My digital tool box

There are new useful sites springing up all the time so this is just a snapshot of the things that I use:

Service/categoryDescription
Analysis / measurement
Domain ToolsPaid for service site with some great free features including DNS look-up and the SEO browser, which allows you to see your web page the way a search crawler, would see it. This is really handy to use with clients who currently have a visual site or to just as part of a website audit.
Google TrendsGoogle Trends is a cornucopia of data to inspire campaign ideas and provide insight into a brand truth. The best bit about it is that its free and unlike other Google tools like Adplanner it hasn’t been crippled as the company got mean over the past few years.
MentionA freemium product that augments the reduced service that Google Alerts now provide.
SocialMentionA great free service to grab a snapshot of social activity. The most useful aspect of the service is getting an idea of the aggregated volume of conversations and most active accounts.
StateState is a self-described social opinion network where you can see what consumers think about brands or products often represented by a handy sentiment curve. Ok so the data will be skewed because the audience is self-selecting and tech forward, but it’s also a handy gut check on a brand.
Sysomos MAPOk so the agency subscribes to MAP, but it is such a useful part of my life. From new business to PR messaging and everything in between MAP is a major tool in our work. I found it more useful than Radian6 in terms of the quality of the information it provides
Tfengyun.comGet some basic research and analysis done on a Sina Weibo account. It is all in Chinese so be sure to break out Google Translate as well!
TwitterCounterDoes what it says in the name looks at the change in followers over a 90 day period of an account, which gives you an idea of performance. Handy for benchmarking against competitors or seeing how effective their activity has been.
Communication
BufferBuffer allows you to preload updates for Twitter, a Facebook page or even Google+. It is simpler to use than Hootsuite and allows inputs from IFTTT
IFTTTIFTTT allows you to build simple workflows based on a web input for instance a post tagged on Pinboard.in with a tag or an article in an RSS feed with a particular word. I have found it invaluable in my Twitter workflow. It is much more robust, but less sophisticated than Yahoo! Pipes
JegoJego is a VoIP application brought out by China Mobile. Despite the payment mechanism being very clunky the service is really useful. It is what powers my Hong Kong number and I get a bundle of call minutes with it rather like Skype. The call quality can be very rough, but I suspect that they Chinese will lift their game over time.
SkypeSo the user experience of Skype isn’t as good as it used to be. The NSA now listens into all of your calls that don’t get dropped or leave you ending up sounding like a dalek. But Skype’s premium account does allow you to do a WebEx-type webinar on the cheap including multiple callers and sharing a presentation.
TallTweetsIndonesians have a very distinctive Twitter culture. High profile account holders are often paid to tweet a long form message by brands. This is called a kultwit. TallTweets was one of the tools that they used; it slices long form messages down into a series of 140 characters that are transmitted one after the other to produce a continuous stream.
WeChatI can’t emphasise enough how useful WeChat is. It can be used on both a desktop and a mobile device, you can form groups on there; share content, do video calls. It is much better than the likes of Whatsapp or Viber in terms of functionality and quality of the service.
Inspiration
FlickrFlickr is one of the digital services that I have probably used the longest. At first I used it for image hosting for my blogs and I still do use it for that. But it is also so much more. It is a source of visual inspiration for ideas, brainstorms and even visuals for presentations. Flickr Creative Commons is one of the best examples of good stuff about the web.
PinterestApart from the copyright nightmare that Pinterest represents it is really interesting to search a topic and see what comes up as a kind of instant mood board.
News
Hacker News by Y CombinatorNot exactly news, but a great set of curated content that taps into the web zeitgeist. It saves time so you don’t have to be trawling Stack Overflow or Reddit.
NewsblurI am a massive advocate of Newsblur. Since Livedoor closed down it’s English language RSS reader I have been using Newsblur instead. The service has a great iOS client (which is better used on an iPad if I am honest), and has native support of numerous sharing / social bookmarking tools including Pinboard. There is also an Android client and a third party Windows Phone client for those of you who are mobile masochists. Newsblur takes RSS in a number of clever new directions, you can train it to show you only the content that you want to see and provides the content in a number of views including the original website design (for when you want to understand the context of the coverage), or just text (which is handy when you are on the go). Newsblur costs a very reasonable $24/year.
TechmemeTechmeme is an aggregator that collates the mainstream news; it replaced Google News for me since it was more the zeitgeist than Google managed.
Twitter listsTwitter is a great tool, but you need to slap a filter on the fire hose. I do this through using lists to give me a pared down view of what I need to know between the links to Buzzfeed articles and yet another cat picture from my friends.
Productivity
BasecampBasecamp offers a cost effective way to organise / upwardly manage clients and share content. You just set up a different account for each project stream or discrete client relationship and off you go. It is free for 30 days if you are looking at something short term or $20 / month
DownForEveryoneOrJustMeA single page site that does what it says in the title, really useful
Google DriveI am not necessarily a great fan of creating a document within Google; it can sometimes feel unresponsive, particularly over a corporate network or where you are collaborating on a document. It is however great for building surveys, customer service question databases for managing social media accounts or holding a common set of passwords.
HemingwayHemingway is like having an extra critical set of eyes go over your copy. I have started to use it for blog posts as a way of forcing me to look more critically at my writing and move away from my previous stream of consciousness approach.
iCloudApple’s web services have been a part of my life since 2001. Apple at the time offered the first advertising-free IMAP email account, syncable address book and calendar based on WebDAV and hCard standards/formats. It has become less useful since Apple did away with iDisk
MendeleyIf you’ve ever had to do some serious writing like a book chapter or a bylined article, having an application like Mendeley makes the process a lot easier. It is a mix of an application and cloud service that allows you to store citation materials, share with other writers and automatically build a bibliography within a Word document via a simple plug-in. Pretty much a must for journalists or corporate copywriters. Mendeley has a freemium model and at the top end, for just 11.99GBP/month you can have unlimited storage space
NoisliNoisli is a text editor designed to free you from distraction and is an essential part of my blogging workflow now. It’s white noise generation is also handy for when you want to get to sleep, I often leave my laptop logged in playing their rainfall noise when I am away and trying to get a good night’s sleep.
PDFEscapeOnline editing of PDF files
PinboardBack in the day there was a service called del.icio.us that allowed you to store all your bookmarks in the cloud and put labels on them called tags rather than having to put them in folders. This allowed your bookmarks to exist in multiple categories. delicious allowed you to search these categories. Unfortunately del.icio.us became delicious.com and got crippled in a spectacular bout of shareholder value destruction overseen by numerous managers at Yahoo! who understood the price of everything and the value of nothing as Bill Hicks would say. Pinboard was created as a home for del.icio.us refugees like me and works as an augmentation of my memory and as a hopper for me to feed content into IFTTT.
RibbetRibbet is a basic online photo editor that does everything that I need a photo editor to do. Usually I use it for altering images for use in presentations.
SkipSkip is the app formerly known as ClipPick, it is basically multi-device / multi-screen cut and paste. Simple, easy, instantaneous. Like it or not the current mobile/tablet systems and PC systems aren’t particularly open, they tend not to work together well unless inside a particular vendor walled garden like Samsung, Sony or Apple.Skip breaks down those walls, it’s kind of like Google was in that once you start using it you couldn’t imagine life without it. Some really nice people in South Korea make it; show them some download love.
WeTransferThe simplest handy way of shipping files around. A lot of people find it hard to grasp the concept of Dropbox so the one-click approach of WeTransfer is really handy.
Planning tools / research
AcronymFinderClients love TLAs and FLAs as professional shorthand, use AcronymFinder to work out what they are actually saying (TLA: three-letter acronym; FLA: four-letter acronym)
Archive.orgNeed to understand a former organisation? The Wayback Machine becomes particularly handy in understanding an organisation that has acquired or merged other businesses together.
CIA World Fact BookSurprisingly useful almanac of economic and infrastructure data from the Central Intelligence Agency. Everything from time zones to what the flag looks like.
DogpileDogpile is a meta search engine. It trawls a number of search engines rather than just Google to present you with potential answers
Eurostat databaseThe European Commission pulls together a lot of research every year and gives it away to the likes of you and me for free. You can get some real gems that come in handy for campaign planning and ideation.
Federal Election Committee financial reports and dataHandy when you are doing a search on likely reputational risks of clients. See whose campaign they donated to and the kind of issues that these people support.
Follower WonkProbably one of the most useful Twitter tools out there which allows you to look at third party Twitter accounts and see which have common followers or not. Really handy for doing influencer mapping incorporating competitor thinking. It is part of the Moz series of products so costs, but is worth it.
Google search boxBaidu talks a lot about the concept of ‘box computing’ where the search box is actually the gateway to other services, but Google has a lot of inbuilt services that people don’t realise. These services came from its competition with the likes of Yahoo! as it grew to be the online oligarchy that it currently is. More information on Google’s hidden features can be found in my Grokking Google series of posts
InfomineA handy augmentation to searching for research papers on Google Scholar
IPL2An old school search engine a la the Yahoo! Directory of old that is curated by US librarians so is full of high quality links.
IxquickA surprisingly useful and fast search engine, pull this out of the bag if Google isn’t giving decent results.
SimilarsitesReally handy for looking at influencers in a given sector once you have one, Similarsites can then be used to suggest others within a ranked system based on how close they are to the seed site you have used
The Economist World in FiguresThis used to be a free to access website and is now bundled up as a free iPhone and iPad application as an ideal counterpart to the CIA World Fact Book
WordPress.comA surprising recommendation for research, but a quick search of WordPress.com is worthwhile as people will often have an email address on their profile. Either using a domain specific search on Google find someone’s WordPress.com profile or by exploring the tags.
Travel
FoursquareFoursquare’s explorer function allows you to search an area by category for people driven recommendations. I have found it useful because of the map driven interface. Foursquare replaced Dopplr in my travel folder after Nokia shut it down.
Open RiceDetailed restaurant recommendations for Hong Kong. Hong Kong locals are some of the most exacting food critics I know which means that the Open Rice database is uncommonly useful. I recommend downloading the Open Rice mobile apps.
Skyscanner and OnTheFlyBooking flights can be a bit of a nightmare Skyscanner and OnTheFly provide background information to help you make the right choice of flight.

What services do you use that you would recommend, pop them in the comments section below

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Is the DOJ Forcing Banks to Terminate the Accounts of Porn Stars? | VICE News – regardless of the moral aspects of the industry, what is interesting is the extra-judical nature of the way the accounts are closed down. What happens when they start using this as an economic weapon to protect strategic US business interests…

Wolverton: Smartwatches show promise, but need work – SiliconValley.com – it is very early days with wearables yet

Global Automotive Demand: Spotlight on China | Nielsen

The Internet Is Being Protected By Two Guys Named Steve | Buzzfeed – surprisingly readable Buzzfeed article on the developers behind OpenSSL

8 Things Most People Don’t Know About Amazon’s Bestsellers Rank (Sales Rank) | MakeUseOf – as important as SEO to sellers

Alibaba buying stake in Youku Tudou, a Chinese Web TV company, for $1.2 billion | NY Times – it is Jack Ma rather than Alibaba but you get the gist from the headline, not sure how good a deal it is for him now that the Chinese government is banning some of the most popular content on these streaming channels like Big Bang Theory

Taiwanese ‘chameleon’ workers vs Chinese ‘tigers’|WantChinaTimes.com – Taiwanese employees, generally speaking, can be characterized by make efforts to fit in and fulfill work commitments, while their Chinese counterparts think more about “winning,” and how best to earn money and be successful

Fake luxury goods market in China moves to WeChat | WantChinaTimes – no real surprise

Super rich get to cash in on luxury assets | CityAM – interesting move putting luxury assets as a financial instrument basically. Probably says something about the values of stocks, bonds and currency?

Russia’s Hoping to Make Its GLONASS Positioning System a Competitor to GPS | Motherboard – this could be interesting if one cross-referenced Galileo, GLONASS and GPS

What do you get if you cross a suitcase with rollerblades? » The SpectatorThere are several reasons why video-conferencing has been so slow to take off. In the business world, it was mistakenly sold as ‘the poor man’s air travel’ when it should have been positioned as ‘the rich man’s phone call’. But in the home setting, I think there is another problem. Bluntly put, video-conferencing on a PC or mobile phone fails because we just don’t like many people enough to want their face within two feet of our own.

The smart businesses are investing in things that will make your clients obsolete | Advertising news | Campaign – digital isn’t just about data and business models but disruptive non-hierarchical networks of people. Hasn’t it always been?

Is OnePlus a wholly owned subsidiary of Oppo? Chinese document suggests that the answer is yes – this is interesting, particularly as OPPO is as smart a brand marketer as you have in China

China’s censors order 4 US shows to be taken off streaming sites

Executives in China earning more than their companies | WantChinaTimes – part of a culture of making money today as you don’t know what tomorrow may bring

Guangdong TV and radio broadcasters form conglomerate | WantChinaTimes – interesting media consolidation moves in China

Time to bid farewell to Barbie, say China’s toymakers | WantChinaTimes – China needs to move up the food chain to be competitive, no longer lowest cost manufacturing base

华为商城官网 -华为官方电子商务平台,提供华为手机(华为荣耀3C、畅玩版、3X、X1、P6等)、平板电脑、移动终端等产品。 – Huawei’s new direct e-tailing channel for China, also features opportunity for customer feedback. I guess trying to be Xiaomi with Huawei sensibilities

Huawei sets sights on Samsung, aims to rule 4G era | WantChinaTimes – Shao Yang has big dreams. Huawei phones would need to improve software, hardware and online services in order for this to happen. At the moment from a technical and design point of view they don’t compare to the likes of Oppo, Xiaomi, Samsung or Apple. In addition, Huawei would need to do a 180 degree turnaround on brand marketing and advertising which is only likely to happen over Mr Ren’s dead body. Mr Ren is said to believe that the best advertisement for Huawei is its people which is fine when you aren’t marketing consumer goods

Race against the clock: Shinkansen staff have just 7 minutes to get bullet train ready to ride | RocketNews24 – really interesting bit of process design

Are US universities are choosing rich Chinese students over Asian Americans? | Quartz – not so sure about the racism of US universities but wealthy Chinese families sending their kids is on a definite growth spurt

Hermes holds first sale in China as frugality drive bites | WantChinaTimes

China Now Has Over 250,000 4G Base Stations | ChinaTechNews

My Blogging Process – 2014 edition

Over the past few months I have revised the way I write my blog. My research comes from a range of diverse sources, my RSS reader Newsblur, is the prism through which I view the online world. I am signed up to some email news letters including Paul Armstrong’s Orange Concentrate, Design Taxi and Benedict Evans’ weekly email drop. I also have started to get more content from WeChat’s moments section and a few Twitter lists that I have set up. Having a cloud cut and paste function like ClipPick | Skip has proved invaluable in transferring material between my mobile devices and my Mac. There is something magical about the way Skip works.

I still start the ideation for posts in the same way I have done for a good while. Either with a mind map in a Moleskine book drawn with a Muji gel ink pen (black only – like my coffee); or freestyle from a set of links I keep in my augmented memory (aka pinboard.in). Occasionally writers block may set in and I look to Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies for creative inspiration.

But the process of getting the posts down has changed. I do my initial draft in Noisli. Noisli is a distraction-free online text editor. It allows you to play white noise in the background, which comes in handy when I don’t have my iPod to hand.

I can then save the post down as a text file on to the computer that I am using, or cut and paste it from Noisli. I usually cut and paste the text into Hemingway. Hemingway acts like an editor recommending where to simplify copy structure to improve readability.

More information
Pinboard (here is my public account page)
Moleskine
Muji
Newsblur
WeChat
Orange Concentrate
Noisli
Skip (the service formerly known as ClipPick) by Sentence Lab of Korea
Hemingway

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Nike CEO Confirms Move Away from Wearables“I think we will be part of wearables going forward, it’ll be integrated into other products that we create.” – doesn’t really sound like a move away, but a change in tack, wearables become hygiene rather than a product category?

Why Burberry’s ‘Unusual’ Tmall Shop Is A Savvy China Move – because Alibaba owns e-commerce in China

When Orange is not Just a Colour, and Other Challenging Queries | Brandwatch – great post on honing searches

Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery – from the original NASA missions of 1965 and 1966

Vladimir Putin Wants His Own Internet | Slate – interesting less because of the geopolitical theatre than it represents the kind of existential threat that the cloud faces as a business model and the balkanisation of the Internet due to security concerns from ECHELON to Snowden and beyond

Requiem for the Middleman | Slate – interesting critique of the sharing economy

$45 a Month for Unlimited Coffee | Slate – this needs to come to London and Hong Kong pronto

Apple filing points to ‘next big thing’ | FT Tech blog – 2.8 billion dollars put aside for whatever new thing is going into the pipeline

Digital Mapping May Be Nokia’s Hidden Jewel – NYTimes.com – Microsoft wanted to buy Here and failed why would Nokia sell? More likely the company gets bought and broken up for resale

Government Clampdown Trips Up Sina | Young’s China Business – this has been astounding

To surf or not to surf? That is the question – interesting take on Yahoo!’s finances by our Nigel

How do Chinese Phones cost so little? The reasons why availbility is an issue, demand is high and prices are low – Gizchina.com | Gizchina.com

Amazon and the Squeezing of the Middle Class | Gawker – Amazon eating its own customer base?

It’s mostly Android deserters who buy cheap iPhones | BGR – interesting that Apple is getting Android transfer rather than feature phone users

The US just isn’t that important of a market for Huawei, after all | Quartz – but Europe is critical

I, Cringely Digital Me: Will the next Cringely be from Gmail? – I, Cringely – is Google using the mail provider for machine learning as well as advertising?

Design News – Automotive Infotainment Still ‘Bugs’ Luxury Vehicles – it scares me that this is becoming more pervasive

UK Tea Tastes Turn Premium | EuroMonitor International – interesting to see, especially with Premier Foods having had poor financial results this week

Felix Salmon is leaving Reuters for the Fusion network because the future of media is “post text” – a loss for Reuters as Salmon has a great understanding and opinionated view of the sector. Not so sure about the ‘post text’ explanation, I presume they mean programmes on the wireless or them new fangled ‘talkies’ that they show at the cinema filmed in Hollywood

Mindshare launches The Loop | Marketing Interactive – this is interesting; real-time marketing a la the Oreo black out becomes a service sold around events on a Regus serviced office-type model

F.B.I. Informant Is Tied to Cyberattacks Abroad | NY Times – FBI sanctioned hacking overseas to gather intelligence?

Apple’s Profit Still Climbs, but Pressure is Growing – NYTimes.comIf Apple grew the next five years like it did the previous five years, it would be approaching the G.D.P. of Australia

Facebook Beats In Q1 With $2.5B In Revenue, 59% Of Ad Revenue From Mobile, 1.28B Users (Josh Constine/TechCrunch) – how much of this revenue is from contextual marketing and how much is from app installs? If the focus is the latter it could be like the business of selling McMansions during the US property boom – wait for the bust…

Study: Samsung’s Apps Are Ubiquitous but Unloved – Digits – WSJ – the most damning number here has to be the percentage usage of ChatOn – given that OTT messaging platforms are currently the hot thing in mobile apps. Even in Korea KakaoTalk would be kiling it, maybe it would make sense for Samsung to buy some great Korean companies like Sentence Lab and Kakao Software

Micro-Robots Are Scary Awesome | Hack A Day – these could be more interesting than 3D printing for manufacturing

Qualcomm Slips: FYQ2 Rev Misses; Raises Year EPS View | TechTraderDaily – not terribly surprising given that Chinese smartphone sales volumes were down

IBM unveils Power8 and OpenPower pincer attack on Intel’s x86 server monopoly – interesting that the focus isn’t necessarily computing power per watt of energy expended

WeChat To Launch Self-Serve Advertising System In Weeks — China Internet Watch – this is a really big deal

BlueFocus chief Oscar Zhao outlines global ambitions | PR Week – 30 per cent revenue from overseas or 900M USD annual billings by 2022

Five for Saturday

Five for Friday went a bit Pete Tong this week so now its Five for Saturday. Here are five of the things that made my week:

London-based graphic designer Toby Evans on design and his love of the Mark I Volkswagen Golf

Caterpillar’s wonderful video showing its machinery playing Jenga is like something stolen straight from my childhood dreams and a credit to the drivers operating the vehicles

I think it says a lot about the state of technology hardware at the moment and in particular Google Glass that this year’s Google I|O conference will focus on design – industrial design and visual design rather than engineering is part of the zeitgeist and I suspect that the attendees will be going on as much of a learning journey as the host. To promote the conference Google put this video together. Whilst I am a skeptic of Google Glass in its current form, I think that the approach to the product design was very interesting.

DJ Greg Wilson, who is a personal hero of mine, posted this mix from last year on Soundcloud. As usual it has a superb selection of edits on board

B-Classic is a Belgian festival trying to make classical music relevant by commissioning video directors to produce a contemporary accompaniment. The video features Korean dance team Waveya providing their interpretation of Dvořák – Symphony No. 9 Allegro con fuoco.

There is a good video providing background on how they came to put Dvořák to twerking Korean girls in hot pants (not that I am complaining).