Find Interesting People & Places Online

Published: Friday, August 26, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

My last two posts – lists of the best blogs to follow for MLIS and MARA students – as well as my article earlier this the summer about LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to follow – are meant to be springboards for your own exploration. Because, let’s face it, my lists definitely reflect my interests, biases, career goals, history, coursework, internet rabbit holes, and aspirations, among lots of other things, and yours are different (duh, I know, but I felt it had to be said #youdoyou). Hopefully those resources I wrote about got you thinking and clicking and generally expanding your sphere.

Expanding Your Online Universe One Link at a Time
What I wanted to share with you today is a bit of the process on how, exactly, one goes about finding interesting people and places online. My basic approach is two-pronged. First, I start with my existing web – the people and places I already connect with online. So let’s begin with the iSchool’s Twitter profile.

Click on “Following” at the top of its feed to reveal what Twitter accounts @SJSUiSchool follows, or, to think of it another way, what Twitter accounts @SJSUiSchool finds interesting and relevant, or, what Twitter accounts you might find interesting and relevant. Repeat with any and all accounts that you love. Or that make you think. Or laugh. Or that Twitter “suggests” for you. Follow those that look promising (you can always unfollow if you change your mind!).

While you’re finding new accounts, look at their profiles. Chances are that if someone writes anywhere online, they’ve included a link. Check out their blog/website/etc. Does what they write interest you? Excellent – you have another link to add to your Feedly account (you set one up right? It really makes all this reading easier). That trick (I think of it like a snowball: you start small and pick up more and more data as you roll around the web) works all over the Twittersphere, and it also works on LinkedIn and Facebook and blogs and probably on other social media sites I haven’t heard of yet.

Let’s look at LinkedIn for a minute. Go to one of your LinkedIn connection’s profile pages. Scroll down your connection’s profile to see what groups he or she is a member of. Do any look new and interesting? Ask to join! You then have the opportunity to connect with people who have similar interests to you, and you may also find that many groups have active discussion boards and job posting pages. Those are a great source of authors, posters, commenters, and sites that might be worth paying attention to.

Or Going the “Cool Curated Stuff” Route
So that’s one way – using your existing network and expanding upon it. The second prong of my approach is to use this really neat tool I learned about recently: Alltop.com. Alltop is great for providing you with a list of the top information sources for whatever topic you are wondering about. They say their purpose is “to help you answer the question, ‘What’s happening?’ in ‘all the topics’ that interest you.” For instance, if you search for “libraries” you can click to see information sources not only for libraries, but also for literature, nonprofit, and writing. The landing page of their Children’s Literature category gives users a list of the most popular stories as well as nearly 30 places to find such information; those worldwide sources range from personal websites and blogs to NPR and the Washington Post.

Widening Your Information & Ideas Universe Matters
This snowballing or web-growing or information-gathering task is pretty much never done. My searching behavior ebbs and flows – some weeks I actively look for new sources, but lots of other weeks I just try to keep up on all my reading (which is also never done!). But it’s worth thinking about and periodically actively looking to expand the scope of the content you consume.

Why does finding great information sources matter? Well, it’s important that LIS professionals (and MLIS students!) be able to find the best sources, since, after all, we’re trying to be information professionals here. Whether it’s for a library patron, an employer, a freelance contract, or ourselves, we are responsible for curating sources, finding facts, and analyzing results. At the very least, that paper is not going to research itself, nor will the food in my fridge find its own great recipes. So besides taking INFO 244, which I highly recommend, looking for and evaluating information sources in low-stress situations will ultimately make you a better searcher. And that will make you a better student and professional. 

Do you have any tips for navigating the interwebs? Any nifty tools that help you curate your reading list? Please share in the comments!

Image courtesy MissMessie via Flickr under Creative Commons

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