I am often asked what are my favorite “web 2.0” tools. Well, for now ignoring the whole discussion about the phrase “web 2.0”, here are my favorite personal productivity tools right now. These float around in different priorities depending on the day, so I am alphabetizing the list below, with brief notes about why I like them.
A.viary is a lovely suite of online image editing and generation tools (reminiscent of (but very different from) the Creative Studios suite that includes Photoshop and Illustrator) wrapped up in a lovely social networking framework.
My number one productivity tool, Delicious allows you to archive and manage bookmarks in an online account, with access from anywhere you have network access. I use it to save items for personal use, article bibliographies, grant projects, teaching projects, rss streams to web sites, reference questions, saving web search strategies, Pubmed search strategies, and much more. It also facilitates discovery of useful tools through your network and the general community, as well as searching a well filtered collection.
Like Delicious, Flickr is great for supporting web development and blogging. It is wonderful for image sharing and hosting, and Flickr automatically takes the one image I put in, and spits out a variety of sizes of the same image, saving me a lot of time and work. Because of the Flickr Application Programming Interface (API), many other folk have created useful tools based out of Flickr. These add-on tools allow you to create online presentations, slideshows, animations and more, embeddable within your website. Of course, there are also the groups for sharing, collecting, discovering both images of beauty and utility as well as conversations and friendships.
A lot of people encouraged me to try FriendFeed for a long time. Leaders in the online social talked about the conversation had moved to FriendFeed. I felt tired just thinking about it, but when I couldn’t use Twitter for several days I made the switch. Wow, oh, wow. FriendFeed is so efficient about bringing to my attention the best of what’s new, important, being discussed, and letting me see what my friends are doing in ALL their online spaces.
This doesn’t mean just searching in Google. It means that PLUS GMail, Google Images, Google News, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Earth, Reader, Blogs, Scholar, Books, Finance, Code, Labs …
A couple weeks ago I would have said “Twitter” instead of “microblogging”, but life changes. There are a lot of microblogging tools, and each has a different personality and attracts a different community. I am in several. These are the ones I watch, but the ones I check daily or more are Identi.ca, Plurk, and Twitter (in alphabetical order). OK, so that’s what I do, but why? Because for a lot of the work I am doing, people with similar interests are there, engaging in rich provocative conversations and sharing useful resources. These, with FriendFeed have largely replaced feed readers for me, and to a large extent have also replaced much email.
Second Life has dramatically increased my professional and intellectual engagement. When I became a single parent of a special needs child my ability and willingness to travel tot conferences was drastically reduced. In Second Life I am able to weekly attend multiple seminars, professional presentations, and training sessions, dramatically increasing my connection with people and ideas in my professional work. In addition, the number of professional presentations I have been able to generate myself has also skyrocketed. Even if I scale back by 50%, that would still be double or triple what I have done in any recent year.
I never really used Powerpoint or slide presentations much. At least, I didn’t until Slideshare and MP4 podcasts. For the Bootcamp podcasts I had to use slides and could not do live demos. If I had to use slides, well, then I wanted to put them online. To my surprise, once the slides were in Slideshare, they developed an entirely new audience, reaching a much broader range of people than ever before. It was also useful being able to use the slides in new ways – to embed them in blogs and web pages, combine them with audio for embeddable “podcasts”. It is very convenient having them backed up and archived, ready to hand during reference consultations, chats on the phone, just accessible in so many ways. I can’t count how many times having a presentation in Slideshare has saved me when a computer at the site would not play the Powerpoint file I had brought with me. I would give my talk, and present using the Flash version made available through Slideshare. Very handy.
Tumblr is blogging made easy, mindlessly easy. Again, convenience and access is a big part of why I like this tool. I also like it for teaching other people how to blog when they are new to the idea. There doesn’t seem to be any one blogging tool that has all the neat bells and whistles, and Tumblr doesn’t pretend to even try. What is does do is make it so easy that anyone can do it, so easy that you might decide to have several blogs for different purposes. Best of all, it does this with a sweet set of built-in ready-to-use attractive layouts, while preserving the option for those geeks who want to customize to implement some sophisticated options via CSS.
When you say “wiki”, I think Wetpaint. Sure, there are a lot of other wiki platforms, but none easier to use. The drawback with Wetpaint is that it doesn’t work well in all browsers, and shows a significant loss of functionality with any browser other than Firefox. It’s worth it. It’s worth installing Firefox if you don’t already have it. The editing interface is so similar to what is standard for word processors that the learning curve is dramatically reduced. It’s easy to create, easy to use, easy to edit. Wetpaint allows you to add images, videos, calendars, embeddable media and widgets from other sites. It includes social networking features and allows you to add a discussion forum either separately or on any page. Conceptually, it is a new kind of wiki, showing the direction I believe we are headed in our blended information environment.
My Top Ten Tools Today