Monday, September 24, 2007

How to keep from drowning in information

The amount of information available today about almost any topic is virtually endless. Trying to keep up with developments within your occupation or avocation can be a full time job in itself. I remember one of my first jobs in a Marketing / Public Relations office was to track how our organization was being portrayed in the media. At that time there were services that you hired to read newspapers and magazines and clip all the stories and references to you organization. Called “Clipping Services,” they did the staff intensive work of wading through the reams of newsprint and pages trade journals.

Since most of today’s “print media” are available on line, the Clipping Services are quickly disappearing since sifting though the piles of information is now better done by microprocessors than human beings.

For example, our friends at Google have a free service ( you can use to track most any topic, company, organization or even proper name. All you need to do is go to the Google Alerts web page and fill in the information. Periodically, Google searches the Internet and reports back to you via email when it finds a reference to your search term. For example, if the editor of this newspaper, Ollie, wants to know whenever the Harrison Press was mentioned on a blog, on a web site, or in another newspaper or magazine, he could use this free Google service.

It is amazing what you will find in these searches. You can be selective and only look for mentions in blogs or newspapers. You can broaden the search to include any reference in any page on the web. You have the results of these searches sent to your via email. Canceling the search is also easy and can be done with a few clicks of the mouse.

Google has a number of free services that you might find useful. A few weeks ago we discussed Google Earth. My wife has found Google’s Picasa to be a very useful and simple-to-use tool for sharing and managing digital photographs. In most cases you will find that for the general computer user, tools like Picasa are great. For the more advanced user requiring high end editing capability or vast amounts of storage capacity, you are better to go with the commercial products. But some of these, like PhotoShop, can be pricey.

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