Five Tools To Base Your Online Life Around

I’ve written before about my social media life and the tools I use, but which of those are the most useful, and why?

Here are the five tools I base my online presence around, and why I think you should too.

Google Reader

ToolsI “subscribe” to several hundred blogs. Every day I go to one site – Google Reader – to read the new articles on those sites. It saves me hours It means I can read way more every day than I could by manually checking sites. That means I can learn more. I can even organize and prioritize the sites I subscribe to, so if I’m busy I know I’m likely to read the most relevant articles.

I probably spend more time using Google Reader than any other online tool.

Google Reader is an RSS reader. What Is RSS? Matt Mcdonald has a neat definition – RSS is “like an email subscription that goes to your reader instead of your email account.” I wrote a post giving an introduction to RSS a while back. Check it out if you want to learn more about RSS.

As Mitch Joel put it:

We used to have to go out and find stuff – news, sites, etc… RSS lets the web come to you.


Twitter is my online water cooler. It’s the centre of my social media community. It’s a resource, a meeting place, a networking hub and more. It’s also the first thing I check in the morning. Before I even turn on my computer, I’ve usually had several conversations using Twitter via my blackberry.

How powerful is Twitter for me? When someone I know wanted to know the leading blogs in a certain area today, I asked my Twitter friends. Moments later, I had three blog names and one of my contacts had pointed me to someone who knew more.

A month or two ago when I heard, at 4:30pm on a Friday, that we needed a graphic designer for some last-minute work, I asked my Twitter friends if they knew anyone who might be able to help. A few minutes later I had three names, and a local PR agency contacted my by phone and email that evening to offer their services.

I could go on and on about the value I get from Twitter. I’m still figuring out how it can be used best by businesses but for me personally, it’s incredibly valuable. I also track mentions of me in Twitter using Tweetscan (I subscribe to them in Google Reader).

If you haven’t come across before, here’s another great description from Matt Mcdonald:

[delicious] let’s (sic) you attach keywords called “tags” to sites. Like putting post-its in a magazine.

I recently wrote about six ways to make life easier with

  • Let other people do your surfing for you (by subscribing – in Google Reader – to see what your contacts save)
  • Queue up blog topics
  • Use it as a search engine
  • Track coverage of you/your organization/your clients (again, in Google Reader)
  • Track topics (guess where)
  • Provide a resource for others

Of course, that’s on top of using it as a place to save articles for future reference.

If I find an article interesting, it gets saved here.


iGoogle is my base; the hub for my online presence. iGoogle lets you customize your Google homepage to include whatever you want. I choose to have it link me into the most important of my Google services, and to see them at a glance:

It puts all of these services at my fingertips, and lets me see them all at a glance. In my workplace we’re limited to an old version of Internet Explorer; iGoogle is my alternative to Firefox‘s tabbed interface. I don’t use this tool as much as I used to, as I find ways to work around my technology limitations at work, but it’s still an important one for me.

Blog search engines

Blog search engines let me keep tabs on what people are writing about my organization, its programs, its leaders and our stakeholders. It keeps me on top of what’s going on outside the three-and-a-half walls of my cubicle. It also lets me know when someone mentions me or something I’ve written.

This is the only entry I’ve left as a category of tools, rather than a specific one. Why? Because I don’t think there’s a standout tool for this any more.

Technorati used to be the standout tool, but not any more. I use it in combination with Google Blog Search and BlogPulse to make sure I don’t miss anything.

What about you?

These are by no means the only tools I use, but these are central ones for me… well, those and Google search. What about you? Which tools do you find the most valuable?

(photo credit: tashland)

9 Responses toFive Tools To Base Your Online Life Around

  • It’s like we share the same brain sometimes. Weird.

  • I’m with you all the way. I over use all of these tools. The one point where we diverge is with iGoogle. I find it irrelevant when using tabbed browsing. My start pages in Firefox consist of GoogleCalendar, GMail, Flickr, Twitter, & GoogleReader. I’ve got the tools open to get what I need done. iGoogle, netvibes, etc just get in my way and slow me done.

    But we’re all individuals and we all work differently.

    BTW, when is the new update coming out? It’s starting to become like G-N-R’s Chinese Democracy …

  • Useful posting, Dave. I particularly agree with your point about blog search engines. I’m constantly surprised at the number of people who don’t even know blog search engines exist. They’re indispensable for finding out what’s going on related to any subject that is a bit too “niche” for the mainstream media.

    One thing you’ve probably noticed is that different blog search engines return different results. Thus, you may find it useful to check out the blog search capability at Zuula (, which makes it easy to check blog search results at all the leading blog search engines.

    You also may find Zuula a powerful tool for general web search as well.

    All the best!

  • Dave – I use the same tools. I’d give an extra shout out to Google Alerts. I have dozens of Alerts set up for clients, reporters, topics, etc. Good way to find discussions happening on sites, blogs, etc that you may not already subscribe to via RSS.

  • I use all of these tools. I especially live by Twitter and!

  • Dave, pretty similar toolset for me, although I’ve been inconsistent in my use of iGoogle. I’ve also essentially given up on Technorati and stick with Google Blog Search.

    I have another tool that you might like just as much — or more — than Tweetscan: It also does real-time search for terms, handles threads nicely, can break out posts by languages, offers RSS feeds, etc. It doesn’t seem to offer a daily e-mail report, though you could always keep Tweetscan for that.

  • What do you think about NetVibes? I’ve used it since February and a colleague, who used to use iGoogle switched to NetVibes because of the easier functionality.

  • Hamish – I haven’t really used NetVibes much, although I like the way it looks. It does seem to have more customization potential than iGoogle.

    I suspect (as with many RSS readers) that they’re probably largely equivalent to each other, and it would come down to personal preference.

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