What sources should I monitor?
But thoroughness in terms of going through results is pointless if you look at the wrong places.
I was just musing over the types of sources you would want to include, and I realized that there were several different possible sources, though you might not add all of them, some might be useful.
Type of sources
Academic databases like Scopus, Web of Science, Open source archives etc.
This would be your traditional sources where you create/setup
1) Keyword search alerts
2) Table of contents for your favorite journals
3) Citation alerts of your papers or very relevant papers
Many libraries now allow you to run searches in the catalogue and export the results as a RSS feed. Some maintain a "new additions" RSS feed by subject etc. Definitely add this to your stream to keep update with latest books published in your area.
Many of the new generation OPACS, allows you to do tagging, and you or your research colleges could tag the books you are interested in and create a RSS feed for that to import into your stream.
You are not limited to your library of course. Try WorldCat (you can create rss feeds from user created lists, and new additions, might be possible for keyword searchs but requires a api key), or OpenLibrary or even Amazon (use built-in API or Yahoopipes)! How about Google books?
This is somewhat rare, but if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in an area, where there are relevant blogs covering the area (For instance my old research area was on measuring information quality of Wikipedia, and there were 2 or 3 high quality blogs covering research in that area), you would definitely want to include that as a source.
If you are just looking for some general reading rather than something specific, you can use the method here find top blogs and to filter/rank the results using Postrank
Social bookmarking sites - E.g. Delicious, Twine, Diigo or Social media sites like Slideshare, Scribd
The paradigm example would be Delicious.
Two main approaches here, you subscribe to relevant tags, or better yet identify people in your area and subscribe to their bookmarks (and or tags). To do the later, a very crude approach is to search for a link/paper that you feel is very relevant to your research and look at who else is bookmarking it. You can do the same for tags or better yet tag bundles
Once you have done the search you want, you can get the results via RSS
Lifestreaming aggregation sites
As discussed in an earlier post, Lifestreaming aggregators allow users to pull all their activities from various web 2.0 services and or RSS feeds into one centralized area. The paradigm example here is Friendfeed where there is a thriving community of life scientists apparently.
Why is this helpful?
You find a guy who seems to be in your area posting on Delicious. But Delicious is not the sum total of all his activities. He might be doing stuff on twitter, posting documents on Slideshare etc.
If he has a Friendfeed account, and he has thoughtfully added them all into his Friendfeed account you can get one aggregated feed to use into your stream!
Chances are though, you might not want to import his whole lifestream since it will include personal tweets etc. No problem! Friendfeed has the most advanced search I have seen from showing only results from a particular service (e.g. Delicious only) or particular person or if it has a number of "likes" or comments and of course on keywords. See below
Social networking/bookmarking sites for academics. E.g Labmeeting, citeulike, Mendeley, Connotea, 2collab, ResearchGate, Nature Network, Zotero, Wizfolio etc (see list here and here).
The problem with generic social bookmarking sites not designed for research is that most links shared are likely to be non-academic sources. But citeulike and their cousins are designed explictly for academic research, so it solves this problem.
Keep track of what people in your research area are reading, or what are the most popular articles on an aggregate level. The same advise above applies on finding people to watch, tags to follow.
This could include everything from Google alerts (you can also do it for Google scholar only using these yahoo pipes), real-time searches (Twitter) or aggregators like Social Mention, Samepoint, WhosTalkin? for searching across web 2.0 services. Maybe even wikis (Scirus topic pages ?)
Type of RSS aggregators
There seem to be 3 main classes of such services/software that you can use to aggregate all your sources but unfortunately none of them were designed for the academic researcher in mind, so there are some problems with using them to keep track of research.
Of course most modern browsers including Firefox and Internet explorer 7+ as well as email desktop clients like Thunderbird, Outlook 2007 support RSS feeds natively so that is yet another option, though they tend to provide very basic functionality
2. Startup pages - e.g. Netvibes, Igoogle, Pageflakes
Such services resemble their web-based cousins but allows you to embed not just rss feeds but widgets (e.g. search widgets) as well. They are typically much more flexible in terms of layouts and provide some minimal sharing features.
Some libraries have used these services as sources for research on a general subject (also see my more detailed blog post), but it could obviously be used by an individual with a more specific focus.
3. Lifestream aggregators - e.g Friendfeed
Friendfeed has already being mentioned. As Friendfeed allows you to add unlimited number of rss feeds as well as specific web 2.0 services into your stream it can be used to aggregate rss feeds you are reading as well.
A big plus about using Friendfeed to aggregate your sources is that it clearly has the most powerful search.
It was the first to allow other users to "like" (as well as comment) on entries and allows you to filter results based on how many "likes" or comments a particular entry has allowing you to spot hot topics.
Friendfeed also allows you to be informed about updates (or update the stream) in myraid ways from email to instant messaging (or to be exported into RSS if you prefer).
Another virtue of Friendfeed is that it implements "Real-time" push technologies if available (e.g for Twitter (details)), compared to just straight RSS which uses the slower polling technique.
So you have made your choice and you have all your sources aggregated nicely and formated in one place. But there's a catch, as these tools weren't designed in mind for academic research, you will find that there is no way to do citation/bibliographic management!