Mathew Lowry

It’s been a long break from blogging. A month’s holiday offline in Australia had something to do with it, but mainly it’s been a summer of thinking about applying online community management to EU policies and programmes; catching up on three months’ worth of For Immediate Release podcasts on my new phone; and exploring and publishing on other channels, particularly Hugh’s site for the IABC and (sigh) Twitter.

More on that later, but I thought I’d kick off with a quick survey of the tools used by those of us interested both in social media and EU affairs. It’s not merely idle curiosity and an interest in picking up useful tricks from others. Such tools are the building blocks of a European public sphere, so it’d make a real difference if most of us use, say,, or friendfeed.

Personally, I use the following tools and platforms: I’ve bookmarked over 1500 pages in the five years or so I’ve been using this wonderful tool and still cannot recommend it enough. I personally use it to tag useful references on everything from Cornish holiday ideas to social media references; track my online conversations; provide RSS feeds into my to-do and (too-oft ignored) blogthis lists; note useful tools, and so on.

Yahoo’s completely vision-less non-development of the social side of delicious is one of my biggest disappointments, because with a few tweaks it’s one of the best ways of crowdsourcing useful web resources. Which is not to say it cannot be done – euforic, for example, has created a resource library of online resources for development professionals using delicious

Blog: Truth be told, for every word I post here I probably write 100 in comments to others and in online communities like Hugh’s. By tagging these conversations using delicious, they all turn up here. I use blogactiv because of the extra coverage you get from EurActiv (disclosure: I was Blogactiv’s Launch Director).

Twitter: I knew before I posted my first sceptical post about Twitter that this blog would chronicle my slow descent into Twitter-induced madness. I checked Twitter out very early, saw a very low signal-to-noise ratio and so ignored it.

When I started noticing people I respected using it, I reluctantly downloaded TwitterFox to my browser (“just to track the useful sites people were recommending”. TwitterBar followed (“just to make it easier to share sites with them – a delicious network would’ve been better, but Yahoo, you know …”).

And now I’m a full-blown TweetDeck user. Sigh. I am, clearly, doomed to not get more than 5 seconds at a time to think. But I draw the line at going on a FollowMe ego binge. Limits are limits.

iGoogle: I basically use this to track a few dozen RSS feeds because I always have a tab open to my Gmail anyway, and can’t be bothered having yet another program just for feeds. It works, and puts a lot of other useful tools (translation, quotes, etc.) at my fingertip.

Friendfeed: I use this to create a my lifestream for piping into the community sites I work in. Last time I checked, it includes a few delicious tagstreams, my tweets, my YouTube favourites, Facebook status, etc.

Facebook: I have the obligatory profile page but I’m not a huge fan. Low S/N for discussions and an absolute ant-colony-on-LSD of third party apps from Hell, although it has it’s uses. God knows what will happen to Friendfeed now that FB has bought them. Shudder.

LinkedIn: Like a lot of people I migrated my CV to LinkedIn many years ago when I was looking for work, and never actually used its ‘please introduce me’ systems, which were the site’s original basis. I only really started using LinkedIn when they introduced Groups. They got that pretty much right. I much prefer the conversations in my LI-groups than the dross on Facebook. I’m a member of around 20, and contribute actively to 4 or 5.

There are probably three of four more, but if I can’t remember them at the moment it must be because they’re not that important. I certainly could use some consolidation.

So what’s in your toolbox? How do you use them? Could we get more out of them by hooking them together?

Please share, either via the comments or on your own blog (add the link in comments).

Author :


  1. On the tools: I strongly believe that there is still a space for a Brussels-based start-up that builds a GOOD website COMBINING those tools. The mashup is in my view (currently) the answer.

    Here is what I use: Twitter (by far and large the favourite tool for “short-messaging”), Facebook, Blogs (increasingly less, due to Twitter), Google Reader, Delicious, Bloggingportal

    A side question on the delicious toolbar in Firefox: can I do anything about the fact that delicious hijackes the RSS feeds of websites (which I want to have in Google Reader and NOT delicious)? I have even uninstalled the toolbar because of this.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. I agree re: mashups, but I think there’s more to it than just building a site. You need people feeding it, and it can’t be a single Brussels-based organisation, because you need national perspectives, topic experts at EU and national level, etc…

    So I’m thinking of a mash-up supporting some sort of crowdsourcing effort. But to get the crowd, it helps if you know what tools they’re already using, as asking people to learn a new tool in order to volunteer their time is asking too much – gotta keep the barrier to entry ALAP. So thanks for answering the survey!

    I don’t understand the Firefox delicious toolbar problem, perhaps because I don’t use rss readers. What do you mean by hijack?

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  3. Re crowdsourcing: I think the core company’s business would mainly be identifying the relevant people and bringing them together. The content must be delivered via the network, by the people on the other platforms (or the mashup platform itself of course).

    re toolbar: It’s about the little RSS icon in the URL bar in Firefox. When you click it and you have delicious toolbar installed it change from the generic “subscribe to feed …” to something like “add this feed to delicious” which is something I do not want and also do not really see the point of doing so.

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  4. re: crowdsourcing: agreed, but the devils are in the details. What tools would be useful to ‘bring the people together’? Are we bringing together individuals – in which case, who chooses them – or individual pieces of content? How do we tackle multilingualism? What’s the business model? etc…

    I’m pondering the shape of the landscape via my subsequent post, btw …

    re: the toolbar, I get four options when I click the rss icon: subscribe to RSS2.0 and to Atom 3.0; and 2 similar options for delicious…

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  5. Mathew, Brusselsblogger – why this fixation with Twitter. If the EU and its constituent countries are anything they are too complex for trite, Twitter-sized’ comment.

    Your blogs and the comment they provoke are witness to that?

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  6. Hi french derek, welcome to the discussion.

    If you click on twitter on my tag cloud, you’ll be able to chart my love/hate affair with Twitter. You’ll see that I started out sceptical, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The first post has an excellent video, in case you haven’t seen it.

    But love is winning in this particular tussle. It’s mainly down to the fact that a lot of people who were not on Twitter when I first looked at it in 2007 now are; people are using it better; Twitter itself has improved; and powerful tools like Tweetdeck have arrived. The arrival of Search, for example, changed the game, and the 3rd party apps, combined with the way people are using Twitter, actually make it somewhat useful. Check out Tweetdeck and you’ll see what I mean.

    But it is all part of the longstanding trend towards ‘speed over the surface’, rather than ‘pondering issues in depth’. A trend which began with the Web. People are reacting and tweeting more than thinking and writing. Studies show that people are definitely blogging less as they tweet more.

    I would never pretend that an increase in 140-character tweets at the expense of thoughtful, interactive essays is a good thing for discussing any complex topic in depth. Hopefully things will balance out.

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  7. The interesting thing with Twitter is also that it takes over some of the functionality of delicious: with shortened links and services that then again aggregate those shortlinks you get nicely aggregated URLs of your twitter community. It is something that delicious has never achieved (how many of my “friends” have a delicious account? nearly nobody. how many of my “friends” have a twitter account and use it for sharing links? many)

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  8. Yeah, but you can’t tag the links in twitter with nearly the same functionality as delicious – or at least I haven’t figured out how.

    I see 2 problems with delicious: the one you mentioned (not enough people using it); which is probably caused by the fact that Yahoo never really developed the social side of it properly.

    In particular, when you share a link with someone in your network, they don’t see your tags. Crowdsourcing useful resources becomes impossible.

    Anyone know a tool which does allow this? I’ve always wanted to launch a ‘tag EUROPA’ campaign, to help people like Julien cope with lightbulb rage.

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  9. Thanks for the links, I’ll check them out.

    I’m still attached to delicious, though. Partly it’s because it was probably the first Web2.0 service I signed up for. But mainly because it’s still such a functional service for individuals – being able to browse my tagged pages by multiple tags, adding and cutting them as I see fit, rocked back then and still rocks today.

    I remember how surprised I was that systems like WordPress don’t do something similar – although you can often edit the url, few systems serve up the related tags once you choose one.

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  10. Just to get everything in the same place, Julien says on his blog that he uses Google Blogsearch and Icerocket, coupled to a simple RSS reader, and Nambu for twitter. Plus Blogger, obviously.

    For my part, since posting the above I’ve adopted Google reader to track blogs and am becoming horribly addicted to the Gravity app for Twitter on my phone. Doomed …

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