2: Keeping a Finger on the Pulse
For those tapped into an online academic community, one problem that often arises is how to deal with the large volume of information on the web. How do you block out the chatter and listen to the conversations that are important to you?
Google Reader offers one useful tool for scholars. Reader allows users to compile articles from websites and blogs (look for the RSS button on a webpage) and puts them in one central place (your Google account). Information is saved and searchable. To get started, start searching for blogs that are of interest to you. For historians, the History News Network’s blog offers a list of history-related blogs, many of which contain their own “blogrolls” of links to additional sites. Set up a few RSS feeds in Google Reader and start following along.
Although it might be difficult to imagine a “tweet” of 140 characters being of much use to scholars accustomed to communicating in thousands of words or hundreds of pages, Twitter has become a popular way of sharing information. In a short article, “How to Start Tweeting (and Why You Might Want to),” English Professor Ryan Cordell argues that “if you’re interested in technology and education, Twitter is (in my opinion) the best professional community on the internet today.”
For those not interested in following the constant chatter of individual tweets, one website has created a central clearinghouse for digital humanities scholars. Digital Humanities Now tracks the tweets of hundreds of humanities scholars, aggregates and processes them, and posts links to the articles and conversations that are “trending.” If enough scholars are linking to and discussing a certain article, DHNow will post it to their website with space for comments..
Another useful tool for combing the web is Google Alerts. Alerts allows users to receive email notifications whenever certain search terms are added to the web. Similarly, “Google Scholar Alerts” return hits specifically within the “Scholar” section of Google (articles, theses, books, or abstracts). More information on Google Scholar Alerts can be found here.