When I was in my 2nd year of law school – I had asked a senior I respected – what can I do to ensure that I shall be really good at corporate law? How can I be the kind of person that a law firm will find indispensable?
My senior who himself was in 5th year at that time suggested that I start reading the Economic Times, or such other financial newspapers – where one could come across various types of transactions and then learn about them. I subscribed to some of these newspapers over the course of next couple of years and learnt a bit. A bit, not much.
I was very dissatisfied with the reading experience – the news was full of jargons, hype, and gospels rather than anything that one could learn. Sometimes some of the analytical articles made a lot of sense. The method I adopted to learn the basics of financial market was this – I would make a list of new terms and jargons I’d come across and then look them up on internet. This was a slow and tedious way of learning – and I felt the lack of a good narrative in these newspapers that could give real insight.
Consider this typical headline – ‘ABC company has won X million in damages from Y’. There would be little news value in the article, if any legal issues will be discussed they will be diluted to the extent of becoming nonsense, and there will be 100% sensationalism. It would not say whether this is the final decision, whether a number of damages awarded can be reduced in an appeal (so that readers need not immediately jump in awe at the magnitude of damages awarded), or through a subsequent settlement. Result: a lot of people are fed with incomplete, incoherent and irrelevant information, and some of them know that they receive ‘low-value content’ and develop a distaste for the conventional media
I always kept looking for better sources of news and knowledge – and I soon hit upon something on internet. Newsletters. I found such specialised and well written newsletters, feeds and news aggregators on the web that there was no point keeping my subscription to the financial newspapers. Even the newspapers have feeds that you can access for free on your computer.
How can you free yourself from this stream of limited information, which seek your eyeball only for selling advertisement and has no qualms about disguising advertisement as news or about wasting your time? How can you stay up-to-date in your areas of interest and have access to complete and relevant information?
Internet is the answer.
However, while it is the only hope, it is also the number one reason of information overload in our lives. Internet is a beast that requires timing – once you mould the force of internet to suit your needs – you have a solution.
So how does one escape the time wasting traps that goes in the name of media as well as information overload that comes with internet, and still manage to access relevant information effortlessly?
It is an art that people master as they sift through millions of web pages, RSS feeds and newsletter, and over time and what really works for them. I can not suggest the perfect sources for you – what really works for you is something you have to find yourself.
I am, however, going to recommend five tools that you can use to tame the beast that is Internet. Sometimes I shall be recommending specific newsletters and RSS feeds for law students and practicing lawyers.
The five best information management tools on the Internet:
- RSS Feeds – RSS Feeds are the best way to keep yourself updated about the websites that you find useful and covers news or articles you are interested in. Most websites and blogs today come with an RSS feed (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication), even the big newspaper and magazine websites – which means you can get the headlines delivered on your desktop, google page, browser frame, email box – wherever you want. Best the thing is that you see only the headline to start with – or maybe a few sentences at most. It is up to you to judge based on that information whether you want to read more. Even the terribly designed and maintained government websites such as from SEBI, RBI have RSS Feeds that can be really useful for a practitioner or a student who is interested in that branch of law.
- Congoo – This is an interesting tool that builds a news site catering to your taste. Take a look at Abhyudaya’s financial news site here. You can choose from a wide range of available areas, and your website will cover the subects you are interested in keeping yourself updated. This serves multiple purposes – it keeps you updated, it keeps your friends updated (if they have similar or related interests), and helps you in showing others what you are interested in. It also helps you in building a web presence.
- Google Alerts – Is there anything about which you want to miss nothing? Do you want to have all the news, articles, blogs, discussions of forums delivered to your inbox as soon as they are discovered by google bots? Then you need Google Alerts, which notify you about every piece of information which is put on the internet on your selected keywords (as and when Google’s search robot comes across it). Apart from tracking subjects and interest areas, I strongly recommend it as a stalking tool as well – which works on your friends and enemies alike. Want to discover the interests and web activities of a person? Set a google alert on them. Maybe your ex-has already done it on you.
Google Alerts is highly customizable, you can choose which terms you want to track, and you can choose how often Google informs you about new information.
- Twitter – This is a place for following people whose beliefs you are interested in or influenced by, or those who are influential in your practice area/subject area. It is a great place for building influence too. Start following the leaders in your industry/academic area right now – and they will ensure that you have access to the best of what they come across. Which, by definition, is good.
However, do not make the mistake of following every random person and starlets or you will again end up with information paralysis – twitter can be addictive and can unleash inormation avalanches on you that will keep you away from work for days. Follow only those who cater to your real interests and will add value to your life.
- Facebook – Do not miss this channel. Sometimes your friends and peers may share relevant information with you – and this social filter is a miracle. They will share only what they like – and not the tons of news that they read and found unconvincing or insignificant, unless they are promoting something of their own. Such links may include highly relevant information for your area of interest, friend circle, region or business. Watch out for updates from those who are smarter/well-informed/influential in your friend list and they will do the hard work for finding the right inormation for you to read on Facebook itself – where at least some of you spend significant time everyday commenting on status messages and liking photographs.
This article was written with some major contributions from Abhyudaya Agarwal.
CLAT aspirants note that you can use these techniques to stay up to date with current affairs.
How do you stay up to date?