“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” (Michael Althsuler)

In past blogs we’ve already looked at several ways to actively search the open web for taxonomy, thesaurus, and ontology resources. Today we’ll consider a few tools that enable passive – “set it and forget it” – searching. In these passive search methods, the searching doesn’t require the user’s continuous and direct attention. This search strategy allows you to turn your attention elsewhere while the tool trawls the web for content that is of interest to you. Let’s consider…

o   Alerts

o   RSS feeds

o   Customized dashboards

o   TOC services


You may set alerts in Google, for instance, that allow you to determine your own search criteria as if you were conducting an active search. You can take advantage of truncation, using wildcards, and Boolean operators, as well as other search features usually found under “advanced” search.



Noticeable in the screenshot above are several preset “suggested” categories. However, you’ll want to customize your alerts in order to fit your personal interests. To avoid drinking directly and continually from the information fire hose, you can enable your alerts to flow into your e-mail inbox at the following frequencies available through the drop down menu: “As-it-happens,” “At most once a day,”or  “At most once a week.”

The following settings menu appears once you’ve entered your search terms.


Below this menu you will also see a helpful “Alert preview” that shows you a sampling of search engine results. Before actually hitting the blue “CREATE ALERT” button, you can tweak your search string for better accuracy. Watch the sample search results change as you experiment with different search terms and search term word order.

Additionally, the searcher can limit or expand his search pool(s) to the following sources: Automatic, News, Blogs, Web, Video, Books, or Discussions. The user can also refine searches in order to monitor by language, or region, or even limit to “best results.” You can then have the search results sent to the e-mail address that you assign.


To avoid flooding your inbox, you might be interested in RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication). Subscribing to a website RSS will remove your need to manually check the web site for new content. Through RSS, you’ll be automatically alerted to updates at the site.

When you have discovered sites and pages that interest you, check whether or not the site offers an RSS feed. Look for the following symbol or icon at the site.


Feed readers can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based. You’ll need to find one that is compatible with your browser or your operating system (Windows, Mac, or Linux). Some browsers, such as the current versions of Firefox and Safari, have built-in RSS readers. If you’re using a browser that doesn’t currently support RSS, consider using one of the many RSS news readers available for download from the Internet. Lists exist here and here.

If you desire to manage all of your feeds from single place, you may wish to consider https://www.feedmyinbox.com/

Here is an example of an RSS subscribe invitation at TaxoDiary.


Although each RSS reader has its own way of adding a new feed, try clicking on the link or small XML button near the feed you want. You’ll see a page displaying XML code. For example, clicking on the RSS symbol in the example above results in the following display choices.


From your web browser’s address bar, copy the URL. Sometimes it is necessary to paste that URL into the “Add New Channel” section of the reader. The user would need to click the “View Feed XML” (the last tab on the bottom right of the screenshot above). After the feed XML source has been entered into your reader, the feed will then start to display content and regularly update the headlines for you.


An example of a passive searching technique that empowers personalization is www.netvibes.com


Once you create a free personal account, you are able to monitor web content by means of tailored dashboards. There is great flexibility in choosing various displays for your dashboards. Since the searcher decides when to log in and check the dashboards, such alerts are non-intrusive and under the complete control of the dashboard creator.

Still another way to avoid cluttering your e-mail inbox is the use of TOC services.


A common complaint among professionals is that while they have the desire to stay current in their field of work or study, various constraints constantly thwart that desire. Either they are incapable of purchasing all of the different peer-reviewed professional journals that apply to their field, or they cannot set aside the time to read them.

A table of contents (TOC) alerting service can bring to you the most recent articles and titles in the subject or topic of your choice. By regularly perusing TOCs and abstracts, the taxonomist or knowledge manager is better able to recognize emerging terms for concepts on the basis of literary or industry warrant. Scan up-to-date, freshly published scholarly resources by browsing, viewing, saving, and searching across thousands of journal tables of contents from hundreds of publishers. Cost-free registration allows you to create a customized list of your most important and favorite journals.

Give the JournalTOCs TOC alert service (http://www.journaltocs.ac.uk/) a try, and follow your journals by title, subject, or publisher.


Some publishers and libraries have their own TOC services to alert you to new publications and additions to their libraries. Springer Publishing offers another example of this passive search technique. Springer’s alphabetized list of 2,200 journals is found here.

Some web sources that you may wish to track do not offer convenient RSS feeds. However, the following work-arounds will help you stay current with changes at the site(s).





If it’s imperative that you keep up with important product updates, another alternative is http://www.copernic.com/en/products/tracker/. This Internet monitoring software is designed for everyone from home users to competitive intelligence researchers.


The implementation of these passive search approaches may also assist you in the discovery of the knowledge management taxonomy resources that you require.

Eric Ziecker, Information Consultant
Access Innovations