Build an Information Catalog

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Information is the basis of the modern world. It’s the Information Age (wasn’t that Oracle who had that in their strapline in the 90s?) Information is power, so they say. But how do you get your information?

This article covers how we get information from external sources, i.e. it isn’t about the coffee-machine chat. I’m talking mostly about the web. Having a catalogue of information sources is an essential means of being informed about your technical subject matter and moreover it’s place in the wider world. Information can add context to your subject. In the business sense, technology doesn’t exist for it’s own sake; it has a purpose and application in business where it adds value to customers and your organization.

I’ll talk about my own sources for a while. As part of my weekly routine, I regularly access a number of website sources, including blogs, to experience ‘the buzz’, i.e. the news from the IT industry and also that of my business context, Financial Services. I also take some time to look at websites covering career and personal development. The number of sites I hit is in the region of about 20, each website adding new content daily. This is a large amount of available information, so I don’t expect to read everything and take it all in, so I generally scour the content for something that interests me. Hopefully in the same way you do with!

The thing is, in having a wide source of information, I can gather a lot of context without necessarily reading all the content. Sometimes even the title of an article is enough, in the same way that glancing at a masthead of a newspaper can be informative. I allow myself to cast a wide net and drill down on content that I find interesting. I discard others.
So what? You may ask. Well I have the power of information at my fingertips. I’ve built a capability in finding information quickly. I’d probably boast that I can find content on many subjects faster than most of my peers, should boasting be a sport I enjoy. This gives me an advantage where I can always bring content to most business situations. I’d like to emphasize the point that I have developed a capability. What’s more is that with a little knowledge of my industry, business context and other stuff, I can engage in conversations about a wider range of subjects with people outside of technology. It makes for a more interesting life, and helps building relationships.

One preference of mine is to look for content that has the personal touch. I like to see opinions of others as I can choose whether I align to the values of the author or not. I don’t like content that is passive that tries to be ‘all things to all people’. A lot of content is like that when it tries to appeal to a mass audience and not alienate a demographic, but thats not for me. I find that the closer my values are to the content I read, the more value I gain from it. Also, I find that content that tries to be ‘too clever’ with language becomes very boring after a while. Clear, straightforward and humanized content appeals to me.

The next point I’d like to emphasize is that keeping my information resource catalog current and fresh is important. Information can become out of date quickly. Stale content = stale information. Scouring for new sources is an essential part of maintaining my catalog. My favorite method is to follow links and recommendations from current sources, e.g. it’s common for bloggers to link through to content from other blogs. Each time a new blog emerges (of which there are 1,000 each day) that is current and credible, I add it to my catalog. If information sources become stale, I remove it or reduce its priority.

The last point I’d like to emphasize is that reading content from a number of sources can take time, so I use a content aggregator. Most content is available as a RSS feed, which is basically a newsfeed from the source. Many feeds can be brought together in one place by simply subscribing to these feeds. I use Google Desktop to aggregate the content so I can scan it whilst I work elsewhere. Other aggregators are available, such as Feedburner and My Yahoo! I chose Google Desktop through experimentation – you should try a few out and see what works best for you.

Some of my favorite sites:

Last point, don’t forget to subscribe to my feeds using the links at the top of the page on!

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