Let me start off the new year by apparently agreeing with Mike "TechCrunch" Arrington that a list is a good, cheap way of banging out a blog post. In fact, I'll go Arrington one better and say that using his list of indispensable Web 2.0 companies is an even better, cheaper way of banging out my inaugural 2007 blog post on Global Nerdy.
A year ago I wrote a post called “Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without” and listed thirteen startups who’s products made a real impact in my life. Those were the products that I loved, and used every day. Seven of the companies are still on the list. Six have dropped off to make room for new products, and I’ve added two more to round out the list to fifteen total products
Arrington then lists his personal creme-de-la-creme-de-la-Ouebbe-Deux-point-Oeuf. I'll start my take on his list by saying that I've never used 800-Free-411 or Amie Street, but they sound interesting enough. Having the customer pay for directory information is all wrong, yet the prices for directory calls seem to be increasing. Glad to see someone try to submarine those fat-and-happy rent-seekers. Amie Street seems less clear-cut to me. I'm not sure why a song's popularity should drive an increase in price—it's not as if supply of that track gets tighter with more downloads. It's an artificially-set reward tied to popularity, not a market-driven price. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but it doesn't seem to count to me as an innovative solution to the question of how authors are to be compensated (if at all) for the use of their intellectual property by individuals.
I haven't used BlueDot either. The Flickr-like control over sharing your bookmarks sounds nice but, let's face it, does the world need yet another bookmarking service?
As for the services I have used, I'm 100% with Arrington on the gee-whiz-it's-about-time coolness of Ask City's maps. Frankly, I don't trust any local guides to services, so that doesn't draw me to Ask City, but the ability to annotate and share maps is sorely lacking from Google's and Yahoo!'s offerings here; the nod goes to Ask (for now). I should probably use Flickr more than I currently do, but I never hesitate to recommend the service to friends looking for an easy (and cheap) way to share photos online. I star to wince, however, when I see them add doodads like geotagging; I hope the need to keep pace with all the pretenders to the Flickr crown doesn't hurt their ease of use, as they lard on the latest and greatest feature. Most people with digital cameras, computers, and internet connections don't give a rat's ass about geotagging.
I'm always amazed when I see people using webmail other than Gmail. Why? I've tasted them all; I have Windows Live and Yahoo! webmail accounts, but I'm lucky if I remember to check those things once a week. For me, it's my work email, and Gmail. In fact, I've given over my personal mail management to Google as well, and now Google Apps for Your Domain (GAYD) handles all the mail for scriban.com. A massive mailbox, searchability, available anywhere, plays nice with POP mail and mobile clients, snappy interface…what's not to like?
Newsreading is a chore. NetNewsWire isn't. Like all well-designed Mac software, it simply blows its Windows counterparts away. That said, I don't use NetNewsWire. Work requires that I stay trapped in cross-platform hell, so I can't live my life on a Mac. In the past, I've turned to Bloglines to solve that problem for me, but I think I've hit some kind of mental wall with the two-pane email-style newsreader: I simply can't take the burden of all of those thousands of unread posts in those hundreds of feeds I read. Netvibes has come along at just the right time for me. Starting with decent OPML support, Netvibes' page-and-tile-based UI lets me scan the new stories across more sites at once than I found I could churn through with Bloglines. Even though Bloglines is, in many ways, a very powerful tool, coping with feedglut has become the highest-priority problem my newsreader must solve, and Netvibes does it elegantly.
TechMeme is another tool that helps me prioritize my reading list, along with Megite and TailRank. There is a real danger that TechMeme encourages a tech blogging to become an echo chamber—in observing what's interesting, it also helps define what's interesting—but all I can say is that it currently does a pretty good job of unearthing stuff that I might not have otherwise seen. Although it's more frivolous, Pandora's been equally good at helping me discover new stuff that I actually like, although its success rate feels lower for me than it does for many others. I'll frequently wear out my hourly skips rejecting songs (only to have it retreat to home base and throw some Pixies or Weezer my way, perhaps to appease me).
WordPress is one of those cases where I simply haven't put my money where my mouth is. All things being equal, I'll go with the capable free and open alternative to a proprietary solution. You would think that would mean that I run my blogs off WordPress, but I don't. blogaritaville on scriban.com is MovableType (and has been for years). Global Nerdy runs on BlogWare (ask Joey). I know full well how capable and powerful WP is, and it's well-supported by its developer community, so why not switch? Speaking for scriban.com, it's just laziness.
Which leaves YouTube, Flock, Digg, and Skype, four services/applications I don't use and I don't really get.
I'm waiting for the shock and/or horror to set in.
No, I'm not a hater or a Luddite. Let me explain. YouTube has done a lot of things right, especially with the user experience. It's easy to contribute, easy to share, and their use of Flash means you don't need to download a client to play video. Where I get off the YouTube bandwagon is with the whole fascination with video on the web: I just don't dig it that much. Most of my compute time is at work, and I don't work with headphones, so playing video is low on my list of things to do while online. Moreover, I hate the fact that video content is so linear. With text I can skip and skim and still get a reasonable overview of something. Given the choice between video of a news story or a text version, I'll go with text every time. None of this is to say that I don't enjoy the odd YouTube clip sent by friends. Hell, I've looked up commercials from childhood days spent in front of the TV, but I've never spent more than 10 minutes at a time on YouTube.
I've spent even less time on Digg, but that's a whole different story. Digg sucks. It's supposed to surface interesting news items by using the wisdom of the crowd, but I've never found anything really newsworthy. Instead it seems to be a repository for net curios and ephemera. Digg doesn't compete with CNN, it competes with BoingBoing and, unfortunately, it isn't as well written.
Since voice is about the least interesting thing you can do with a network here in the 21st century, Skype bores me from the get go. About the second-least interesting thing you can do with a network is exchange text messages between two computers. Oh boy. The interest in Skype has always mystified me. Perhaps this is a developed-economy, North-American-centric view, but cheap voice and IM don't seem like a big deal. One day, Google's going to flip their switch on Google Talk and we'll all be calling everyone for free, so why bother caring about Skype?
And Flock? Well, Flock, for me, is one of those situations where the problem they're trying to solve—smoothly integrating both the reading and the writing of the web—is a real one, but in their prepackaged solution just doesn't do what I want. As I've said, I need my newsreader online so I can manage my news intake from anywhere (not just places were I can install the Flock browser). Supporting bookmarking to del.icio.us is great, but what if you're like Arrington, and you use BlueDot? I guess you have to turn to a plug-in for that (in which case, aren't you back where you started when you were using Firefox?). Flock's in a tough position in that no matter what they choose to include or exclude from their product, they're liable to piss somebody off, including me.
Tags: lists, Arrington, Flock, Flickr, YouTube, WordPress, Skype, Netvibes, Digg, BlueDot, Gmail, Pandora, 800-Free-411, Aime Street, NetNewsWire, Ask City, TechMeme