Sunday, May 03, 2009

My information system

So it's been a while that some friends asked me how I aggregate my information. So here I'm trying to explain how my system works. How do I keep everything in sync between work & personal information, and how do I keep up with tweets and all the information going around about new technologies? It's still a work in construction actually, but it sort of have to be so-news keep changing, and so do the channels where they're sent.

My system is built mostly around Netvibes. Netvibes is a tool that I didn't really understood well at the beginning. First time I saw it I was like "Huh - limited information in each widget, and not a fast to read as a linearised feed reader" (you know, these feed readers that look like Outlook - and yes, Google Reader is one of them too). Here is how Netvibes looks like when you begin using it:

Turns out the human brain is pretty good at parsing such boxes. And the visual position of the box in the layout helps to know immediately the category of the information.

So now it is how my Netvibes pages looks now:

I have LOTS of feeds in it. So it's separated though tabs, each one has a topic, except the one you're viewing that's my main screen. It's the one I'm 90% of the time in Netvibes.
  • Let's begin with number 1. It's a Yahoo Pipe stream. It concentrates many feeds: News from CNN,, as well as my Twitter Rssfriends feed. It has many tech feeds integrated in it too (Mashable, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb). It allows me to follow numerous news sources in a single feed that is sorted per publication time. I've been using it for around two month, and so far I'm really satisfied. Soon I should do a review of the feeds in it, maybe add a few ones too.
  • Number 2: My Twitter widget. Let me see updates, replies, direct messages and post content. At work I've performance problems with the input field, but this is the widget I use the most anyway. Thus the central position. Twitter is getting always more important to me because I have keep getting more critical contacts in it. Good friends, my career mentor @martinpacker... It's an invaluable source of information. Twitter is a strange tool. People almost always have a strong opinion about it. Most see they didn't get it till they tried it. Correct me if I'm wrong. I use Twitter for inspiration. It brings me new ideas, new contacts. And it works very good that way.
  • Number 3: I've found recently Hacker News - it is a real good tech source. I has all kind of posts that appeal to tech guys like me. It's a little Paul Graham/YC biased, but not too much. Hacker News is something like Digg but it seems the great majority of people that post & vote there are smart people. Hence the value and the placement in my Netvibes frontpage.
  • Number 4: My TODO list. To not forget that I have some work to do, too :) For a while I used the "Webnotes" widget at the central top as a todo list. For now I'm happy with this lightweight todo widget - the colour function is very nice.
  • Number 5 is my Gmail main box. Nothing special to say, it is reliable!
  • Number 6: I monitor the IBM Main newsgroup thought the feed available with Google Groups. But I close it when not working.
There are many things that I've not included in the screenshot. At the bottom of my main tab, I've the current Dilbert & XKCD too. A must!
The tab "Information" contains general news in three columns with newspaper feeds: a column for France news, one for US news & one for Germany.
In the "Tech" tab, I have, TechCrunch and other. Most are in my Yahoo pipes, but sometimes it's better looking at the single feeds. Well, let's just put a screenshot, it's worth 1000 words:

I use the tab "Bloc Notes" for writing diverse stuff I need to memorize. It's composed of a few Webnotes widgets that I arrange with my needs. Pretty dynamic & changing content.

Netvibes is really a cool tool - at the state of the art of the Web design. Usability is high, it looks good and the functionality is really useful. I can only advise you to give it a try!