Centralized Content

Last week, I wrote on how bloggers could make the most effective use of the FriendFeed service. A question I heard from a few people went something like this:

I’m not a blogger, but I want to centralize my content on the Internet. How do I do this?

There are so many ways to manage information online, and many ways to centralize various types of information. The main decision is in deciding which data you want to centralize and aggregate so that you can choose the most appropriate method of pulling it all together.

I’ve called this drive-by tips because I’m not going to beat around the bush – I’m going to get straight to the point and direct you to the services you need to start getting your information together, so get ready for a fast ride!

I want to centralize my notes

I’m a big fan of Evernote, personally. The beauty of this service is that you can use it on your computer, your phone, from the browser, hell, soon they’ll have firmware for your microwave oven. And it all syncs up seamlessly.

You can learn more about Evernote and its many uses by reading this recent Lifehack article.

The kind folks at Evernote have given me a bunch of invites. If you want to grab one, just leave a comment asking for an invite and I’ll get it to you.

I want to centralize my bookmarks

Hands-down, the most popular way to centralize and organize your bookmarks is using del.icio.us. With a domain name like that, how could you not use it?

You can integrate del.icio.us with Firefox using the plugin they provide on their website, or you can use Flock to save bookmarks locally and to an online bookmarking service at the same time. This creates a back-up of your bookmarks – one copy online and one locally. del.icio.us may be more reliable than your computer, but anything could happen.

A popular alternative, also supported by Flock, is mag.nolia.

I want to clip web content

Want to clip web content without leaving your browser? If you’re already using Evernote to centralize your notes, you may as well stick with that (even though it requires you to switch windows). If not, you can download Flock, the social web browser, that has a web clippings feature built-in. Drag any image or text to your web clippings sidebar while surfing and you can come back to it later.

Firefox user? You don’t need to jump browsers just to get a clipping service – ScrapBook is a plugin that integrates web clipping capabilities with the world’s favorite browser. Hey, regardless of whether it’s the most frequently used, we can all agree that Firefox is the world’s favorite!

Perhaps you want a native web service, not another app or plugin. As always, Google has a solution for your online needs – try Google Notebook. Or do you want a web service, but have joined the anti-Google crowd? There’s always Clipmarks.

The minimalists among us will enjoy ToRead – a service that sends sites you’ve come across to your email address so you can catch up on them later.

I want to start a blog

So I said this one wasn’t aimed at bloggers, but it seems to me that when people catch the info-centralization bug, they soon after catch the blogging bug too, even if it’s just to store some information in a readily accessible place.

Free Blogs

WordPress is the most popular blogging system, and in my opinion, the best one. You can get a free hosted account at WordPress.com, but the hosted accounts have restrictions on what you can do with it – no advertisements, for instance.

Blogger is another popular free blogging service. It has more of a spam problem, but also gives you the option to put Google AdSense ads on your blog and has SEO benefits thanks to its genealogy – it’s a Google property. Both of these advantages contribute to the bigger spam problem.

An older service, but still quite popular, is LiveJournal. This is typically for personal blogs that are akin to diaries. Lots of teens use this service.

Lastly, if you want a blog to post quick links, notes, quotes and reminders for yourself, nothing beats Tumblr.

Self-Hosted Blogs

There are three things you need for a self-hosted blog:

  • A domain name,
  • Hosting,
  • Blog software

You can get the first two from GoDaddy pretty cheaply, and I wouldn’t go past WordPress.org for great self-hosted blog software.

Most blog systems are compatible with FriendFeed, bringing you one step closer to true information centralization.

I want to centralize content for my friends to see

Done all of the above, but now you want to centralize your content not just for your own convenience, but for your friends too? Assuming that you’re connected with your friends via Facebook, like most people these days, this should be pretty easy for you to achieve.

First, start an account at FriendFeed. Once you’ve plugged in all your accounts for the different types of content, you can install the FriendFeed Facebook app which will post your FriendFeed updates to your mini-feed.

Of course, the FriendFeed experience is better when your friends use FriendFeed itself, but this method allows them to catch up with everything you’re doing pretty easily without having to add yet another account to their list.

Don’t forget that FriendFeed is very useful for keeping track of your own content; it’s not just for the convenience of those who want to track you. Know you said something somewhere, but can’t remember where or what? It’s just a few clicks away.

Hope you enjoyed this drive-by introduction to content centralization for non-bloggers – and remember, if you want an Evernote invitation, just give me a shout in the comments.

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