Monday, November 19, 2012

RSS For Crime Analysts

As a crime analyst I do quite a bit of reading. Much of it, is on various law enforcement, crime analysis or news websites. In order to keep up with all the new articles being posted I’ve become heavily dependant on using Really Simple Syndication or RSS to keep up with this deluge.

RSS is a web syndication format that allows a website to publish a feed of articles as they are published to the website. Software such as web browsers, email programs or dedicated RSS feed readers will periodically poll the RSS feed to determine if new posts have been published and will notify the user that an article has been published.

The RSS feed contains information about the post and even a summary or text from the post. By using an RSS feed reader, a user can use one application to check hundreds of website for new articles and then open or read only those stories that interest you without having to hop from website to website.

Using an RSS feed reader makes it possible for me to keep up with the items posted many websites without tying up a significant amount of time. I can also flag posts or articles that I want to read so I can go back to them later when it’s more convenient.

For instance, I think it’s important to keep up with news articles dealing with crime that are posted on all the local and regional media outlets. Crime stories that are posted about crimes in neighboring jurisdictions may become relevant to dealing with crime in my jurisdiction.

If criminals are committing a new type of crime in another part of Texas, it may not be long before the criminals in my city try their hand at it too. By monitoring crime stories posted around the state, I get a better handle on what is going on in my part of the state.

There are a number of RSS Feed readers out there. If you use Windows, Microsoft Outlook, it will handle RSS feeds as well as Internet Explorer. On the Mac side, up until OSX 10.7, both Safari and Mail had RSS capabilities. The latest versions of Mail and Safari no longer support RSS. However, there are a number of great RSS reader applications on OSX. I use NewsRack on my MacBook Pro because it syncs with my Google Reader account.

Which brings up my favorite RSS feed reader application, the web based Google Reader. Since it’s web based, I can keep up with my RSS feeds no matter what platform I am on. I can review them on my Windows desktop at work, on my MacBook Pro at home or on my iOS devices. I can also share articles to Twitter, Google+ or other social media outlets without leaving Google Reader.

The real power in using Google Reader comes when you pair it with Google Alerts to monitor the internet for stories based on keyword searches. I’ll cover Google Alerts in another post.

Here’s a couple of law enforcement related RSS feeds worth subscribing to get you started:

In addition to these, you’ll want to subscribe to RSS feeds from as many of your local news media websites as you can, along with all the major news outlets in your home state along with the big national news outlets such as CNN or the New York Times.

Do you use RSS to keep up with news as part of your workflow?

Don't forget, while I am posting less frequently here on the blog, I am also posting short pieces on my Google+ page and sending links to everything out on my Twitter feed. Circle me, follow me or just visit those pages to see those posts.

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