Discovering Relevant Sources of Information

Discovering relevant sources of information is a recursive process. Let me explain.

Let us say that you want to track clean tech. The easiest way to find a list of sources is to type “cleantech” in your favorite search engine and look at top 20 distinctly different sources.

But that is just the first step. When you look at these you will find several interesting patterns. You may find portals about cleantech. You may find a directory of resources. You may find some popular bloggers or authors. The list goes on. Based on what you see, you can spawn more searches like these:

  • cleantech directory
  • cleantech products
  • cleantech vendors
  • cleantech lists

You can also find several related terms (or even ontologies) and include them in searches. An example would be “clean tech” OR “green tech” OR “renewable energy” etc.

The next step is to take each one of these sources and validate them. That is a bit more difficult. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How current are they?
  • How frequently do they update information?
  • Are they aggregators?
  • Do they support ads? (is there a correlation between their articles and company mentions with their ads)
  • Are they industry associations or industry publications?
  • Can you detect any biases?

In the end, you come up with a list of valuable sources. This provides a starting point. You can continuously monitor these sources using tools like InfoMinder and TopicMinder. In addition you can go a level deeper and find what their sources are and start tracking those sources as well.

You may want your own relevance ranking system. The search engines ranking may not really work for you. For example, if you are tracking an industry for early signals, highest page rank of the site may be completely irrelevant to your needs. For example my ranking criteria for a certain topic would be:

  • Some kind of source rank (which Google does well)
  • Currency (How current is the information?)
  • Authority (are the authors/columnists have a large following? Are they retweeted, blogged, linked to? Do they have high Social ranking like Klout scores/LinkedIn connections)
  • Is this their area of research? A topic cloud created from their recent columns and posts can give you some indication.

Discovery is recursive and a continuous process. If the information is that important (some thing you may need to act upon) this additional investment in validation and customization may be worth the effort.


Updated on Nov 12, 2012

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