Here at the Helen Brown Group we are constantly testing new tools and sharing them amongst ourselves. I asked our team leader/director of research Rick Snyder to share some of the ones he uses frequently. Here’s what Rick had to say:
Read It Later (RIL)
The first is a browser add-on called Read It Later (RIL). It works with all browsers and web-enabled phones. I think of it as a way to save bookmarks that don’t really deserve to be bookmarks (RIL calls them bookmarklets). It works across numerous devices, stays in sync, and allows offline reading by downloading pages before you disconnect.
When I first found RIL I was looking into buying a new HDTV. It was all new to me and I was scouring numerous websites on makes and models, user forums and technical articles. I needed a way to manage all of the information but I didn’t want to save all of the sites as bookmarks since my project had a discrete end, at which point I’d no longer need them. Enter RIL. I ended up saving twenty or more bookmarklets but within a couple of weeks I was done and easily deleted them all. Had I added them to my regular bookmarks there’s a good chance that they would sit there for years before getting pruned out.
It’s easy to see how this is useful in the research world. In the course of an average day any researcher will view dozens of websites. Most of them merit a quick view and then you’re done. You’ll want to come back to others but maybe it’s the end of the workday and you need to save them to return to the following day. Or maybe you’re going to continue your work on a different computer and want to be able to access the pages from there. RIL helps you to save your work without cluttering up your list of “real” bookmarks.
Another tool that I’ve been playing with is called SearchTeam. SearchTeam is a collaborative search engine. It allows multiple people working on the same project to see the results of everyone else’s searches in real time. You can create a SearchSpace and invite friends and colleagues to join the search with you. You can share comments, chat in real time, upload files, and more.
As with Read It Later, I came across SearchTeam while working on a personal project and then brought it into my work life. I’m planning a two-week motorcycle tour of Nova Scotia this summer. My riding buddy lives in Brooklyn and I live in Maine. By setting up a Nova Scotia SearchSpace we are able to see each others’ searches, leave comments and chat when we’re online at the same time. It keeps us from duplicating efforts and by seeing each others’ searches it is spurring us to think of things that each of us may not have come up with alone.
Since much of the work we do in prospect research is solitary in nature, it might not be readily apparent how it can be used. If you are a member of a research team there will be times when several of you are tasked with working together on a project. SearchTeam may help you organize and coordinate your efforts. A couple of years ago our group worked together on a white paper on industries that were faring well in the recession. SearchTeam would have been a tremendous help to us then. I’ll be curious to hear back from you about the research-related uses that you find for it.
Another promising new tool is Evernote. It is sort of like a combination of Read It Later and SearchTeam. It helps you to capture websites, notes, screen shots, sounds, files or video and organize it all into notebooks. It is accessible from anywhere and works on all platforms.
I believe this is the simplest way I’ve yet come across to capture information in one place from so many disparate sources. As with Read It Later, it is a handy way to temporarily save sites. Deleting a notebook with everything you’ve saved on an entity you’ve researched only takes a couple of clicks. As with SearchTeam, you can share your notebooks with others so they can see the results of your work (read-only in the free version, read/write in the premium).
The free and paid versions of Evernote offer different levels of data storage, notebook sharing, searchability, etc. The free version is all many of us will need but the added features at the premium level are well worth the $45/year if you become a heavy user.
We’d like to hear from you about new (or old) tools that you use to make your work easier or more efficient. What is it, how does it work and what do you like best about it? Shoot us a comment below, or email us!