What's beyond Google-fu?
March 15, 2008 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I recently wrote a job description for my client, who is contemplating hiring someone as an online researcher. Now I am being asked to work out a system for doing that job. Trouble is, I'm not all that technically savvy.

I do online research in the course of my writing and can use Google and RSS feeders quite handily. However, this job is not in my bailiwick, and I charge too much per hour for it to be cost-effective for my client. Also, I am not available past a certain point in time and the job will be ongoing indefinitely.

This project/job will require ongoing daily research of news items related to a specific industry, as well as websites of interest, for content on a private password-access-only site. The information has to be gathered on both a national level and on a U.S. state and local level. There will be no writing or editorializing involved, only finding good links and posting them to the site, testing them to see if they work, and deleting links as the news becomes old. There may be some user-generated content in the future, but for now it's all on the researcher to provide good quality content.

I've gathered some of the initial content using Google and Google Reader. I've also used news alerts, which are turning up lots of unneeded sites: in short, it's a time-consuming nightmare.

Is there an easier way to do this? I'll need to train the person he'll be hiring or at least be able to explain the system to them. Since my system is "hunt and peck," that seems kind of lacking. Is there some sort of magical techno wand that I'm missing here?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm not sure what you're asking...although it sounds like Yahoo Pipes might be a solution.

From it's own description:
Like Unix pipes, simple commands can be combined together to create output that meets your needs:
* combine many feeds into one, then sort, filter and translate it.
* geocode your favorite feeds and browse the items on an interactive map.
* power widgets/badges on your web site.
* grab the output of any Pipes as RSS, JSON, KML, and other formats.

posted by filmgeek at 1:09 PM on March 15, 2008

Best answer: Is there some sort of magical techno wand that I'm missing here?

There are plenty of tools that can help with this kind of research, but I'd say you need to find someone who already knows how to find and use those tools. Just giving someone a bunch of tools without the necessary background to figure out how to use them effectively isn't likely to help much. For example, Feed Rinse is useful for focusing feeds on just the items you want, but defining the filters to do that requires a skillset you're going to have a hard time teaching if you don't have it yourself. A library science student might be a good fit here.
posted by scottreynen at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2008

Response by poster: To clarify: I write consumer guides, brochure and ad copy, and articles. I also have someone proofread before it goes to print, so mistakes like using "technically" instead of "technologically" don't show up in the final product ;-)

This guy wants something along the lines of a web content manager, someone who updates news and information every day. I know how to do web searches but not this stuff, and not to the extent that he's asking. I searched the web and I also searched AskMe but I am apparently not using the right search terms to figure out how content managers gather their information. It also looks like content managers write articles/provide editorial content in addition to putting up links. This job is only putting up links. A lot of links.

So do web content managers just look things up in Google and RSS feeders and pick and choose from those? I'm looking for something that will save him time but I'm thinking a human has to eyeball it to make sure he doesn't get Joe Schmoe's Opinionated Blog posted to his site next to a link from CNN Money. Also, he can't pay a lot of money yet so I'm wondering if I should tell him to seek out an intern or college work-study student.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:53 PM on March 15, 2008

Best answer: So you're a copywriter and now your client is asking you to go beyond the brief, really. It sounds like you were intially hired to do online research for a limited period and your client now realises they need someone full-time.

Well, it's up to them to decide what it is they're looking for. If they're open to it you could try to help them understand the skills and expertise you bring to your job, which may make it easier for them to find the right person for the position they're looking to fill. However, it sounds to me there are other aspects to this position which are not in your area of expertise. They appear to be asking you to develop tools to automate some parts of your job.

These are two completely different skills -- so unless you've been coding in your spare time and been hanging out for an opportuntity to combine the two, don't even go there.

Be true to yourself and your clients and stick to what you know: you're a professional, not a jack-of-all-trades.
posted by l'esprit d'escalier at 3:09 AM on March 16, 2008

Response by poster: All true, I don't have the skill set. He had someone else lined up for the web stuff and they fell through - apparently they claimed a lot of capabilities that they didn't possess. I did say that I couldn't do it and told him politely that he needed to find someone else for this aspect of his project. I think I need to reiterate that. I wrote the job description but I can't tell someone how to do it. He asked me to find out and I said I'd try.

And no, I have not been coding, no thank you! :-)

I marked all answers as "best" because I felt everyone had something valuable to contribute. Thank you very much!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:43 AM on March 16, 2008

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