Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Stars Post: Philofaxy Web Finds: How They Are Created by Steve Morton

Today we have a special guest post.  As part of the Philofaxy All Stars Blog Tour, Steve has offered to share how Web Finds posts are created.

Web Finds on Philofaxy are posts containing a collection of links to all the Filofax blog posts on the web in the last few days. It’s a focal point for anyone interested in Filofax organisers, who wants to read about other peoples set ups and their creations, but without having to search the internet for the posts themselves. Twice a week Philofaxy serves up a varied set of links to blog posts from around the web.  

I’ve been putting these posts together for nearly two years now. Although there were a few similar posts on Philofaxy as far back as July 2009, we became serious about sharing these posts in about 2011 and they have become more and more popular as the Filofax blogging community has grown.

So how are the Web Finds posts created every 3-4 days? Posts are created from a clean sheet twice a week, although the format/layout of each post is generally the same. The creation of the next one starts as soon as the previous one has been finalised and scheduled for publication.

How do I find so many posts each week? Ah the secret of the Philofaxy magic search engine!! Not really a big secret.

I gather posts from multiple sources:
  • Google Alerts
  • Google Search
  • RSS feeds
  • Twitter
  • Google Profile checks when people comment on Philofaxy
  • Email

The first two do work, but generally Google isn’t quick enough to index all of the posts we find. They often pop up in my searches sometimes days after we have linked to them from other sources.

Google Alerts: You can set these up to send you a list of Google search finds by Email, once a day, once a week, or as soon as it’s found something. To set them up you just need to go to: http://www.google.com/alerts and then put in your search query, select how often you want the results sending to you etc and create the alert.

This is a typical Google Alert Email:


Google Search: Similarly I have a Google search that searches for recent Filofax Blog posts:

I use the Google search as a final check to make sure I’ve not missed any posts that I’m capturing via my RSS feeds.  The search is sorted in date order so it is easy to check through.

I also have a similar search set up to look for recent videos on You Tube:


RSS Feeds (Real Simple Syndication): An RSS Feed is like a subscription to a blog site. RSS readers allow you to monitor a number of blog sites for new posts and a link to the new posts will appear in your RSS reader. This alerts me to the new post and gives me an indication of the title and the introduction paragraph.

I use Protopage as my RSS feed reader; it is a web based reader, so I can access my RSS feeds from any computer or device (iPad, iPhone, etc). Protopage works with any browser on any operating system.

I also use Protopage for all my bookmarks as well; again it makes them portable between machines and operating systems.

Within my Protopage set up I have dedicated one tab to Filofax, and I have all of the blogs I am monitoring for new posts on this page. This is what the page looks like:


The blogs are not in any particular order, I could reorder them but it wouldn’t have any impact on how I use that particular page. The above picture is after the system has been left for about 9 hours, so you can see what it looks like with posts as well as the blog names.

As each post comes up, the title of the post is displayed. When I click on the title of the post it opens a new tab in the browser, which takes me to the post. The title then disappears from the Protopage page so I know that I have read that particular post.

I read the post and decide if it needs including or not. More about this in a moment.

Naturally, not all of those blogs are 100% Filofax blog posts, some might only produce 10% of their posts as being suitable to be included, that’s were my human element comes in!

I am also trying to keep the links list on Philofaxy up to date although it doesn’t quite include all of the blogs I’m currently monitoring. Another job on my to-do list to cross check the two lists!

If you would like to read more about my use of Protopage, there is a post on my own blog here:
http://steve-morton.com/2011/06/29/protopage/

Twitter:  I use Tweetdeck to monitor Twitter, with a column set up to search for ‘Filofax’ in all tweets on Twitter, not just from people I follow. This captures them in real time and can include quite a few adverts unfortunately. But occasionally someone will Tweet about a Filofax blog post that we might not be monitoring. So I capture some new blogs this way as well.

Google Profiles: When someone leaves a comment on Philofaxy it will include a link back to their Google Profile, if it’s some one that I haven’t seen comment on the blog before, I often take a quick look at their profile and see if they have a blog themselves. If their blog looks the sort that might wield the occasional Filofax post then I add the address to my Protopage RSS feed list.

Email: Finally I’m occasionally sent emails from budding new Filofax bloggers who have heard of Philofaxy and want to get themselves on to the list of blogs I monitor.

So having got all our sources of potential posts, I work through them all over the few days between posts.  It only takes a few minutes to do each day.

Whilst the finding of the posts is automated, each post is checked before it is added to the Web Finds post; this ‘filtering’ or ‘editorial’ control stops the posts that are written in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) nonsense from slipping through. Likewise blog posts that are just adverts are also rejected.  But here is a confession… I don’t actually read every single post completely! I do skim read through them and look at the pictures to make sure there is enough coverage of Filofax in each post. I do read the ones that are of specific interest to me.

For a post to be included it has to be about Filofax or at minimum about ring organisers where the topic could be used in a Filofax. Mentioning the word ‘Filofax’ just in passing or a single photograph of a Filofax will not get your post included… tough I know but by maintaining a reasonable standard it ensures that people will read your post once they visit your blog.

To get the title and the link I copy and paste the title from the ‘recent posts’ list in the side bar of the blog. So if you have a blog and it doesn’t have your recent posts listed in the side bar, please consider adding that widget/gadget, you will be making my job ten times easier!  I add the title of the blog after that and so the search continues non-stop!

Posts are scheduled for publication at 12 noon on Tuesdays and at mid-night on Friday night (US East Coast time); this equates to 6 pm and 6 am my time. So the cut off on Tuesdays is generally within 30 minutes of publication, but the Saturday one will be finalised before I go to bed, normally about 6 hours before publication. There are variations to these timings obviously, for example if I’m away on business or I’m out for the day etc.  But these typical timings will give you a fairly good idea on when to get your own posts published if you want to see them included in the very next Web Finds.

The techniques I use to find Filofax blog posts and articles could of course be applied to any other subject or topic.

Enjoy

Steve

Thank you, Steve, for being my first All Stars guest blogger for 2012!

4 comments:

  1. Our librarians do this process every day for the faculty where I work, creating "current awareness" digests. Fun work if you enjoy the topic. Just "work" if it's of no particular interest.

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  2. Hi Kanalt, That was great to see the actual process involved, just to deliver the webfinds we all love so much. Thanks for the post, and thanks to Steve for all the work you put into it.

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  3. This was excellent information and I am bookmarking this for future reference. I've been using Google Alerts for industry and special interest news but its not the greatest. Thank you for always explaining the details of how things are done in an understandable way for us non-techies. Appreciated! This is quite an undertaking and though some of it is automated you still have quite an investment of time. And that is also very much appreciated. I know I'm not alone in saying the community looks forward to the web finds every week. I mean, I'm up at 6am on a Saturday and the first thing I do with my cup of coffee is hop on the computer and click Philophaxy Web Finds. :)

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