Still in Germany fighting the road crud I caught a week ago… fun. While trying not to wander out in the winter wind of Koln, I thought I’d share some of the other things I’ve been tinkering with in the past few months.

Flock

The web browser for you and your friends.

I have mentioned that I have been using Flock as my primary browser. It’s basically a modified version of Firefox/Mozilla with a focus on blogging and social networking. Built into its interface is the ability to blog directly, a very easy folder style RSS news reader, a toolbar interface to work with the photo sharing services Flickr and Photobucket that gives you the ability to look at yours and other peoples photos while your main window is still open (as well as an uploading tool) and a built in tagging system that will save favorites, tag and send the information to your tagging site like del.icio.us and Shadows. It also accepts the Attention Trust‘s Attention Recorder and certification plug in.

For the most part, if you are comfortable with Firefox the interface is an easy switch. I put my usual must visits in the bookmark toolbar so they are ready at all times. I added Stumble Upon as well for those times when you want to find something cool that you didn’t know you were looking for.

The RSS reader was the key player for me in the start as I was able to transfer over my list from Radio Userland as an OPML file and import all my feeds with a click of a button. You can easily organize your news sources/blogs/photo feeds/forum feeds into groups and folders and they are displayed on the left when you open the news reader. If they are bold there is new content; if they are not, no new posts are there. It’s also a good way to tell what you’ve already read as it stops being bold once you access it.

The browser was a little buggy when it checked the feeds initially but they have done a new version and I have yet to see an error message like the one I used to get all the time. The only draw back (for me) is the fact it is folder based and not the “River of News” style which makes a list in reverse chronological order like the old Radio Userland, Dave Winer’s OPML editor and the the Google Reader (more on Google’s product later). A refresh button would have been nice as well.

The tagging system is easy and remembers your past tags so if you’re always repeating yourself like me they autofill in the box… great time saver. You can keep your favorites private or share them with the world. There has been delays in having the tags sent to del.icio.us on occasion but a reboot usually reminds it what it is supposed to do. I have a del.icio.us sidebar so I can easily see if it is keeping up to date.

I’m only just getting intro the photo sharing toolbar. I have a flickr account and so do many of my friends. This toolbar will let you know when your friends have new pictures to see and you can just drag down their name from the pull down menu and have thumbnails of their latest photos scroll across the top of your browser page, not changing the page you are viewing. You can click on the thumbnail to see the original or literally scroll through their entire online collection as it streams into Flock. The uploading tool will sense if you are going to a Flickr or Photobucket uploading page and ask you if you’d like to set Flock to have your settings so you can just do it from the browser without going to the page. You can do batch processing, doing titles, descriptions and tags from the toolbar window before you push upload and send the files and metadata to the service.

Blog posting is easy; pull it down from the menu bar and a window opens. You type and press send. It goes to your blog. You can also access from the news reader from each news item sharing the story and link from it. It works with most of the major blogging platforms; I have tested it with my new blog (bittermancircle.com/wordpress) and it seems to be quite reliable.

Attention Trust

The folks over at the Attention Trust also made their attention recorder plug in work for Flock as it does with Firefox. The attention recorder keeps track of your clickstream, your attention, where you go, what you look at and when. Their idea is that you create a vast amount of data that companies will pay for (marketing, research, advertisers) and that you should be able to control it and do with it what you will. Places like Google and Amazon track everything you do and don’t let you have that data; it’s too valuable to them or others to let go of. With the attention recorder not only do you have the ability to keep a local record of where you’ve been but you can store it with a trusted service. You will in time be able to generate revenue with this record of where you’ve been and what you looked at. If there are places you’ve gone you want no one to know about there is a great big button that turns from green to red to turn it off and you can also edit your data or exclude domains from the record. If this sounds interesting, visit Attention Trust and the Gesture Bank. I think it will be a big issue in the near future.

Google Reader

A while back I had heard that Google had a news reader. If you go beyond the search box, you’ll find they have almost everything, including the ability to do spreadsheets and docs online from your browser and collaborate with others in realtime (hello, Microsoft?) The Google Reader has become my latest favorite in that it has what many of the other browser-based readers lack; choice.

You can do either a folder style reader or a “River of News” style. You can easily import or export your list. It has a refresh button. You can “star” items to be saved just for you to read in one page at another time or for a permanent list or push “Share” to add this item to another list that an RSS feed is created for. You can share this feed with your friends or shoot it into the sidebar of your blog, much like the del.icio.us sidebar I have. You can email it directly from the page through your gmail account. You can edit the tags for the item. All in all, a pretty powerful and easy to use service. It also works great on my Blackberry.

So for now, that’s some of the things I’ve been using on a regular basis to keep up with you and with what’s going on in the world.