Tools of the (Blogging) Trade (Weekly Geeks 2009-40)

I didn’t get the opportunity to post my response to last week’s Weekly Geeks query, but since there wasn’t a new one for this week – WG took the week off to observe Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this past Saturday – I’m squeezing it in before the next theme goes up this coming weekend!

Last week, Ruth asked about Tools of the Trade:

Book blogging, as a concept, is essentially pretty simple: If you have Internet access and an opinion about a book, you can be a book blogger. However, actually maintaining a book blog is much more complicated — our blogs are labors of love that require a lot of time, energy and devotion. For this edition of Weekly Geeks, I want to focus on the little things that make your blogging and/or reading life a bit easier. Do you use sites like GoodReads, LibraryThing or Shelfari to organize your books? Do you swear by Book Darts? Couldn’t live without your Book Buddy? Love connecting with other bloggers on sites such as Twitter? Tell us about what makes your blog tick. Is there something specific that keeps you organized or inspired?

I’d never been successful at keeping manual records of my books or journaling my reading – and oddly enough, despite the fact that I’m an accountant and work with spreadsheets all the time, it had never occurred to me to use them in connection with my reading habits! Starting a blog turned out to be a great version of a “reading journal” for me, but it didn’t really help much with keeping track of the books themselves.

One of the advantages of my Amazon Kindle e-book reader is that it essentially provides built-in cataloging for the items I read on it, and those items are starting to change my reading habits. The Kindle has already led me to purchase newly published “must-read” books without waiting the months until they’re released in paperback, and I don’t think I’ll ever travel without it. But it’s never going to break me from buying trade paperbacks, unless it actually forces them out of production…and for those “traditional” books, I still swear by Levenger’s Book Bungees, which keep my place without any danger of falling out of the book.

I also swear by LibraryThing for keeping track of those “hard copy” books, and I visit the site almost daily to update my tags, edit my books, and add new titles to my “To Read” or “Wishlist” collections. Book bloggers are usually the original source for those additions these days, so I think it’s totally appropriate to consider LibraryThing a “blogging tool” as well as “reading” tool. (GoodReads seems to be better for social networking, but if your interest is primarily in cataloging your books online, I think LibraryThing is the better choice.)

My blog has a custom domain hosted on Blogger; the domain registration costs me $10 a year (and I make slightly more than that in ad revenue from BlogHerAds, so it’s worth it), and I really haven’t had many complaints about Blogger itself. However, I find it a lot easier to compose my posts outside of it and just paste them in when they’re ready, and I love Google Documents for that; I draft almost everything except for short, spur-of-the-moment posts there first. It’s even easy to work with images in Google Docs; I’ve recently started using the online photo-editing app Picnik to play with the pictures I post, and even create buttons and banners. Once my posts are done, I can schedule when I want Blogger to publish them, and I’m usually able to have posts ready at least a few days ahead (assuming I can make the time to write them – does anyone know a tool or trick to help with that?)

A few other Geeks mentioned Google Reader as a blogging tool, and I absolutely agree! So much of my blogging inspiration comes from what I read on other blogs, and having their feeds come into GReader is so much more convenient than visiting bookmarked sites all the time. My feeds are organized into folders, and I’ll skim the contents of each folder in “list view.” I’ll be honest; I don’t necessarily open all the posts and read them in full, but if the title and snippet grab me, or it’s a post from a favorite blog (yes, we all have them!), I’ll expand it to read the whole thing. One thing that helps with this is the Better GReader extension for Firefox; using the “Colorful List View” option makes scanning much easier on my eyes.

I’ve had an account on Twitter for a year and a half, and it’s helped new readers find my blog. It’s also helped me connect with other bloggers outside the comments section, and I’ve joined in on some very interesting discussions there (and watched even more without jumping in). I like using Twitter for interaction more than broadcasting, but it takes up a lot more time that way, which is the main reason I’m not a very consistent presence over there. I like it too much to give it up, though.

Do you have any other suggestions for things – software, apps, even habits – that can make blogging and reading just a little easier and more fun? I’m always open to trying out something new!

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  1. I don't think that I have any new tools I can recommend, but I've been immensely inspired from this WG topic and you post reminded me of all those things I wanted to do and use. I have a good reads and twitter account and I also use them at least a couple of times a week, but I think I can do better and I should really begin looking into some of those other tools. Thanks for mentioning Google Documents and the option of selfhosting with Blogger. I will also look into that.

  2. Louise – I guess it's technically not self-hosting, since Blogger actually still hosts the site, but it's a "custom domain" purchased through Google Apps. I've had it for over a year, and no problems!

    I LOVE Google Docs – I'd be lost without it!

    Jeanne – I'm all too fond of gadgets, I'm afraid – but I prefer if they're actually helpful, and as far as blogging's concerned, free :-)!

  3. Thanks for the Better GReader link! I installed that one one of my computers, but then forgot about for the other one. Now it's on both 🙂

    I love Google Docs too. It's great to be able to do blog stuff at work or on other computers and then be able to pull it up at home.

  4. Kim – That's just one of the reasons I love Google Docs. I just wish Google Gears worked well with my current version of Firefox for Mac – I miss having access to my docs offline!

    And I always have to make myself notes to remember to install extensions on both my home and work computers :-).