A few days ago, just as the D2L user conference Fusion was starting in Minneapolis, I created a Twitter alert for the conference tag, #D2L09. Since I couldn’t attend this year I wanted to virtually keep track of what was happening at the conference.
To do this, I went to the Twitter search page and typed in the conference tag #D2L09, which brought up a list of tweets from the conference. From there I grabbed the RSS feed and manually created a widget in Netvibes (glowing fanboy praise of Netvibes in just a minute). With the widget created, I did not have to continually go back to Twitter and search for that tag every time I wanted a conference update – the tweets automatically appeared in the Netvibes widget as they rolled in.
Today, Netvibes released an update which will greatly simplify this process in the future – drag and follow widgets.
If you have a Twitter widget installed on your Netvibes page and you see a hashtag come through a tweet from someone you follow, all you have to do is click and drag the hash tag onto your Netvibes page. Netvibes automatically creates a new Twitter widget for you populated with Twitter search results for that hash tag. Very handy!
You can also do this with people you follow in either Twitter or Facebook. Drag their username and a breakout widget with just their stream is created. Also very handy for following a few key people in my network.
Okay, here is the Netvibes fanboy gushing (which could really be gushing about any of the current breed of customizable web startpages, from iGoogle to Pageflakes). Of all the web tools I use, none (save Firefox) is more used than Netvibes, my personal startpage that is my aggregator for all things web.
When people ask me how I manage to keep track of all this web stuff, I say Netvibes. It is the dashboard from which I can monitor numerous email accounts, my Delicious, Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook networks, see who is commenting on and linking to my blogs, listen to podcasts, catch the current web zeitgeist, and set up alerts for everything from Twitter tags to academic publications through our library. All the information I need is on one handy dandy page.
What began as a tool I used to keep track of blog subscriptions (functionality that has now been replaced for me by Google Reader and Feedly) is fast becoming a real time web monitoring service that allows me to quickly gauge what is going on and with who in my world.
If you haven’t explored the wonderful world of personal startpages, I highly recommend it. It is a powerful and (for me) indispensable tool to quickly and efficiently take the pulse of my network and track my interests across the web.