by Don Willmott
The greatest thing about the Internet is all the information it delivers. The worst thing about the Internet is all the information it delivers. Those of us who spend dozens of hours a week online are in a constant battle to control information overload. The good stuff is out there, but where? It's an especially vital question when you try to surf the Web in search of a path to a better career. I've definitely let too much information flood into my life, and lately I've been trying to take a more "edited" approach to sites and services I use. My goal: to stick with my favorite online locales, but use them in more constructive ways. Here are some quick tips to consider.
Facebook: A Gentle Reminder
Yes, you can take it seriously. We all know that getting a job is ultimately about working your personal network, and Facebook is a good place to maintain it - sort of. Because the site has refused to create a separate "professional" version targeted to career-related matters, we have to settle for what we've got, at least for the time being. Early on I decided to "friend" as many former and current colleagues as I could think of rather than waste a lot of time looking up high school acquaintances. While I still have to scroll past quite a few vacation photos and funny videos, my Facebook feed does in fact feel like a fairly professional gathering of smart people who talk about their current projects or link to tech-related content. If you're on Facebook, populate it with people with whom you'd like to network. When you comment, try to stick to tech-related topics. Look professional. You're passively letting these people know you're still alive and still working hard.
Twitter: What's Hot, What's Not
There's been lots of talk about using Twitter to brand yourself. "Tweet your way to fame and fortune." Forget it. Without thousands of followers you're just shouting into a vacuum. Focus instead on finding the smartest tech tweeters around, and see what they're talking about. Again it's best to begin with people you know and work out from there, but for an easy shortcut, simply go to "Find People," then "Search Interests," then "Technology." Follow everyone on that list. They're the cream of the crop. Together they provide an instant snapshot of what's going on in tech and can inspire your big thinking. By the way, here's a helpful collection of Twitter tips and philosophies.
Digg: An Easy Read
I'm not a fan of this news consolidator's recent attempt to add a social layer that tells me what my "friends" find interesting. Stick with the classic "top news" view, and go to the tech section. Here the most important tech articles of the day (as determined by legions of readers) float to the top and give you a very quick view of what's trendy in tech at the moment. It'll save you a lot of surfing around.
Techmeme: Replace the Magazine Pile
Like Digg, this site surfaces the most important stories of the day from dozens of technology-related sources and ranks them by the level of attention they're getting. A one-minute scroll down the page lets you know exactly what's going on in the tech world today. If anything catches your eye, just click through. It's highly useful and a lot quicker than flipping through a pile of trade magazines.
Alltop: A Custom View of Your Field
This under-the-radar invention from tech guru Guy Kawasaki scrapes all the headlines off sources related to any topic that interests you. The default technology page has top news from almost 200 tech sources. That certainly doesn't solve the info overload problem, but you can log in and customize your own page until it precisely reflects your interest in, say, security or application development. It'll take some time to get it just right, but once you do you'll have a very useful window into the trends that will shape your career.
I'm curious to hear how you tame the infobeast and use it help you do your job better - or to look for your next job. Please comment below.