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There are new useful sites springing up all the time so this is just a snapshot of the things that I use as my digital tool box:
|Digital tool box for analysis / measurement
|Paid 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 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.
|A freemium product that augments the reduced service that Google Alerts now provide.
|A 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.
|State 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.
|Ok 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
|Get 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!
|Does 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.
|Buffer 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
|IFTTT 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
|Jego 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.
|So 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.
|Indonesians 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.
|I 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.
|Flickr 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.
|Apart 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.
|Digital tool box for News
|Hacker News by Y Combinator
|Not 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.
|I 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.
|Techmeme is an aggregator that collates the mainstream news; it replaced Google News for me since it was more the zeitgeist than Google managed.
|Twitter 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 digital tool box
|Basecamp 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
|A single page site that does what it says in the title, really useful
|I 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.
|Hemingway 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.
|Apple’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
|If 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
|Noisli 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.
|Online editing of PDF files
|Back 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.
|Ribbet 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.
|Skip 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.
|The 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 / research digital tool box
|Clients 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)
|Need 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 Book
|Surprisingly useful almanac of economic and infrastructure data from the Central Intelligence Agency. Everything from time zones to what the flag looks like.
|Dogpile is a meta search engine. It trawls a number of search engines rather than just Google to present you with potential answers
|The 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 data
|Handy 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.
|Probably 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 box
|Baidu 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
|A handy augmentation to searching for research papers on Google Scholar
|An old school search engine a la the Yahoo! Directory of old that is curated by US librarians so is full of high quality links.
|A surprisingly useful and fast search engine, pull this out of the bag if Google isn’t giving decent results.
|Really 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 Figures
|This 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
|A 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 digital tool box
|Foursquare’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.
|Detailed 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 OnTheFly
|Booking 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 for a digital tool box? More related content here.