Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Britain needs lerts

Keeping up to date - being alert to new things coming up - can be quite straightforward using the alert service on Search 2.0 at the National Library for Health. The nice people at Shrewsbury and Telford Health Libraries have put together a short guide, but a guide is barely needed. There is (once you have logged in and run your first search) a pair of buttons "save selected rows" and "save all". Select rows, or click "save all" and the next screen has a "save and create alert" button. Then all you need to do it give it your email address and tell it how often you want to be emailed. The system will then run that search for you once a week, month or fortnight, and email you the results. The search can be as basic or as complex as you like, focus on a topic, or an author, or even a particular journal.

If you are asking the system to email alerts to you at work then you must give it your full email address. So if you are at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, and your name is Rafael Nadal then your email address is rafael.nadal@colchesterhospital.nhs.uk. If you'd rather give it your Hotmail, Gmail, BT or other address, then feel free.

For other ways to keep up to date (our own current awareness service aside) think about using RSS feeds. This is a ways of making headlines or new items from news sites or journals or even blogs pop up on a single page. It saves you having to look at lots of other pages. You can gather together as many - or as few - feeds as you like through a "news reader" or "feed reader" service. NLH has a tutorial using the example of Bloglines as a feed reader.

A second option is to personalise your home page (the page you see when you first go in to the internet) to include news feeds. If you use the personalised version of Google (just sign up for a free account) you can "add stuff" using the link at the right hand side of your page and then "add a feed" using the link on the left of the page.

If you have Internet Explorer 7 on your PC then you can add feeds as you would favourites, and you can look at those no matter which page on the internet you are on. However, this only works on a PC where you have Explorer 7 and have set up the feeds. A news reader or personalised Google can be reached whichever PC you are using, at work or home.

Keeping up to date is a "little and often" activity. If you leave it for months you've got more to look at and it becomes a huge chore. If you make a date in your diary every Thursday morning, or every other Tuesday afternoon, or whatever suits you, you'll keep on top of it much more easily.

As we used to say at school - "be alert - Britain needs lerts."

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