New tools

I’m always on the lookout for new tools to help me organize the flood of varied information that flows through my inbox and brain in the course of a given day. Lacking a personal need, sometimes I will look for tools that my employer or coworkers can use to streamline the things we do every day.

As a reporter, this meant finding ways to streamline submitting articles for editing or researching or managing a stable and accurate list of contacts. All of my solutions involved Web-based tools; none of my suggestions were taken seriously because, well, sometimes newspapers are slow-moving beasts from another era that wouldn’t see the value of a time-saver if it bit them in the masthead. (Another reason could have something to do with the fact that most of my time-saving ideas were unsolicited, half-formed, crackpot notions that took advantage of whatever meme happened to be the buzzword of that particular month.)

At various times, my ideas have included a wiki for contacts — rejected by me on account of the fact that the wiki-style learning curve is a bit high for reporters with normal jobs to do. I considered whether my newspaper should publish blogs — something I still think the paper should do, something I would still be willing to do and get paid for, something that, alas, is still a long ways off.

My ideas also included the excellent 37signals product Highrise. Highrise is a collaborative contact manager that keeps track of notes, biographical details, phone numbers, and other data about people you or your coworkers have had contact with. Very nifty stuff, and it was just what I was looking for at the time.

While the Highrise service is great (and free, to some extent) the interface was less than I was willing to commit to; that is, I didn’t visit the Web site regularly enough to make use of it. My account is now so out of date, that I don’t even want to bother ever logging in again to try to update my files.

Now, I’m on to something new — new to me, at least. Google Sites. I know. That’s not exactly the newest meme on the block, but so far, it seems to be offering me the features I need: the ability to track a lot of random data about people in a search-able and organized way. It’s cloud computing, of course (everything is these days), so I can access it from home or wherever. Plus, it’s part of Google, which I use every day already.

Will my fixation with this new tool last? Hard to say. I hope so. I’d like to actually get a productivity boost out of some of the stuff I do, rather than an endless list of failed experiments.

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