Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top 10 Tools for Online Living

by Grace Bridges

The Internet's a crazy place. Over the years I've developed an arsenal of strategies to handle it and stay sane, too. Originally I was going to call this the Top 10 Online Tools for Writers, but in fact, they are essential for pretty much anyone who spends time interacting online. Some require a little techspertise, however, you'll soon find that it's worth it - they save so much time.

1. Email filtering - When you sign up to mailing lists or join groups or social networks, the amount of notifications landing in your inbox can be overwhelming. You can create folders and have messages from certain addresses or with certain keywords go straight there instead of clogging up your front page. Of course you can also opt out of notifications, but if you do want them, they don't have to swamp you.

2. RSS reader - I've already talked about this at the link, but in brief, you can add all your favourite blogs to a service where you can then peruse their titles like email subject lines. Only read the ones you are interested in - and you don't have to visit every site individually!

3. Facebook Landing List - Hundreds of friends? Their posts will only appear in your News Feed if Facebook's algorithm deems them worthy - decided by factors such as overall response to a post, or how much you interact with that person. But you can make a custom list with a subset of priority friends, then use that location as your landing pad and never miss anything truly important again.

4. Instant Messaging - There's nothing like it for teamwork or a bit of a chat. 'Nuff said?

5. Blog Scheduling - Statistics prove that certain times of day are more effective in gaining attention. Not around at those times? I'm not, because I sleep away most of the American day. So I schedule my posts for advantageous timing and head off to dreamland.

6. Blog Syndication - This is where it gets really powerful. A scheduled blog post, appearing while I sleep, triggers a Tweet on Twitter, two Facebook posts (one on my personal feed and the other on the Splashdown Books page) and one on Google Plus. Each with a link to the blog post and most with a preview image. In addition, post comments can appear as activity on Google Plus as well. To say nothing of the full post being pushed through to my Goodreads and Amazon profile pages. That's at least six different appearances for each post!

7. Free Phone Calls - Skype and Google Talk allow for international contact like never before.

8. Pinterest - I am still figuring out this one. But I must be doing something right, since I often get 20-30 repins and likes per day. The image's clickthrough link should always go to its original source, but my thought is that if I include a link in each pin's description, it can travel very far as it gets repinned - because people rarely bother to change the existing description. The trick now is to find a blog post or book of mine that is relevant to that pin.

9. UnPolitic.Me - Triggered by keywords of your choice, replaces Facebook posts with an Instagram feed of your choosing. In my case, I replace political comments with Doctor Who images. You may want to clean your feed of cats (perish the thought!), or babies, or food - this tool can do all of those things and more.

10. AdBlock Plus - Makes the Internet a nice place by removing all those junky advertisements.

So there we are. What are your favourite online tools?


  1. So you're sleeping while I comment on this post, Grace? I's probably getting warmer there too, while we are expecting snow flurries. But you're not walking upside down, right? :-)

  2. Oh boy, I am sure lagging with the techie side...but I'm still writing. Thanks for the helpful hints that I could manage, Grace!

  3. Grace, great tips! I hadn't heard about Unpolitic.Me and it sounds like an interesting tool.