E-mail-based blog service
It's been just over a decade since blogging first became popular with the earliest of early adopters people like the dot-com rank and file and technically savvy internet hobbyists. Since those early days, when many writers built their own blogging systems, it's become much easier to start a blog of your own. The promise of easy self-publishing is now a reality for many Internet users, and services like Typepad, Wordpress and Blogspot now host hundreds of thousands of bloggers.
And yet there exist people for whom blog software is too difficult, too complicated or simply too much of a nuisance to use. Even minor details like a login and password can prove annoying. Posterous is a blogging service that doesn't even require its users to sign up for an account. To start a blog, all you have to do is send an e-mail to Posterous with the contents of your first blog post; the service does the rest. You can then claim the blog Posterous creates and continue to send in your blog posts via e-mail.
Other blogging services allow its users to post to blogs from the comfort of your inbox, but Posterous allows you to run your blog almost entirely by e-mail if you wish. And the service is amazingly flexible as well, allowing you to manage multiple blogs as well as add multiple contributors none of whom have to sign up for accounts either. Posterous may not break down all the barriers to blogging, but it certainly comes closer than most.
Stanza (tested v1.8.1 iPhone)
OS: iPhone/iPod Touch (also available for Mac/Windows as Stanza Desktop)
There will always be a constituency still large, but shrinking ever so gradually over time that will never give up the printed and bound book. But just as with music and movies, prose and poetry are now bought not only on paper, but increasingly in digital form. Witness the success of Amazon's Kindle, an e-book reader that sold so many units at launch that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted an apology letter when the waiting list for one extended past six weeks.
Neither the Kindle hardware, now in its second generation, nor the Kindle iPhone app are available in Canada. Luckily, there are several ways to read books on your iPhone or iPod Touch, and Stanza sits atop the pile as the current champion. The app can access a wide variety of free and paid libraries, including the 25,000-title Project Gutenberg collection of public domain books and the Fictionwise store. Once you've picked out a few titles, the highly customizable display settings allow you to set your own colour scheme and change the typography and margins to your liking.
The one fly in Stanza's ointment is purchasing books. While downloading from the free libraries is relatively painless, ordering from the Fictionwise store takes you out of Stanza and into Safari, where you're greeted by a signup and checkout form that doesn't even fit properly on the iPhone's screen. The process is neither elegant nor particularly easy, a far cry from purchasing music via the iTunes Store. But those who are willing to brave a few web forms will find a whole library of e-books at their fingertips.
Clipmarks (tested v3.5.1 for Firefox)
Web clippings utility
OS: Windows/Mac/Linux (via Firefox; Internet Explorer version also available)
People bookmarks sites for a lot of reasons to create a shortcut to an often-visited site, to note articles and posts of interest, or just to throw into a pile of random links on the off chance that one day the site will be of use. Internet veterans, especially those who don't routinely prowl their bookmark files for dead and unneeded links, have enormous piles of neglected bookmarks. And while there are many tools to help you manage your saved links, the first line of defense is prevention.
Clipmarks gives you a way to keep trivial bookmarks out of your browser by offering the ability to clip and save sections of a website. This is especially handy for long pages, where the relevant material may be hard to find again after weeks or months, or sites where you only need a small sampling of content and don't need to keep the site itself in your bookmarks. In addition to text, images and even video can be clipped and saved just by clicking on them while Clipmarks is active.
All your clips can be saved to the Clipmarks website, where you can call them up again using internet-enabled devices like another computer or a mobile phone with web access. You can also e-mail clips to yourself or others, add them to bookmark services like Delicious, or post them to web services like Twitter or your own blog. Clipmarks is a great way to keep the digital equivalent of a clippings file full of funny quotes, interesting facts, or whatever you like.