Tivo for Your Browser: Unclutter Your Life by Saving Articles for Later

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have TIVO for your browser?

That way you could save articles later so they don’t interrupt your busy day and distract you from what needs to get done.

This is a great GTD or Getting Things Done tip (David Allen’s system, in case you haven’t come across it because you’ve been slumbering or just too dang good at tasks to bother with improvement).

There is such a way. Tivo, of course, allows you to save TV shows for later consumption. Back in the good old days (when there was Tivo and ReplayTV), the boxes would even strip out commercials.

It’s the reason I used to *love* my ReplayTV. The unit would “sense” the breaks between commercial outro and into and jump completely across the advertising content. It drove the advertisers crazy and was bullied out of the product.replaytv

Anyway, those early DVRs effectively stripped out advertising (it wasn’t perfect, but 70-75% was freakin fantastic).

Now there’s a way to do this to the articles you consume on the Web. You know the ones – those tabs that stack up because your curious intentions motivate you to read every cool thing known to your favorite online rag, mag, newspaper or Twitter (or Facebook) leader.

Here’s how it works.

First, check out this nifty little service: Read Laterinstapaper

Read Later (or Instapaper) allows you to click a bookmark/script and save articles for later on your Instapaper.com account.

You can then close out the tabs immediately, knowing that they’re waiting for you later.

At a time of your choosing, you can come back to Instapaper and select the “Text” link in your article list. The program formats the text as beautiful, clean, advertising-free, seriphed black text on a clean white background (perfect formatting if you’re familiar with research on eyestrain, comprehension  and retention). The article contains a subtle link back to the original article, in case you want to Tweet it, Ping.fm it, or “Share on Facebook.”

There’s another tool you can use to do the same text clean-up trick immediately. It’s called Readability. The slick app allows you to choose the font, point size and format of your text to be read. The buttons on the side allow you to easily and quickly get back to the original article (for Tweeting, sharing or Facebooking purposes, for example). readability

Both of these are cool. And they help me “get clear” and get back to work.

Have you tried either? What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.

P.S. The two solutions go great with RSS feed readers, too. Good way to filter articles and read later in a clean, consistent format.

The New “Inbox Dilemma” – Tabbed Browsing

A lot of people talk about email inbox distress, “inbox zero” and other related phenomena. Yes, too much email blows, and there’s no end in sight. You can filter conversations and contacts via Facebook, Twitter, IM, Gist and the like, but business people still rely heavily on email to track projects and keep in touch.

But.. I’ve got another problem that I’m sure you’re familiar with.

I call it Tabbed Browsing Hell for lack of a better name. This is the scenario where you’re so engrossed in research or just plain media consumption that you open tons of tabs. Eventually, you become burdened by them. They have psychic energy that can drain and distract you.

So what’s a boy (or girl) to do?

I found a nifty way to clear things up (at least for a while). It’s akin to stuffing papers into file folders in order to get a clean desk.

But it’s pretty slick to boot.

First, check out this nifty little service: Read Laterinstapaper

Read Later allows you to click a bookmark/script and save articles for later on your Instapaper.com account.

But wait, there’s more! (not steak knives or a slotted spoon)

When you want to back and read the articles you’ve gathered in Read Later, you can use another bookmark/script to force them into a clean, standardized format for consumption (you choose the font size and format). It’s called Readability. The buttons on the side allow you to easily and quickly get back to the original article (for Tweeting, sharing or Facebooking purposes, for example). readability

I think it’s pretty cool. And it helps me “get clear” and get back to work.

Have you tried it? What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.

P.S. The two solutions go great with RSS feed readers, too. Good way to filter articles and read later in a clean, consistent format.

How to Filter Out Noise and Re-Claim Social Media Trust

And they heard two friends.. and so on, and so on..
And they heard two friends.. and so on, and so on..

Search Engine Land recently ran an short article posing the question: Is Trust in Social Media Dying? It’s a quick statistical look at the dip in trust across social networks.. and the problem seems to be “marketing.”

I’d like to take their analysis a little further.

Yes marketing messages have infiltrated every nook and cranny of social media networks (whether that’s apps that friends recommend you get, groups they want you to join, or games they’d like you to play). Yes – the proliferation of acquaintances rather than real, trusted friends is part of the problem. Everyone seems to think they’re a micro-business (or some kind of eBay/e-commerce part-timer).

From my vantage point, the extended issue involves a re-introduction of traditional marketing methods on an organic medium. What do I mean by that? Here’s the simple version: People are attempting to force old methods – like multi-level marketing techniques, aggressive networking and referrals, and spammy recommendations that lead to affiliate links – onto the new social channels, and it’s not working.

Couple this phenomenon with the fact that noise levels are at all time highs, and you’ve got distrust. Social media was supposed to cut down noise after all. Your trusted group was supposed to help you filter out the noise. Yet people have been shooting themselves in the feet because they treated “friending” as a gold rush scenario.  Collecting followers does not lead to valuable information exchanges.

So what do you do to gain back that trust and make your social networks work for you?

1. Delete spammy acquaintances from your personal social media networks (use a tool like Twitter Karma, for example).

2. Participate with authenticity – send out the messages and information that you’d like to see coming back your way. This is another karma play of sorts. You get what you give – it’s that simple.

3. If you’re using Social Media Marketing (SMM) for business, start acting like an artist (ask Seth Godin about this – or read his Linchpin Book). And I don’t mean acting as in faking. I mean acting as in action. Create something remarkable, give gifts, push through to make it better, and connect people in meaningful ways.

4. Tell the truth. Stop saying your feet hurt so you can score a free pair of shoes (like the Timberland guy did on Twitter). Those days are over. That was yesterday’s creative PR move. Write honest reviews of products. And, treat your product reviews as a niche business. Huh? Yes – pick a tight little corner of the world and dedicate your reviewing resources to that (foi gras, 1-inch heels, gerbil racing, nudist party planning, the worst selling products on Amazon, beard growth tips, whatever). Who knows, some day some company might want to advertise on your site and tap your network.

5. Connect offline. Go to tweet-ups, meet your friends in person (heck, use something like Gowalla or FourSquare to make it happen), and talk about the ideas you’ve been sharing online. There is no substitute for social contact (faces are amazing things), and the serendipity of discussion often reveals precious insights because it’s not premeditated (like a Tweet or FB post). Get out there an blurt in the real world.

These tips should help you filter out a lot of noise and get you back to the genuine, productive, value-rich conversations that social media is so good at cultivating.

If you do it right you don’t have to sweat this declining trust trend.

Anyone have more tips? Please comment below.

Google Buzz: How will it know what I share?

Louis Gray wrote a good article on Google Buzz today. He hits on the key factors at the very end (3rd paragraph from the end). He says, “So how can Google determine relevancy with Buzz and start making sense of the social? Starting with GMail gives the company a major headstart, as they already know which contacts you trade e-mail with most often. They know how often you read e-mail from specific people, who you chat with most frequently by using the integrated GTalk feature, and they will often have data from you that provides your location, helping to tap that metric as well.”

This is definitely where the rubber meets the road. Depending upon how you use the web, your browser, social networks and the like, Google could potentially know loads of information regarding *who’s sharing what and how important are they are to you based on your emails, texts, IMs and voice calls.* This gets really scary when you consider someone like me who has almost all the Google tools integrated – including Gmail, Google Talk, Google Voice and their various extensions in Google Chrome.

Or not – I’m pretty exposed Web-wise, anyway. Of course, it could be very useful for productivity, time-saving, entertainment, buying short-cuts, etc. That’s the grand vision, for sure.

Interestingly, the only way Google doesn’t know what I’m sharing is if I post directly via Twitter, Facebook, Ping.fm, Hello.txt or some other social aggregation/post tool.

One thing I’ve noted.. Google could have gathered much more data about the content people share if they’d done a better job integrating “send link as email” within Chrome. Firefox does this really well. With Chrome you have to have an extension (apparently the 3rd pty one works best).. to pop open a gmail page and send. How much info are they missing when chrome users share using other tools because it’s not so easy with their own browser?

This will be a hot topic for some time to come.. what are your thoughts?

How to Simplify your Social Media Life: The Pros and Cons of Posterous, Soup.io, ShareIn and FriendFeed

One of the biggest problems with social media communication is the drudgery of sharing links, making comments and updating groups.

Several sites aim to make this process easier… namely, Posterous, Soup.io, FriendFeed and ShareIn. I’ve tried all of them, and I’d say they’re “almost ready for primetime.” Each has value, and each has significant drawbacks.

This is a quick review that’s interested in answering the question: “How can these tools make my social media life easier to manage?” I’m not so much interested in questions like, “What’s the most powerful, flexible blogging platform?” That’s another issue together (and the answer is WordPress, btw).

I’ll start with ShareIn, since it’s the simplest tool of the three. Here’s how I use it: I opened an account, dragged their bookmarklet to my Firefox bookmark toolbar, adjusted my settings in ShareIn to update my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and then started selectively posting links, videos and photos to my pages via the bookmarklet. It’s useful, because if I’m reading an article and want to share it with friends without emailing it (a less invasive or interrupting method of sharing), I can do this quickly with a couple of clicks.

ShareIn places the appropriate links and images in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I can do both at once or just do only Twitter or only Facebook. I notice that there’s a delay for image loading within my Facebook page. During this time a ShareIn logo sits in the position where the media image or photo should go. That’s slightly annoying.

When users click on the links, they’re sent to the article or media. Pretty direct and simple. There’s a ShareIn banner at the top of the web page that can be clicked closed. I’m calling it a banner, but it’s really just a strip at the top which allows users to continue to share the link on their social networks. It’s viral that way. When you close it, you’re presented with the original URL and page. Either way – open or closed – you have a nice big view of the article or media. Here’s an example of how a ShareIn link looks.

This does make sharing info easier on Twitter and Facebook. It works as advertised and has some nice back-end reporting features that show you the popularity of your posts and so forth.

I tried ShareIn because I was frustrated with Posterous’s quirky linking practices. But Posterous has some nifty features and advantages. It’s much more than ShareIn, even though it does some of the same kinds of things.

What do I mean by quirky Posterous linking? Here’s the deal. When you link to online media and articles with Posterous, the link you share is a link to your Posterous blog… not to the original article. That’s problematic for me. This linking process (and the Facebook/Twitter integration) is done via a bookmarklet in Firefox, like ShareIn, and your “share” settings within Posterous (they include more services than just Facebook and Twitter).

[BTW – Posterous is essentially a blogging service, like Soup.io, Tumblr and other blogs.. but it’s different, because it’s primarily designed to blog things that you send in via email. You send content (photos, videos, documents, etc.) to post@posterous.com, and the information is nicely posted to your Posterous blog. Mine is http://phildunn.posterous.com/. It’s quick and easy to set up. Check out the Posterous site to see more of the benefits and unique features. It’s pretty slick.]

The way Posterous links is problematic, because of the way my Twitter and Facebook followers consume information. In Facebook, for example, the peruser of my content sees a nifty graphic or photo related to the story I linked to, but the link itself goes to my Posterous page, and on that page there’s only a tiny little link that goes to the original article (it’s easy to miss it). The common experience on Facebook is to click on the link and arrive at the article or media. With Posterous posts, I’m forcing them to jump through a multiple click process – if they even see the link to the original content in the Posterous post. The same thing happens with the Twitter links that are created by Posterous.

I didn’t like that – so that’s why I ended up at ShareIn.

Posterous is great, however, for sharing family photos and videos.. and then having them automatically blast out to Twitter and Facebook friends. That feature works great. Posterous makes slick galleries of multiple photos and those show up really nicely in Facebook. If you post from YouTube that shows up nicely in Facebook, as well.

My deal is that I want one tool to make all these things happen with a minimum number of clicks. Is that so much to ask?

Soup.io is somewhat different animal. It’s like Posterous in that you can send emails to Soup.io, and they’re posted on your blog page. In a way, it’s like Posterous in reverse, however. With Soup.io, you *import* content into your blog page from other services like Twitter, FriendFeed and so forth (I didn’t see Facebook integration available). This reminds me. I want to talk a little about FriendFeed at the end of this article.. coming soon. Here’s what my Soup.io page looks like: http://phildunn.soup.io/ (admittedly, I don’t spend as much time here as I do other places).

When I set up “import” with Twitter and YouTube, for example, Soup.io grabs all my shared content on those services and shows them in my Soup.io feed. This happens automatically moving forward. I’ve yet to see a way to click the “post to soup” bookmarklet and have that content automatically update my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

So Soup.io is not quite there yet, either. All these platforms have nifty features, but they’re not quite optimal for a user like me who wants to share articles, videos, photos and personal blog info, links, etc.

I’d say ShareIn is the best option for posting online content to Twitter and Facebook. Posterous is great for posting personal photos and videos and having that propagate out to Facebook and Twitter automatically (along with a host of other platforms – you can even have it automatically update your own blog, like a WordPress blog or Blogger blog). Soup.io is good for bringing everything to one place… the problem is that you have to update all the other services separately, and that doesn’t make any sense at all to me. I want a place where I can post once and forget about visiting Twitter and Facebook until there’s some interest or discussion going on those particular platforms.

Now this brings me to FriendFeed, which is kind of a hybrid. It’s half Soup.io because it allows you to import content from a lot of your favorite sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Picasa, Flickr, Digg, YouTube, etc.  And it’s half Posterous, because it allows you to automatically publish (export) your FriendFeed updates to Twitter. There are currently Facebook apps that appear to enable updating of Facebook via FriendFeed, but I’ve yet to see something that looks reliable (please let me know if I’ve missed something). The intriguing thing is that Facebook recently bought FriendFeed, so there’s bound to be better integration coming down the line… or a transformation of Facebook and the obliteration of FriendFeed. Who knows.

So there you have it. I’m sticking with ShareIn for most of my needs. But I am using Posterous for family stuff (photos, videos and such). One caveat: if you want all these things to work well together, you need to have your settings in each platform perfect. Otherwise, you’ll multiple post to different social media sites. And that’s annoying. It’s pretty easy, though, so I won’t get into it here.

I’ve got another post coming about Eye-Fi – this one is perhaps the best technology innovation for social media I’ve ever encountered (as it pertains to photo and video sharing). This falls under the same category of this post, which is “How to make social media easier.” Until then, enjoy.

New Post: Beyond the Smoke, Hype and Fanfare – What is Social Media?..really