Resources for topic ideas and researching current trends
Webmasters are constantly facing an issue of getting new content. What's the next article to write? What topic do they cover next? Once they have an article idea, how do they research the facts or gain a view to the current thinking. A great deal of information is available on the Internet, and especially the bloggers are real busy writing and exchanging ideas with one another. If there were an easy way to track the "conversation" would help webmasters stay current and get ideas. Staying current is especially significant to bloggers, as blogging is all about writing what's true right now.
Here's a few resource ideas. Most involve tracking RSS feeds, so to use these techniques you will need to have an RSS aggregator and understand how to use it.
del.icio.us -- communal sharing of links to web sites
The del.icio.us service has been, so far, the darling child of the "web 2.0" movement. Its function is to serve as a shared bookmark manager between all its users.
People register with the site, and have an easy way to store links to web sites. It's relatively easy to integrate the stored links into the users web browser, and for that matter you can access your stored links from any web browser you happen to be using. But what's been most interesting about it is the "tagging". When you store a link in del.icio.us, you associate with the link "tags" which are key-words describing the meaning of the link. When you want to retrieve a link you use those keywords to sift through the stored links to see what has been previously stored.
Del.icio.us goes beyond an individual storing their links in the service. All links are shared between all users of the service, as are the tags each user serves. That means a user of del.icio.us can browse not just the links they've stored in the service, but the links others have stored there. They do so through the tags people apply to the links.
Where this comes in for reasearch and getting ideas is the RSS feed. The RSS feed is going to be the theme for this page. In the case of del.icio.us, listings page for each tag includes an RSS feed for that tag. This means you can query, as an RSS feed, the current links for a given tag. If you repeatedly query the RSS feed for tags of interest to you, then you are constantly updated with the new website links in the topic related to the tags you're querying.
To make this real for you, let's pick a tag: del.icio.us: reiki. Notice at the bottom of the page the RSS icon which links to this URL: del.icio.us/rss/tag/reiki. If you configure your RSS aggregator with that RSS URL, then the aggregator will constantly be updated with new website links for Reiki.
Technorati searches and tags
The technorati service tracks the "conversation" happening in the blogosphere. Bloggers often find each other through technorati. You can search the indexed blog postings or the list of known blog descriptions. Further, the technorati service also tracks "tags" which are keywords applied to blog postings similar to the tags used in the del.icio.us service.
You can make queries to the technorati tag system. What you will find are blog postings which are tagged with the keywords in your query. The tagging is something the blog writer does to consciously categorize their blog posting. If you look at the bottom of the tag query results page you see an RSS icon.
That RSS icon provides a link to the RSS feed for the given tag query. And, like with the del.icio.us example, you can put that RSS feed in your aggregator. Instead of tracking new website links in the topic you're interested in, you will be tracking blog postings.
The Google News service is simply stunningly awesome. It tracks news from thousands of media websites, and categorizes the articles together into topical clumps. By regularly scanning this page you can get a feel for whats happening in the world right now, as the most popular stories get tracked by Google with all related articles clumped together into one thread.
But what may be even more important is that when you do a search on Google News, they provide an RSS feed to that search.
Let's try it out: Google news: "reiki"
Notice on the left side of the page the text "RSS | ATOM" and below that "About Feeds". Those link to the RSS URL related to whatever your current search is.
Again, the RSS feed is very useful. This time what you retrieve are the latest articles related to the search query embedded in the RSS feed URL. Therefore by regularly querying this URL, you will constantly know about the current news article related to your topic.
Yahoo News is a similar service to Googles news service. And, like Google, when you do a search query you not only can view the results in your web browser, but you also get an RSS URL associated with that feed.
Like the other examples above, you can put that RSS URL into your news aggregator. Like Google News, the Yahoo News RSS URL will help you track the latest news articles related to your topic.