December 01, 2007
To Next Year’s Juniors and Seniors
I would encourage any junior or senior looking to take a course which is immediately applicable to your working career to sign up and take BIT 330. The biggest thing you will realize is you really don’t know as much as you think you do about uncovering information which is freely available. For instance, I thought I was pretty good with google searching. I used quotes, I used AND & OR for searching – I quickly found out there is so much more you can do. You can make sure words are withheld, you can make sure you only search certain url’s. I thought I was utilizing my searches very well – I was waaaaaay wrong.
On top of learning ways to find and uncover information more efficiently, I also learned a lot about things I didn’t know. Specifically, I learned a lot about efficient ways to allow other people to find information for you. We all learned delicious, but learning about other websites such as Digg, Reddit, and Furl were also interesting. What about email alerts? Those are extremely useful if you want to learn more about a topic (perhaps for group projects?). Bloglines, Blogroll, the list goes on and on….the bottom line is, most of the topics covered you can immediately use.
In terms of immediate usage, I will use most of these topics post-class, but there are two concepts which I will use on a daily basis:
- RSS Feeds. Let other people find your information and have bloglines aggregate it for you. It’s a great way to follow topics and information while doing essentially zero work. Plus, I get daily updates of the Dilbert comic…..pure comedic gold.
- Page Monitors. Want to know when websites change or update? Use a page monitor, and it will send you an email when it does. I will continue to use these monitors when dealing with information not available for RSS feeds.
To be fair to everyone, I will also go through one thing I think could be improved for future classes:
I wasn’t incredibly fond of the entire test question set-up. Not because of what we tried to do, but because of the execution behind it. If you don’t know, the students wrote most of the multiple choice test questions for each of the two tests. This was cool – you get to be tested on what you feel you should know as a student and you know the questions beforehand. However, the quality of many of these questions were, well, crappy. Typically, if you signed up to take notes on a reading and report it to the class, you were also expected to come up with 10 good questions, Well, a number of students didn’t come up with 10 good questions, and things got changed at the last moment before exams. This made exam time slightly frustrating with constant changes occurring. So I would hope that another year of the class would clear those problems up, but in case they aren’t ask the professor what has been done.
Even with that thought / suggestion, I am still extremely happy I took this BIT 330 course. There is absolutely zero -- zilch – 0% chance I would have learned these things on my own. Was it the easiest class in the world? No, I had to do work and try to learn more about the information available. So…should an upperclassmen take it? Absolutely. You will learn about concepts which are not only applicable to almost everything, but becoming more important in business.
I hope this gives you a good idea about what to expect out of BIT 330!
(And if you don't like what I think --- at least the books are cheap!)
November 11, 2007
I Love RSS Feeds
Last week I went over the pros and cons I uncovered in my usage of email alerts. This week, I will be doing the same for RSS Feeds. As opposed to email alerts, which I found to be relatively annoying, my usage of RSS Feeds went very well. I'll first take you through the feeds I have set up, then explain the pros and cons, and finish with a broad overview of my opinion on RSS Feeds.
Much like email alerts, I will give a quick synopsis on how RSS Feeds work. On most websites, there is an option to subscribe to information updates for the website. For instance, you could subscribe to my blog's RSS Feed. By subscribing, you receive an update everytime an addition is made to that feed(in the case of my blog, another entry). These feeds can be brought together into an aggregator, such as Bloglines, where you can easily view all of your updated information. If a website is not RSS compatible, I suggest using the website Feed43 and creating your own RSS Feed capability (I may create a blog revolving around this website in the near future).
My RSS Feeds
Over the course of the school semester, I set up multiple RSS Feeds through a number of different mediums. I compiled my RSS Feeds into Bloglines for easy access. To view that listing, click here.
My two main focuses have been on Michigan Basketball and the Silver Market (my two semester projects), however there are also RSS Feeds on Dilbert and broader sports topics (enjoy my public bloglines)! To think about them specifically, I have set up RSS Feeds to follow places such as: the Michigan Daily Basketball RSS Feed, the SLV yahoo news line, the ESPN.com news for Michigan Men's Basketball, the mgoblue page for Men's Basketball, etc. Setting up feeds such as these is very easy, you pretty much just have to go to the website and subscribe. In my case, I use Mozilla FireFox, so the subscription button is located within the address bar for easy access.
Consistent Data Source
This was a pro for email alerts, but also fits in this category as well. RSS Feeds are great for bringing you updated information on the topics you wish to monitor. They tell you when additions have been made and allow you to continually monitor what is occurring. There may be some delay as to how long it takes to report the addition, but RSS feeds are essentially Real-Time. In my case, I can count on Basketball and Silver Information everytime I log into Bloglines.
YOU Go For Information
As opposed to alerts which are sent to you no matter what the situation, RSS Feeds are there whenever you want the information. I appreciated that I would not be crowded with unwanted information and could go retrieve the information when I wanted it.
As discussed earlier, RSS Feeds are essentially applicable at every website you go to, whether it is build on an RSS foundation or you make an RSS feed for the website. The ability to track information from any website is far more powerful of a tool than one which relies on searches from a few websites (aka email alerts). This is very important when you are trying to trap information beacause the ability to trap will always be there.
Easy, Easy, Easy
As I discussed in my background to RSS Feeds, they are very, very easy to set up and follow. In most cases, it is as easy as signing up for a RSS aggregator (i.e. Bloglines) and a click of the mouse while on websites. This means that even people who struggle with internet technology could easily set up information traps to find information. Despite never having used RSS feeds before, I was able to trap my topics and learn abotu how to use RSS within a few hours.
YOU Go For Information
Yes, this was a positive as well, but I'm sure some people would rather have information sent to them always rather than having to go to the information themselves. Therefore, if you are a person who would rather receive too much information and not do anything (as opposed to accurate information and you have to go to a holding of the information), this is a con.
RSS Feeds, although great, can include some data points which you may not want. For instance, in my effort to create RSS Feeds for Michigan Men's Basketball, I subscribed to the Michigan Basketball feed of the Michigan Daily. Unfortunately, my RSS Feed updates with Women's Basketball as well as Men's Basketball. In this case, RSS feeds can give you relevant and irrelevant information.
If the title didn't give you enough indication, I love RSS Feeds. I had never used them prior to the beginning of this semester and now use them on a daily basis. For instance, one of the sections of my project wiki on Michigan Basketball is current events. By having wiki's in numerous Michigan Men's Basketball areas, I am able to have updates which I can add to the wiki on a quick, informative manner. They work as a great way for me to stay up to date on all my desired information and do not clutter my inbox like an email alert does. If I were only allowed to explain one information trap to a person learning effective web-retrieval, I would go through RSS Feeds.
I hope my blog has given you some insight into RSS Feeds and my usage of them. Check back often for future updates....or even better, subscribe to my blog and read up as I update!
November 07, 2007
Email Alerts: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
If you read my post on email alerts, you already are aware about what I think about them. But what did my peers think? As a class, we were required to each take a look into these alerts -- how did they fare overall? In this post, I will take you through what my classmates considered to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What a suprise! The largest stock in the market creates the largest boom in email alerts as well. Overall, individuals with the last name of K-Z found Google Alerts to be the top choice of email alert systems. In fact, approximately three out of every four people would prefer Google Alerts against other alerts. Why did they think that? Well, for a number of reasons. Take for instance, Dane Rook, who found that Google Alerts was far easier to assemble a query; Jon Montville thought Google Alerts served as a great way to keep up with information you needed on a daily basis; Carolyn Rhode found it to be a great access system into the Blogs of the web. I guess Google really may have everything....
Constant Data Feeds
For the most part, people LOVED not having to do work (Another suprise!) and enjoyed that Email alerts brought all of your work to you. In fact, everyone loved it. Now, everyone didn't always love the frequent emails, something we will discuss later, but the consistency of information was a frequent plus for the class.
Potpourri of Information Types
Within the search results, almost everyone who touched on reasons why they liked Email Alerts spoke about the plethora of information the alerts provided. Blogs, Websites, Images, Videos, you name it and these alerts were sending them. This broad aspect to the information enabled the alerts to be a "one stop shop" for information trappers.
Emails, Emails, Emails
Gah! 5 emails a day everyday for months on end! This is the reaction of a number of people to email alerts. This aspect was either, "you love it" or "you hate it" -- as seen by the fact most people enjoyed the information, but not the buildup of it. Obviously I discussed my distaste for the flow in my post, but other users expressed their dislikes as well including Steven Richards and Joe Zatkoff.
In fairness, some people did enjoy using Yahoo Alerts, but since most people tended to favor Google Alerts it seemed as if Yahoo Alerts were pushed into the background. Dane Rook's, for example, hated Yahoo's inability to establish relevant search categories. This led him to "attempt to set up alerts for some of my existent RSS feeds." Clearly individuals were able to make due with what Yahoo had to offer. However, in total, people seemed to have to work harder to make it work, and that forced some level of resentment. An additional problem a number of students found was Yahoo's inability to preview the search beforehand. As Kai Schultheis put it, "It would be, however, much more convenient if you could play around with your query within the Yahoo! Alerts portal."
Paying for Alert Systems
GoogleAlert, for real, enter into the 21st Century whenever you feel like it's time.
A number of people expressed their desire to be able to filter their searches even more within the Alert systems. This fits natually with the natural resentment the students exhibited in their blogs towards working hard and placing a great deal of time establishing a search query. I guess there is a consistent desire for a "one stop shop" version, where you can type in your short query and modify it 4329843290472390 ways (please note, sarcasm).
Overall, there wasn't too much ugliness about these email alerts. A majority of King - Zeitoun found them to be very helpful and plan on using them in the near future. I guess that's not too shabby for something most people had never used ever before, oh, a month ago.
See you next week for my blog on RSS Feeds!