Tools Grab Bag

Here are some notes about tools and resources that have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Bloglines trouble alert. Not everyone is thrilled with Bloglines, the popular, free web-based feed reader service. Apparently Bloglines sometimes inexplicably stops showing updates to some webfeeds, giving the appearance that those blogs have stopped publishing.

Michael Feldstein of E-Literate is particularly unhappy about this, since it happened to his blog. (I let him know about the problem.) See his Dec. 25 article, Don’t Use Bloglines. I can understand how he feels.

That said, I look at this Bloglines flaw in this way: Bloglines is free of charge, and it works reasonably well most of the time. It’s a very simple first step for newcomers to the world of webfeeds. I value it for that reason, and I continue to recommend it to webfeed newbies. But I do warn users that Bloglines has its flaws, so don’t expect perfection. With any free service, you get what you pay for.

Read the rest of this list…

  1. Bloglines in six more languages: On the bright side, Bloglines recently internationalized its web site. Now, people who read Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish can navigate Bloglines in those languages. (Thanks to Search Engine Journal for this news.)
  2. Pexit: I have tried this collaboration tool, and it is indeed very cool. The messaging/chat part is so-so, but the PexBoard shared whiteboard rules! And it’s free, of course. Plus, there are lots of free public-domain e-books available about Pexit.
  3. Literary Machine, “a dynamic archive and an idea management tool aimed at creative thinking, built especially with the writer in mind.” It also includes an intriguing word processor. Windows only, but worth a try if you’re a Windows user. The basic version is a free download, the pro version costs $47. (Thanks to Judy Murdoch for this link.)
  4. Free the Genie: “A deck of 55 creative thinking cards that help aspiring innovators get unstuck, out of the box, and achieve extraordinary results.” Neat. Cost: $19.95.
  5. Topic maps: In Searching Smarter, Not Harder, Wired News writer John Gartner describes an intriguing tool called topic maps: “Smart indices that improve search capabilities by categorizing terms based on their relationships with other things.” Now, it appears that the term topic map refers to the menu approach to organizing information, such as at the Open Directory Project. What I’m wondering is whether there are any graphical or even 3-d approaches to topic maps… (Thanks to elearningpost for this link.)
  6. The magic that makes Google tick, by Matt Loney, ZD Net UK, Dec. 1. Excerpt: “When Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, he was alluding to the trick of hiding the complexity of the job from the audience, or the user. Nobody hides the complexity of the job better than Google does. …Google is built on imperfect hardware. The magic is writing software that accepts that hardware will fail, and expeditiously deals with that reality.” (Thanks to The Creative Librarian for this link.)
  7. Multitasking is still bad, by Jack Vinson, Dec. 2. Vendors of various tools and services often claim that they enhance people’s ability to multitask. The problem is, human beings simply don’t multitask well. The more we try to act like machines, the more poorly we perform overall.
  8. Slogger: A versatile Firefox web browser extension by Ken Schutte. It sounds like a more comprehensive version of Furl. I haven’t tried Slogger yet, but it sounds interesting. Description excerpt: “Slogger creates a complete backup and log of your browsing history in a highly customizable way. With storage becoming so cheap, you might as well save everything, including what you see on the web. Who knows when you’ll want to get at something you previously saw online?” If you really want to get geeky with Slogger, What’s the Next Action explains how to use slogger to generate a webfeed.
  9. Blinx: Intriguing new online video search tool. It’s got some rough edges, but it’s fun and potentially useful.
  10. OnFolio Now Supports Firefox, by Chris Lott, Ruminate, Dec. 17. OnFolio is a popular Furl-like tool. I’ve put of trying it, but now that it’s available for FireFox (my preferred web browser) I might download the free 30-day demo. ($49.95 for a standard single-user license.) Lott writes: “The beta release of Onfolio not only features complete FireFox integration, but also has full-featured RSS reading, the ability to share collections, EndNote and other bibliographic citation software integration, blogging support, improved capture services, and better report publishing.” Sounds handy.
  11. LinkedIn for Groups. Yes, LinkedIn is yet-another-online-networking-tool for business. Nothing new there. However, I’ve heard that their groups feature is actually very useful, and so far it’s free. I haven’t tried it yet, but soon shall as part of a new project. I’ll write more about this later.
  12. PostNuke book now available. PostNuke is a popular and versatile but (so far) unbearably geeky free open-source weblog and content management system. It desperately needed a book, and it finally has one: PostNuke Content Management, by Kevin Hatch. I haven’t seen the book yet, but I can’t imagine that it could possibly be more impenetrable than the PostNuke web site. (Thanks to CMS Webmaster for this link.)
  13. The Most Hated Advertising Techniques, by Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox, Dec. 6. Consider this a list of anti-tools, perfect for online marketing self-sabotage. (Thanks to Dina Mehta for this link.)
  14. Artcluster: In the mood to collaborate with a group to draw pictures online? Me neither, so I haven’t tried this site. But the more artistically inclined might want to give it a spin.

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  1. Tools Grab Bag
    Here are some notes about tools and resources that have caught my interest lately‚Ķ TOP OF THIS LIST: Bloglines trouble alert. Not everyone is thrilled with Bloglines, the popular, free web-based feed reader service. Apparently Bloglines sometimes inexp…