Thursday, January 31, 2008

What can development organizations do with Web2.0 tools?

Some time ago, I compiled some examples of what you can do with web2.0 tools for communication within a development project. In this case, a large project in several countries. I'd like to share my ideas about the different ways of engaging with the wide range of web2.0 tools. After all, web2.0 are designed for participation, and what is more core business for development organizations?

I tried to separate four different options:

  1. You can use available web2.0 tools (free or at low cost)
  2. You can integrating web2.0 tools in another website
  3. You can design a new website using web2.0 principles and technologies
  4. You can leveraging popular web2.0 sites where crowds of people are interacting

I can provide some examples of each of these options, though there are probably lots of other examples:

1. Using available web2.0 tools

Why not make use of all these wonderful tools out there? ICCO is very innovative in trying to foster an open information sharing system, use a 'Learning Alliance wiki ' (a pbwiki) as the main basis, with other thematic wikis attached to it. In the wiki there are links to Dgroups, as a discussion forum, Blogger weblogs and google calendars for event planning. And I'd almost forget the feeds from the social bookmarking site delicious. Maarten Boers explains more in this blogpost. You can see a presentation by Peter Ballantyne here.

Another example is the Knowledgecafe wiki by CARE.

2. Integrate web2.0 tools into an existing website

The web2fordevelopment conference last year in Rome had to experiment with web2.0 tools of course. In their website, they integrated flickr photo sets, Youtube videos, and a link to the weblog and wiki. Nowadays, most webservices allow you to embed content from another site.

A special technology which is helpful in integrating web2.0 tools in another site is RSS feeds. By using a Feed to JavaScript like feedostyle you can have information or news published on one web sites- displayed on another site. So when the information or news changes, your web site will be automatically changed too. A good example can be found on the site of EUFORIC, a European network. They display various feeds on their site using feedburner.

3. Design a completely new website using web2.0 principles and technologies

Ofcourse you can also design a completely customized site for your own purpose, and use web2.0 principles like working in beta. Examples I can think of are the CIARIS website on social inclusion. There is a screencast of the design fase.

Helpalot is an example of building a site using social networking site ideas. Helpalot is specifically focused on charities. VSO build a bloggers interface expecially for their volunteer stories. The World Bank has set up a site called Isimulate for performing economic simulations.

4. Leverage popular web2.0 sites where large numbers of people are interacting

Examples of popular web2.0 sites are Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and many others. You might also leverage the crowd of people hanging out there by going there yourself. An example of this is the World Bank channel on Youtube. Even though the World Bank has enough video capacity on their own site, they added a channel on youtube to reach out to a different audience.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Web usage amongst nonprofit workers

Tech soup published a report of a survey in 2007 about Web Usage. (I found it through a blogpost by Britt Bravo). The survey was amongst tech soup users, mostly nonprofits (in the survey 81% reported to be tech soupers). I'd expect their web usage is more advanced than the average non-profit employee. Though less people took the survey (562 respondents) than last year, the conclusion is that there is an increase in the usage of Web 2.0 tools in general. The respondents were quite old, only 11.5% was below 29 years.

  • 63.7% of users reported sharing their photos online which represents a 7% increase.
  • 55.4% of respondents reported that they read an online journal or blog which represents a 7% increase over last year.
  • 17.3% reported that they create their own online blog which is 3% higher than last year.
  • 26.3% of users reported that they are using online social or professional networking tools which represents a 13% increase.
  • 26.1% of users reported that they subscribe to RSS feed which represents a 19% increase over last year.

Interestingly, Lifehacker, a Dutch weblog, reports that in their Dutch audiences, typically only 2% uses RSS feeds, so that may be an indication indeed that either Dutch audiences or non- techsoup audiences use web tools much less than these respondents.

I also wondered about the 55 % reading blogs, but only 26% use RSS feeds. Does that mean they use email subscriptions or visit the blog every now and then? Or that they click on a blog when it shows up in an online search?

Another remarkable thing to me was that 80% watch/listen to video or audio files for personal purposes, and 49% for professional purposes. This is quite high I believe!

Their favourite nonprofit websites were:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Building a website with Wordpress: a do it yourself guide

I'm very proud that I built a website on my own domain name with an integrated weblog using Wordpress. You can visit it at I'm meeting more people who want to set up their own Wordpress blog, so it might be useful for them if I blog the process. And there are some nice lessons about learning by doing (and the importance of some background support). Starting a Wordpress blog on their site is much easier by the way!

OK. I actually started with the idea of building a website to explain my freelance work with NVU. I wanted it to be bilangual, English en Dutch. I looked at websites I enjoy and admire and wrote down what I liked about them. In september I decided that I'd like to incorporate this blog in my website. Because it generates traffic, but most of all also because it allows you to show more about your ideas and work. People get to know you. Much better than describing your work.

John Smith was the first to advise me to start with Wordpress. But I wasn't ready to give up my blogger blog or to migrate from blogger to Wordpress. So I thought about either integrating my blogger blog via a feed or as a subpage of my website. But I started rethinking the purpose of my site. I actually wanted to make my work more known in the Netherlands and connect to the Dutch blogosphere and thought of focusing on Dutch speakers only. After all, I don't really want to travel anymore. So I asked the group of freelancers on our Ning forum. Elmine Wijnia again advised me to try Wordpress, but now I was more open to the suggestion. The huge advantage of Wordpress over Blogger is that you can set up additional pages. In blogger your blog is just one page. Suddenly it clicked that I could have two blogs, one Dutch and one English... And I would have the opportunity to learn about Wordpress and Blogger and compare them.

So far the decisions. Then the real tech work started. I postponed diving into the technicalities, which seemed huge (and were huge). With Miny, another freelancer from the ning group, we decided to set ourselves and each other a deadline January 31,2008.

I started found some great resources on the internet.
1. How to start/setup your own blog using Wordpress
2. How to upload a file to your website using the Fillezilla FTP client

The steps are clear. Unfortunately it didn't work! My webhost helped out. My blog loaded to in stead of straight to the domain, I hadn't thought of that. So I did not have to ask free support for Wordpress installation which is available too. One hurdle taken. Then I started to select a Wordpress theme. Downloading it and installing it was smooth. Every step that went well without set-backs was energizing. Like setting up the pages. (though I forgot to click on publish!) Again there are good resources on the web that really helped me. But to change the main image was hard. I couldn't find the code! And wow, Wordpress is very different from blogger. So I was very happy that Christian would help me out with a few things. I ended my journey with installing Google analytics to measure visitors statistics.

Concluding I might say that it is feasible to install a wordpress blog and add pages on your own domain yourself. Use and read various webresources (and you should have a bit of perseverance), but it's great to have some people you can run to when things are not working out. I'm amazed that with every succesfull online task that I figure out myself, I become more courageous to try and do things myself. (I used to call my husband for everything!). I think that's the habit that people who start their online interaction journey have to develop too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Global Voices in the top 200 blogs

I've been a fan of Global Voices, since I discovered it. Via Ethan Zuckerman's blogpost I learned that it's now in the top 200 blogs of Technorati, the blog search engine. The slogan of Global Voices is: "The World is talking, are you listening?" and they hope to make information available via blogs all over the world, but particularly in the south more accessible. You can search and subscribe per country or per theme. Via Beth Kanter, and Emmanuel K Bensah, who are both bridgebloggers for Global Voices (Cambodja and Ghana respectively) I learned what a bridgeblogger is. A bridgeblogger is a person who reads blogs from a particular country and reposts information that may have value to a wider audience. For local bloggers, it's a great way not to drown in the ocean of blogs and become more visible. Reuters , the news agency, places a feeds from Global Voices. See above for the example of Global Voices of Ghana on the Ghanaian page. So if you are a new Ghanaian blogger, and you write a good post, you may appear on the Reuters page!

From Ethan:
22.4% of our visitors come from the US, 3.6% from the UK, and the other 74%
are spread around the world, including substantial userbases in China, India,
the Phillipines, Brazil, and Qatar. Compare that to the New York Times, with
over 50% of users in the US, or BBC, with over 30% in the UK, and it’s clear
that we’ve got something of an unusual audience pattern.

The fact that only a minority of visitors are from the north (though Ethan doesn't talk about Europe), shows that you cannot 'push' information to people who aren't interested, in the north. I believe that it's hard to evoke changes in development by websites alone, but it can be a good supportive strategy. And ofcourse, it is a great resource for people in the south, and the people who ARE already interested in what's happening in the south

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Serious Creativity

I read Edward de Bono's Serious Creativity after someone was raving about it when we asked people to mention their favorite literature. Some time later, another person said she started reading it too and I became curious. Though I heard about his the six thinking hats before, it seemed a little simple to me.

What I enjoyed about this book was the thorough explanation of the theoretical basis of creative or lateral thinking. Creative thinking as in 'unexpected' and 'change'. Our patterns of perception guide what we see and what we think. Creative thinking is walking 'off the beaten track'. I became very enthousiastic when he linked creativity to humour; in a joke we are also taken on a surprising track. But creative thinking is not yet about crazy ideas, there must be a 'logical link-back' to our beaten track, to make it valuable.

Some misperceptions tackled:
1. Creativity is a natural talent and cannot be taught
2. Creativity comes from the rebels
3. Right brain/left brain concept
4. Art, artists and creativity

I think that happens too when you work across cultures, your 'beaten track' way of thinking gets challenged. If you manage to make the link back to your own way of thinking, you'll have enriched your ideas and you'll have widened your number of thinking tracks for other situations. You'll be able to see more alternatives and will have enlarged your imagination.

The second part of the book deals with tools and techniques. Some sound funny - take a word from the dictonary - but I tried and it works! Some well throught through session are presented mixing individual and group effort for optimum result.

The last part with creativity in organizations. I'm not sure I'd advise an organisation to have a 'concept manager' but I definitely thinking organizations can look at their processes critically and see where some more creative thinking may help move general thinking forward.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interview with Mark Fonseca about podcasting for development

Today we had a training on podcasting from Mark Fonseca Rendeiro. A podcast is audio (or video) with an RSS feed so that it allows for easy subscription by readers, it was only invented in 2004! (so hey, we can still be early adopters :)... Listeners can download the new episodes automatically, for instance by using itunes. I really liked his sense of humour, and we had an extremely practical training so it was a fun day. We got lots of tips and made a real podcast in groups of 2. I interviewed Mark about "why should development organizations engage with podcasting?" If you click on the video, you can watch the 3 minutes response. Ironically, the audio is not too good, there is some funny noise...

Mark basically states that people need to know what's happening out there in the
world, and we can't rely on the mainstream media to provide us that information.
Development organizations can use podcasting to get their (non-mediated!)
messages out on the web. The challenge is how to get people to pay attention to
your podcasts.

On the e-collaboration group blog we will lateron post the practical tips and some of the lessons we learned, and hopefully our first podcasts! As a more visually oriented person (I don't even have an MP3 player) it was good to learn about podcasting and the way it may appeal to more audio-oriented persons. I would like to learn how to create the right balance of audio, text and video in design of online interactions. It seems possible to create interaction using audio files by allowing listeners to post feedback to podcasts through blogcomments, phonecall, and/or discussion forums. It was funny to hear that lots of podcasters try to imitate radio programs (including the music and fade ins- and outs) as that is the model they know.

It was easy to see that Mark is very fanatic about (and addicted to) audio podcasting, even more than I am to blogging. I realized that losts of people listen to podcasts, though mostly music. I'm curious to know what numbers of people listen to non-music podcasts. The huge advantage of an audio podcast compared to video or text is that you can listen to a podcast while doing something else (travelling by train, cooking, cycling). Mark has built his online network, as one of the early podcasters. He mentioned that he might go to Japan to visit one of his podcast friends. I think there are many people who don't realize that this is a new way of networking (and a new skill for employees?). For the early adopter podcasters, it was easy to have an audience, because there were few podcasters. But how will that be when the world will be as full of podcasts as it is with blogs? Quality content and finding your 'niche' audience (through networks) may become more important.

What I learned for my own blogging process: it was good to hear Mark confirm that is a good choice to host videos. And we used audacity as free audio software, a program I had used before. A practice I will copy from Mark is to reread my blogposts. He mentioned that he relistens twice to his own podcasts. I usually throw my posts in the air. Rereading may be a good way of improving yourself. (also rereading old posts, when I occasionally do, I'm often ashamed..). I also learned that besides linking, choice of blogtitles is good for visibility in search engines.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Best practices for non-profits using web2.0

Though I dislike the word 'best practices' as it seems to close down alternatives, I found a good blogpost by the name of best practices for non-profits using web2.0 by Alexandra Samuel. Thanks to Brice Royer to send it to the members of Non-profit Web 2.0 facebook group.

Some of the best practices mentioned by Alexandra:
  1. Focus your site on a particular goal or conversation, rather than a general mandate. For example, the UN Foundation has had a dazzling success with its Nothing But Nets site, which focuses specifically on providing malaria nets to kids in the developing world.
  2. Invite your community to make contributions other than money. Non-profits often experience "donor fatigue" because so much of their public interactions hinge on asking for money.
  3. Play nicely with other non-profit (and for-profit) organizations. The web is just that: a web of interconnections. Succeeding in an internetworked environment means working effectively with others, colllaborating, and interacting -- it's not just about getting your own message out there.
  4. Don't feel that web 2.0 means building your own online community. In fact, it's a lot easier to ease into the web 2.0 culture by making effective use of existing web tools -- whether that means fostering internal collaboration by choosing a common tag to use when storing your favorite web sites, or creating an iGoogle page that lets you constantly see the latest news in your key issue areas, or creating a photo-based petition on Flickr (check out the Oxfam example).
  5. Be gentle with yourself, and your colleagues. It's a big challenge for most non-profits to shift from message delivery to conversation, or from approaching your members as donors to seeing them as content contributors.
  6. Stay current with how other non-profits are using web 2.0, and learn from their experiences. A great way of doing that is to track the "nptech" tag on del.ici.ous, and NetSquared.

What resonates with me is the shift in thinking about having one website or building your own site, versus using multiple tools and sites. Yet, it can still be useful to have a space where these distributed things are gathered. (almost like a notice board!)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Shorter meetings as sign of improved collaboration

Photo by Tony van den Boomen

Since October last year I have been working with a facilitator of a community of practice using online media as well as face-to-face meetings. When we planned our first meeting we took more than an hour longer than planned. Yesterday we had a meeting and finished half hour earlier!

We reflected that this is logical, since in the beginning you have to get to know eachother, test ways of working. When you have an idea, you are careful not to impose this idea. Now we are interumpting eachother, or objecting to ideas and comfortable that the other will say what she thinks.

More effective meetings may hence be a sign of a healthy developing collaboration. It's intriguing that we still underestimate this need to develop a new collaborative relationship.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Pimp your blog

This is a joint post together with Christian Kreutz, which we co-created in a google doc. (mine is a little longer though)

1. What is a widget?
According to wikipedia a widget is a third party item that can be embedded in a web page. Widgets are, hence, little blocks of information which can be added to a blog, mostly in the sidebar. Widgets update information, they are not static. For instance, a widget with the latest comments updates its information with every new comment. Almost any kind of information can be widgetized and offered in a blog as an additional feature. Widgets display, for example, through feeds information from external sources.

Here's a fun screencast talking about widgets by Beth Kanter and you can hear my voice in it! (no, I'm not the one with the Australian accent :).

2. Why widgets are important and how they can spice up your blog
Blogs alone are nice, but with widgets you can upgrade your blog to an information portal and stimulate interactivity. Posts, comments, trackbacks and links are the key of blogs. That is how a conversation develops. Widgets extend a blog to a platform and allows to include other -dynamic- sources of information besides the blogposts you write. The variety in widgets is huge and ranges from fundraising, links, photos, videos to books, social networks and of course friends. Widgets let you integrate all the other things you do on the web.

3. Different types of widgets

  • The first category of widgets allows you to include information elsewhere on the internet. Your tag cloud, for instance, shows your links that are of interest to you. A flickr badge displays your photos.

  • The second category of widgets gives readers of your blog further information from the world wide web.

  • The third type of widgets are interactive such as a poll or for fundraising. For example, Chipin is a fundraising widget.

  • The fourth category are for advertisement. For example, your online book library with links to a book store.

4. The downside of widgets
A disadvantage of widgets is the bandwidth behind them and the fact that they can not be fully customized. Often, they are based on javascript and are updated each time through another server, when someone access your blog. When blogs have hickups, it is often related to a slowly server of one of your widgets. Many widgets include also a brand names such as flickr or feedburner, which are not easily excludable. Widgets inside blogs (e.g. wordpress) work often quicker because their content is loaded directly on your server. These widgets can also be better adjusted to your blog design.

5. Finally: the list of cool widgets

  • Wordpress offers a whole variety of widgets for all kind of purposes.

  • Offer a clear RSS subscription from feedburner or feeddigest. You can also display the number of people that have subscribed to your blog through your feedreader.

  • Offer a subscription to your blog by email. With email subscription capability, subscribers can now receive each blogpost in their email inbox, similar to an e-newsletter. This is very important for users who are not used to RSS readers or have low bandwidth. This is offered by feedburner or

  • Share your photos via your blog. If you have photos on flickr, you can display them on your blog by using a flickr badge. You can find the steps here. Blogger allows you to show your picasaweb photos. See here.

  • If you want to show your photos in combination with a world map, you can use tripper map. It allows you to display your flickr photoset in combination with a world map.

  • Display recent comments in the sidebar of your blog. Often, readers may not click on the comment section. By displaying the comments in the sidebar, readers can see where and what people have commented. For blogger, you can find a widget here. For wordpress, you can find the process described here.

  • Show your readers by using mybloglog. Readers can sign up and their photos will be displayed.

  • Tell your readers what you are doing right now by inserting a twitter widget. If you are already twittering, you can display your twitters on your blog.

  • Show the blogs that you are reading yourself. That may give people an impression of the kind of topics you like, and may point them to new blogs they may not know. If you are using bloglines, it is possible to display your public bloglist on your blog (called blogroll, see sidebar). Grazr is an interesting tool that allows you to show lists with categories.

  • Insert any interesting RSS feed. You may produce a feed yourself using a unique tag and you can display it on your blog by using services like feedostyle; feedzilla; or this. Superglu will allow you to gather content from various places and combine it.

  • Display your top tags used on your blog with the Top Tags Widget. It will display your tags in a beautiful cloud formation (or the top tags of any blog.) By showing this, readers will know what you are writing about, and can click on one of the tags to access a category of readings. Blogger allows you to display your categories in the sidebar, which has a similar function, even though it is not displayed in a tagcloud.

  • Or display your tags on your blog.

  • Ask readers for feedback on your blog or any important issue by using a poll.

  • Ask readers to TELL you what they think by using an Odeo widget (via Beth Kanter)

  • In case you have a you tube channel, you can use a widget to display your videos.

  • Raise funds with a widget using ChipIn. (also via Beth Kanter)

  • Or display your LinkedIn profile.

6. Further resources on (blog) widgets
One big resource is widgipedia
More blogosphere widgets
Technorati list of blog widgets
Typepad widgets
Go here for more blogger widgets or wordpress widgets

Other resources
Library clips blogpost talking about expliciting the informal social networks or distributed online social networks by means of blog widgets.
Beth Kanter's fundraising widget story
Beth Kanter's Let's go widget shopping
RSS widgets for your blog

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Blogging is like...

painting by webmetricsguru
As a fanatic blogger (about to start my second blog!) I liked this problogger blogpost with a list of people writing about blogging is like.. I discovered it through Tim's blog. Sex wins in terms of frequency :) but not in terms of how it resonates with me. I enjoyed the blogging is like expressionistic art. My blogstyle matches my painting style - fast.

Personally I thing blogging is like Zomergasten - a television programme in which guests shows his/her favorite television or film moments and explains why it touched him/her. Through this pieces you get to know him/her through a different angle as compared to 'regular' interview... A blog is a space where everyone can be a Zomergast, and point out to what he/she thinks is great and explain why. And reading blogs is compelling because you slowly get to know a person at a level that would be hard to even during a personal face-to-face encounter. Sometimes I think a blogs make thinking processes explicit and accessible (though that depends on the type of blogger of course). I think reading blogs is compelling because the style is often conversational but at the same time deep- people write about what keeps them thinking.

I enjoy it when I read blogposts from people with children. I realize that in my friend's network there is much more uniformity in thinking about children's education than in my blognetwork. - so it can expand your horizon-.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Diving in the deep to learn

I often wonder whether there is a certain type of person who is attracted to learning in communities of practice, and whether there are people who may have some adversary feelings towards being part of communities of practice. If so, it will probably have to do with learning styles and learning preferences. Ruijters and Simons wrote an article in Dutch titled: 'Ook van in het diepe springen kun je leren'. It's a very good article about the lack of language to make choices about appropriate workforms. When does an action-learning trajectory work? When does a community of practice make sense, or when does a training do the trick? I noticed that that there is indeed a lot of confusion about the differences between these (facilitated) forms of learning.

They wrote about the 'learning architecture' which is the combination of implicit and explicit learning in an organisation and all interventions aimed at stimulating learning in organizations.

'Learning' is used in many different ways, to talk about what happens in a classroom, for a training, for the result of a conversation. People learn in different ways, but preferences may change. It would be best to choose for appropriate learning interventions that match learning preferences. They mention 5:

  • Learning by copying

  • Learning by participation

  • Learning by knowledge acquisition (facts)

  • Learning by practising

  • Learning by discovery

When we pay more attention to preferences of learning at individual, team and organizational level, we can improve the effectivity of learning interventions and for instance determine which preferences can be supported by online learning. Learning profiles can be developed for people, or teams. The example is given of a management trainee. He is a fast learner and trainings often irritate him. He dislikes learning by practising. He does not like learning by reading books either, but has high preferences for learning by copying. To support his learning process, he needs challenges and sparring partners, rather than training and coaching.

It is a very useful model. With this model in mind, it is clear to see that people with a preference for learning by copying and learning by participation would thrive in communities of practice. People with a preference for learning by practising in a safe environment may not always feel at home, unless the communities offers opportunities to practise new skills or behaviours. Since communities also have different learning modalities, the model could also be used to analyze learning in a community of practice.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

5 Ways to Continue Tagging

So here we go, January first, and I'm starting superfresh to read blogs and crossblog what I think is important (without thinking that it's a waste to pump around information). Marshall Kirkpatrick blogged about 5 ways you can fall in love with tagging again.

Though I've never falling out of love with tagging, it gives a good overview of the diverse applications of tagging to share resources. I'm still as ever fanaticly tagging webresources with my delicious account. Always when I find resources that I don't think I can read now, but sound like topics I may need in future, I tag them. For instance I tagged resources with the name 'widgets' and now I'm preparing an overview of blogwidgets and my delicious account is just a wealth of information. But I also tag resources I read that are powerful and mark them with top10 as a way to find good resources when I need them. I contribute to the collective NPK4dev tag (knowledge management for development resources) and I tag freelance resources (tagged with 'van_start') and feed their RSS feed our Ning forum for freelancers. Marshall also talks about his move from delicious to magnolia, something we are contemplating too.

Here are the 5 reasons Marshall wrote down (I shortened it a little, so if you want read the full blogpost):

1. Re-enforce your learning at the end of year
The inspiration for this post came from social media aficionado Tim Bonnemann's practice of tagging all the words he looks up online with the tag "dictionary." At the end of the year, he posted the full list of links to his blog. What a great way to deepen recall of the things you've learned!

2. Build a collaborative tag stream for a community of practice
One of the best things about tagging URLs is that all kinds of RSS feeds become available. One community of practice, a loose group of nonprofit technologists, uses the tag "nptech" to mark items of interest in, ma.gnolia, flickr, youtube and elsewhere. The feeds for nptech items in all of these services are then combined into one NPtech metafeed.

3. Create a shared items feed and put it on your web page
Many of our readers probably use the shared items feature in Google Reader. That service continues to grow more sophisticated - last week it added any shared items feeds from your Gmail contacts to your list of subscribed feeds, for example.
While that's pretty hot - there's something to be said for baking your own, too. If you tag items something like "toshare" in a service like or Ma.gnolia then you can share URLs that you find outside of Google Reader and you can switch feed readers/tagging services without loosing all your shared items subscribers. I did this on my personal blog this year by taking the feed from my items tagged "toshare" in and running it through the service FeedDigest. There I got a PHP snippet to display my links and notes on the sidebar of my blog

4. Tag into a mobile reader
In addition to tagging things "toshare" I've also taken recently to tagging items "toread" and pulling that feed into Netvibes. Adding my toread tag to Netvibes has made it easy for me to catch up on things I want to read while traveling around town. Sometimes I'll just read the most widely popular items from my toread feed, by running that feed through AideRSS and getting a new feed of the 20% of those items that were most tagged, Dugg, commented on and linked to. AideRSS can be applied on top of all of the methods on this list.

5. Tag your microblog posts
I know I'm not alone in finding it much easier to share information over Twitter than by blogging or tagging in a social bookmarking app. Enter Hashtags. Like tagging for Twitter, hashtags are terms you put after a # in a post. then aggregates all the tweets using a given tag and publishes an RSS feed. Reading a feed of short messages sent from the #sandiegofires was very interesting, for example. Though you can certainly just subscribe to a search feed through a service like Terraminds - Hashtags let you do all the things in microblogging that you can do using the methods described in numbers 1 through 4 above. See also Dave Sifry's new project Hoosgot - a service he calls the Lazyweb for the age of Twitter.