Otis’ Boxed Life

I have two lives: In the box and out of the box. My time out of the box is governed by the whims, wishes, and needs of my wife and kid. It’s beautiful, but sometimes terribly inefficient. My time in the box is my own (and my clients’) and I like it to be as efficient as possible. I employ many a tool to keep my boxed life running as fast as possible.

I’m often surprised to learn that many people I know either haven’t heard about certain web tools or have chosen not to streamline their online lives. I have one friend–a blogger and blog reader–who uses no form of blog aggregator to check his daily reads. I discovered this because referral logos showed that he searched Google to find the address to this site at least 50% of the time (it’s that hard to remember?). The rest of the time he linked here from the Up For Poker blog. It made no sense to me. When I asked him about it, he shrugged (virtually).

When I find something I like, I share it with everybody (see references to Ecco Shoes circa 2005-2008, and Yahoo Launchcast circa 2002). So, if only to feel like I’m doing my duty to my fellow netizens, here’s the shortlist of the online tools I use every day.

Blog aggregator: I am a longtime Bloglines user. I know may people prefer the Google Reader, but I’m a fan of Bloglines’ classic interface. It suits my minimalistic tendencies and keeps me happy. Bloglines is trying to update its platform and I’m none too happy about it. If I can keep the present interface, I’ll be happy.

Instant messgaing client: My friends all use Yahoo or AOL Instant Messaging system. The people for whom I do the most work use MSN. For a long time, I just ignored everything but MSN. When MSN and Yahoo started learning to communicate, I got back on the Yahoo scene. However, the communication between the two sites was very clunky. So, I listened to a few smart people and started using Trillian. The program allows me to use one IM client for all my log-ins. I’d tried it a few years back and wasn’t satisfied. Recent updates have made it much more usable and I’d recommend it now.

Personal home page: For the past year or so, I’ve been using Netvibes to aggregate everything I’d like to see upon log-in. Such things include: the weather, the forecast, Boing Boing’s feed, a personal Twitter feed, a couple of SEO tools, and a statcounter for this site. I’m still using it, but am in the process of test driving iGoogle. The iGoogle platform is a lot less clunky and less prone to hiccups than Netvibes. It also has a ton of gadgets and widgets that I like. It’s lacking in a couple of areas, though and I’m not sure I’m entirely sold on it yet.

Blogging platform: As has been chronicled here many times, I was a Blogger.com user for many years. I finally got rid of it across all my sites. Rapid Eye Reality is powered by WordPress now. My other two blogs run on Movable Type. I like them both infinitely better than Blogger. I think Movable Type is slightly more versatile, but WordPress is much faster and slightly less clunky. I can also use software like woocommerce seo to help with the promotion of my page on WordPress and that can be significantly better for me to use.

Stat counter: Regardless of what any blogger says, he likes to know what kind of traffic he’s getting. For many years, I used SiteMeter exclusively. Eventually, I started running StatCounter. Both are free services and work fairly well, but non-premium service can limit what the user can do. I now use a WordPress widget called Blog Stats to track traffic here. In the past month, I’ve been experimenting with Google Analytics on another blog. I’ve found it to be a very good system and superior to Urchin (another system I use for another blog) in just about every way. I haven’t been able to make Analytics on this blog, though, and that makes me a little cranky.

So, there are a few recommendations. Most of you probably already know about the above. If you don’t and you spend more than one hour a day online, you should be using most of the above tools.

If you know of any more I should be using, please drop me a comment. Like a real man and his garage, I can never have enough tools.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. Mean Gene says:

    I never committed to NetVibes, I think there was too much info for me to choose from. I’m thinking of going to iGoogle, because My Yahoo just doesn’t cut it.

    I hate explaining to people what RSS is and what an aggregater does.

    And I really need to get up to speed on all of WordPress’ widgets and other mystical powers. Actually I need to overcome my general tech-lethargy in general.

    On a brighter note I’m buying my first pair of ECCOs tomorrow. Priced ’em, snooped about, gonna get ’em for the WSOP.

  2. BadBlood says:

    Mac junkies will want to look into Adium for their IM’ing needs. Tip of the hat to Timmy.

  3. Fulkie says:

    Google Analytics rocks. I use it exclusively for to track all of our website stats at work, plus my own.

  4. Urchin was bought by Google, so Urchin *is* Google Analytics… or Google Analytics is Urchin.

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