Follow Friday – Reading Headlines

Rather than follow specific sites, I like to read across a broader range of material on a subject. It’s not every day that one can post on a topic that I think is interesting, and rather than be inundated with those topics, I can focus on what interests me. Google provides a couple of tools which help with focusing research or even just interesting reading. Alert and Reader give you options so you decide what you see on a regular basis, skipping the uninteresting bits and commercials, as it were.

Of course, I have an Alert for the Maling surname. I filter it to exclude references to the places in China which bear the name “Maling.” That kind of article is still intriguing, though, since I’d like to visit there someday. I also filter it to reduce hits on the number of typos that people make to terms such as “mailing list;” that one is a necessity, unfortunately. As well, other families and surnames that I’m interested in get their own alerts. Not all of them show up very often.

A recent item, and one I can’t recall seeing on the popular genealogy news sites, is an announcement of the new Hopkinton (Massachusetts) Historical Society headquarters. That reference came up with a filtered Alert. Historical societies such as Hopkinton’s provide great resources you might not otherwise find with just a focus on genealogy.

With Google Reader, you can collect a list of your favorite blogs and web searches in one space and read them when you have time. It is sort of like an RSS feed, but on-line. It can also be sort of like what Cyndi Howells did with her new (in June 2011) site The Cyndi’s List Daily, or sort of like Dick Eastman’s Newsletter, only “focused-on-my-interests.” For instance, I listened to DearMYRTLE’s “Flourish” piece on the Genealogy Gems podcast and was fascinated by how some genealogists view history terms.

Google’s ability to enable wide-ranging, but focused research reading is great. Both Alert and Reader should be in anyone’s toolkit.

On Blogging

One of the things we do as genealogists is read blogs. The information we find in them ranges from interesting and useful to the utterly useless and downright wrong. I find using Google’s blog alert feature one of the more perceptive things a person can do with blogs. In the daily alert, one can set up a search string like that for doing a regular Google search with required, optional, and negative keywords. For instance, if I want to exclude any drivel from a particular blogger, I can simply append the source of the blog to the end of my keyword string, i.e., “-trakkrs”. In all future alerts, these blog posts will be excluded, giving the daily alert at least one more potentially useful post for us to look at.