Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thing 67. Alltop

We know that keeping up with the news is important for all library staff--not only on library-related topics but world, regional, and local news, too. You know all about RSS and aggregators like Google Reader or the late, lamented Bloglines. Google Alerts is another way to keep up. You can set up a topic search and have Google send you emails with links to stories on a schedule you define. Alltop offers another way to stay up-to-date. It is a good way to supplement your RSS feeds or to find new sources of news and information.

Alltop states that its purpose is to “help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics that interest you.”  Essentially, it aggregates websites, blogs, and other information sources for a given topic into individual webpages, such as Libraries. On any given topic page, you are presented with several information resources that  
Alltop has chosen to include on that topic. The latest 5 headlines for a given information resource are shown along with that headline’s first paragraph (through the use of a mouse-over.)  Topics can be accessed via an alphabetical list or search.

There are 5 tabs located near the top of the page that are constant:

Hot Topics is the default page that you see when you enter the site. These are topics from a wide spectrum of information sources. From what I can see, many of them are technology-related, but not exclusively. According to Alltop’s About page,

We use a patent-pending, semantic computational algorithm derived from the post-doctoral work of Guy at Stanford. Just kidding. We rely on several sources: results of Google searches, review of the sites’ and blogs’ content, researchers, and our “gut” plus the recommendations of the Twitter community, owners of the sites and blogs, and people who care enough to write to us. Let us declare something: The Twitter community has been the single biggest factor in the quality of Alltop. Without this group of mavens and connectors, Alltop would not be what it is today… If you’ve gotten the impression that Alltop is not based on computer algorithms or popular voting, you’d be right. We are highly subjective and judgmental.

To note, the above quote contains the answers to two different yet related FAQs, but I think it gives you a feel for how this site is set up.

New Topics lists the newest topics added to the long list of topics on Alltop.
My Recent Topics is like the History in your Internet browser; it is where you’ve been. 

Holy Kaw is really interesting as it is described as “all the topics that interest us" seems to be a place for the site’s producers to post a variety of interesting, quirky, fun, or offbeat items. The format of this page is a blog with links to the original information source.  Again, the items on this tab fit Alltop's claims of "highly subjective."

I've left the MyAlltop tab to discuss last as this is the tab that you can use to personalize your Alltop experience.  Setting up is as easy as picking a username, password, and a valid email address. 

The username becomes part of your personal url:  http://my.alltop.com/yourusername which you then can use to directly access your MyAlltop account. To add information sources to your MyAlltop page, either click on the letter of the alphabet to go to a topic page or do a search by entering a term or terms into the Search box. Once you've found the topic page you're interested in, adding one of the information sources is as easy as clicking on the green + located to the right of the title of the information source (a mouseover on the green + gives the message "add this feed to my.Alltop").

A tutorial is available for Alltop that is a very well-done short video located on the About page. This page is also full of information about Alltop, including information about how to submit information resources to Alltop.  If you are looking for an easy to use site for keeping up on a topic and don't mind that someone else has done the choosing for you, then Alltop may be for you.

 Michael Scott, Southeastern Libraries Cooperating

Image: 'Laptop, the well-travelled suitcase years'

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