Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

Face-Off: Twitter Apps For BlackBerry

If you’re anything like me, you probably find it easy to burn a lot of time on Twitter. It’s addictive – you get into a conversation and before you know it, it’s 10 or 15 minutes later.

One of the ways I get around Twitter overload is by doing a lot of my tweeting from my BlackBerry – heading to and from meetings; when I’m grabbing lunch; on the way to clients and so on.

Trouble is, there are plenty of these applications around. This is a quick whip-through the best three Twitter applications I’ve used:

TwitterBerry

TwitterBerry screenshotTwitterBerry was the first Twitter application I tried for the BlackBerry. It had been a little while since I tried it before writing this post, and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the changes I observed.

Pros

  • Single purpose app – does what it says on the tin
  • Easy to set up and configure
  • New user interface lets you reply to Tweets without leaving the timeline view
  • TwitPic integration

Cons

  • According to reports from other people, TwitterBerry can suck the life out of your BlackBerry’s battery
  • Slow to refresh updates
  • TwitPic is only available when viewing pictures – can only push to TwitterBerry, rather than pull photos in

ÜberTwitter

UberTwitter screenshotFrom the moment I installed ÜberTwitter, I enjoyed its streamlined interface and more advanced options. Note: ÜberTwitter made a controversial (in some peoples’ eyes) move to introduce ads into its application a little while back, and has now released a paid ad-free version on top of the free product.

Pros

  • Scrolling auto-refresh is a nice touch
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts (just one at a time)
  • Allows you to take/post photos and to post videos from within the app
  • Comprehensive menu options, although it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners
  • Search function is very handy
  • Ad-free version available for those wanting to avoid pesky ads
  • Plenty of configuration options (though see cons for the flip side…)

Cons

  • Auto-refresh can get irritating when first loading the application
  • Keeps flipping back to the default Twitter account; irritating if you’re trying to stick with one for a bit
  • ÜberTwitter can be a big memory suck on the BlackBerry – I found my device crashed or hang frequently, requiring a hard reset. Only avoided by setting the app to not run in the background (nullifying the option to have notifications of new Tweets)
  • GPS enabled on posts by default; unaware users may not like this
  • Configuration options seem to go on for ever – overwhelming for new users

SocialScope

SocialScope screenshotSocialScope is the new kid on the block. Still in closed beta testing (and tightly controlled – they wouldn’t give me any invites to hand out along with this post), access is limited right now but will hopefully open up soon. SocialScope currently integrates with Twitter and Facebook, but bills itself as “a mobile inbox for your social networks” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more tools added.

Pros

  • Tabbed interface keeps you organized and allows access to screens without needing to use the menu
  • Facebook and Twitter integrated in one interface
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts
  • Less of a memory hog than ÜberTwitter – my BlackBerry has rarely crashed since switching
  • Lets you easily associate a Twitter account with a BlackBerry contact – adds the username to that person’s address book entry
  • Replying to messages takes you to a threaded view which lets you easily track conversations
  • Search option is useful
  • Notification of new Tweets means it’s easy to know if you should check in to view conversations involving you
  • Intuitive, context-sensitive menu makes navigation through the app a breeze

Cons

  • Facebook integration can be irritating – re-authentication bug means you need to log out then back in rather than just re-entering password
  • Only supports a single Twitter account
  • Has a habit of hanging while uploading photos, requiring a full (i.e. remove the battery) reset of the device to access the app again
  • Access is limited right now during the closed beta testing, but that won’t be the case forever

Conclusion

Each of the applications has their pluses:

  • TwitterBerry’s simplicity makes it a reasonable option for beginners;
  • ÜberTwitter’s multiple accounts and comprehensive options make it a good choice for power users;
  • SocialScope integrates Twitter and Facebook in an easy-to-use application.

For me, though, SocialScope wins the battle hands down. The intuitive interface, the user-friendly layout, the integration of Facebook and the easy access to photos makes it an easy winner.

ÜberTwitter certainly puts up a good fight, as evidenced by the response to my quick Twitter query (below). However, for me the additional functionality provided by SocialScope is overwhelming.

There are lots of other mobile interfaces for Twitter out there – Slandr and Dabr (hat tip: Mathew Ingram) – both web-based interfaces – are two examples. Do you use a different way of accessing Twitter on the go?

What do you think?

Twitter friends' favourite BlackBerry Apps for Twitter

Response to question: "What's your favourite Twitter application for the BlackBerry?"

PostRank Analytics: Missing Link Between Social Media Engagement And Web Analytics

I love Google Analytics. Google’s free tool offers easy-to-use analytics perfect for small or mid-sized businesses, is easy to install and, perhaps most importantly, is free. Unfortunately, in the world of social media, analytics focused on your own site can only tell you so much. They leave a gap and, for companies involved in online discussions, it’s an important one.

Today we have a new service to help fill that gap.

Introducing PostRank Analytics

PostRank Analytics, launched today, takes top-level data from Google Analytics and layers social media engagement on top of it.

I’ve had a chance to test the service over the last little while. I’m happy to say it has a lot of potential for personal and corporate bloggers alike, at a very low price point.

Overview

The overview page for PostRank Analytics shows quick at-a-glance metrics, including:

  • Page views
  • PostRank’s engagement score
  • Twitter followers

You can also see trends for the first two over a period of up to three months. Blog posts are also featured on the appropriate days.

Mousing over a particular day reveals the exact numbers for that day, while clicking on a blog post pulls up deeper measurements for that post.

Analyze

Digging down into the analysis section of PostRank Analytics lets you access more detailed metrics on each of your blog posts.

An initial screen lists posts in reverse chronological order, while clicking any post mines right down to show such measures as average time on site, engagement on each social media platform (such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, etc), and bounce rate.

The page also gives a complete history of conversation about your post on those third-party services. One particularly useful aspect of this feature is that it attempts to make it easy to reach people talking about your content by identifying their presences on other sites.

Your own concierge

Another useful feature of PostRank Analytics is the option to have daily reports delivered right to your inbox with a summary of the previous day’s activity.

The concierge report is a stripped-down snapshot of activity, showing total page views and engagement on your site along with activity on posts such as views and additional conversation over the day. While you may not find it useful if you’re highly involved with your site, it may be a useful tool for people who aren’t able to pay close attention to goings-on.

Key Points

I like PostRank Analytics for what it provides now, but I’m also excited about the potential for new features. Right now, the level of data pulled in from Google Analytics is relatively small, but there’s room to build on this as the service goes through iterations. I’d be interested, for example, to see which posts led to the most conversions and to track that against engagement.

The service is most likely to be attractive to people with well-established sites or those working on corporate sites. The price of $9 per month is low enough to make the service very accessible to beginners, however I think they are less likely to want to pay for analytics at an early stage.

I really like the inclusion of commenters’ other social media profiles in the service. The addition of ready-to-hand research on commenters is useful for people trying to decide whether to respond to individual conversations.

I’m really happy to see PostRank roll out a consumer-focused service that they can monetize. An analytics service was a logical direction given the wealth of data they have on engagement, and in my view is a useful addition to their portfolio.

Conclusion

PostRank Analytics provides the missing link between social media engagement and web analytics. The service is useful as-is, and has substantial potential for expansion.

At this price point, PostRank Analytics is one to explore now, and to watch for the future too.

PostRank Analytics

PostRank Analytics - Detail

Brands In Public: A New Reputation Management Tool

If your company matters to people, they are talking about you.

There’s nothing particularly new about this; this has been the pattern for hundreds of years. However, one difference with the advent of social media tools is that people are now able to talk to dozens, hundreds or thousands of other people instead of the few they used to.

There are plenty of tools to help companies listen to what people are saying. While I often talk about Radian6, there are plenty of other tools out there, both free and professional.

Today Seth Godin’s Squidoo launched a new service named Brands In Public.

As Seth says:

You can’t control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time.”

Brands In Public provides an online dashboard that pulls together the latest news and conversation about a brand from sources such as Google Blogsearch, Google News, Yahoo! News, Twitter, BackType, Google Search Trends and Quantcast.

Where Brands In Public gets more interesting is that if a company decides it wants to sponsor its company page (for $400 a month) it gets control of about 2/3 of the screen real-estate on the page. It can highlight blog posts, run contests, post videos or whatever it likes. In case of an issue, the company can quickly respond without needing any technical skills, the ongoing maintenance requirements of a blog, or IT’s go-ahead to create a new page on your website.

All the time, the regular searches continue in the right-hand column, uncensored and unfiltered.

So, while the Molson page features a Twitter search, the Molson blog and a quick poll on how people feel about the brand, the Allstate page includes YouTube videos from various channels along with content from multiple blogs (disclosure: Molson Coors Canada is a recent client; Allstate Canada is a current client).

There’s nothing complicated about Brands In Public; in fact Seth takes pain in his post announcing the service to note that it’s deliberately simple. “It’s simply a place for your brand to see and be seen, to organize and to respond.”

A few thoughts from me:

  • The interface is clean, friendly and easy to use.
  • Right now there’s no search function – the pages seem to be limited to a scrolling list. Presumably this will change as the service is built out and the volume of pages increases.
  • The FAQs indicate that the service will remove a company’s page if they request it. However, as they note, “Your fans might be disappointed though.” What’s more, the lack of a comprehensive list of companies may inhibit the growth of the service.
  • If brands haven’t yet invested in a social media presence, they’re unlikely to make this their first step due to the lack of control of the searches. To those who have already invested, they don’t need this presence as they’re already out there.
  • Brands In Public provides an easy way for companies to be part of the conversation – an entry level solution – but at a premium price. As TechCrunch noted, $400 per month is a pretty hefty price point for a series of automated searches and a few dashboard modules.

What do you think? Is this a useful tool for brands?

Coordinate Multiple Twitter Accounts With CoTweet

CoTweet LogoIf you work on a multi-person social media team, you’ve likely encountered issues coordinating responses to online conversations. You’ll spot a mention of your company and reply to it, only to find that another one of your colleagues has already replied, or that there was a reason they hadn’t done so.

Tools like Radian6 accommodate built-in workflow management to help teams to coordinate interactions across multiple platforms. However, they have their shortfalls.

Now we have a new kid on the block. CoTweet, which bills itself as “a platform that helps companies reach and engage customers using Twitter,” is a solution for companies managing teams of employees across multiple Twitter accounts.

I participated in CoTweet’s closed beta testing period, but it recently emerged into open beta meaning you can sign-up and try it yourself.

Some of CoTweet’s key features:

  • Multiple accounts – nothing that tools like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop don’t already offer, but a must-have nowadays for large companies and agency types/power-users like me who need to juggle several profiles.
  • Multiple users – CoTweet lets you invite multiple users to Tweet from an account. You can coordinate who’s “on duty” at any time, and assign tweets to other users (which triggers a notification email).
  • Conversation threads – one short-coming of some other systems is that they don’t allow for threading of conversations over time. CoTweet rectifies that, allowing you to see conversations between your team and any person over time, see which tweets have been replied-to and ensure you don’t contradict an earlier response from a team-mate.
  • Integration with bit.ly – TweetDeck and the like let you use bit.ly to shorten URLs and an even link them to your bit.ly account, but CoTweet integrates the analytics from bit.ly into its interface.
  • Web-based – while I have no problem with downloadable clients, there are plenty of people around who don’t have that luxury thanks to restrictive IT policies. CoTweet is browser-based, so there’s nothing to install.
  • Cotags - CoTweet defines Cotags as “short signatures that allow you to identify yourself as part of a message while sharing an account with multiple people.” It provides transparency as to who is tweeting when multiple people could be posting. We’ve manually entered “[initials]” for our clients in the past; CoTweets lets you automate that so you never forget.
  • Persistent search – TweetDeck’s key feature early-on was its integration of persistent searches into your interface. While CoTweet doesn’t quite do that (you need to go to a search screen), it does provide persistent searches that are fully integrated into the interface.

Overall, CoTweet is a powerful new tool for companies managing multiple Twitter accounts and users.

What are your early impressions of the service? What stands out for you, and what would you change?

Twitter Follower-Building Services – Gain Numbers, Lose Respect?

As time goes on, it feels like more and more people are feeling the allure of Twitter follower-building services. Look at their follower numbers one day and they have a few hundred, and a couple of days later they’re up to several thousand.

It’s easy to see the allure of this. You have the ego boost of believing your tweets are read by thousands of people – that’s pretty cool, right? It takes a really long time to build-up that many readers of a blog.

Personally, while I’ve occasionally been tempted by the dark side, I’ve never used one of those services, for a couple of reasons:

  • Consider how much you care about the people that those services ask you to follow. What’s that? Not at all? That’s how much they care about you, too.
  • If the people who follow you through that scheme don’t care, who are you doing it for? Your existing followers? I think not. Potential followers? Do you really think they care either? Your ego? Maybe that’s it.
  • It feels wrong, and when it comes to social media, I tend to go with my gut (especially when the evidence supports that feeling).

There’s also one big down-side of many follower-building services on Twitter:

They spam your Twitter account.

Glancing at my Twitter stream recently, I spotted a post from someone in my stream (note: I’ve removed the links):

viralwordpress: Want 10,000 Followers FAST? FREE Twitter Followers Software http://tinyurl.com/twitterp… http://bit.ly/LlwDL

Ah, yes – Twitter spam. Out of curiosity I clicked through to their profile to see if this was the first time it had happened (in case they were unaware of it). Here’s what I found:

Twitter spam messages

Is this how you want people to see you? That’s how people see this “SEO pro.”

Why not go about things differently? Why not build a following by providing useful information; by saying useful things; by helping other people? It takes time, but you’ll find yourself with followers who pay attention when you ask a question, and who care when you post.

I guess you’re not hurting anyone else if you use these services, but consider the damage you may do to your own reputation – especially if you tout yourself as a social media expert.

What do you think about follower-building services? Setting this example aside, do you (or would you) use one of these tools?

If you have used one of these tools, am I off-base on this? I haven’t used these follower-building tools, so I’d love your input. Did you get the results you were looking for?

Scribnia Helps You Discover And Review New Blogs

A little while back, a few people drew my attention to Scribnia. I glanced at it at the time, but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to dig too deeply. In a way I’m glad that I didn’t, as since then I’ve watched it grow into a very useful tool and I think my opinion is better informed now.

Scribnia describes itself as “a rating and discovery engine for bloggers and columnists” that lets you “find better writers online.” For once, a company’s description of itself is spot-on.

Scribnia, at its base level, lets you find new blogs and sites to read based on the sites you like. It determines those preferences by letting you rate and review other peoples’ sites.

When you rate a site, rather than only giving a grade along a simple scale, Scribnia asks you to rate authors along several criteria. These criteria vary depending on the type of site the author writes for. If you review my site, for example, you will be asked to rate me on:

  • Technology - from exclusively e-marketing through to print and billboard
  • Approach - from low budget through to high budget
  • Radicalness - from mainstream through to maverick

Scribnia rating criteriaThis means that each review gives a good amount of context along consistent criteria, along with the open-ended input that the reviewer also gets. This gives it multiple factors to consider when recommending sites for you, and that’s Scribnia really gets interesting.

Useful recommendations

Recommendations on ScribniaRight out of the box (or login, I suppose), Scribnia will recommend authors similar to any that you view, based on the reviews other people have given of those sites.

The image on the right, for example, shows the recommendations when you look at my profile. You can see that it recommends Seth Godin, Drew McLellan and Maria Rayez-McDavis – all authors in a similar field to me.

However, Scribnia really begins to shine once you’ve added a few reviews yourself. At that point, it begins to recommend other sites for you to read based on the reviews you’ve given – based on the sites you like. In my case it recommends Stuart Foster and Connie Bensen (who I already read – if I like I can note that and it will recommend more) and Ryan Stephens (who is new to me – I’ll now check out his site based on this recommendation).

Features that add value

I’ve only scratched the surface of Scribnia in this post. There are plenty of other features, such as:

  • myScribes - which lets you aggregate the content from authors you like in one place and rate individual posts to obtain even better recommendations in future
  • In-depth author and publication recommendations – in case you want to dig deep
  • Blog widgets – to feature your ranking on your site (see my sidebar)
  • Sribup – an odd name for a simple feature which lets you easily tweet about an author you especially like

Conclusion

If I have one quibble about Scribnia it’s that it feels like a bit of a hug-fest. No-one seems to write anything but positive reviews (I feel the same pressure on this) in order to avoid offending anyone. Essentially, the universally positive reviews reduce the value of that side of things. One way of solving this might be to add an ‘anonymous’ review option, but that itself has downsides.

Still, this doesn’t reduce the usefulness of the recommendations that you receive, which to me are one of the most useful parts of this service. Even if you only ever write nice things, if you only write reviews about people you genuinely admire then you will receive useful recommendations.

I like Scribnia. I find it useful, and its usefulness is growing over time which is good to see. If you haven’t checked it out and you’re looking for new inspiration, it’s worth a look.

What do you think?

Oh, and if you feel like writing a review of this site, please do. I’d love to know what you think (good or bad)!

Feedburner and FriendFeed: FailBurner

FailburnerFeedburner is probably one of the most-used services available for bloggers. Its RSS analytics, promotion and advertising features have made it a staple of many peoples’ blogging toolkits.

FeedBurner was also a first mover in the market, enabling it to attract a large number of people before viable competitors appeared. Thanks to its purchase by Google, it has been able to take advantage of the powerful Google Analytics system to enhance its statistical reporting.

That’s fortunate, because the team at FeedBurner seems to be doing everything in its power to alienate its users.

Inconsistent Reporting

On one hand you have the random blips in FeedBurner stats, where they tell you that half of your subscribers have disappeared overnight. That alone would be a significant issue for a service providing analytics – for sites publishing those numbers (especially those using those numbers to sell advertising) consistency is critical.

This problem is just that, though – a problem. Frustrating and unacceptable, yes, but still a problem that gets fixed.

Contrast that with the latest silliness.

FriendFeed? Huh?

In the last week, FeedBurner users may have noticed a significant jump in their RSS subscriber numbers. For this site, my total subscribers increased by 25%. On another site of mine, they jumped by 1860%.

This wasn’t caused by a technical problem. The reason for this is that FeedBurner now counts a person’s FriendFeed subscribers in their blog RSS subscription count.

Personally, I completely agree with David Spinks’ take on this. The fact that I subscribe to someone’s FriendFeed doesn’t mean I subscribe to their blog. It means I subscribe to their FriendFeed.

To me, this completely undermines the relevance of FeedBurner’s subscriber numbers. I get essentially zero referrals from FriendFeed, but this site now apparently has another 600 subscribers.

Communications fail

There was no direct communication to users around this change. The only reason I found out was because I noticed the big jump and looked closely at the stats. Where’s the option to turn this off? Where’s the communication with FeedBurber users?

Frankly, this could be the last straw for me. I’ve used Feedburner for several years now, but given that Feedblitz is taking a run at FeedBurner, they finally have a competitor. I may give FeedBlitz a try.

What do you think about this change?

TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop: Racing To The Bottom?

Twitter was buzzing last night as the latest version of free Twitter client TweetDeck was launched, to fairly universal acclaim.

Mashable has a detailed run-down of the new Tweetdeck features, and a good comparison of the new version with its closest competitor, Seesmic Desktop. In a nutshell, the big-name new features are:

  • A new TweetDeck iPhone app;
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts;
  • The ability to synchronize accounts across multiple computers and the mobile app;
  • The option to save groups and searches for future use when removing them from your screen.

There’s plenty more, but those are the key functions from my perspective.

Amidst the geeky excitement of a new, improved application for use with Twitter, though, I have one concern:

Are these free apps racing themselves to the bottom?

Is this race for new functionality going to eventually drive these free services out of business?

Here’s my thinking:

  • Right now neither TweetDeck nor Seesmic Desktop generate revenue from their apps.
  • Neither ‘main’ app seems to have a critical mass of users. Fickle audiences flit back and forth between the applications as one gains advantage over the other. 
  • Minimal barriers to entry mean that, at any time, a new application could emerge to challenge the big two (as Seesmic Desktop did, out of the ashes of Twhirl, not so long ago). 
  • Only “power users” will get a lot out of these features. I certainly appreciate the feature, and the power users are the ones with a loud voice, but most people frankly don’t need multiple accounts.
  • If either app tries to charge users without introducing a killer, unreplicable new feature, users will simply switch to the other.

Where does this leave us? Two companies engaged in an endless race for features that benefit very few people, while not being able to monetize their products.

What’s the end game? Being bought-out by Twitter or another company? That’s bubble thinking, not recession planning. I really don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

BackType Connect – Good… Too Good?

Over the last couple of years, it’s become harder and harder to track conversations about your site online. Tools like Google Blogsearch and Google Alerts are great for tracking links from other blogs, but as micro-blogging tools like Twitter, Jaiku, FriendFeed, Tumblr and their like emerged people started to post links in ways that are a little harder to track.

URL-shortening services, in particular, increased the difficulty of finding people linking to your content. What’s more, while you might see those alerts, other members of your community didn’t so potentially useful additions to your conversation were lost.

As people started to notice this trend, services began to spring-up to find and aggregate these conversations on your site. For several months I used Chat Catcher, developed by Shannon Whitley. Unfortunately, as Twitter’s popularity sky-rocketed earlier this year, Chat Catcher became harderto maintain and Whitley announced recently that it would cease functioning shortly (update: last night Whitley announced that Chat Catcher would NOT be shutting down after all, due to the supportive messages he received). At that point I began looking around for an alternative solution.

Enter BackType Connect

I’ve been a fan of BackType since it launched a little while back. BackType initially served as a comment search tool, letting you search the comments on blogs (often where the highly valuable debate occurred) in a way that other search engines didn’t. I clearly wasn’t the only one, as the good folks at Radian6 incorporated BackType’s search into their product not too long ago.

BackType recently launched BackType Connect, a service that lets you view the conversations around a particular post including comments on other blogs, tweets, FriendFeed, Digg and Reddit comments and more. At around the same time, they released a WordPress plugin that does the same thing on your own site.

It works… too well?

BackType Connect does an excellent job of finding and aggregating conversations around your posts. In fact, if you enable all of its functions, it almost works too well. When I first enabled the plugin, I left all of the features enabled and found myself faced with a deluge of new comments from other blogs, retweets from Twitter and more.

While it may be useful to know about comments on other blogs which link to your posts, I found the usefulness of including them on my site to be limited (and worried that the commenters might be irritated to see their thoughts posted on my site instead of the original post) so I quickly turned-off that feature.

Also, since installing BackType Connect, I’ve noticed a big drop-off in comments on my site. I’m not entirely sure of the reason, but suspect that it may be because Twitter comments via the plugin can quite easily overwhelm the comments section of the post, especially if a lot of people tweet about what you write.  BackType Connect will only post other conversations as comments on your posts, not as trackbacks (although you can group them all at the end of your comments rather than chronolocially integrated) – that option would be a nice addition in the future. 

Chris Golda and Mike Montano from BackType both suggested that I disable the Twitter functionality, so we’ll see what happens from here (the plugin still identifies tweets and provides a link to them; it just no longer posts them on my site).

I’m not sure about this one, but I suspect that if you uninstall BackType Connect you may lose the comments that have been posted via it. When I disabled the Twitter function, all of those comments disappeared from my site immediately. Something to think about if you ever consider deleting the plugin.

Bottom line: BackType Connect is a great plugin for seeing what other people are saying about your posts away from your own site. Be careful when deciding whether to enable all of its features though – while you may see everything other people are saying about you, you may drive away the conversation on your own site.

Regardless of the small number of issues, this is still a useful plugin. It’s easy to install, easy to set-up and easy to use once you have it there. Worth a try if you run a WordPress site.

Have you tried BackType Connect or similar plugins? Do you find them useful? Which service have you found to be the best?

Five Tools For Drinking From The Firehose

Over the last few weeks I’ve presented to a number of groups around ’101′ social media topics – how to get started, practical pointers, and ethical issues in social media. 

People often express shock at the sheer volume of tools and information out there in social media. It can be overwhelming, for sure.

So how can you avoid drowning in information? What are some of the best ways to filter through the noise and find the signal?

Google Reader

RSS will save your sanity when you start to get involved in social media. Instead of having to check 10, 20 or 100 sites for changes all the time, RSS feeds let you pull all of the updates into one place.

I always look to Google Reader when recommending a particular RSS reader – it’s web-based so it’s cross-platform, it’s available remotely and it’s easy to use. Other options include Feed Demon and Bloglines.

PostRank

If your RSS reader is getting clogged with too many feeds, PostRank may be your saviour.

My “A-list” of blogs alone covers about 50 sites. It’s a rare day when I can get to all of them. PostRank (formerly known as AideRSS) helps to filter your feeds by the level of “engagement” on posts. If you’re busy, just ask for the best posts out of your subscriptions, and read a few. If you have more time on your hands, read a few more. If you use Google Reader, the process is made even easier through PostRank’s Firefox extension, which lets you apply that filtering directly in your reader.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck just keeps getting better and has become the automatic choice for many people due to its powerful sorting functionality. If you follow any significant number of people, the volume of conversation flowing through Twitter can be overwhelming. Tweetdeck helps you to manage this through grouping your followers and setting-up searches for the terms that are important to you.

MicroPlaza

MicroPlaza aggregates all of the links posted on Twitter by people you follow, and a list of all the people who posted those same links. You can subscribe to that list via RSS and pull it into your RSS reader, further reducing the effort required to consume all this information. If, like me, you use Twitter to populate your reading list, that can be a powerful tool.

Still, if you follow a lot of people you could drown under that list of links. Fortunately, MicroPlaza lets you create groups of people you trust, aggregate their links and subscribe to just those links. Voila – your own personal newsfeed.

Delicious

Want to avoid having to trawl through the noise to get to the interesting posts? Why not make use of other peoples’ recommendations?

Delicious lets you subscribe via RSS to the bookmarks of other people. Create a network of people who you trust and you can subscribe to that, too. Alternatively, search for key terms that are important to you and subscribe to those results. You instantly have a continuing feed of sites that other people have found sufficiently valuable to save.

These are five of the key tools I use to keep things manageable. What do you use?