How to Win Friends and Influence People, 2.0 Style


I’ve recently come to appreciate the true power of RSS, or really simple syndication. RSS feeds are a way for websites to easily communicate their updated information. Because the information is standardized, it can be picked up by other applications which aggregate the information, such as Google Reader (GR, see summaries here and here for help getting started).

So what? You can set up some really cool automated tools to keep up on just about anything on the internet, including topics relevant to science and biotech business. You can keep tabs on the latest work in your field by setting up RSS feeds for pubmed searches. You can also follow blogs and news by searching for ‘RSS’ or looking for the orange symbol on any website, and subscribe. If you’re like me, you’ll actually feel a bit excited when you find a great blog or website, and find that you can add them to GR.

There are also clever ways to feed customized information into and out of GR. You can set up Google Alerts for updates any topic on the web, and feed it directly into GR (choose ‘deliver to feed). This is great if you work at a company and want to keep tabs on your competitors and their products, or even on your own company. You will know almost instantly when updates are made to a very wide variety of websites (you will be surprised how thoroughly the alerts ‘search’ for information), and GR stores all of the information for your future reference. I have even heard of people feeding all of their email into GR!

GR also has clever ways to send information out, which can be handy if you have colleagues or clients that want updates without using GR. You can put feeds into a folder and send the results into a publicly viewable page. You can go one step further and set up email updates via Feedburner, if you really want to make it easy (we used this trick for our ‘Instant Social Media for Scientists‘ email updates).

So, are you ready to wow your colleagues and coworkers by knowing the latest and greatest, as it happens? This post was partly inspired by a San Diego scientist who told me he was doing just that–impressing his boss with his knowledge of cutting edge research through GR. Additionally, using RSS information can help you to become a ‘channel‘ of information for posting items to social media applications such as twitter. Check it out, and start by subscribing to the Comprendia RSS feed!

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