Curate Google Alerts in Cronycle

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cronycle lets you integrate the widest range of sources, including Google Alerts into feeds.

Feeds are used as a starting point for your information workflow. Other sources you can use to create feeds include RSS feeds, Twitter handles, newsletters, and our own automated Topics. (Note that you can also also add files on boards.)

This posts explains how to create a Google Alert and add it to Cronycle.

Step 1 – Create a Google Alert

First, in Google Alerts, create an alert for the subject you are interested in. You will see it in your list of alerts, such as Artificial Intelligence Ethics in this example:

You can use common syntax elements to shape these alerts, such as + to include content with several words, – to do exclusions, “or” to have several options, “quotes” for specific expressions, etc. Read more about more tricks to optimise your Alert here.

Step 2 – Generate an RSS link from your Google Alert

Click on the pen of the Google Alert you want to follow to show the settings. Select RSS feed in the last option to deliver the alert to.

Save to update the alert. Now, when you hide the options, you will see an RSS icon by the alert. Right click to copy the destination link – a fully working RSS feed URL.

Step 3 – Add the Google Alert in Cronycle

Now, you are ready to add this RSS link to Cronycle. In Feeds, click on Manage All Sources (bottom left).

Paste the link in the input field to add new sources: as soon as the alert is loaded, press on the + icon to save it to your source library. It appears in the list of sources, at the top.

Paste the Google Alert RSS URL in the Add new sources field and add

Next, you probably want to create a feed to see content flowing in from that Google Alert. You can select one or several sources, of different kinds if you want (Twitter handles, RSS, Google Alerts, Topics). Click on “Create Feed” to build your own custom feed.

Select the Google Alert(s) and any other source to group into a feed

You can also start adding keywords to further refine your feed. From there, you can pin interesting content to boards and continue the workflow all the way to publishing.

The resulting feed. A keywords adds more relevance.

Step 4 – Try a smart alternative: Cronycle Topics

While you can do the above to use your current set up, know that we have an alternative to Google Alerts, which we call Cronycle Topics. Our mission is to help you gain time by surfacing relevant content. You can search and preview Topics easily in the Discovery section in Cronycle, or from Add/Create Feeds.

We identify thought leaders, or influencers, per Topic. They are ranked in terms of influence within the community of the Topic, so we are confident they bring value to the discussion. We look at what these influencers share about the topic on Twitter to surface important and relevant content. You can read more about how this works on this post from Vishal, our CEO.

Explore Topics, here with the list of influencers

You can add one to five Topics per feed, and add keywords within Cronycle to you can get content at the intersection of some of our 50k Topics and another dimension.

Feed with 1 Topic (Artificial Intelligence) and ethics / ethical as keyword filters

You can also limit the influencers to take in consideration, by deactivating them individually, and/or by selecting a range.

In feed settings, filter by influencers

To try all this, create an account for free, which gives you all the power of a pro account for 28 days. No credit card required!

What to Watch in 2018: The Biggest Tech Trends of the Year to Come

Reading Time: 3 minutes2017 has been a tumultuous year the world over – not least in technology. Between massive hacks of public and private organisations, the death of net neutrality in America, and the massive (and temporary) upsurge in the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, 2018 might have a tall bill to live up to. Here are the top five predictions for big tech trends over the coming twelve months.

  1. GDPR will set in – and many companies won’t be ready

The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union (including a post-Brexit Britain) is set to kick in on 25 May, 2018. Looking at the report with which we partnered with Right Relevance, we found that the key terms over the past month were largely focused on guides or webinars to help get compliant, or else on companies like Uber which had suffered catastrophic data l0sses due to poor security practices.

This sign of awareness is encouraging, on the one hand: the GDPR attempts to enforce strict punishments on companies which fail to protect personal data of customers, and will enact equally strict restrictions on what processing can be done with that data. At the same time, with just a matter of months to go until the law comes into effect, there’s a danger that companies underestimate how much they need to do to get compliant. Expect more than a few cases of large companies being hit by data breaches, and having to shell out a lot of money for their errors.

2. Hacking attacks will only get bigger

Ransomware attacks like WannaCry – which hit NHS Trusts, amongst other organisations – and Petya/NotPetya showed both the power of hackers (state sponsored or otherwise), and the unpreparedness of major national entities. Even ignoring the GDPR fines, the situation is grim: unless cybersecurity improves, we are likely to see threats to the national grid and other vital infrastructure.

It’s not even just the Russians who we should be worrying about (although given the probability of the second Cold War getting hotter, nothing should be ruled out): the tranches of tools released by Wikileaks dubbed Vault 7 and Vault 8 show that some very powerful weapons designed by the US government are out in the hands of anyone smart and malicious enough to use them.

3. The Cryptocurrency Bubble bursts (maybe)

Perhaps a bit of a cop-out as predictions go, but there is a strange resilience boasted by the cryptocurrency bubble (which experts have long predicted would pop before the end of the year). The abrupt falls in value have put the value of Bitcoin in flux.

There are two possibilities here: the turbulence frightens enough cryptocurrency enthusiasts that they start to sell to try and cash out, or they laugh it off in the belief that bubbles are impossible in cryptocurrencies. Either way, they’ll be confronted by the reality that fewer and fewer outlets accept blockchain based currencies. If that doesn’t change (and there are no clear reasons it will), it gives way to a third possibility: a slow and painful decline as the money of the future goes back to being a curiosity.

4. The Internet of Things will continue to expand…sometimes, too fast

The idea of an internet of things – where everything you own has a tag in it, allowing it to produce data to maximise your lifestyle – is pretty well established in theoretical circles. With Alexa, Amazon’s speakers/personal assistant, we’ve seen this sort of technology starting to make inroads into our homes.

Expect to see a massive expansion of this over the coming year. Between smart watches, shoes, clothing, water bottles, and so on, the amount of data you’ll have to plan your life will be unrivalled by any period earlier. Not that it’s unproblematic: upstart companies may not think your personal data should be as private as you do (especially if they’re quartered outside the EU). There’ll almost certainly be some consumer battles over that in the coming year.

5. Tech Giants will get into more scraps, more often

We live in strange times, where the technology companies battle over content production and distribution. That was what we saw when Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Fire TV devices. It’s a not so subtle reminder that whilst the two companies come from very different backgrounds, it’s digital content which they now struggle over. YouTube, once home to cat videos and amatuers, is increasingly moving towards professional content creation with its YouTube Red – the decision to remove this from Amazon is no little snub.

Then again, Amazon is hardly blameless in the debacle, having removed a number of Google products from its store – including Google Home, a rival to Alexa. Given its predominance in the market of online sales, that’s not a symbolic act of aggression. Expect to see this scuffle – and others like it – as the giants of the technology world increasingly overlap in their industries.

Sesame Credit and the Future of Social Credit

Reading Time: 2 minutesWhen it comes to bashing countries for poor internet freedom practices, China usually appears near the top of the list – and with good reason. Perhaps in part that’s because, in contrast with more crude filtering systems adopted in many authoritarian states, the Great Firewall is an almost elegant panopticon. The sheer level of surveillance – and capacities for intervening – can look like an early draft of a Black Mirror episode. Take, for example, the ability to effectively remove images deemed unsuitable for the interests of the state ‘mid-air’. Where the Soviets had to make do with erasing people after the fact, Chinese internet censors can do so on a real-time basis.

Sesame Credit seems, in a sense, to be the obvious outcome of this level of monitoring and capacity for intervention. The so-called ‘social credit’ is opaque in its operation, but from what we understand, citizens will be able to ‘earn’ credits by such patriotic activities as pro-government posts on message boards. A higher score will mean greater perks, incentivising citizens to behave as suits the Communist Party of China.

There is something thoroughly Chinese about this – and not in a negative way. In e-commerce, the country outstrips its competitors with home-grown giants like Alibaba. Granted, they have been grown in a sort of incubator, with Western competitors artificially kept out, but they have achieved success on a scale which surely makes even Facebook or Google jealous. The ease of access to functions through all-in-one apps like WeChat is another example of an approach to the internet with a great number of affordances. On the more positive side, the use of something like Sesame Credit shows a continuing move away from paper money. This was the goal of China’s almost as populous neighbour to the West, through the process of demonetisation. Yet India has largely failed in its bid to go digital: in spite of the number of new digital bank accounts created, the majority (owned by the urban poor) are empty, and the rural poor (with no access to the internet) never had them to start with.

This cannot detract from the cost in terms of citizens’ rights to privacy, or freedom of expression. It also opens up a number of worrying scenarios in which a users social credit could be lowered. A drunken error or a joke made at the expense of the government on a relative’s account, for example, might have an impact; more concerningly, a malicious actor could effectively fabricate dissent. There is also the question of automation . How well can the system deal with bots set up to pump out pro-government posts? Will it lead to inflation (at least temporarily, before accounts are presumably removed)? The lack of adequate information on this front makes this largely guesswork, sadly.

Will social credit in the style of Sesame Credit spread from China, is the final question. Many have pointed to pre-existing systems, like the credit scores which are prevalent across the West – and they have a point. Much like Sesame Credit, when it’s rolled out, they can have immense impacts on our lives and are by no means transparent. And yet largely speaking, our behaviour on Facebook or Twitter has no major bearing on these (we hope). The age of the all-in-one app is yet to hit us – but when it does, there’s no reason to assume that social credit would not be its outcome.

Google versus Amazon: Whoever Wins, Consumers Lose

Reading Time: 3 minutesThe internet has always been defined by struggles between the titans. Just think of the Browser Wars – first fought between Internet Explorer and Netscape, and later Firefox, Chrome, and Explorer. They were sources of great innovation, certainly – looking back at a browser from even the mid 2000s is like dealing with alien technology.

Then there was ‘Thoughts on Flash’, Steve Jobs’ 2010 letter on Adobe Systems once standard platform. In spite of Flash’s ubiquity, Apple’s decision to refuse to use the system on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch was a lingering kiss of death – Flash is heading towards its end of life in just three years. Apple’s reasoning might have been less about security, and more about producing a walled-garden for apps (giving it full control over production). Either way, it helped break a system which for so long had been dominant.

It’s worth turning to these examples from (not-so) ancient history when thinking about the Google and Amazon struggle. The tussle today is over content: where tech companies were once happy to broadcast material made by dedicated producers, we have seen an increasing push towards a kind of singularity (in which companies distribute and create new content).

The struggle stems from Google’s decision to block YouTube on the Amazon’s Fire TV from the start of next year. The home of funny cat videos and conspiracy theorists is a major part of Google’s media portfolio. Google’s also taken the step to block its use on Alexa, Amazon’s smart speaker.

This isn’t the opening salvo in the struggle, admittedly. Amazon had earlier removed Google’s Nest smart home kit, as well as Chromecast video and dongles. It might be fair to say that Google’s response is a reaction in kind: that’s certainly Google’s view.

As the examples at the start suggest, this kind of clash between major tech companies is not out of the ordinary. Content is a particularly fraught area, given that the old guard of broadcast networks are losing their primacy on even original content to Netflix and Amazon. The breakdown of the relationship between Disney and Netflix over distribution rights is a reminder that relationships between major companies are about as stable as those between European powers in the 19th century. YouTube is increasingly becoming Google’s proxy in the content war, with YouTube Red offering professionally produced content (often starring celebrities from the platform) for a monthly fee.

And as the examples at the start show, users can get hurt in the technological war. By refusing to use Flash, Apple made a good reason for building a hierarchical system in which they maintain almost complete control of everything going on for their Operating System. Apple’s design ethos is not merely about simplicity: it’s equally about ensuring the least amount of other players are involved. In the first browser war, it was a more incidental problem – different websites were designed for Netscape or Explorer, so users had to keep their fingers crossed they were on the right one.

And yet in some ways, both Apple’s refusal to use Flash and (more obviously) the Browser Wars, were fundamentally innovative struggles. Apple’s system is by no means the most free and easy to play around with, and yet it hastened the demise of an industry standard that was in many respects subpar. If we’d never had the Wars, on the other side, we might still be stuck with early versions of Internet Explorer – slow, clunky, non-tabbed monstrosities.

That’s where the struggle between Amazon and Google is fundamentally different: it’s not about improving innovation, but punishing the other service – and that means by hurting customers. For those using Amazon products, the removal of access to YouTube (which used to be taken for granted) seems a bit of a kick in the teeth: after all, it was there when they bought the system. At the same time, this is only likely to worsen the feud: any remaining Google products on Amazon may vanish sooner rather than later.

It’s a solution which doesn’t suit either company in the long run because of their central market positions. All that it means is that their users are likely to get diminished service – apparently not a major price to pay.

 

How do I add my Google Alerts to Cronycle?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Updated April 3rd, 2019

Cronycle lets you integrate the widest range of sources, including Google Alerts into feeds.

Feeds are used as a starting point for your information workflow. Other sources you can use to create feeds include RSS feeds, Twitter handles, newsletters, and our own automated Topics. (Note that you can also also add files on boards.)

This posts explains how to create a Google Alert and add it to Cronycle.

Step 1 – Create a Google Alert

First, in Google Alerts, create an alert for the subject you are interested in. You will see it in your list of alerts, such as Artificial Intelligence Ethics in this example:

You can use common syntax elements to shape these alerts, such as + to include content with several words, – to do exclusions, “or” to have several options, “quotes” for specific expressions, etc. Read more about more tricks to optimise your Alert here.

Step 2 – Generate an RSS link from your Google Alert

Click on the pen of the Google Alert you want to follow to show the settings. Select RSS feed in the last option to deliver the alert to.

Save to update the alert. Now, when you hide the options, you will see an RSS icon by the alert. Right click to copy the destination link – a fully working RSS feed URL.

Step 3 – Add the Google Alert in Cronycle

Now, you are ready to add this RSS link to Cronycle. In Feeds, click on Manage All Sources (bottom left).

Paste the link in the input field to add new sources: as soon as the alert is loaded, press on the + icon to save it to your source library. It appears in the list of sources, at the top.

Paste the Google Alert RSS URL in the Add new sources field and add

Next, you probably want to create a feed to see content flowing in from that Google Alert. You can select one or several sources, of different kinds if you want (Twitter handles, RSS, Google Alerts, Topics). Click on “Create Feed” to build your own custom feed.

Select the Google Alert(s) and any other source to group into a feed

You can also start adding keywords to further refine your feed. From there, you can pin interesting content to boards and continue the workflow all the way to publishing.

The resulting feed. A keywords adds more relevance.

Step 4 – Try a smart alternative: Cronycle Topics

While you can do the above to use your current set up, know that we have an alternative to Google Alerts, which we call Cronycle Topics. Our mission is to help you gain time by surfacing relevant content. You can search and preview Topics easily in the Discovery section in Cronycle, or from Add/Create Feeds.

We identify thought leaders, or influencers, per Topic. They are ranked in terms of influence within the community of the Topic, so we are confident they bring value to the discussion. We look at what these influencers share about the topic on Twitter to surface important and relevant content. You can read more about how this works on this post from Vishal, our CEO.

Explore Topics, here with the list of influencers

You can add one to five Topics per feed, and add keywords within Cronycle to you can get content at the intersection of some of our 50k Topics and another dimension.

Feed with 1 Topic (Artificial Intelligence) and ethics / ethical as keyword filters

You can also limit the influencers to take in consideration, by deactivating them individually, and/or by selecting a range.

In feed settings, filter by influencers

To try all this, create an account for free, which gives you all the power of a pro account for 28 days. No credit card required!

What’s the future of RSS?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the wake of Google Reader and the midst of social media’s reign, the RSS feed chugs along

RSS allows publishers to syndicate information automatically, to deliver content right to users’ fingertips.  They no longer have to check their favorite sites to see if new content has been published—technology does it for them.  But these days, that convenience is commonplace.   Social media enables an even larger audience not only to receive content from the sites that interest them, but to become publishers themselves.  Although few are questioning that RSS has a space in the digital content consumption marketplace, many contend that the space may be shrinking—a theory bolstered by the demise of Google Reader.

Google retired its service, which was the most popular RSS reader, on July 1, 2013, explaining, “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.”  (However, many believe this decision had more to do with office politics and Google’s plans for its own social network, Google+.)  A host of worthwhile services, including This Old Reader, Feedly and Flipboard, were ready to take in the millions of Google transplants, but although RSS still has a fierce and loyal following, social media is proving a sufficient alternative for the average user.

“We definitely see more publishers using the option for social networks versus the option for RSS,” notes Bruce Ableson, vice president of client solutions at LiveFyre, a tech company that offers a suite of real-time products that allow users to curate content from various sources and host in one place.  “We still use RSS Feeds all the time, though, especially at the smaller publisher level,” he says.

Although there’s still a huge need for RSS, Ableson notes that publishers seem more incentivized to drive readers to follow them on social networks than to subscribe to their RSS feeds.

“It’s perfectly possible that for many, social media is the new RSS,” says Rob Hicks, founder and chief data scientist of Bright North.   “RSS was all about putting alerts in one place, which is exactly what Twitter does because most media sites have at least added, if not replaced, their RSS with Tweets.”

The problem is, there is a lot of noise to get through.  Twitter isn’t only about signifying a new piece of quality content.  It’s a hodgepodge of hashtags and interactions, making it difficult for users to quickly identify what’s worth reading.  “It makes sense that brands and publishers have embraced Twitter, but whether it does as an effective job as a good RSS consuming platform is another story.  I don’t think it does,” Hicks opines.

What Twitter does do well, of course, is the social aspect.  “Social networks give people the ability to recommend stuff and become pseudo-publishers even if they haven’t written the content they’re sharing.  I might follow someone because they are excellent curators,” says Hicks.  “It adds a new level of curation which you could argue is more valuable than the original RSS thing was in the first place.  I’m not sure I would agree, but I see the argument.”