In one such discussion a few months ago, long-time colleague Tom King, who now also works with Elliott Masie and the Masie Center as a "Masie Fellow", sent me the following note:
"I'm fascinated by some of the nifty tools I discover one way or another through contact with you. Things like doodle.ch or SlideShare or however the heck you get transcriptions of your podcasts. A totally separate and intriguing topic is how you quickly create such compelling, lengthy, thoughtful posts, podcasts & presentations. I've already seen quite a preso on "Whole New Mind" from you."
"Moving back to nifty tools....I think the interesting idea here is how these tools are discovered and shared-- and what makes them good. That process of discovery & recognition seems to be the long-term value, even if any given "nifty tool" has a place that is only ephemeral in the Internet-time mid-term time phase."
And he went on to say:
"For what it's worth, I think the best tools develop when the tool will "scratch an itch" for their very own developer... or someone near & dear to them. Likewise, I think the best recommendations for a tool comes from someone who uses it, and the second best source is a recommendation from someone who has a trusted/respected source that uses a tool. If the user is passionate enough to convey the value to that second party (who may not even use such a tool), and then recommends it to me.. well sometimes I find that is actually the best recommendation."
Couldn't agree more with your observations, Tom ! I too find great value in discovering such tools, tips, and tricks from you and others.
Tom being Tom, he had already started to post some of his favorite tools, tips, and tricks on his blog Mobilemind (highly recommended BTW), and you can check out his lists of favorite Web Solutions and his favorite applications from earlier this year.
Cool Tools Kevin Uses:
Of course this is not a new idea. Another of my favorite people, Kevin Kelly over at Wired magazine, has has been doing a phenomenal job of covering a similar idea on his site Cool Tools. His description is right on target for me:
"Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or web site that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We only post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted."
Even Dads can be Cool!
And then there is the totally cool offshoot that sprang up a bit later by Chris Anderson at Wired magazine called Geek Dad. Check it out, no matter what your gender or status.
So Many Tools, So Little Time
But what about the rest of us? I truly believe that every one of us (yes, that includes YOU!) has cool tools that we use on an every day basis. Even more valuable are cool stories about how we use these tools and how we came to find and use them. How many of the cool tools that you use did you discover by seeing someone else use them? Many, I suspect, but the problem is that as great as such serendipitous discovery is, it doesn't seem to scale very well. Considering that there are about to be 6.6 billion of us populating this planet, I think we may all have a few more to discover!
Later on in my discussion with Tom, I noted that I too am fascinated by the process of discovery, and I often point out that discovery is the opposite of invention—that discovery is the finding of something that already exists—whereas invention is the creation of something that never existed before (though most often consists of new combinations of previously existing ideas or things). My point is to emphasize the differences and the power of going after both. I’m equally intrigued by the differences between invention and innovation, but I’ll stop myself from digressing (lucky you!) yet again. I merely want to emphasize how strongly I agree with Tom's larger point which is the value of the process of discovery and sharing.
So, thanks to Tom for the push. I'd like to see what we can do here on OCOT and as a group to explore and discover more Cool Tools. For starters, here are some quick thoughts from me and questions for all of YOU:
- Is this a topic that you would find to be of high value?
- Would YOU consider contributing one or more of your top cool tools and stories of how you discovered it, use it, etc.?
- Would this topic be well served by having a longer term “theme” or space on OCOT that is dedicated to “cool tools I use”? Or would one or two blog posts suffice?
- Might we be able to create a template that would help people describe their cool tools and stories, and make it easier for others to discover and use them?
- Would a wiki-like capability work best for this, so that any given tool or technique could be expanded over time, so that other could add their examples of how they use the same tool differently, provide additional techniques or suggestions for getting more out of them, and add their own stories about how they came to discover the tool?
- Might “Cool Tools I Use” be a big enough topic to deserve its own “space” (section of a site, whole blog/wiki itself, etc.)? For example, this could be a really eclectic mix of tools, where we are looking to discover them in any and all applications, walks of life, etc.
Please send in your comments or e-mails to let me know your thoughts on these questions.
Serious Fun, so let's make this a game!
In many cases we cease to consciously think about these tools. We use them so frequently and for so long that they are part of our "unconscious competency". To "discover" them again, you may need to start noticing them again.
So let's turn this exercise into a version of a once popular game based on the premise "If you could only take 10 things with you to live on a remote island for 10 years (randomly picked numbers), what would those be?" And in the spirit of a game, let's not get too literal with this. Let's imagine that our basic needs for survival are met and focus instead on those things we could otherwise not live without. In most cases, we probably could live without these, we just don't want to!
And let's really do some coloring outside the lines with this theme and not restrict ourselves to computers or the net! I could imagine collecting “cool tool” ideas for anything from cooking to car repair to computers or canoeing (today’s post is brought to you by the letter C!).
Let's get Started!
In the interim, I thought I'd get things started by creating a "Cool Tools I Use" theme here on OCOT and use this to collect and share some of the cool tools each of us have found invaluable and to also share, perhaps even more importantly, the ways we found them or how they found us. What I'll do on OCOT to help with this effort is create a metadata tag called "Cool Tools" and make sure all "Cool Tools" entries are marked with this tag so you can find them easily in the future.
Oh, and just for clarity, let's be clear that this is NOT to be used for nor does it represent ANY endorsement of promotion of a company or a specific product. These are authentic stories about "Cool Tools" that we use all the time and would not want to be without.
Should be fun, and if not, we won't do it!
Now it's YOUR turn!
OK, that should be more than enough to give you an idea of what I'm thinking about. Now it is YOUR turn to think about the "Cool Tools" you use and would never want to be without. Send me your responses to my previous questions and we'll follow through accordingly.
Meanwhile, have a "Cool Tool" you use and want to share? Send me your favorites with the following information and I'll start collecting and publishing yours and more of mine.
- Name of the tool and source for getting one.
- What does it do?
- How did you come to discover this?
- How do you use it?
- Why is it on your top ten "Cool Tools I Use" list?
I'm sure EACH of you have a list of tools you would not want to be without, and you probably have tools you know that are much better than the ones I have on my list. I can't wait to start to learning and benefiting from your cool tools!