for my LinkedIn groups, (In House Designers and Design Job List), Twitter, blog, design inspirations and just to keep up on the latest trends. Trying to sort through all the blogs and websites can be a real challenge. In this first installment, of my three part article, on searching through content I am going to focus on using RSS feeds to help you quickly go through content and find what your interested in.

What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Basically what it does is takes the text from a website or blog, strips all the formatting and gives it to you a text only, (sometimes text and an image), format that is the same for every site. This makes it easy to search the information easily and find what your looking for. This is particularly important for news sites, blogs and sites that have a lot of text that changes often.

How do I find RSS feeds?
Most sites have RSS feeds and make it easy for you to subscribe to it. Look for the subscribe button. The icon usually looks something like this:

Some sites use services because maybe they have multiple feeds. Sites with a feed service may ask what reader your using.

If you can't find the icon you might want to try typing the site address then slash and Feeds, like this:


You might have to search a bit, but most of the time the feed is there.

I set up a list of design job feeds in my LinkedIn group call Design Job List. If you'd like to set up a search for design jobs you can go to the discussion tab of Design Job List and find a lot of sites that have design job RSS feeds. I'm going to use this as my example for explanation purposes here.

Here is an example of one site and it's feed address.

The site is: Talent Zoo

Once you have all the feeds entered you will have a large list of sites feeding you jobs, probably more than you can handle. You can set up searches for used cars, photoshop tutorials, scrapbooking, anything you're interested in.

Setting up a search
I use an RSS feed reader. I am on a Mac, so I like NewsFire. If your on a PC you can use something like NewsGator. You can use web browsers and even mail programs, anything that will track RSS feeds. The reader you use doesn't matter, but I like readers that will do Smart Searches, and/or Saved Searches because I make them do a lot of the work for me. I have a design jobs feed setup in my reader and receive about 500 posts a day, so I have to filter the RSS feeds to get it to a manageable amount.

Filtering the feed
Now that you have all your feeds you'll want to filter them so you can have a more focused search. This is the reason I like feed readers that supports smart searches. Keep in mind I am using NewsFire so my instructions may not apply to the feed reader you're using. The first thing I did was make a group called jobs and drop all my job list site feeds into the group. Then I set up a smart search. A smart search looks at all the RSS feeds and collects the posts that fit the search criteria or filter I've set up. I search for the city I live in, words like art director or graphic designer in the title and content of the post, and the date of the post. After the smart feed is set up I'll have a handful of posts to look through. If the smart feed is producing no results you may need to change the settings. It may require more than one smart search to get everything you want.

I can now look through all 500 posts quickly and see if there's anything I'm interested in. This is a lot easier than going to every job list site, everyday and searching for what I am interested in. If I had to do that it would be a full time job in itself.

In part two I will discuss how to use Twitter to search for content.