I don’t think – generally – journalists make enough of RSS feeds. RSS readers should be used by every journalist to create their own personal newswire, pulling in information from all over the web based on search words or specific feeds from sites you really should stay on top of, but invariably forget about.
But here’s a surreal problem: Google News RSS feeds invariably don’t work anymore in Google Reader. Which is a bit of a problem – as any personal newswire worth its salt needs to be pulling in from the best news search tool around.
And then there’s social media. You could build Tweetdeck up to search Twitter and other networks, but Facebook search is notoriously flaky, and wouldn’t it just be better to be able to view all your searches in one place?
There aren’t many tools which I’d advise have the potential to be part of every journalist’s toolkit from the off, but this is certainly one of them.
Spundge – into public beta this week – works like this: You sign in (using an existing social media account if you want) and create a ‘notebook.’ Feeds, by the way, are known as firehoses.
Some pointers i’ve picked up so far:
1. When you create a notebook, it will create a search feed based on the word you name it as. The problem here is that it’s a global search, so if you’re after a specific UK place, you could end up with information from across the globe – eg a search for Preston pulled in a lot from America, which wouldn’t be much use for a Lancashire Evening Post reporter. You can get round this by going into Google news and setting up a search for Preston location:UK and then doing a right click on the RSS button at the bottom. When you right click, select ”copy url” and….
2. … Make the most of the add feed option. Go into settings in the top right hand corner and select ‘add feed’ Copy and paste the url you’ve just copied and press add feed. Go back to your notebook (accessible via notebooks near the top left hand side) and select the drop down arrow next to the word Spundge underneath Notebook Firehoses. The word ‘customise’ will appear – click on that and then choose the feed you’ve just added. Press add selected feed and , there you go, you have your RSS feed serving up, based on most recent entries, in a really easy to use way.
3. You can then remove the keyword search which is auto generated by pressing the green button next to it underneath the keywords section on the left-hand side. Of course, you might want to keep it. For example, if you wanted to build up instant searches of all of Manchester United’s ex-players for the last decade, this would be the way to do it. In which case…
4… Quickly add the players one-by-one in the ‘Add Keywords box and they will appear in a list underneath. I’m not sure it replaces the need to create the Google RSS feed (see 1).
5. This is where it gets really good. It has brilliant social media search. INCLUDING FACEBOOK! By default, a new notebook will pull in social media searches for the keywords set up at the top. If you want to combine the ability to use a keyword to search social media but not get a global search of search engines for that keyword, use the customize option (in point 2) to restrict the general search and then select Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Flickr. You can add or remove ‘firehoses’ (as the searches are called) at any time by clicking ‘add or remove firehoses.’
6. On the Twitter button under ‘firehose’ you can filter your searches to just pull in searches you have from Twitter lists you already have – so if you’ve collected a Twitter list of – say – Birmingham City fans – you can just search among them. Alternatively, set it to just search people you follow. Both seem a little restrictive, but I can see they could have uses.
7. There are a number of filter options to help you go a bit further too: Social engagement, time, location and language. When selected, they appear in the left-hand column. Social engagement allows you to filter Twitter results based on the number of retweets or the number of followers the tweeter has. Time allows you to filter when updates were posted – from anytime through to just the past few minutes. I also really like the ‘only near location’ tool – potentially very good for live reporting of a news event.
8. Make use of the buttons next to each search result in your notebook. The tick saves that result – essential if you want to return to it, as this is a real-time feed – a plus button if you want it to prioritise more results like that, and a minus button to give you fewer like that.
9. Use it as a way of livetweeting. You can embed your notebook into a website or blog. To activate this, go into the settings button at the top of your notebook (but not at the top of the page) and change the privacy settings to public. If you wanted to liveblog based on hashtags, just create a keyword search for that hashtag. You could also create a list containing just the names of those tweeting from an event and then select just that list, and disable every other search option. You can find the embed code under ‘syndication.’
10. Experiment. I’ve just started but the potential is huge. And consider the pro option – which I will if it keeps being as good as this!