AppsLab FAQ: How Do You Keep Track of All This Stuff?

This is meant to be an open thread, even though I’m adding it to the FAQ series.

We’re all learning this Intertubes thing as we go along, so how do you keep track of it all? More accurately, how can you possibly listen in on all the relevant conversations and filter out noise?

Conversation topics could be anything you care about or are interested in following, including you, your product, your organization, your company, your blog, your Twitter account, etc.

I’ve mentioned some ways I stay informed in the past, and they’re repeated here for the sake of completeness. If you aren’t using at least a few of these tools, you’re missing a lot of good conversation.

Google is a funny animal. Have you ever Googled a keyword and been floored by the results that pop up on the front page? Me too.

Turns out that most blogging software does SEO for you, so when you mention a keyword in a post, there’s a chance that post will come up high in the results for that keyword.

Two examples:

Search Google for “intercompany” and you’ll find friend of the ‘Lab, David Haimes, near the top for his post on Intercompany vs. Intracompany.

Friend of the ‘Lab Rick Turoczy, a.k.a. the Silicon Florist, shared with me recently that he has a very high number of referrals from Google for people seeking real florists in Portland. Ironic.

Blogging software will tell you how people arrive at your blog from search engines, i.e. what keywords they use to find your blog; knowing this will help you target your content, if you choose.

Now that you know how people find you, you’ll want to keep tabs on what Google knows about stuff you’re interested in following. Google Alerts does this for you.

I have about 20 or so alerts set up, so each day, I get a digest email showing me new mentions of a specific keyword. For example, I have an alert for “appslab”. This helps me catch mentions of our ‘Lab, which may or may not include a trackback. You can tell the alert what keyword/s to search for, what type of content to search and how frequently to notify you of hits.

Some ideas on what to track with Alerts: your name or Twitter handle, common misspellings of your name or Twitter handle, your product, your blog, your company, your competitors, your friends, anything really.

Combine keyword referrals with Google Alerts for maximum coverage. I’m sure there are ways to do this for Yahoo, and if you know them, feel free to add in comments.

I’m sure many of your think Twitter is done to death here. You are right (and here you are). Still, conversations happen on Twitter about interesting topics too, not just mind-numbing, what I had for breakfast, how I’m feeling updates.

Actually, as I’ve documented before, the how I’m feeling stuff could be about your product or something that matters to you. How can you possibly follow all the millions of (cough, million-ish) people on Twitter?

With Twitter search engines like Summize and Tweet Scan, you don’t have to worry, just enter the keywords that interest you, just like with Google Alerts, and check out the feed. One common keyword to track is misspellings of your Twitter handle, e.g. jkuramoto for me. This helps you engage in conversations you’d miss just using Twitter by itself.

What you do next is up to you. Kudos to people who reach out and try to help Tweeters who are frustrated, e.g. our very own Matt Topper, who reached out to @kbaley recently.

Of course, Summize and Tweet Scan offer RSS feeds for keyword searches, so you can monitor in your favorite RSS reader.

I’m constantly floored by how many people don’t use RSS and don’t know what it is. If you don’t know and were afraid to ask, never fear. Check out this video by Common Craft for a great RSS 101 lesson. I would embed, but it makes us less green 🙂 Boo! as Lee would say.

Everyone should use RSS. It’s bar none the best way to collect information off the Intertubes. Seriously, watch the video, start using an RSS reader, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I use Google Reader, but it can’t read feeds inside our firewall. So, I plan to use one of NewsGator’s free, installable feed readers for that, especially now that Connect V2 is up and running with RSS galore.

I highly recommend following Marshall Kirkpatrick for instructional posts on RSS over at ReadWriteWeb, e.g. this post on tips for making the most of your reader. He’s constantly pushing the envelope of what you can do with RSS to make it work for you.

Mashup tools like Yahoo Pipes and Dapper are great (free) examples of how RSS feeds from different sources, when combined, can make your life even easier.

Social Bookmarking
Finally, bookmarking tools like or Ma.gnolia are must haves, both for storing links you want to remember and for discovery.

Using the network effects of these tools, you can discover content based on common tags or common people, i.e. by browsing the bookmarks of others who bookmarked the same link you did.

Throw in RSS and search, and you also have a way to gauge who’s liking your stuff (your blog posts and web pages), how many people are liking them and what other content they’re liking.

Digg probably fits in loosely here as well, but that may be another discussion for a different day.

Like I said, this is a thread. I haven’t mastered the Force; I’m just sharing what works for me. Sound off in comments if you have additional suggestions for how to keep track of all this Intertubes stuff.




  1. RSS should be everyone's standard. It brings every website you want to you without browsing there. What a great time saver.

  2. I like to get that choir moment when someone gets what RSS can do and how much effort it saves, and then the clouds part and the choir sings. You wonder how you got along without it.

  3. I'm old school and often you'll see me using My Yahoo as my RSS reader of choice, it works and I can have my blog feeds right next to the weather, ski reports and to an extent it's what I'm used to and I'm too busy (lazy?) to change right now. Anthony was laughing at me the other day for this, but what would you expect from a self confessed pl/sql fan 🙂

  4. At least you're using a reader at all, btw I hear iGoogle calling you.

    People just don't understand how RSS can help them. I had one person ask me for help making the RSS work. I think this person was clicking the icon and wondering what was supposed to happen. I hope after viewing the RSS in plain English video that person saw the light.

  5. I've started using iGoogle a little on the side too, I feel like I'm cheating on Yahoo! they didn't do anything wrong but something new and slightly sexier is hard to resist.

  6. Never been much of a personalized home page consumer, so I can't comment on which is better.

    I do like Reader, and it's an inertia thing for me too. I use NewsGator when I need internal RSS feed reading.

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