Monday, April 8, 2013

Better Tools for Getting Information

We are losing Google Reader "app" in July. Google has determined that it needs its resources for another unannounced purpose. We do not know what that is. 

This has hit the Internet community hard, as we have realized there is no tool quite as good to sift out and aggregate information. 

In other words, there is too much information out there for us to absorb it and we need a tool to extract what is of particular interest to us individually. Google Reader simply brings us the latest information from our preferred sources. No other tool does that as well and we are losing it.

Before Google Reader we initially had to go to each source ourselves regularly. It was a great leap forward when we could automatically subscribe to a given source. That technology was called RSS or really simple syndication. Google simply aggregated feeds of our choice. 

For example, we could subscribe to the latest stories from the New York Times. Google simply did that for us and aggregated those feeds into one up to date listing. Simple, but also breaking into new territory. 

Innovation was the way Google got started. Originally search engines depended on humans to figure out where to go to get the information you needed. Google found a way to get the computer to do that work. That also was simple but broke into new territory. 

There are those who claim Google has never reveals its secrets. Not true. It laid them out in its original proposal in 1992. Google simply uses the history of similar searches to get you where you need to go for information you want. No other search engine does it as well. 

So Google has been an innovator ever since. Now, however, others will need to assist us in a reader aggregator. Many of us will turn to Feedly to replace Google Reader, a worthy choice. 

However, the internet world is discovering that there is a better way. Instead of searching for sources, it may be better to search for subjects. That is simple but groundbreaking, too.

That brings us to Taptu, a better tool. In many ways we really do not need or want to go to specific sources or feeds. We simply want to go to get the latest information on a particular subject. That makes more sense. 

Of course, we also need to see how different sources handle the same news. We also want the absolute latest information, such as we get from Twitter. We need it in the most accessible format. 

For example, Flipboard aggregates feeds into a familiar magazine like format. This way we can skim off latest information in a format as familiar to us seniors as the old Saturday Evening Post.

 I use these tools to find out what impacts seniors particularly. This website is to pull together what is important for seniors in technology. There are few resources in Internet to do that for seniors. 

Similarly, our retirement community, Willow Valley, collects and aggregates information of more general interest to seniors and presents it on it website as a public service. There are few other places to go for such directed information. In the future better ways are coming to get the information you need. 

We need ways to connect the dots. We need to be able to relate different things together. We need for that to happen automatically without human intervention. 

One developing tool is Wolfram, a search engine which scours the internet to pull together related information from different sources. Another good, just announced, tool has come from that 17 year old Brit who has found a way to distill lengthy information into a few words. That is an enormous breakthrough, and he deserves the many millions he has already earned.

We need that capability. For example in linguistics studies we learned that most written documents are highly duplicative in presenting the same information over and over again. A professor in Germany made the point to us American students that we could learn without reading the entirety of German documents simply by skipping through them. 

You do not need to eat all of an apple to know that it is bad. Now we will be able to have a computer do that skipping for us and distill more and more information into digestible bites or bytes. Forgive the pun.