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Awareness tools that we like

Not surprisingly, the rapid rise of online content sources has spurred the development of a range of free tools that make it easier for users to gather that content together by topic. Their rise was predicted a couple of years ago and has proven to be true.

These awareness tools (also known as content aggregators) help users remix and blend web information from different sources into useful pods or snapshots on topics that interest them – they often come with a publicly accessible URL, and they automatically update whenever they are  visited. What this does is save users time trawling around different sites to get a complete picture, now they can just visit one site that does all the hard work for them.

Some of them are remarkably easy to set up and we use them everyday here at PLoS ONE to help us keep up with our world. We thought we’d take this opportunity to share a few of them with you in case they help you stay informed about what we do, or to follow any topic that you are interested in.

Icerocket is a search engine that has some rather nifty aggregation tools built in. It can do all the work for you based off of the URL that you construct. To use it all you do is put the keywords you are interested in (each separated by a hyphen) before For example, will return all the current blogs, Twitter comments, Friend Feed debates and Media coverage for you on the topic of PLoS ONE.

Alltop is a launch from Guy Kawasaki (an internet thought leader previously with Apple) that brings together RSS feeds from the world’s top media in every topic you can think of including Science. For those of you not familiar with RSS it stands for Really Simple Syndication and it helps content to travel to other websites and individuals who want to subscribe to the feed. For example, here’s the PLoS Alltop page that brings together all the PLoS RSS feeds into one place.

Netvibes is a web service that brings together favorite media sources, RSS feeds, widgets and online services. We really went to town and built a page for PLoS ONE that draws in pretty much every stream of content we could think of –  blogs (from and about us), mainstream media coverage, Twitter (posts from us and discussions in the community on us), our Facebook group, our Friend Feed room etc. You name it, we’ve aggregated it – if we missed anything let us know!

Have fun mixing and blending out there and if you find any new aggregators that you’d like to share with us, feel free to post them as a comment to this blog.

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