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New Tools for a New Year: Communication
Skype isn’t a “new” tool by any means, but if you still aren’t using Skype to get things done during your workday as well as communicating with friends and family, we highly recommend installing it, getting a decent webcam, and using it in 2012. Most of my communication online is done through Skype by IM-ing, voice, or even video. It allows me to quickly have a conversation with someone or be able to see someone across the country in a matter of seconds.
Something that people don’t realize is that talking over Skype is a highly effective way to communicate complicated ideas or to make sure that your message isn’t taken the wrong way. Text messaging and IM is great for sending concrete information or just chatting, but if you want to get serious about your message, talking to someone voice-to-voice or face-to-face can’t be beat.
What else is awesome about Skype is that it can be used on any Android or iOS device. That means if you have a nice 3G or WiFi connection you can communicate with another Skype user from anywhere for free.
In the last couple of years Twitter has increased in popularity so much that it’s hard to find any “brand” or celebrity that doesn’t have an account or doesn’t want you to use some hashtag. But, just because Twitter has changed from it’s original incantation, to allow users to send 140 character messages to a group of followers, doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for that.
Twitter is great for sending one off messages to friends and colleagues as well as fostering a “community” feel with “at-replies.” Lately, I’ve heard it refered to as a type of digital “water-cooler.” It is a little hard to reduce the noise of Twitter as well as keep track of conversations in an ordered fashion, but for back and forth conversations it does pretty well. One of the best ways to communicate with Twitter is by direct message. It’s fast, simple, and private. Mike and I both use it quite a bit to get stuff done here at Lifehack.
I’ve found to get the best use out of Twitter you need to use a seperate client to do it. Some of the best are:
- CoTweet (Note: It’s what we use here at Lifehack)
- Twidroyd (now UberSocial)
This allows you the control you want without the annoyingness of Twitter forcing things on you like recommendations of people you should follow or the inevitable inclusion of sponsored tweets and hashtags.
I guess Path is more of a social networking type of application than a communication one, but it just feels a little different (and beautiful, to boot). Path is an app that allows you to follow and be followed by only 150 people (based on Professor Robin Dunbar’s research regarding the number of trusted relationships somone can maintain) making it more of an intimate type of sharing and communication application. With Path you can share your location, thoughts, what you are listening to, images and video, when you are asleep and when you awake.
I consider Path a communication app because as long as I update things that I am doing, places that I am going and my friends see it, they don’t really need to ask, “hey, where are you at?” You can let them know through Path. It may sound a little cold and inhuman to reduce some of this type of conversation in our lives, especially with our friends, but it really could end up saving a bunch of time for you, your co-workers, and friends.
The only serious downfall that I see about Path right now is that there is no user interface for being able to export your data. You can contact Path via the their support site, but to do this everyday or week (depending what you deem as acceptable for a backup schedule) will get annoying for you and them.
We can’t recommend email as a great communication tool for the new year, but what we can recommend are a few services that keep you out of the mound of email that you probably receive on a daily (or hourly) basis.
One of our favorites that we took a look at a few months ago is AwayFind which allows you to filter all of your incoming email and create alerts for the ones that you deem important. AwayFind’s interface is awesome and you can come up with some pretty unique rules for qualifying email. You can be notified via SMS, IM, or even the dedicated iPhone or Android app.
If you are a Gmail user, another tool you may want to check out is Boomerang for Gmail. Boomerang is an addon for Gmail that allows you send email at a later time or set up reminders of emails that need replied to by a certain time and aren’t. It’s another great way to keep up with your email while keeping you out of your inbox as much as possible.
Boomerang’s creators, Baydin Inc., also offer Boomerang as a plugin for Outlook as well as The Email Game, which challenges you to deal with as much of your overflowing inbox as you can in 15 minutes or less.
Communicating effectively is vital for being productive so it is important that you find the best tools to enable you to keep in touch while keeping you sane. Hopefully, with the use of these tools this new year you can get more done both efficiently and effectively while communicating with co-workers, friends, and family.
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