Tools I Like, Tools I Loathe

Filed as Features on July 14, 2008 8:27 am

Like most bloggers, I use a variety of tools and applications to get things done.

But while many of the tools that I use have me enthralled and singing their praises, others leave me frustrated and seeking a better solution, only to be dismayed that none seem to be available.

The problem is that, as with most things in life, the best solution is not always the most popular one (Ex: VHS beat Beta). Sometimes we get brilliant answers to difficult problems and other times we’re left with something a bit more frustrating.

In honor of that, I’ve decided to highlight some of the tools that I use daily and love, as well as some of the ones that I’m hoping to find replacements for.


Tools I Love

Diigo: When it comes to bookmarking, I have not found anything better than Diigo. Though I love Del.icio.us and other systems, Diigo has not only a great feature set but also the reliability make it a service I can count on. I currently use it both to organize bookmarks for my linkroll and to create show notes for one of my podcasts, something its list feature is perfect for. It is difficult for me to imagine how I got along without it.

Marsedit: Though there is nothing wrong with the default WordPress editor for most tasks, those who use strange templates and regularly use tags and commands not available in the Web editor, Marsedit is a breath of fresh air. Not only does it let you write in basic HTML, something that is instinctive for those of us who dislike WYSWYG editors, but its ability to create custom tags and features makes it perfect for those in need of custom CSS or other special tags. It has saved me countless hours of editing and prevented dozens of simple formatting mistakes.

Libsyn: Podcast hosting is very tricky to do on a “normal” hosting account. Space restrictions and bandwidth restrictions make it very difficult to find stable hosting at a reasonable price. After all, even the largest hosting account will run out of space after the 200th episode. Libsyn, however, solves the problem by removing bandwidth restrictions and providing a hard drive space cap that increases every month, giving you limitless storage capacity. Though other companies provide a similar service, Libsyn has proved to be fast and stable over the months I’ve used it.

Tools I Use… But Want to Replace

On the flip side, there are tools that I make heavy use use of but can’t wait for a better service to come along and replace it. These are services that fill an important need, but not to my satisfaction, and are begging for competition to either improve them, or discard them.

Twitter: As great as Twitter is, it is light on features and very unreliable. Twitter has added insult to injury by disabling features, namely @replies, to improve stability during peak times and still suffers from almost routine outages. though competing services such as Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk exist, they are yet to attract the following of Twitter, limiting their usefulness. Hopefully FriendFeed will be a more complete Twitter replacement soon.

Skype/Gizmo Project: When these services are good, there is nothing better. Both Skype and Gizmo Project can both provide excellent call quality and great rates. The problem is that, when they don’t work, it is a path to frustration, especially when you are trying to record a podcast. Between ISP throttling, bad wiring, faulty headsets and a million other things that can go wrong, making that podcast-quality call is a combination of art, voodoo and luck. Though it is hard to fault these two for the problems that plague them, a real solution allowing the recording of podcasts over the Web is needed. Some are starting to emerge, we’ll see where they go.

Google Blog Search/Technorati: The current blog searching solutions are now almost completely useless. For years I have used Technorati Watchlists and Google Blog Search RSS feeds to keep track of relevant topics, however, I’ve watched as the usefulness of those feeds has deteriorated to the point where now I am loathe to even go in the folder. Spam blogs, forums, comments and a million other garbage postings fill these lists and make it harder to find true blog postings on the topic. Worse still, they routinely miss posts that might have been important to me It is time for an upgrade but to what, I do not know.

Conclusions

When it comes to the tools that I use, I use the ones that work the best for me. It is that simple.

However, sometimes, being the best is not that great of an honor, as some of these solutions prove. Many times, being the best simply entails stinking the least, something that still leaves us unsatisfied and wishing for better.

Hopefully new challengers will arrive in all of these fields to encourage advancement and improvement. After all, the mere fact I’m happy with a solution doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.

Still, it is obvious that some areas need competition worse than others. Some of our leaders, it appears, have gotten too comfortable with their roles and have been taking their number one slot for granted.

The faster that changes, the better off we’ll all be.

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  1. By Ashley K. Edwards posted on July 14, 2008 at 8:44 am
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    Interesting insights. I hadn’t heard that Twitter is limiting its “@” feature. I’ll have to look more into that.

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  2. By Scot Herrick posted on July 14, 2008 at 11:11 pm
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    If you find a replacement to Technorati and/or Google blog search, please post it. I’m with you on this one.

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  3. By Lee Potts posted on July 21, 2008 at 11:30 am
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    Thanks for Diigo tip Jonathan. I started using it Friday and I agree with you that it’s incredibly useful.

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