Business Briefing 22/12/2016

In the news today…

Timing is everything today. And in light of all the issues Germany is having with the escaped truck driver, many of the EU initiatives on security cross borders have been detailed. You can’t help thinking that if initial checks aren’t going to be done, what is the point of the determination to watch and vet innocent citizens? Ironically new UK surveillance legislation has been declared illegal by the EU.

Quick News

Government Consultations and Announcements

EU News

Challenge yourself!


Choice is both a blessing and curse. We are faced with masses of choice which makes finding things hard work sometimes. But technology is trying to simplify matters. And we can access this information from wherever and wherever we want.

For instance, when we shop online we can apply filters to every search. When we are looking for tickets, we can specify what we like and when we want to go. We can enjoy talking with others with similar viewpoints. We can sign up for subject newsletters to keep up to date of developments in every imaginable discipline.

Online personalisation

In theory we all have access to the same information. We should have reached ultimate equality. Personalisation is desirable when we enjoy watching certain genres of film, a particular fashion brand, browsing hobby pages. At an individual level it saves time and directs us to what we want and connects us with like minded people.

With online personalisation anything is possible and everything is available. It is the same with current awareness. There is a risk though. If we filter our searches and personalise our feeds so much, the technology anticipates us so we don’t see everything. As current awareness recipients we become passive consumers of our own narrow search choices.

Avoiding feedback loops

In some cases we don’t know what else we might want. We may be missing some interesting stories because they are outside our chosen topics. This is how Facebook news channels people into feedback loops. Communities coalesce around common values and viewpoints. This means the news that we share validates our opinions. Satisfying but hardly challenging.

Scanning a selection of news from a wide variety of sources enables us to venture beyond mental comfort zones. We need to combine flexibility with imagination so that relevant wider material reaches a wider public. Effective curation sits at the centre of all intelligent and thought provoking current awareness.

What about the format?

Accessing information is a major consideration and again choice is overwhelming. Are we getting news round-ups via Twitter, Facebook, favourite blog-roll, email bulletins on our smart phone or tablet? At home, on the move, in coffee shops, or at work? Wherever it is and whatever the format, it has to fit in with out routine and work flow which can be a technical challenge.

For professionals, email remains the most common place to access quality current awareness. But this may not be the right place for a wider readership. This is why I want to talk to customers and find out what works for them. And this will change over time.

Technology is helping us cut through the masses of information available, and enabling us to make an informed choice. But we don’t want to let technology limit our access just because we enjoy a particular viewpoint. Sometimes it is healthy to read something different. We should be clever enough to realise that there is other information available. You have the choice. Use it.

Business Briefing 2016-12-21

In the news today…

Some good news for travellers as baggage handlers’ Christmas strike called off, but keep an eye on the weather as there are risks of 90mph gales forecast. There is also a rash of pre-Christmas government news and consultation.

Quick News

Government Consultations and Announcements

EU News

Business Briefing 2016-12-20

In the news today…

Quick News

Government Consultations and Announcements

EU News

Current awareness for all

Building and cloudsHigh quality current awareness services alert professionals to recently published material of interest. It’s normally provided by in-house information specialists to scholars, lawyers, healthcare practitioners, business people and others. But in my view, everyone is entitled to quality low cost alerts from a trustworthy curator.

Collating information takes time

Information people use many methods to keep their clients and customers up to date. But you don’t need to know about the traditional paper methods as I certainly don’t use them now. Instead I use a selection of information from RSS feeds, email alerts, government and newspapers websites to bring everything together for you. Sifting through the information takes time.

You know how long it takes. For instance you regularly run through saved searches in your preferred databases. You can sift through numerous email alerts in in-boxes already brimming with unread items. You may have set up lists on Twitter. Or if you haven’t already, you could set up your own RSS feeds on to your preferred reader.

RSS and technology

RSS (really simple syndication) is not a new technology and has been around for some time. There has been a suggestion that it is declining in popularity. For instance certain sites have reduced or removed support for the service. Some previously popular readers such as Google Reader have been discontinued but they are widely supported elsewhere. Without getting too technical, certain browsers – Explorer – include RSS support, whilst Chrome doesn’t.

However I’ve found that many news publishers continue to produce efficient RSS feeds. This is the perfect solution for many current awareness service issues. I’ve found that Netvibes works well because it is flexible and easy to use. I gather the majority of my feeds in one place so I can identify relevant stories quickly and efficiently for you.

As clients ask for more specialised briefings, industry and specialised news can be added to my reader. As I consult with you and work on your current awareness, it will continue to improve and evolve. Maintenance and growth of the feed collection will improve my service to you. Of course, I take news from other media sources and collate them for you especially.

The problem of pay walls

There is one major problem that no amount of curation can solve. RSS feeds can’t enable access to subscription services. Online newspapers have been following the example of quality commentary publications by putting their content behind pay walls. For instance The Times and Financial Times. This is a downside of providing current awareness to individuals because subscription based news services can be expensive.

As an information professional, my primary aim is to find ways of getting current awareness to you. So let me start putting news together for you because I want to prove that this kind of service is not just for companies, universities, and other professional services.

Constant communications

Mobile phone mast and blue skyCurrent awareness and communications go hand in hand. Technology is at the heart of information exchange, but effective communication between information professionals and clients is vital. It’s a complex issue and deserves closer investigation.

‘Language is constant’

A twenty year career in information services teaches you the importance of communication. During a conference Sir Tim Berners-Lee stated that ‘language is constant’, even if technology has evolved. I noted the importance of effective written and spoken communication skills in my CILIP Professional Development Report published in 1999.

My report made reference to the ways people communicated in an office environment. For instance, user surveys, inductions, meetings, training, written instructions, consultations and staff management. It is safe to assume that without communications, there is no point to us being at work.

Communicating with team members

The reason for team communication is to coordinate work and avoid duplication of effort. In small teams it is easy to feedback information on work done, progress on projects, or record queries. But larger teams appreciate a more sophisticated, formalised process. For instance, databases to manage research, rotas, staff meetings, and regular catch ups to co-ordinate project work.

Information sharing promotes trust, builds respect and inspires confidence within the team. If communication fails between management and staff, it can become unpleasant. This applies to any organisation or business. Openness and honesty within and without the team is essential.

Communication with customers

Communication with customers or clients is something that takes place every day. Letters, voice mail, email, direct messages, Skype, text message – we are spoilt for choice. How we use them depends on the nature of the communication. For example, what is appropriate for a Skype conversation would not be appropriate for a formal email.

Most people are happy with short informal notes on everyday matters. Yet I would suggest that use of appropriate language is more important than ever. In my view, a business email should be polite, grammatically correct, and present a professional image to the outside world. There is no excuse for poor proofing.

I’ve talked about helping me to help you. Ultimately the method of communication shouldn’t matter. Listening to and extracting information from clients is an important and valuable skill. And done right, it builds that platform of trust.

Publicity and promotion of information services

Whatever you should do should contribute to promoting your service. A free news service should speak for you and be a way into selling your skills. Developments in social media means users can communicate with information providers in new ways. The professional has to assess what is realistic and acceptable for their service. But we should all consider intranets, blogs, LinkedIn and twitter accounts.

In-house information services should make the most of their captive audience. From news bulletins and end user training, research services and specialist skills. Everything work-related should publicise and promote the service within the firm. Never has the ability to promote your information service and yourself been so important.

Be the centre of your information world

I used to think of the information service being like the centre of the spiders web, connecting all departments of the company or firm. But independent information provision is more like a spirograph. My client is the new centre and information revolves around you. We ensure an organised pattern of inter-connectivity.

It is only possible to do this if we have the ability to write well, present clearly and coherently. Communication is indeed constant. Everything that I do, you do, and they do, revolves around communications. And this isn’t going to change any time soon.