At yesterday’s breakfast meeting in Fredericton we received a firehose of information on competitive intelligence and then had about 10 minutes to digest and reflect before being asked to comment. Luckily, I had already done some work in the field of web-based competitive intelligence, thanks to Conor Vibert at Acadia University, so the concepts weren’t new. I had also spent a short period as a combat intelligence officer many years ago. With the limited time available, we did not discuss how you could integrate competitive intelligence gathering techniques into your daily work flow.
If this is one of the first times that you’ve come to this site, perhaps as a result of the CSTD conference, here are some of the tools that I use for competitive intelligence. If you look at the left Navigation Bar you will see a section marked "External Info Sites". The first one is my account at Bloglines. Bloglines is a web feed reader (also called an aggregator). It allows me to view any site via a "feed" seen within the bloglines window without having to go to the actual site. If you follow the link you will see what web sites I read. Advantages of feed readers are that you can see what has changed since the last time you looked at a site, and you can preview a post without having to go to the site. This saves a lot of time and allows you to quickly scan many sources. I usually have ~100 feeds that I monitor. There are other feed readers available, such as Newsgator, but Bloglines is perhaps the simplest. If you want to know if a site has a feed then install the Firefox browser and a small orange icon in the bottom right corner will alert you.
A description of how feeds work, with a technology called RSS, is available here. I know this URL because it is saved in my Furl account. I have made this account public as well, so that I can share websites of interest that I don’t mention directly in this blog. Furl also saves a copy of the page for me so that I get to view it even if the site is taken down. Think of Furl as a replacement for "Favourites" or "Bookmarks" in your browser, with these additional advantages:
- you can use multiple categories for an individual post;
- it saves a copy for your private viewing;
- you can access your account from any computer;
- it can be publicly viewable for sharing; and
- your Furl archive is fully searchable.
If you are interested in blogging then you might want to start by Furling because it’s easier and simpler. A similar tool is Del.icio.us.
Blogging is another intelligence method, by which you can post a nascent idea and see what kind of response you get. I’ve recently posted about the benefits of blogging for small businesses. The advantage in this case is that the post to which I’ve referred is within the database of my own website. I own this data but share it under a Creative Commons license that covers everything on this site.
I hope that this is helpful for those new to blogging and the two-way web.