Oct 04

Toss out your answering machine

(This may be seen as off-topic for some readers, but I’m writing about it as an example of technology simplifying my life.)

I’ve been slowing realizing over the last several months that neither Liz nor I religiously check our home answering machine. This is bad, because there may be important messages.

We both, however, check our email religiously. I was convinced there was a better way for us to manage the calls to our home that we missed. Eventually, I realized that Google Voice would work quite nicely. Here’s what I did:

In Google services:

1. Set up a new Gmail account.

2. Signed up for Google Voice and chose a number that is local for us.

3. In Settings > Phones, I turned OFF all phones (DEselected the check boxes)…so that none of the phones associated with the account would ring when this number was called. This means that all calls to this number would, by default, go straight to voicemail.

4. In Settings > Voicemail & Text, I recorded a new greeting appropriate for our home phone and set it as the default greeting for all calls.

5. In Settings > Voicemail & Text >Voicemail Notifications, I set notifications to be sent to the account’s Gmail address.

6. I also elected on this screen to have voicemails transcribed. These transcriptions are far from perfect, but they often provide enough information to let us know what should be done with the message.

With my home phone service provider:
(Our home phone provider is Time Warner Cable- they have a VoiceZone service you can sign into to manage these settings yourself. Your provider may or may not have something similar- call them and ask!)

I set calls to forward to my new Google Voice number if we did not answer after four rings:

Back to the new Gmail account:

7. Now that this new Gmail account was receiving emails from Gvoice with the date/time, number, the machine transcription of the message and a link to play the audio, it was time to make sure that Liz and I both got them.

First, I set up all emails from this account to be forwarded to my main email account. Next, I set up a filter to make sure all such emails were forwarded to Liz’s main email account.

So now we were each getting the email when someone called our home phone and left a message.

8. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that neither Liz nor I would accidentally overlook such voicemail-containing emails when we received them, so I made one more filter for each of us that slaps on a big red label:

lastfilter

So here’s what it looks like in my inbox when someone calls our home phone number and leaves a message:
inboxview

The email contains a link to a Web-based audio player through which either one of us can listen to the message if the machine-transcription is insufficient (as it often is).

Results:

1. We can’t fail to notice that we have messages (as we sometimes do now with the little blinking red light on our answering machine).

2. We no longer have to worry about whether one of us or the other has heard a particular message and wonder if it can safely be deleted. We can manage our own listening as we would our own reading. It is as if we are both “cc’d” on voicemails left on our home phone.

3. Neither of us can accidentally delete old messages.

4. We can both easily access our messages anywhere.

5. We’re throwing out our answering machine without having to pay anyone for voicemail service.

:)

Feb 21

How to: Add a Free Medical Dictionary to Word 2003/2007

Got an email from a friend the other day:

“I wonder if you have found a free add-on for Word 2003 that includes medical terms in the spell check feature and is secure enough for me to recommend to my users at the hospital?”

This is such a great question and something that has come up at my place of work previously. Out of the box, Microsoft Office Word doesn’t recognize a whole lot of the specialized medical vocabulary that people at our hospital use every day. The result of this is that Word frequently fails to recognize clinical terms and underlines them in red, essentially making them false positives for spelling errors.

Only one employee in my department has Stedman’s medical dictionary installed in her copy of Word 2003 because paying a license for each copy used in an entire hospital would add up to an unmanageable sum quite quickly.

Among the books made available to all employees through our hospital’s intranet is a medical dictionary- and that’s okay for the kinds of people who don’t mind stopping what they’re doing to look up a word, but it would be so much faster and easier for Word to be able to spell-check and correct spelling issues with medical terms.

So I promised the friend I’d think it over and come up with some recommendations.

In MS Word, a “dictionary” is just a list of words.

That’s all. Nothing on pronunciation, etymology, or definition.

A quick search reveals that these “dictionaries” (word lists) are stored as .dic files.

Microsoft even tells you how to MAKE a custom dictionary.

So, what we really need is a list of words to turn into a custom dictionary.

OpenMedSpel is pretty awesome.
Free, open source, and released under a GPL license, OpenMedSpel includes nearly 50,000 medical terms. This is all looks great, but while they have a plug-in for OpenOffice, there doesn’t seem to be one for MS Word.

No problem, though. I took apart a .dic file, and it is pretty much a .txt file with a word on each line, renamed with a “.dic” file extension. This means we can just download the .txt version (in the .zip fail available here) and rename it from OpenMedSpel 100.txt to OpenMedSpel 100.dic and save it to our computer.If you want to take a shortcut, you can download my .dic file here (right-click, Save As), but please note I don’t plan on keeping it updated as OpenSpelMed makes changes- so if you’re reading this more than a year after it was posted, I’d go get a fresh copy of the .txt file from OpenMedSpel. Firefox users: Firefox’s native spell-checking isn’t bad at all, but OpenMedSpel has a free Firefox plug-in you’ll probably want to check out.

To add this .dic file to Word (2003 or 2007), we just follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  1. Start Word.
  2. In Microsoft Office Word 2003 and in earlier versions of Word, click Options on the Tools menu.

    In Microsoft Office Word 2007, click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Word Options.

  3. In Word 2003 and in earlier versions of Word, click Custom Dictionaries on the Spelling & Grammar tab.

    In Word 2007, click Proofing, and then click Custom Dictionaries under When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs.

  4. Click New to create a new custom dictionary.
  5. In the File name box, type a name for the
    new custom dictionary, and then click Save.

    The custom dictionary is added to the Dictionary list.

  6. In the Custom Dictionaries dialog box, click OK, and then click OK in the Options dialog box.

That’s it. You have medical term spell-checking in Word 2003 or Word 2007.

PLEASE NOTE: I would not hesitate to recommend this solution to my hospital’s CIO and could demonstrate to him why there is absolutely no security risk in adding this .dic file- but I wouldn’t go around setting it up on other employees’ computers without his go-ahead.

Want to go with a bigger word list?

The MTHerald blog has built on the OpenMedSpel list to one that contains almost 100,000 terms. I downloaded and checked it out and will recommend it as a harmless, malware-free .dic file- but as with any file I don’t host myself, I can’t promise that’ll be true tomorrow.

There are a number of other sources for lists of medical terms or abbreviations you can find online and add to your .dic file as suits you.

Know of any other especially good sources? Please advise in the comments.

Apr 02

Screencast: Introduction to new PubMed Advanced Search

Way behind on sharing this, but better late than never.

The Mayo Clinic Libraries’ Liblog has a screencast by Melissa Rethlefsen on PubMed’s new Advanced Search features that you can embed on your own page:

In case I have not mentioned it recently: Melissa is awesome.

Dec 08

The Book!

Got my hands on my copies of the book today! How exciting!

Yay!

You can buy a copy from:
Springer Publishing

or here:

I’m looking forward to eventually seeing it in WorldCat. :)

Congratulations to Melissa Rethlefsen (who wrote a heck of a lot more than I did)! You should really go email Melissa now and tell her how much she rocks.

Apr 09

How to: Use Gmail to Manage List Emails

I subscribe to a bunch of mailing lists because they frequently contain useful information, but being subscribed to these lists using the email account provided by our hospital would be problematic. The volume of postings on some lists would clutter up the acount, making it more difficult to manage and making it more likely I’d miss other, more important emails from inside our organization.

So I subscribe to lists using a Gmail account. Here’s why:

  • Separating list emails into a separate account allows me to treat them, as a whole, in a different manner than emails from higher-priority senders (patrons, co-workers, etc.). This lets me keep my attention focused where it needs to be.
  • Because list emails are in a separate account, I also never have to annoy other list subscribers with “out-of-office” messages that get sent to whole list- because there’s never need to turn on an “out-of-office” message for this account.
  • Threaded conversation: Instead of having one line per each email received, Gmail inboxes have one line for each conversation. That means that my Gmail lists inbox doesn’t get as cluttered. It also lets me efficiently manage whole conversations instead of individual emails, even if a particular email is sent to multiple lists I subscribe to. Example image below shows that all (23) emails on the topic of “abortion” being made a stopword in POPLINE are one (expandable) line item in my Gmail inbox:
  • Mute function: If there’s a particular conversation(/thread) that I’m not interested in continuing to follow, I can “mute” the conversation and not need to see any further emails in that thread.
  • Gmail’s search capabilities are awesome. If I want to find a MEDLIB-L email I remember was sent by Michelle Kraft about OvidSP, I can search for label:medlib-l from:Kraft OvidSP and find it really, really quickly.
  • Gmail’s filters are powerful and easy to use.
    • Assigning labels: You can set up your Gmail filters to automatically assign colorful labels based on information that lets you scan your email quickly. For example, you could set your account up to automatically assign colored labels based on which list the conversation is from.
    • Forwarding based on content: You can combine Gmail’s great searching and filtering to monitor your list subscriptions. Say you subscribe to multiple lists, but only really want to pay attention if Young Adult services are mentioned. I can create a filter from the search for young OR youth OR “YA” and set any hits from that search to be automatically forwarded to my primary email address so it comes to my attention. Imagine the time saved by not having to manually look through all those emails for mentions of the topic I want to follow.

Bonus tip: Would you rather read your list email information in your feed aggregator? Set your lists Gmail account to forward the emails to MailBucket, and MailBucket will give you the content in an RSS feed.

Apr 02

How to: Follow CIL 2008 online via RSS [Edited again]

[edit]

  • Added a feed from Google Blog Search (which uses a fairly narrow search) to the Superfeed.
  • Added filters to the Superfeed to screen out a handful of false positives.
  • Embedded Grazr widget (see end of post)

[/edit]

[edit2]
Wouter has made the Superfeed available in Dutch. :)
[/edit2]

To make sure I don’t miss any online chatter about Computers in Libraries 2008 (which starts next Monday), I’m subscribed to the following feeds:

If you’re like me, you’d rather subscribe to one feed than several, so all the feeds above are included in the feed below:

Single feed that combines all of the above:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Cil2008Superfeed

Grazr widget below will let you browse the Superfeed contents:

Jan 30

Hacking ReadBurner URLs

You’ve probably heard about ReadBurner by now.

The idea behind ReadBurner is that it aggregates counts of items that are frequently shared in Google Reader.

First a point of clarification: ReadBurner doesn’t get its data directly from Google Reader in aggregate via an API- it gets the data from the RSS feeds of public linkblogs fed by Google Reader. This is explained on ReadBurner’s About page:

“ReadBurner aggregates items that are shared on the Google Reader.

This works by constantly updating RSS feeds of currently several hundred linkblogs. In order to filter out the best stuff ReadBurner counts, whenever an item is shared by multiple persons.”

ReadBurner’s creator, Alexander Marktl, allows users to submit new linkblogs (or does he?), but he can’t ever gather all of them…so I suspect that ReadBurner won’t ever really represent the sharing habits of Google Reader users. Further, I find it hard to believe that Google would not be working on a similar project that actually will have access to all the sharing data from Google Reader users in its entirety…at which point ReadBurner will stop being interesting.

In the meanwhile, ReadBurner is still pretty neat. The features I’d most like to see added are search and to have searches outputted as RSS feeds. I’ve had no luck getting ReadBurner to output the feeds I want, but I have managed to make it filter for just the stuff I want.

I really wanted a form so I could search and, for instance, see if any posts at this blog were being frequently shared. Sadly, no such search form exists at ReaderBurner.

Fortunately, we can make it search in a limited fashion even without a form by messing with the URL a bit.

The back end of ReadBurner is PHP/MySQL, a combination I gained some familiarity with through working on LibWorm with Frankie Dolan (and by using WordPress to power this blog).

All our little hacks will start from this URL:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?

From here, we can play with two parameters, r and a.

r = The name of the source the item came from
a = The name of the author of the item

So if we wanted to see items in ReadBurner that were shared from davidrothman.net, we just need to tack r=davidrothman.net onto the end of http://www.readburner.com/index.php? like so:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=davidrothman.net

For another example, shared items from Boing Boing could be found like so:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing

But what if we want only to see shared items items from Boing Boing which were authored by Cory Doctorow?

To our existing http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing, we’ll tack on &a=Cory%20Doctorowthe ‘%20′ represents the space character between Cory’s given name and surname and does the same between “boing” and “boing” in the previous example, giving us:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing&a=Cory%20Doctorow

Marktl himself shows how to tweak the URL of ReadBurner to filter for language and for a minimum number of shares.

Of course, there are easier ways to get this kind of info from ReadBurner. Once could subscribe to the feed for the recently submitted items and then filter using Yahoo! Pipes or one of the other free tools for filtering RSS feeds…but that’s not as much fun.

____
Check it out: Noted biblioblogger Steven Cohen is one of the top sharers on ReadBurner. :)

Dec 05

How to: Find Instructional Materials with the Medical Library CSE

A few days ago I made a Google Custom Search Engine for searching the Web sites of medical libraries.

Connie Schardt pointed out that it could be useful for finding handouts, tutorials and other teaching materials. Here are some ideas on how this might be done.

Your turn: What other searches would be useful?

Nov 26

How to: Get Exactly What You Want From YouTube via RSS

Berci asked:

David, do you know how can we subscribe to searches on Youtube? I mean, I’d like to follow the RSS feed of the search term genetics on Youtube, for example.

Jan answered:

You can create RSS feeds for tags. FI: rss for genetics will be http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/genetic.rss.

For search related rss-feeds on YouTube you could try referd.info.

The feed that Jan suggests will only contain videos that have been tagged “genetic.” It won’t contain videos that have the word “genetics” elsewhere in their metadata.

To capture videos that have “genetics” anywhere in their metadata, try this feed:
http://www.youtube.com/rss/search/genetics.rss

Unfortunately, this simple way of creating a search-based YouTube feed (http://www.youtube.com/rss/search/[search terms].rss) will limit the search results to 20 items.

If we want to get more than 20 results in our feed, we need to use the YouTube API,
which is powerful and not especially difficult to play with.

If we want a feed that captures the most recent 50 videos, we can use this feed:

http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/videos?vq=genetics&max-results=50&orderby=updated

Neat, huh? Still, I don’t subscribe to these sorts of feeds.
Unfortunately, both the feed for the tag “genetics” and the feed for the search term “genetics” are too full of junk (including spammy, awful ringtone advertising) for me to deal with efficiently. I once had search feeds like these from YouTube fed into LibWorm, but removed them because the results returned for the search term “library” were frequently inappropriate and wildly distant from Librar*/LIS topics.

If one was determined to make such a feed useful, one could use a tool like Yahoo Pipes to filter out the worst and most obvious of the junk items, producing a feed like this one. It is far from perfect, but most of the junk is gone and little of the good stuff is missing.

(Please feel free to copy this Pipe.)

However, a Pipe used for this purpose would probably need semi-routine maintenance and updates to its Filter module to keep the junk out.Note for nit-pickers: Yes, I considered more aggressive filtering by category either through the API or Pipes, but there are valid hits across a number of unexpected categories.

Okay, that was fun! Any other feed questions?

Sep 07

Getting Started with RSS Feeds (JHL)

It looks like the article I wrote for the Journal of Hospital Librarianship is going to appear in print in Volume 7, Issue 3.

My hope was that this article would be a painless, step-by-step guide to help the medical librarian set up and start using an aggregator right away.

Many health sciences library staffers who might benefit tremendously from the utilization of an RSS aggregator are intimidated by the mistaken impression that setting up and using a feed aggregator is difficult or requires technical knowledge. The truth is that anyone who can use an e-mail client can quickly learn to manage an aggregator, and can begin benefiting from its use right away. This article seeks to walk the less technologically inclined health science library staffer through the necessary steps to begin reaping the benefits of utilizing RSS feeds, including setting up an aggregator, finding useful feeds, subscribing to feeds, and managing them. This is accomplished with only an absolute minimum of geekspeak or technobabble.

Aug 09

What do you want to know how to do?

It occurred to me recently that I haven’t written a how-to post in a good while.

The primary reason for this is that I don’t have a good idea what sorts of how-to posts would be most welcome or useful to readers. If you have a technology question or a how-to you’d like to see, please leave a comment (anonymous is okay, if you prefer) or drop me an email and let me know?

Apr 29

EBSCOhost‘s modestly improved RSS features (edited 04/30/07)

[EDIT] Please disregard the criticisms of EBSCO’s policies in the latter part of this post. They were not explained or understood well. See this post for clarification.[/EDIT]
____________________________
I was in the process of writing detailed instructions on how to use the new RSS features in EBSCOhost when I saw Paul Pival’s kick-butt screencast.

Paul has posted a larger, higher-quality version here.

EBSCO’s announcement: EBSCOhost RSS Feed and Search/Journal Alert Upgrades

Okay, this is an improved interface for feeds, mostly because the feeds are easier to find. However, Ken Varnum and Paul both point out the regrettable policy EBSCO has put in place by which feeds will be deleted if they are inactive for two months or if they are not accessed within a week of creation. With apologies to the very nice people I know at EBSCO, this is an extremely unwise policy.

The POINT of search-based feeds is that the user doesn’t have to come back and CHECK every two weeks for new hits. Forcing the user to come back to the site sort of defeats the purpose of the feeds.

Dear EBSCOfolk-

Feeds make it more likely that people are going to actually USE your service and increase usage stats. Feeds cost you very little in resources. They buy goodwill and convenience for the user at extremely low cost.

A number of resources I can access through EBSCO are also available (at my local academic library) through other vendors. If you’re going to make it so dang inconvenient, I (as a user) will create search feeds for those resources through your competitors’ services and access the full text through your competitors’ services.

Please consider instead just requiring the user to confirm his/her wish to continue the feed annually. If you like, you can even send an item down the feed every week to say “no new hits.”

While this policy is in place, RSS feeds in EBSCOhost‘s RSS “enhancements” are, I’m sorry, next to useless for my purposes.

PubMed already has feeds, OVID is going to roll them out this year. EBSCO Medline fulltext is going to look ridiculous if this doesn’t change. Feeds are a current awareness tool, just like the emailed alerts. PLEASE stop crippling their usefulness.

Apr 17

How To: Keep up with all the posts about CIL2007 (Updated 4/19/07)

Update: Wow!ter is absolutely right- his variation is better.

Query: +(CIL2007 “CIL 2007″ “computers in libraries”)
Feed for this query

______________________________________

Its great that so many bibliobloggers are posting about Computers in Libraries 2007, but it can be a lot to keep up with. An easy way to keep up with all the posts is to use LibWorm searches and feeds.

If you just want to catch all posts about CIL2007:

LibWorm search: +(CIL2007 “computers in libraries”)
Feed for this search

But what if you only want to see mentions of gaming at CIL2007?

LibWorm Search: +(CIL2007 “computers in libraries”) +gaming
Feed for this search
(Be sure to check out the videos)

You get the idea. Have fun!

Feb 22

Screencast: Using RSS to Add Currency to the Library Web Site

As a part of the 5 Weeks to a Social Library course, Melissa L. Rethlefsen prepared this great screencast to demonstrate some of the nifty things one can do with RSS for a Library’s Web site.

mlrscreencast.png

Melissa is the Education Technology Librarian at the Learning Resource Center of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in my home town, Rochester, MN.

Melissa’s related syndication resources and tools page

Nicely done, Melissa!

Previous posts about Melissa’s work:

MN Medicine: Google, RSS, Podcasts, Oh My!

I’m in Library Journal

Feb 15

Intermediate/Advanced LibWorm-Fu (Power Searching) Updated

We’ll start with the radio buttons, then move on to search operators that LibWorm understands.

RADIO BUTTONS

There are three radio buttons beneath LibWorm’s search field, any words, all words, and exact phrase.

any words
By default, any words is selected when you first load the main page of LibWorm in your web browser. Having this radio button selected tells LibWorm that your search results must contain at least one of the words you’re searching for. With the search below, you’re telling LibWorm you’d like to see results that contain either OPAC or sucks.
anywords.png

all words
The all words radio button tells LibWorm that you only want results that contain all of the words you’re searching for. Wth the search below, you’re telling LibWorm that you’d like to see results that contain both OPAC and sucks, but not necessarily in that order or near each other.
allwords.png

exact phrase
The exact phrase radio button tells LibWorm that you only want to see search results that contain exactly the characters in the exact sequence you typed into the search field. With the search below, you’re telling LibWorm that you only want to see posts that contain exactly “OPAC sucks”. Posts that don’t contain EXACTLY this string of characters in this sequence, even if they contain something very similar (like “OPACs suck”) will not appear in the results of this search.
exactphrase.png

SEARCH OPERATORS:

Note: For best results, select the any words radio button before using these operators.

” “
A phrase that is enclosed within double quote (” “) characters matches only rows that contain the phrase exactly as it was typed (see notes on “exact phrase” radio button above).

+
A plus sign before a word indicates to LibWorm that the word must be present in every result returned.

-
The leading minus sign indicates that the word must not appear in any search result returned.

*
The asterisk is the truncation or wildcard character in LibWorm.
Example: suck*
The set of results returned by this query will include items containing words like suck, sucks, sucked, sucker, sucking or “sucktastic.” Okay, no feed is indexed in LibWorm as having used the word “sucktastic” (…until about an hour after I post this).

( )
Parentheses group words into subexpressions.
Example: +”Meredith Farkas” +(“5 weeks” “Five Weeks”)
This query will produce results that contain the exact phrase “Meredith Farkas” AND either “five weeks” or “5 weeks”.

> <
These help influence the relevance sorting of returned search results. If the > is placed before a word or phrase, its “weight” in the sorting by relevance is increased. The < placed before a word or phrase lessens its “weight.”
Example: +”Walt Crawford” +(>”cites and insights” <”Walt at Random”)
This query will return only results that contain both the exact phrase “Walt Crawford” AND either “Cites and Insights” or “Walt at Random,” but it’ll place those that mention “Cites and Insights” higher in my list of results as ordered by relevance.

~
This operator is sort of like the -, but not as emphatic. A search term with this operator in front of it will not be excluded from results returned, but the term’s presence will not be considered in the sorting of results by relevance. It sort of de-emphasizes the search term without making it a hard, absolute NOT.

Try these operators out and you’ll find you can generate very, very specific results.

Searching by URL
To answer Walt’s questions in the comments below, searching by URL sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t because LibWorm strips out an item’s HTML. Searching by URL will work if the URL was in the text of the item, but not if it was only in the hyperlink. Also note that the source URL is not searchable, but the Source’s name is. More advanced searching (by source, by category, etc.) is on the way.

Want more help?

Do you have a query or feed you’d like to create but can’t get it to work in LibWorm? Want to run a query by us to make sure it is doing what you think it should? If LibWorm isn’t processing your query as expected, we’ll get it fixed. If you just need a pointer or two on how to get what you need, we can help with that, too- just drop me an email () so we can help.

Want to demonstrate LibWorm for your colleagues? We’ll be happy to help you get your presentation materials together or answer any questions you might have. If you have web conferencing software that can be applied, we’d be happy to demonstrate LibWorm for your group, too.

Keep the ideas and the questions coming- We love ‘em!

Jan 08

5 Best Tips for Reducing RSS Information Overload

I had to smile a little when I noticed this post at Hedgehog Librarian about RSS information overload.

First, because I noticed it via multiple feeds in my aggregator. I have a few feeds set up to let me know when others post links to my blog, and other feeds that look for mentions of RSS in librarianship blogs- so I noticed it pretty soon after it was posted.

Second, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to advise others on managing a lot of feed subscriptions without being overwhelmed. The Hedgehog Librarian describes feeling overloaded at 56 subscriptions, and I’m certain others feel the same way- but I have about 460 feed subscriptions in my aggregator, and don’t ever feel overwhelmed by them. I noticed previously that several folks have written posts on managing one’s feeds, but I didn’t bother to read them because I wasn’t having any problems. I thought I’d go back, read them now, and provide a round-up of the best tips.

A couple of the posts I link to below go much further, I think, than the average user would want to- so I’ve limited my recommendations to what I think are the easiest and most useful to more casual users, like the Hedgehog Librarian.

1. Bundle feeds into folders by subject or category
Marjolein Hoekstra recommends categorizing feeds by topic or subject. I do exactly that. For instance, I bundle together in a folder all the feeds I subscribe to about Medical Librarianship. Rather than click on each feed, I click on the folder and can review them all simultaneously. This lets me review and prioritize (see below) with greater speed, convenience, and efficiency.

2. Prioritize
When I don’t have time, I don’t check my feeds. If I only have a little time to spare, I’ll check just those feeds that I care a lot about, like those from Medical Librarianship blogs, feeds from the blogs of good friends, or the feeds that let me know if someone has linked to my blog (that’s how I noticed Marjolein blog-tagging me even though I was hardly reading feeds while on my blogging vacation). After hardly reading any feeds for about 3 weeks, I had a lot stacked up. Some I slogged through, the rest I just trashed. Relax. Except for those very few feeds that you prioritize, do you really have to read through each and every item in your aggregator? No way. Skim subject lines the way you skim the Table of Contents in a journal.

3. Let Google Reader make skimming easier
There are two features that make my aggregator of choice, Google Reader, ideal for managing a lot of feeds.

First, Google Reader lets me review the contents of a feed or folder in “List View” so I can skim the items just by title, check out just the items that look promising, then click “Mark all as read” in order to clear the rest.

Second, Google Reader lets me view the feed list by toggling between “list all” and “only list updated,” and mine is permanently set to “only list updated.” If there aren’t new items for me to read, the feeds aren’t visible to clutter up the interface

4. Filter your feeds
Marjolein and John Tropea also recommend using feed filtering to make sure you only see the posts from a feed that relate to a topic you care about. For instance, you might use Feed Digest, FeedShake, or FeedRinse to do this quickly and easily. Check out this post for step-by-step instructions on how to do it. Also, I just linked a few days ago to a good article on feed filtering that is worth reading.

5. Search-based feeds
I subscribe to a lot of feeds created by very specific searches in feed-generating search tools like PubMed and LibWorm. One of the things I like about LibWorm is that it allows me to create feeds out of the entire biblioblogosphere based on a keyword search, tag search, or subject. I’m also in favor of search-based feeds from technorati or del.icio.us, but only if the search is very specific. If the search is too broad, you’ll only add to the feeling of overload.

It’ll get easier!
It will get easier, I promise. RSS is still a very new technology, and aggregators are still pretty simple. Soon, aggregators will be available that will learn what sort of things you value most, and prioritize your feed contents for you, help you generate search-based feeds, and have built-in functions for mashing/filtering feeds.

Since starting work on this post, I’ve learned that the (alias) Hedgehog Librarian is someone I like and am friendly with from a ListServ (which is one of the reasons I’ve linked to her blog multiple times in this post)- so I’ve happily added her feed to my aggregator so I don’t miss anything else she shares…and I know with confidence that I won’t be overwhelmed. ;)

Nov 02

How to: Add PubMed to the search bar of Opera

This post is dedicated to David Schad, Opera evangelist. ;)

A reader with the great pseudonym of Per Sivle left a comment earlier today detailing how to add PubMed to the search bar of Opera:

Just to voice the Opera way of adding search engines:

Right-click in the search field in PubMed and select “Create search”. You can do this in almost any search-engine. Furthermore, you can assign a nick-name to every search engine you add. As in “pm” for PubMed, for example. To do a quick and dirty search in PubMed, you hit F8 to focus on the address-field in the browser, type “pm diabetes” and hit enter.

As a medical librarian, with the need of multiple lookups in every direction; e-journals, ISSNs, ISBNs, other references etc (you probalby know what I am talking about), I would be lost without my browser. The fewer keystrokes and mouse-moving to get to any given search-engine _results page_, the better.

Since I don’t use Opera, I’m grateful that Per left this comment and I’m pleased to share it- but I cannot myself vouch for its accuracy. YMMV.

Nov 01

How to: Add PubMed to the search bar of Firefox 2.0 or IE7

Oooh…they make it so easy!

Some users may not know that both IE and Firefox have search bars built into them that are very adaptable. Almost any kind of web search can be added to these, but today we’ll look at adding an essential search tool for medical libraries: PubMed. Once this is added, you can search PubMed no matter what page is loaded in your browser. In other words, you won’t have to “go” to PubMed in order to search PubMed.

Add PubMed search to Firefox 2.0

Using Firefox 2.0, go to any PubMed page…like this one.

Click the drop-down arrow in the search bar

Select Add “PubMed Search”

Ta-da!

To switch back to any other search, just click the drop-down again.

Add PubMed search to Internet Explorer 7
Using Internet Explorer 7, go to any PubMed page…like this one.

From the search bar drop-down, select Add Search Providers > PubMed Search

Click the Add Provider button

Ta-da! Now you can choose PubMed as your engine for the search bar by selecting it from the drop-down.