6 alternatives to Google Reader, sorted by need

15 Mar

Sad times

Google Reader, like iGoogle and other stuff we find useful but which doesn’t fulfill Google’s own criteria for usefulness, is for the scrapheap. It’ll be turned off on July 1st – but don’t wait till then to find something new, move on immediately and throw yourself into a new relationship!

What do you want out of a RSS subscriptions service? Here are 6 alternatives to Reader, sorted by need:

  • I’m already bored with this article and just want something well put together and easy to use
    Look no further than Feedly. When you start using Feedly you’ll immediately think that Google Reader looked outdated and bit rubbs anyway. Feedly takes literally seconds to access your old Google Reader feeds and then you’re away – plus there’s free Android and iOS apps for it too.
  • I just want something that looks and feels exactly like Google Reader
    In which case let me introduce to Old Reader. It was made a while ago when Reader lost some functionality, to look like Reader used to look.
  • I am a Mac person, I want something especially for me
    Newsrack may be the one – it works with Google Reader (you can sync with it for now, and import your feeds before Reader goes) but it works completely alone too. It’ll cost you though, it’s a paid-for app.
  • I want something that can do more than just replace Google Reader
    Netvibes can replace Google Reader AND iGoogle and do other stuff besides. It’s relatively straightforward to import your Reader feeds too.
  • I want something with a self-contradicting name
    Hello Newisfree! Looking forward to some free news, can’t wait. Oh… okay. Premium.
  • I want to approach things in a completely different way
    I personally don’t use Google Reader anymore, because I trust my network on Twitter to surface what is important. If a blog post or news item is significant, or controversial, or just really well written, it WILL come to my attention on Twitter. So rather than resubscribing to a load of blogs via a new service, you could take time to make sure you follow some really good sharers on Twitter, and just take a more zen approach to finding good things to read… Plus if you do miss something, that’s okay.

Still have needs not met by any of the above? Check out the Online Journalism Blog’s fabulous Google doc listing, at the current count, 50 way to subscribe to feeds.

- thewikiman

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Twitter for Researchers guide

12 Mar

At my institution we’re really stepping up our support for researchers, and I’ve been doing a lot of stuff around the Web 2.0 end of the spectrum.

I’m running a suit of workshops called Becoming a Networked Researcher, and I’ve been into departments to give taster presentations like this one:

We’ve also finally completed a guide to using Twitter for Researchers. It’s more a Twitter for Researchers actually, rather than the process of academic research itself (although that is possible). I’ve hosted it on Scribd in order to embed it on our web pages, and it got picked up and featured on Scribd’s homepage so that helped boost the number of views it has had, which is huge, relatively speaking – around three-and-a-half-thousand. Plenty of those have been from York researchers, which is great – they’ve given us a lot of positive feedback and ReTweets.

The guide took a surprisingly long time to do – the difference between knowing stuff and actually writing an ideal version of it down in a document never ceases to disappoint me… Adding examples took a while too. I couldn’t decide between very brief of very comprehensive – in the end I decided somewhere between the two, keeping it as short as possible but including a LOT of information. The idea is, if they want more, they can come to the Twitter workshop as part of the Becoming a Networked Researcher suite.

Anyhow, here it is – feel free to use stuff from it, with attribution:

Twitter for research by University of York Information

There’ll be some more University of York Library stuff on the blog shortly, around Digital Literacy, videos etc!

- thewikiman

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The Library Marketing Toolkit, 6 months on

06 Feb

It’s now around 6 months since I published my book, the Library Marketing Toolkit. This post is an update on how it’s going, so if you’re not interested in that, stop reading now! This post is reflective to the point of self-indulgence so feel free to skip it…

Generally I’ve tried to keep the Toolkit blog and this blog very separate as I know some people subscribe to both, so I’ve not talked too much about the book on here  – I’m breaking that tradition as a bit of a one-off, half a year down the line from publication.

Back story

I wrote a book across 2011 which was published by Facet in August 2012 – it’s all about marketing libraries and it has 27 case studies from libraries and librarians around the world. I found writing the book very tough – the writing itself was okay, but juggling it with having a baby at the same time was nightmarish! My wife and I knew it would be difficult, and took the decision that it would be worth it for the opportunities it would open up; thankfully that has proved to be the case… I’m doing a lot of freelance stuff which I probably wouldn’t get the chance to do otherwise and I’m really enjoying it, and people are finding it useful.


The book has, Facet tell me, sold very well (as these things go – the actual number is still very small of course!). charts change every day so it’s impossible to keep track of when it’s doing well (I don’t want to be obsessively checking…) but on several occasions I’ve seen it at the top of the Library Management Charts, and taken a print-screen to celebrate!

A picture of the Amazon chart showing the book at number 1



I like the one better as you get a little ‘#1 best seller’ thing on there…


A picture showing the book at number 1



People have been really nice about the book on Twitter, and I’ve favourited the tweets with the LibMarketing account to refer back to. Several people have said they’ve found it invaluable in their job or their studies, and I particularly like Dr Fidelius’s comment that it was ‘Far more readable than a book on marketing has any right to be’! It’s so nice when people pick up on something you worked hard on. :)


Reviews trickle out REALLY slowly. You build up to the huge push of submitting the final manuscript, and then with much relief you think ‘I don’t have to worry about this any more!’. But THEN you think, oh blimey, reviews – how well will I deal with someone absolutely savaging it..? And then no reviews appear! So it’s a bit anti-climactic.

Facet warned me it took AGES for reviews to happen (people do have to read the thing from cover to cover after all, and then there’s the publishing process if the review is in print) and that often a year was a typical waiting time, so I was sort of prepared for this. (Library Journal are yet to review it and I’m a columnist for them!) We had various pre-publication reviews from people who were sent advanced copies of the book:

  • The Library Marketing Toolkit is packed full of useful, informative and above all practical information about the best ways of getting your message across, and it should be on the shelf of every librarian and information professional | Phil Bradley

  • The Library Marketing Toolkit is brilliant and  a great addition to the library professional discourse | Andy Woodworth

  • Ned Potter’s book will help any library succeed in creating a community that is aware and engaged in its library. He has written an easy to follow tool kit targeted at the specific marketing needs of librarians that is sure to become a favourite resource for anyone involved in marketing a library. There are case studies from libraries around the world that will inspire you no matter whether your library is large or small. You’ll love this book! | Nancy Dowd

Since then I’ve found various other reviews from journals, book review blogs etc – all of which, thankfully, have been very positive!

  • Potter’s enthusiasm is infectious and he writes in a user friendly manner, not getting caught up in jargon. Concepts are explained concisely with a liberal dosing of analogies and case studies. The aim and scope of each chapter is laid out clearly from the outset and there is a useful synopsis of coverage in the introduction as well as a comprehensive index enabling readers to browse areas of interest.The Library Marketing Toolkit follows on from Facet publishing’s New Professionals Toolkit published earlier this year and is certainly a useful addition to the Library office reference collection. It should prove beneficial to anyone involved in the marketing or promotion of library or information services. | CILIP Health Libraries Group Book Reviews

  • So the questions for me on opening this book were “do we need another book on marketing libraries”, and “does this one offer anything different?”. And I am happy to say that this is not a traditional marketing text. It offers a contemporary perspective on what marketing means for libraries now …my answers are “yes we do need another book on marketing libraries” and “yes it does offer something different”. This book showcases the best of contemporary marketing practices from libraries all over the world. The case studies with the author’s illuminating focus on key points of learning are, for me, the added value which differentiates this book from other marketing books.| Library Management Journal

  • That word—marketing—means so many different things to different people. In Ned Potter’s book The Library Marketing Toolkit, the complex process is divided up into distinct and manageable interdependent projects. I am certain I will be referring back to The Library Marketing Toolkit for years to come.|  Kendra Book Girl

  • From social media to old fashioned methods, and how to build a good brand, this scholarly and comprehensive guide will prove invaluable to any librarian who seeks to get the word out. The Library Marketing Toolkit is enthusiastically recommended, not to be missed | Midwest Book Review

It’s also got an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5…) on goodreads, and its only Amazon review so far is a 5 star one – yay!

No more books!

When I finished the Toolkit, I said ‘never again’. The stress of writing a book in my own time, working full-time, and trying to be a proper Dad who didn’t put work first, was just too much. And everyone – EVERYONE – told me, ‘all authors say that but give it a while and you’ll miss it, and you’ll end up writing another one’.

Well, I can confirm I do NOT miss it! And I won’t be writing another book – I did get asked to write one on Prezi, and I said no without hesitation. I’m delighted with all the stuff above, and maybe one day, if I’m working part time and the kids are at University or something, but for now: no more books.





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Work-life balance – it’s a fluid concept

17 Jan


Flickr Creative Commons image from stuant63


Recently I’ve read a good few posts about work / life balance. I also get asked about it sometimes.

This post has turned out quite long, so here’s a one sentence version for those whose work / life balance doesn’t give them enough time to read the whole thing… The balance changes over time, which is fine, and so is having bursts of intense work activity balanced out by longer periods of ‘life’, but you need to keep a hold of what you’re doing this for and where it’s taking you.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s what I think:

1) Whatever the balance is like now, it needs to be FOR something. If you feel that you’re working too hard, it had better be because this is helping you achieve something – in other words, it has to be a means to an end not an end in itself. Personally I like to be either happy with the balance (with ‘life’ very much in the ascendancy) or comfortable in the knowledge that if the balance is wrong, it’s getting me somewhere I specifically want to go, after which I can relax again.

2) Work / life balance isn’t static over time. I wonder if people look at everyone else and just assume their balance is a permanent one? As in, person X is at SO many events, they must be ‘always on’, or person Y really seems to spend a lot of time with their family, how do they do it? But presumably we’re just seeing a snapshot of a particular time. Good work / life balance is fluid.

In my view, it should be as in favour of ‘work’ as it will ever be, at the start of your career. The period on which an info pro is defined as a ‘new professional’ is often said to be the first 5 years, and that’s a nice marker. You do a LOT of work in those five years, in order to expand your horizons, add to your CV, find out what you really like, and get noticed, get into the kind of job you want. Then after that, the balance can shift much more towards ‘life’ because you’ve put in the hard work to build some kind of platform, and then you’re on the platform.

If you’re a new professional reading this (see this, also; it might be useful) and you’re thinking ‘all the papers I’m writing and conferences I’m helping to organise, and presentations I’m giving – this isn’t sustainable’ then that’s probably fine – it doesn’t have to be sustainable. Just make sure at some point you do actually cut down or stop. Which leads me to…

3) Sometimes it’s okay temporarily putting the balance out if it’s going to be worth it in the long term. So sometimes, you can take on a really big project that you know will make things difficult, as long as you know when the end of the project is and that things will become a lot easier as a result. The key things here are taking things on which actually have an end! And not just chain-smoking right onto the next big thing when they do end. It’s fine to stop. I know people (you know who you are!) who simply don’t stop, even though they know they should… (This is, as you can imagine, a self-perpetuating cycle. Librarian Z takes on lots of things, so a: becomes expert in a lot of fields and b: gets a reputation as being helpful and receptive to being asked to do stuff, and so gets asked to do ever more stuff, etc etc, forever.)

4) Saying no is excellent. In my experience it feels good to say no when it’s the right thing to do. Obviously it’s better for the person asking if you can recommend someone alternative to do whatever it is instead. But the key thing is, once you’ve got yourself into a position where you’re asked to do things, saying no doesn’t mean you get asked any less in future. (Sometimes people feel like they ought to grab every opportunity, even not overly suitable ones, in case eschewing results in the opportunities drying up. But this isn’t the case in most people’s’ experience.)

5) There are two types of balance – short-term and long-term. The day-to-day stuff is the detail level – doing that talk or not doing it, getting a sponsored place at that event which involves writing a report afterwards, or not. That can be managed, and can be fluid.

But then there’s the long-term which is basically your job, which is a little harder to be in control of after a certain point. Some types of job really DEMAND an enormous amount of work hours. This post from the always honest and readable Jenica Rogers literally made me not want to be successful. So you have to think about where you’re going, about what all your hard work is ultimately for.

I used to do a LOT more stuff in my own time (see 1, 2 and 3 above) because it would help me get a job where the same stuff was relevant to my work, so I wouldn’t have to do it in my own time anymore. I’d use annual leave to speak at a conference. I wouldn’t do that now – I did it then because it was a short-term thing and it was worth it.

The job it all resulted in is not the kind of job where you have to work 50 hour weeks, and nor would I want one of those (even for twice the salary). Also, I have to work where I live, because my work / life balance approach is that you live where you want to and then find work there – as opposed to going where the work is. So if someone says ‘I’ll give you £150k a year to do your ideal job in London’ I say no without hesitation. That’s the long-term balance.

6) You don’t have to the best that you can be. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it to anyone who’ll listen. If being 80% (or whatever) of who you could be makes you HAPPY,  that’s what you should be aiming for. Society is blindly accepting of the notion that doing one’s best is the be all and end all, but it’s only worth it if that’ll make you happy!

7) Focus on things you’re naturally good at so you can make more progress in a shorter time. You can make more time for life if the work comes easy to you, so as much as it’s nourishing to challenge yourself, don’t take that idea so far that you always have to work doubly hard on everything because everything you take on is out of your comfort zone.


Everyone is different, but the above is what works for me. I’m really happy with the balance I have, I’d recommend it – but to people who are a bit like me, not to everyone… A lot of people have a lot more drive than I do, and this approach probably wouldn’t suit them and their own quest for happiness and contentment.

When I wrote the book, the balance was wrong. I was working on weekends, I had a young child, and it felt awful. I felt like I’d done the wrong thing. In fact, I probably HAD done the wrong thing – I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. (Again, that’s just me – Beth did much the same thing at much the same time and coped a lot better than I did.) But I can’t regret it now because we got through it and I am where I want to be, doing freelance work for the BL among others, as well as the job I love. I do freelance training about areas I already know about and have a natural affinity for, so I don’t have to spend much of my free time preparing them. I obey number 7, above – if someone came to me and said ‘could you run a workshop  for us, on managing change’ I’d say no, call Lisa Jeskins. It would take me too long to put together the materials to keep my work / life balance as I’d want it be (but Lisa’s done such a course before, and in any case is a full-time trainer). I obey number 4 too – of all the interesting offers I had in 2012 to do stuff at conferences, I didn’t do 13 of them, even though I really wanted to. People often say ‘it’s the things you don’t do that you regret’ and I understand that, but actually I don’t regret saying no to anything, even if, at the time, it was really hard to do.

I am a very reflective person; I spend lots of time analysing stuff, processing stuff. So I am very aware of what works for me and what doesn’t, which is how I’ve arrived at the above, which is basically a description of my life as much as it is advice to anyone else. I think the key thing is to do your own analysis of where you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going, as objectively as possible, without reference to your peers or accepted norms. It’s easy to be influenced by what librarian X is doing, or to feel we ‘should’ be more like Y. But actually that’s not relevant, it’s all about you and only you.

What is going to make you happy?

P.S [added the next day]: I meant to say, all the extra stuff we take on should be so fun it doesn’t feel like work anyway. (This partly why it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it and out of balance, because it’s enjoyable.) If you’re taking things on which feel like work, or things which were previously fun start to feel like work, that’s a sign that it’s time to cut down – either getting rid of some long-standing responsibilities, or saying ‘no’ for a long period of time, or both.

The message is (and this post is aimed primarily at information professionals – this may not be true in other industries, I don’t know) – there should be enough relevant and interesting opportunities out there for you never to have to feel like all this stuff is a drag. Seek out the good stuff. :)


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