The Most Important Question Web Workers Can Ask

“Hey, where did you find that link?”

I’m beginning to think that this question is one of the most important that those of us who work online can ask. Every day, I seek, am sent, and stumble across links, resources and content that intrigues me, makes me think or changes the way I do things.

While it’s all very well to follow people who continually feed through good content on social networks, I prefer to get to the source of the information myself. Why? For a number of reasons.

  • It helps me manage web “noise.” We all know what following too many sites through RSS or social networks is like: a blizzard of stuff, most of which we wind up ignoring. So when a friend sends me a link to a specific piece of information on a site I don’t necessarily want to add to my feeds, I ask them where they got it. The answer is likely to lead me to a good news aggregator in a field that interests me. It avoids the situation in which I’m cluttering my feeds with otherwise irrelevant sites.
  • It helps me access good information daily. Few of us have the time, patience or desire to wait around for others to decide to send us interesting information — we want to be able to find it for ourselves, at our discretion. By asking my friend where they got a link from, I can add the site to my favorites and feeds, and check its headlines as part of my daily routine.
  • It helps me stay ahead of the curve. “In my line of work, I need to keep abreast of what’s going on.” While not all of us would say that, many, many of us could. Whatever your field, I bet things change swiftly and constantly. I expect it’s important for you to stay on top of developments and to know what your industry’s leaders are doing. By tapping into those sites that provide breaking news on events in your field, you can maintain your grasp on its ongoing evolution and inform your work practice with the latest industry developments.
  • It helps me provide valuable content to others. Social networks are all about sharing and inspiration — that’s why we love them! But for those interested in building their reputations as authorities in a given area, accessing information at its source is important. If you want to be able to provide your contacts with leading-edge information as it’s published, you’ll need to have those sources on your radar.

Can’t find the link?

If your contact doesn’t know where they found the link, or the source in which they found it is otherwise poor, why not do some quick searching to find other sources that linked to the content in question?

Recently a friend sent me the link to Bill Gates’s latest TED talk, but when I asked him where he found the link, he was extremely condemning of the source. It was “hopeless,” he said. He had to page through “about four screens” of boring links before he found this one.

But I want to come across this kind of content. Recently, I needed to access a news source. A couple of web searches later, I’d also found a variety of sites that I wasn’t already following. Other than the usual suspects for such content — Wired, BoingBoing, and so on — I’d turned up an energy science discussion blog, a range of environment-focused news sources and of course, a range of tech sources. Depending on the angle of my interest, I could easily have added at least one key site to my list of sources. As it was, I added two.

How do you go about finding good sources of information in your field?

Image by stock.xchng user straymuse.