Let's Bring y'all Up to Speed!

need for speed

Welcome to the 21st century!

As a first-time blogger I am finding that many of my first-time readers….ok let’s start that one over, as I really don’t have that many readers….yet 🙂

As a first-time blogger I am finding out that both (there, that’s better) of my readers aren’t as familiar with some of the Web 2.0 terminology that I throw around when talking, emailing, or Tweeting.  So for my mom and for the sweet folks that caught my feed (when I signed them up with their own email address…ha!), this post is for you!  Here’s a very elementary, basic crash course to some of the day-to-day tools that I use on the web.

Gmail – There is no better free email service on the Internet.  Sorry, this one is not up for discussion.  With the ability to archive all mail (folders are sooooo 2004), tag “messages” (Google would rather stay hip and not call them “emails”) with multiple categories, and search within the text of any message, Gmail is at the top of my list for performance, organization, and ease of use.

Twitter – There’s been a lot said about this fantastic tool/site in the mainstream media, and interestingly enough I still have yet to become a follower of Ashton Kutcher.  All joking aside, Twitter is fast becoming a HUGE tool not only for what it was intended for (to answer the question “what are you doing?”), but also for marketing, politics, and plain entertainment (who doesn’t get a kick out of some of the stuff Shaq posts?).  Twitter can be updated from, or post directly to your cell phone via SMS (text) message, and there are also an increasing amount of sites like ping.fm that allow you to post to Twitter,Facebook, Myspace, and other social network sites all with one post or text message.

Facebook – I’m not even going to post a link to FB because seriously the only person that doesn’t have a Facebook account is…..nope, can’t think of one person that doesn’t have it.  I have a friend in Maryland who has set up a FB account for his Chihuahua.  No, that is not a joke.  The largest social network site on the web offers a great chance for people to hook up and to get feeds on all kinds of funny foolishness, and sometimes (RARE times) you can actually learn something worthwhile on it too!  Big thumbs up for “the ‘book”!

Mint.com – After reading Ramit Sethi‘s book and blog, it became apparent to me that change in terms of tracking and managing our finances was needed.  After many years of manually keeping a digital check book register using Microsoft Money, Mint was a beacon of hope for freeing up time and automating many of the frustrating, but necessary aspects of personal finance.  Now…let me break it down for those who are reading this and are skeptical.  WATCH the video that explains what the site is all about.   Notice that Mint never takes any of your personal contact information, only the online sign-in information for your bank/credit card/loan institution, etc.  The folks that keep thinking Mint is some kind of government-run big brother type of program are the same folks that thought using your credit card online to make a purchase was a recipe for disaster.  Get with the program people! 🙂  (Note: Please take into account the “sarcasm with a smile” being used here.  If you have experienced credit card fraud, I’m not referring to that)

Gcal – The fact that Google Calendar can sync up with the Blackberry is a life-saver for me.  Not only is this a super sexy feature (it can sync up with many different model phones, check out their site to see if yours will work), but there’s also many, many more.  The ability to be implemented into Gmail is also a big plus.  Multiple calendars can be used and all linked to the same account, and calendars can be shared as well.  My wife has her color, I have mine, and we both have them shared and synced up with our phones. That way there’s never any dispute or discrepency over what the plans are for next month, next week, or even tonight.  Also, I should mention Google’s ability to link up your cell phone (even if it’s not a Blackberry or iPhone) via text message and get reminders sent directly to you.  Have a relative’s birthday coming up and don’t want to forget to get them a present?  Set an email reminder.  It’s Thursday night and you always forget to take the trash out?  Not anymore!  Set a text reminder and make the family happy.

Google Chrome – Because I use many of Google’s products and services, using their browser makes more sense.  If you’re not a Googler, then I would suggest Firefox, which is also extremely sexy.  No offense to Microsoft, but with Web 2.0, and a high-speed internet connection, if you’re using Internet Explorer, it would be like buying a hybrid car for the gas mileage and then driving down the highway in 1st gear with all the windows and doors open.  I hope that analogy made as much sense to you as it did to me.  🙂  You Mac users don’t ignore me on this one either, go get Chrome or Firefox and let Safari be reserved for the display Macbooks in the Apple stores.

Google Reader – While we’re on the topic of all things Google (I won’t go into detail about Google Notebook or Google Docs, also 2 great services I use weekly), I want to shine some light on the Reader as well.  Google Reader is Google’s version of an RSS reader.  RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, which is a format of web feeds that allow for sites to be updated (blogs are one of the best examples of a site that uses RSS).  If you look on the left-hand side of this page, you will see the RSS symbol right next to where it says “Subscribe in a reader“.  Step 1 would be for you to click on that when you’re done reading this, and become a faithful follower of TakeFunSeriously 🙂  Step 2 would be for you to post a comment at the end of this post to let me know you’ve signed up and are on board for da’ long haul!  (that was an optional use of the exclamation point that I chose to cash in on…hooray for awkward uses of “punctuation”!?!)  Ok, back to the topic at hand – Google Reader is what I use for my RSS feeds from all sorts of blogs that I regularly follow online.  This tool alone has saved me countless hours of chasing down my favorite blogs just to see if they’ve updated, and is very convenient to use.  I HIGHLY recommend getting some kind of RSS reader.  When you click the RSS link on the left-hand side of the page it’ll give you a list of readers you could use.  There are many more out there other than Google, I just use it because it makes for ease of use with all their other services and programs.

WordPress – Although at the time this post is being written, Blogger is the largest free blogging site online, I have heard Matt Mullenweg‘s (creator of WordPress) name tossed around and have heard so many good things about WordPress’ ease of use for rookies like me, that it was a pretty easy decision to pick this for my hosting site for this blog.  So far, it’s been so good.  A big 2 thumbs up for WordPress!

Skype – There are a lot of great instant message programs out there, and a lot of great webcam programs out there as well.  With free Skype-to-Skype calling, I decided on this one because of that fact alone.  Also, if you have a webcam it can function with that as well.  Again, this may be more of a matter of preference but I’ve enjoyed how easy it is to use and recommend it for all reading this.

There are many more tips and tools that I have, but that’s all for now.  If I were writing an essay and this were my conclusion, I would say that in closing (I haven’t written such horrible dictation like that in a few years 🙂 ), the biggest “selling” point on all this technology for me is ease of use.  I believe that technology should be used to make things easier and to help reduce or manage negative stress.  If it takes you 20 minutes to do something on a computer that could take you 2 with a pen and piece of paper, then that piece of technology is failing you (or vice versa).  If any of these programs/services don’t make things easier for you then please, by all means, don’t use them!  I’m not getting a royalty or commission for recommending them (although that may not be a bad idea come to think of it…), I’m just sharing things that have worked for me, and hopefully will work for you.

Feel free to comment with any questions or to shoot me an email.  Thanks!


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