August 12, 2009

Coolest power tools of some top geeks

The Geeks

JD LasicaDuring the Traveling Geeks’ trip to the United Kingdom last month, I spent some time polling the Geeks about the productivity and must-have tools that they use during the course of a typical workday.

I did the same thing during the first Geeks trip to Israel last year and came away with a wealth of apps, some of which I incorporated into my daily routine: See Tools the alpha geeks use. Back then, the list included Qik, TweetScan, FriendFeed, Skype, Bloglines, Pandora, Foxytunes, NetVibes, Socialthing, Seesmic, Adium — and it serves as an interesting snapshot in time of what tools some of the top Bay Area bloggers and technologists were using in spring 2008.

This time around there was more emphasis on social media services like Twitter as well as multimedia apps. Among the tools in the Geeks’ arsenal: Zemanta, Tweetdeck, HootSuite, PeopleBrowsr, Mindjet, Shopstyle and Friendfeed (Twitter and Facebook are givens). Remember, this is a partial, on-the-fly list of useful tools — intended to introduce readers to some apps they might not be using — and not a comprehensive list, and it also doesn’t take into consideration any of the startup apps’ we were introduced to in the UK.

Also, whether you’re a geek or not, please add your favorite tools in the comments so we can all learn what works for you!

Here’s our rundown:

JD Lasica

JD & MeghanFirefox, with occasional forays into Flock and Safari; Firebug and Zemanta plug-ins

WordPress, the open-source platform for my and blogs

• I just started using HootSuite 2.0, a Web-based, Ajax-smart Twitter application that I find superior (so far) to the downloadable Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop apps. (I’m @jdlasica on Twitter.)

Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheets, which are superior to Google Docs (though I use the latter when forced)

Fetch tied to BBEdit, to manage files on my blogs’ servers

Snapz Pro X, to capture images and movies from any Mac computer screen

Flickr Uploadr, to batch-upload photos to my Flickr photostream

Paparazzi, a wonderful tool for Mac users to capture entire Web pages — even the portions that appear below the fold

zohoFinal Cut Express for almost all my video editing

Gmail for email and to store files in the cloud

Google Talk and Skype for most of my chats

Delicious for social bookmarking in the cloud

Google Reader to keep track of blogs and share stories to Socialbrite

Vimeo and for video sharing

VLC, the open source media player, to watch videos in almost any format

• Still alternating between iTunes and Pandora for my music jones

• Still trying to learn QuickSilver (so far unsuccessfully) for keyboard shortcuts. Considering LaunchBar.

Google calendar to manage my events, though I need to get back to using Upcoming more.

Facebook for wasting time

iPhone apps: Google maps (for location), Stanza and eReader (for reading), experimenting with Twitterfon, Tweetdeck, Twittelator and Simply Tweet for Twitter, Evernote (for keeping notes online), Loopt and Google Latitude for geo-awareness, Yelp for restaurants, Rocket Taxi, iTalk and QuickVoice (for interviews and recording random thoughts)

Robert Scoble

Robert ScobleRobert — the former famed Microsoft blogger — has gone to an all-Mac household (“I like the OS better,” he says), though he runs Windows 7 using Parallels Desktop on his MacBook Pro laptop.

Robert generally chooses his apps to run in the cloud rather than buying OEM packaged software. “I’m trying to move my life completely to the browser. Ido everything on the Internet. The only thing I do locally is video editing,” for which he uses iMovie for his personal videos.

Some of his choice apps:

peoplebrowsrFriendfeed (“Friendfeed is my chat application.”)

PeopleBrowsr, for social media search

Mindjet, for mindmapping presentations

Tweetdeck, to manage Twitter

Seesmic, to post video and manage Twitter

Google Docs and Spreadsheets for free office applications

iPhone 3GS, SimplyTweet and whole bunch of other apps


Howard Rheingold

Howard RheingoldFirefox

CopyPaste Pro: “If I had to recommend only one tool for Mac users, this would be it. It remembers the last 200 objects of any media type that I cut or copied to the clipboard.”

Skype for voice over IP

Google Talk for chat

Social Media Classroom (of course)

Diigo, a research and knowledge-sharing tool

socialmediaclassroomFinal Cut Express


Seesmic Desktop



iPhone GS for video and Mobypicture and Pixelpipe apps

“Sky” Schuyler

Sky Schuyler, CTO of the Dalai Lama Foundation, served as the tech lead on our trip and time and again generously shared information about his tech habits. Some of his favorite tools:

WordPress to power a long list of blogs

• Sky uses a Flip Mino recorder and occasionally its internal software to do rudimentary video editing.

FeedWordPress: Sky configured this plug-in to suck our individual blog feeds into the WordPress blog.

YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plug-in), a Firefox plug-in for Firefox that finds related posts within my blog and I have configured it with a special CSS so it also displays little thumbnails next to the suggested posts.

PGP to encrypt email and confidential data on his computer.

Google Docs, chiefly for sharing word docs in the cloud.

Zemanta, the Firefox plug-in. “I can’t believe how much better my posts are, how much more relevant and complete they are.”

BBEdit for plain text processing (“I use this more than any other app except browsers”), Apple Pages for rich and beautiful documents, and Microsoft Office and Open Office otherwise.

OmniGraffle: Like Visio, it lets you create diagrams to group concepts together graphically.

• Sky runs Ubuntu, a Linux distribution, on a virtual machine. VMWare Fusion is the VM he uses to run Windows XP and Ubuntu 8.04; he “tests” incoming viruses by running WMWare “sandbox,” which he then throws away after infected.

QuickTime Pro and Final Cut Express for editing video, as well as Flip4mac to output videos in .wmv and .flv formats.

Tweetdeck, which he prefers over Seesmic Desktop.

Ecto to blog when offline and to cross-post more easily

Retrospect to back up photos and Apple’s Time Machine to back up everything — but he copies all his photos to physical storage data DVDs.

Meghan Asha

Meghan atop lionShopstyle, a shopping application that provides a visual search for online goods.

Tumblr, a blog platform and app that lets you publish videos and pictures from your cellphone, especially useful for lifecasting or moblogging. “Tumblr is amazing — if your grandmother didn’t know how to blog, go on there, it’s life-changing,” Meghan gushes.

iPhone apps: Mint, Yelp, Stanza (free app that lets you download and read from a selection of more than 100,000 books and periodicals), Pano ($2.99 app that lets you take seamless panoramic photos on your iPhone), and TalkBubbles ($4.99 app that lets you add dialogue in comic strip-like bubbles to your photos)

Skitch lets you annotate websites with comments, drawings, arrows, etc., then upload the sketch to their website and share it or blog it. “It’s just plain fun,” she says.

Zemanta, a Firefox browser add-on that lets you easily add images to your blog posts. I started using Zemanta on my WordPress blogs after meeting the company’s CTO and hearing Susan and Meghan rave about it.

Tweetdeck, a free downloadable app for both your computer and iPhone that lets you manage your Twitter stream.

iMovie, part of Apple’s iLife suite, to easily edit her videos. “No boy interns,” she sighed with a wan smile.

Susan Bratton

Susan BrattonMobyPicture for syndicating my photos and videos from my iPhone and Mac across all my social nets simultaneously (kicks TwitPic’s booty). Susan wrote about it on her DishyMix blog.

TweetLater Professional for scheduling tweets in advance (Susan wrote about it in her roundup of social media tools)

Trackur for online reputation management and social listening. It’s superior to Google Alerts. (See her post on Online Reputation Guidelines.

• Testing uberVU, a social media commenting tracking and reply system, in their private beta. (See her post on this.)

• A Twitter Custom Search bookmark on her Firefox browser toolbar (see her post on how to do this).

Skype with screen sharing (see Are You There? Skype is My Traveling Geeks Lifeline).

• Innovate Ads “video spokesperson” and video banners for my book, Talk Show Tips. See Creating a High Converting Video Spokesperson for Your Landing Page).

iMovie with YouTube uploader

WordPress with Zemanta plug-in (image and article recommendations) for Firefox


Flickr via iPhoto uploader

Tweetdeck on her Mac Mini

iPhone app: Twitterific

Craig Newmark

Sherry & CraigPine, an old-timey email application


Google calendar

Google docs

Google maps

Seesmic Desktop


iPhone apps, including Rimshot and Trombone (sound effects)

Renee Blodgett

Renee BlodgettEasyTweets: manage multiple Twitter accounts, SMS and email keyword alerts, schedule, import feeds, and more
GroupMail, a way to send personalized email marketing campaigns from your Windows desktop
Outlook, the perennial email client, and a customized Outlook marketing tool (a proprietary tool that converts Outlook stuff to formattable stuff for export and distribution to customized groups)
Google Maps
Flip camera
Ad-Aware for spyware
Acronis for data backup
Skype for international conversations and chat
Sharpcast for syncing your data across the Web for travel searches

Tom Foremski

Tom ForemskiEcto to post when offline but he is switching to MyBlogEdit and MovableType for their additional functionalities.

• He uses the url shortener from Stumbleupon for tweeting posts — now or later.


iMovie 8, “a great tool for quick video editing and upload”

Ayelet Noff

Ayelet NoffSome of the tools Ayelet used most during the Geeks’ trip:

Google Maps
Google calendar

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JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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4 thoughts on “Coolest power tools of some top geeks

  1. Amazed that none of you are using the TweetMeme button! :) It helps spread your content on Twitter through your readers much more effectively than them having to manually cut and paste it. And I know how much you all seem to love twitter! :)

    Shout if you need help integrating it… we have news re & our button imminently! :)

    Community Manager

  2. Webshots, and are some other good ones I use. Hard to add any other additions because they pretty much covered most of the important ones. Good list of tools, thanks.

  3. For Social Media tools, a few I like: Feedburner, Gravatar, Disqus, HootSuite, Amplify, Klout, Alltop, Google Reader, Google Keyword Tool, Google Alerts, Radian6, WildFire Promotions…to name a few off the top of my head! So many awesome tools out there! Thanks for the article.