Monday, November 16, 2009

my current utility belt

Ever since Chris Brogan wrote about what's in his utility belt--actual gear, software and other tools without which he can't do what he does--I've been mulling my own.  Here, in no particular order (and with Amazon affiliate links to some products) are the tools I'm using most:
  • Amazon Kindle: I read my New York Times on it, wherever I am, every day...and it has increased my book consumption 10-fold, especially important since I downsized my physical book collection last year with a big donation to Books for America. I also use the Kindle as a speaker's tool, to review written speeches and carry them with me on travel, and to read from on the lectern without flipping pages--the text-size options are excellent for that purpose.
  • Flip cameras: I own four Flip ultralight camcorders, and use them to train large groups, to record one-on-one training for my media-training or speaker-training clients, and even to capture still photos. The Flips are small enough to carry with me everywhere, which means I can capture visuals on a whim--and so easy to use, they don't require a second thought.
  • An all-purpose camera clamp tripod: This clamp is the next best thing to a third hand--it can affix a Flip (or other camera) to nearly any door jamb, car window or other improbable location. Think of this: you're in the audience near the front, there's an empty chair in front of you with a clear view of the speaker, and you can use this to hold your camcorder in place to capture the speaker.  Or you want to make your car into the coolest rolling camera out there. My new favorite, inexpensive all-purpose tool.
  • My Verizon MyFi internet card:  A productivity piece of insurance for when wifi isn't available, or too expensive. It supports up to 5 devices--or you and 4 of your pals at a conference who want to live-tweet.
  • My Droid phone, a Motorola phone with Verizon service. Getting to be a super productivity device, and I haven't even found all its charms yet. Having the Android platform, with all the Google tools I use, is critical. (See more below.)
  • Twitter, by which I mean Tweetdeck:  Twitter's such a part of my day, I'm not sure what I'd do without it...but I only manage my account on its website, preferring the utility of Tweetdeck for organizing my many conversations into manageable streams.  It offers many features beyond Twitter, from auto-shortening of URLs to translation of tweets in other languages.
  • FriendFeed:  Recently acquired by Facebook--which has adopted many of its features--FriendFeed at once incorporates the streaming commentary of Twitter with a longer format and a robust backchannel. I like that pictures and video are displayed with your post automatically, and I'm especially fond of the ability to pull multiple people into a direct-message conversation that goes back-and-forth, and privately. It's a great alternative to a conference call, particularly if you're discussing something confidential: think backgrounding a reporter, comparing notes on a new-hire interviewee, and more.
  • Blogger:  One of the Google products I've used for years--I support three blogs on this platform and, in its 10th year, Blogger's rewarding us with new features and functionality.
  • Google Reader:  What was I doing with other RSS readers? Google Reader is my inbox now, and its searchability and sharing options make it work beyond that capacity.
  • New York Times's Times People:  A reader network and sharing program, this lets you seamlessly "recommend" articles you read in the Times, as well as follow the selections of others. A nice feature: You can connect to dozens of Times editors and reporters and see their takes.
  • Prezi:  A new presentation tool and alternative to PowerPoint, Prezi has lots of charms, among them, the ability to map a presentation--and show the entire thing on one screen, so you can navigate easily back to a slide brought up in a question.  It works on your desktop and in a web application, and lets you share your slides, too.
  • Facebook:  The stickiest social network for many. I have a Facebook fan page for The Eloquent Woman blog and a public profile, and find that Facebook's facile combination of the visual, the shared and the social works for personal and professional purposes.
Is this it? Not by a long shot. I've started experimenting with Google Wave, for example, and am always looking for new tools for my utility belt. What are yours? Which do you find most useful?

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