The other cool Google-related discovery for me was Gmail, which has changed the way that I look at email. I try to keep everything organized and I’ve been using email for a long time and I don’t easily switch email programs. While I use Apple’s Mail a lot, I find that I’m using and loving Gmail a lot now and I think that I’m starting to use Gmail more than Apple’s Mail program. The Gmail beta is fascinating as it is viral. You can’t really sign up, you have to be invited by someone who has it. It’s an interesting way to beta test something like a mail service as you want to have people who use it and the alpha geeks who are testing it will tell other alpha geeks about how cool it is.
The biggest chunk of my time online recently has been spent in the completely addictive Flickr. When I started it was just to share a few pictures with family and friends, but when some of the public photos that I posted received comments I started to get more of a sense of the community that was there. I didn’t think that I would like the social component of it, but I started to realize that I shared a lot in common with the people who were looking at my photos. It’s a great way to communicate visually and I notice that the community is more international than many communities that depend on language as the primary means of communication. The response to the photos that I post shape what I now choose as a subject. While I only joined Flickr in August, I posted 1424 pictures last year. My posting (and photography) increased dramatically as the year went on to the point where I posted 700 photos in December. I don’t think that I’ll continue at that rate, but I will probably post over 2000 images in 2005 I gladly paid for a Pro account which gives me a gigabyte of uploads every month (and my 700 photos last month got close to 50% of the capacity). I just realized some of how Flickr works thanks to the antenna blog which points out the Flickr is based on online gaming code. It’s like a game where the object is the share your photos. You have quests with fellow group members and share your triumphs. It’s great to be part of the community.
The tags on Flickr enable lots of connections between the images that you have uploaded and the images that others have classified in the same way. The tagging on Flickr is based on the tagging that takes place on del.icio.us where you create your own tags to classify links. It’s been called a folksonomy and now I store a lot of my bookmarks in my del.icio.us space to keep track of things. The next step for me is to use my del.icio.us bookmarks with some of the other stuff I’m doing on my blog.
Viewing the web and keeping track of what’s happening on sites and especially blogs has been made much easier with NetNewsWire, which continues to evolve and is the other program other than Mail that I constantly run. Now if I site doesn’t have an RSS feed, it isn’t as interesting to me. While there are many options for RSS readers, I love how NetNewsWire works and as MarsEdit (a weblog editor) evolves I think that I’ll use it more and more as well.
The combination of RSS with audio enclosures caused podcasting to burst out onto the world. It’s an exciting development that is really only months old, but is evolving incredibly rapidly with Adam Curry at the forefront with his Daily Source Code podcast setting the pace for what a podcast is, as well as highlighting what is happening in the podcasting world which is a close cousin to the blogging world. It’s changed things so fast that the latest beta of NetNewsWire supports podcasting and now I’m using it to download podcasts. Podcasting will be very big in 2005.
Yesterday I began to explore 43things, which I looked at before, but now it really clicked as I became a member. 43things is like Flickr for to-do lists. You share your list of things to-do and things you have done as well as leave messages and comments about what you want to do and what others have done. With gentle prompting and an understated interface, I realized right away that I’d be spending a lot of time there. It connects you with people through tasks and tags and collaboration seems to be built into the DNA of the site. While I just started yesterday, I’ve already connected with strangers and realized that the whole thing is a way that people who may not blog or want to blog will be blogging without knowing it. I’ll write more about 43things later, but I think it will be another big thing in 2005. Exciting times ahead online as we focus less on the technology and more on the people and community.