Posted by: Doug Geiger | 2009/05/28

Finding Dagny

Finding Dagny

Google lists 405,000,000 indexed pages for “dog.” For perspective, there are an estimated 74 Million dogs in the U.S. Tomorrow my wife and I are going to pick up our dog from a breeder in Ohio, two hours South of us. Our puppy, Dagny is a medium-sized, hypo-allergenic, bright and friendly female Labradoodle, who lives within a couple hours of Detroit and is within our budget; furthermore, she is not a belly dragger or a shedder. We had a very specific type of dog in mind and to find her, my wife spent hours combing through scores of websites to identify the perfect match. It took 0.21 seconds to find more information about dogs than a man could ever read. It took half a dozen hours to find and ultimately, Dagny herself.

The most valuable resource on the planet

What is the cheapest resource on the planet? It isn’t air or water. It is information–already vast and yet still proliferating at an exponential rate. What, on the other hand, is the scarcest and most valuable resource? The right information. Spelled out, “right information” is that information needed right now to solve problems and promote success. 

When I boil down what I really have to offer my clients it is my ability to provide them that scarcest of resources. This main product I produce and then gussie up with formatting and couch in nice words; but I never confuse formatting with substance. To give them that information I have to collect information, filter it, understand and process it and apply it to the problem at hand. But, it all starts with collecting. I cannot give my client the information they need unless I am really good at getting the information I need. So, I have become fascinated with learning how to get really good information quickly.

As a knowledge worker, how are we to sift through all of the frivolous and spurious content out there and get to the relevant content that will make us worth keeping around–or better yet, promoting, hiring again or recommending to others?

Everyone can rattle off the go-to sites for their industry. Gartner. Lexis Nexis. There is a lot of great content on those clearinghouse sites but you are no longer clever if you merely know about them. Sometimes simple searches are exactly what is required. But when you need to know the future, when you need to be clever, when you need to understand the market or solve a unique and urgent problem–what then? It is like this: you already know how to research dogs, in general: but do you know how to find Dagny? 

Listening posts

A while back, Chris Brogan explained a neat concept of setting up what he termed “listening posts” out in the internet that would listen for specific content and send it back to us; allowing us to greatly improve the quality of our information. We all know that the internet has made publishing content easier; but what is not a commonly understood is how it has made listening easier.

A lot of folks are increasing their productivity and staving off information overload by pre-filtering and automating the collection of the content they need. They do this by sending virtual scouts into the wild and have them bring back the best of the best content. Here are some of the things we can train these scouts to find for us:

  1. What people are saying about our brand or that of our competitors
  2. Those with whom our colleagues are connecting
  3. New technologies that affect our business
  4. New legislation that affects our industry
  5. Changes in attitude about a subject
  6. New opportunities for business and friendship


Chris Brogan, master marketer, offers the following steps as a start. Let me be clear: the list is entirely his material and I highly recommend you visit and subscribe to his blog

  1. Get a gmail account. –
  2. Log in to Google Reader. This will become your home base for listening. Note the position of the “Add Subscriptions” button (mid top left) –
  3. Now, go to Google Blogsearch. Type in your query about your company, your organization, your competitors, and the like. We’ll use the results in the next step. –
  4. Note the “Subscribe” links on the bottom left of the page. Right-click the RSS link, and select copy.
  5. Go back to Google Reader, click Add Subscription, and select paste.
  6. Repeat this for as many variations of searches you want for blogs.
  7. Go to Technorati. Perform the same queries there. Neither Google nor Technorati finds it all, so cross-posting works. –
  8. Go to Twitter Search. Do the same. –
  9. Fine tune your searches by seeing what inaccurate results come from your first attempts, and replace bad searches with better ones.
  10. Take the payload of all that raw searching and SORT it using Google Reader. By this, I mean the following: when you find something to note, either Share it (Shift S), or email it to a core team ( type E on the keyboard). Send only the important stuff. Then, let internal employees see the RSS feed of the shared items, or just use the email feature. Whichever works best. This is how you sort the larger pile of info into the smaller and more useful packets that your organization can consume.
  11. Most important to the process – DO something with what you’re learning. Figure out the business value of the listening you’re doing, and route it to the right places. Listening isn’t for marketers. It’s for the organization. It’s for customer service, for product management, for the senior team, etc.


  1. […] Use RSS for your listening posts. I talked about this at length last week in this post. […]


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