Monday, October 18, 2010

Long time, no see

You might be wondering where I’ve been. Well, a little more than a year ago, my son was born. And that pretty radically changed my life. For the better. But one casualty, among many lesser things in my life, was this blog.

I suddenly had a lot less time to read tech blogs and do all the dorky things one needs to do to maintain a space like this one. Remember, I have a day job, too. So I took a necessary hiatus.

My son being born wasn’t the only thing that changed. The whole landscape of bookmarking and notetaking (or notemarking, as I’ve called it) seemed to stagnate as Evernote appeared to become the new default, with Diigo and Delicious consolidating their niche bases among those who still believe in social bookmarking. This isn’t to say new startups weren’t, uh, starting up. But in the year or more since I went dark, no new, exciting services have come on the scene and blown my doors off. Or as they say in tech-blog-land nothing new has “gained traction in the space.”

Granted, it’s never been my goal to chronicle all the startups and new services. That’s why you read Lifehacker, Make Use Of, Download Squad and any number of other outlets that pump out their 20 posts a day. Instead, I’ve tried to write longer, more opinionated pieces about how I’m actually using a Web app or tool. Where it shines and where it falls short. If I’m not using it, I’m not writing about it.

With this in mind, I thought I’d give you a quick state of the union. I’ve made a list of all the tools I’m using now. If you go back to my very first post, you’ll see I’ve made a few changes. But, relative to where I was a year ago, there’s not a lot of new services and case uses in my bag of tricks. 

I have made two huge shifts. First, I’m no longer using Firefox. Like a lot of other people, I’ve gone over to Chrome. And second, I finally bought an iPhone—my first real smartphone. So mobile apps have become a lot more important to me.

Anyway, here are the apps, tools, and services I’m into now.

  • Chrome: SO MUCH FASTER. I miss Delicious Bookmarks. And I prefer Firefox’s Awesome Bar to the Omni Bar. But it’s not enough to make me put up with Firefox’s wretchedly slow speed and various eccentricities. Still use Firefox at work sometimes, but I’ve been phasing it out.
  • Evernote: Getting the iPhone solidified Evernote as my new bicycle. Indeed, the iPhone app might be the best thing about Evernote. I still think other Evernote experiences, on both the Web and the desktop, are clunky and bloated. But its cross-platform ability to store and search everything, including PDFs and image text, make it indispensable.
  • OneNote: I use OneNote exclusively when I am at work. Oddly, the killer app for me has become the little “send to” button from Outlook. That’s how I save my important emails now. So much better than creating .PST folders, amirite?
  • Delicious: Honestly, I think I’m phasing Delicious out of the picture. I haven’t found a satisfactory alternative to Delicious Bookmarks on Chrome, and using the Web UI to find my bookmarks is painfully slow. Licorize, which I’ll cover soon, might finally be my go-to Delicious replacement.
  • Tumblr: You don’t think of Tumblr as a notebook, but you should. Tumblr’s flexible bookmarklet, improved search feature, and ability to import RSS feeds make for a surprisingly flexible and attractive repository. Still the best image bookmarking service, in my opinion.
  • Posterous: Both Wordpress and Blogger lack a Tumblr-style bookmarklet, Posterous ably fills the gap. I love the way Posterous’s bookmarklet smartly grabs and embeds videos. I still think Tumblr is far superior to Posterous in every other way. But, I haven’t tried the new iPhone app yet.
  • Read It Later: This alternative to Instapaper was a lot more important to me when I was a heavy Firefox user because of the RIL’s integration with Google Reader. I still prefer it to Instapaper, but I mostly use the mobile app now.
  • Feedly: I finally stopped using Google Reader in favor of this front-end and Web based GR client. Since it syncs with Google Reader, it’s the best of both worlds: all the advantages of the best-in-class RSS reader, but with a snazzy UI and tons of add-on features. Still waiting for the Feedly team to integrate Google Reader tags. Not sure what’s taking so long.
  • Reeder: Feedly is working on an iPhone app. But until it comes out, Reeder is my mobile gateway to my Google Reader feeds on the iPhone. Integration with Read it Later and Delicious is a huge plus.
  • Shareaholic: Actually better in Chrome than it was in Firefox, because it can save your settings and user information. Never use your browser’s bookmark bar again. If you’re reading this blog, I have to believe you’re already using Shareaholic.
  • Lastpass: The best password app ever. And it’s free. I’ve not tried the mobile yet, because I’m finding I don’t do a lot of web surfing on my iPhone. I mostly use apps. Does this mean the web is dead? Uh, no. But it does mean apps are a viable alternative. Not sure why one thing always must “kill” another in the tech press. Kill me if I ever write “[something]-killer” on this blog.
  • Google Buzz: I think it’s a lot better than Facebook or Twitter (even new Twitter). Why? Conversations work better; it’s their secret weapon. To be more specific, ask yourself whether you prefer Facebook sending messages to your inbox, or Google Buzz sending you entire interactive, seamless conversations to your Inbox. What you see in Gmail is a fully functioning Buzz post. Sure, you’d like to export to Facebook and Twitter, and be able to import from more sources. I think Google will add these features and others at the same remarkable pace they’ve been on for months. As they continue to innovate, the users will come.

Well, that’s it for now. It’s good to be back. I won’t make any promises for how often you’ll see me or when I’ll post. But it will be sooner rather than later.

Don’t be a stranger.