Google Alerts Are Your Friend

145836_320Sometimes I find myself having researched something so deeply and intensely that I feel like I’ve read everything there is on a particular topic and have reached the dreaded (dun dun dun) END OF THE INTERNET.

Information is like oxygen to those of use whose tales rely heavily on scientific and/or historical fact (not to forget mythology). We depend on it—we survive off it. If you take it out of our veins we turn blue and keel over.

So what do you do when you find yourself gasping for information? You turn to Google Alerts!

Google Alerts allows you to keep track of new information as it arises on the internet. This way, having exhausted all existing instances of your topic, if any new material crops up that you can mine from, you’ll know about it as soon as Google’s creepy crawlers do.

Being the wonderful folks they are, Google has made this process super simple. Just take a look at the Google Alerts page: http://www.google.com/alerts. It’s hardly rocket science. You simply:

  1. Enter a search query, that is to say, the topic you are researching.
  2. Select the type of results you’d like. You can limit this to videos, books, news, etc. But if you’re as desperate as I am, you’ll likely accept “Everything.”
  3. Select how often and how many updates you want. If your search query is a popular topic, you may want to limit the “How many” to “Only the best results,” lest you be inundated.
  4. Select your delivery method. By default Google selects your email address, but this can get messy. My preference is to choose “Feed,” which generates an RSS feed that can been imported into your favorite RSS reader (I recommend Feedly.)
  5. This is the hard part: You wait.

I’ve set up a series of Google Alerts for topics covered in my novel and relayed them all to Feedly. Some of the topics are so obscure that I haven’t seen an update in six months, and maybe never will. Other, less obscure topics, get updates every day. In other words, depending on the topic(s) you choose, the frequency of your results will vary wildly.

Now, back to setting up Google Alerts on ex-girlfriends. Kidding. Don’t do that. That’s what Facebook is for.

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