Using RSS Feeds to Stay Current

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a way for content publishers to make news, blogs, and other content available to subscribers. For a more detailed explanation of RSS and how it works, check out RSS Made Simple from Common Craft.

You can discover new RSS feeds in several ways. On Web sites that offer this feature, you might see the Button image, RSS button or, XML button. In most common Web browsers, when you click these buttons, you can subscribe to the associated feed. You can also enter a feed’s web address (URL) directly into your reader’s Subscribe area. Most literature databases allow you to subscribe to topical or table of contents alerts via RSS.

RSS feeds can be read using software called a feed reader, which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based. Google Reader is a good web-based reader with excellent Help files. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds using Outlook.

If you’d rather receive updates via e-mail, BlogTrottr is a free service that allows you to have RSS feeds sent as e-mail.

For more information, see also the University of Illinois Library’s excellent Current Awareness LibGuide for assistance with using RSS feeds to keep you up to date. See also the News & Current Awareness section of the Pollution Prevention Technical Assistance LibGuide for a list of useful RSS feeds for pollution prevention professionals.

New Google option: Search using your terms, verbatim plus some other search tips

Google has rolled out another search tweak. Normally, Google makes guesses about what you meant to type, rather than what your fingers actually wrote. However, when the verbatim tool is on, Google will use the literal words you entered without making normal improvements such as:

  • making automatic spelling corrections
  • personalizing your search by using information such as sites you’ve visited before
  • including synonyms of your search terms (matching “car” when you search [automotive])
  • finding results that match similar terms to those in your query (finding results related to “floral delivery” when you search [flower shops])
  • searching for words with the same stem like “running” when you’ve typed [run]
  • making some of your terms optional, like “circa” in [the scarecrow circa 1963]

This functionality is useful if you’re searching for information with creative spelling or that includes specific terms for which you don’t want Google to include synonyms or similar words. You can access the verbatim search tool under “More search tools” on the left-hand side of the search results page.

Another way to refine your Google results is to use the Advanced Search page. Google also has a lot of nifty specialty search features, which are aggregated here. The two that I use most often are define:[anyword] to locate word definitions and site:[url] to limit my search to a specific web site.

Web 2.0 Social Media Webinar Presentations Available Online

Recently, GLRPPR‘s Laura Barnes participated in a webinar hosted by our sister Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) Center, the Western Sustainability & Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN). Laura co-presented with Rick Yoder from another of the P2Rx Centers, the Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center (P2RIC). Donna Walden of WSPPN moderated the session.

Rick and Laura described many social networking and bookmarking tools (such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.), why using these tools has become important for those in pollution prevention and sustainability organizations, how these tools can be great sources of information as well as marketing, and also provided some great tips for using these technologies. The audience asked lots of questions, and overall the webinar was very informative even for those of us who already regularly use Web 2.0 tools.

If you missed the session, or attended and would like copies of the presentations, these are now available for download on the WSPPN webinar page (look for “Web 2.0 Social Media Webinar, Recorded on July 28, 2010”).

Thanks to WSPPN, and particularly to Donna Walden, for making this webinar possible.

Tech Tip: Google Guide and my favorite Google tricks

Developed by Nancy Blachman, Google Guide is a comprehensive resource for getting the most out of web search using Google. Although most of the information here is also available through Google’s Help Center (, the tutorial format is unique. I also like the links to Google cheat sheets for advanced search and the calculator. They are based on Google’s own cheat sheet, which is also available in the Help Center.

Although I realize that most people (except for search geeks like me) probably won’t ever use most of the features that Google has to offer, there are a couple of features that I use often and find very helpful. They are:


The query [define:] will provide a definition of the words you enter after it, gathered from various online sources. The definition will be for the entire phrase entered (i.e., it will include all the words in the exact order you typed them).  See the results of define:biomimicry for an example.


If you include [site:] in your query, Google will restrict the results to those websites in the given domain. See the results of biodiesel for an example.

What’s your favorite Google search trick? Share in the comments.