This month ReadWriteWeb is publishing a series of top 10 lists of the best products of 2010, each based on a specific category. This post is a little different, in that it's my own personal top 10 list of my favorite products of 2010. I'm not claiming these are the best products of the year, only that they're the products I used and loved the most. Some were new in 2010 (iPad, Flipboard), some came into their own due to the way trends played out (Instapaper, Evernote), some were relative 'oldies but goodies' that I simply got a lot of joy out of this year (Facebook, Shazam).
Here are my favorites, in no particular order...
Without a doubt my favorite new device of the year was the iPad. It changed how I consume content, particularly media content and long-form writing. This year I read a large novel on the Kindle for iPad app (Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen - an excellent book!), I subscribed to magazines using the Zinio app on my iPad (Juxtapoz, Rolling Stone and others) and I found new ways to sort through and read online articles (Flipboard, Instapaper, DropBox and more). I also enjoyed the range of apps released by media businesses - Wired, New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, and more.
We at ReadWriteWeb have given Facebook a fair amount of criticism this year - for privacy failures, bad design, de-valuing third party content, and more. Despite all that, I've come to love using Facebook! This year I used Facebook for everything from updating my thoughts while out and about, to posting my check-ins via Foursquare, to uploading photos I'd just taken of my local beach.
The best part of Facebook this year, for me, was all of my family joining it. My Mum and Dad, along with my 2 brothers and 1 sister. All of them joined (or in one case resumed use of) Facebook this year. Much to my delight, because now I can follow my brother's power lifting videos, my other brother's iPod Touch finger paintings, my sister's new-found interest in photography, my mother's motherly comments and likes, my father's witty updates. These are obviously all personal things to me, but I'm sure that you all have had similar experiences with your family or friends on Facebook this year.
I mentioned Instapaper above and it's certainly one of my most used apps on the iPad. More importantly, Instapaper changed the way I consume blog and other media content. Due to a number of factors, over 2010 I didn't have enough time or attention to regularly read content from Google Reader (my RSS Reader of choice). I ended up evolving to a different style of tracking and reading the news of the day. I generally now visit my favorite blogs and news aggregators, open articles of interest to me and then save them to Instapaper for later reading - usually on my iPad or iPhone. I also find stories via Twitter and Facebook, which I save the same way.
I continue to marvel at the technology behind Shazam's iPhone app. For anyone who isn't familiar with it: if you hear a song playing on the radio or in the background at a store, open up Shazam and it will identify the title and artist. I use it often to find out what song is playing on my car radio, or at a bar or office. It's the only app I use that makes me consistently mutter to myself: how do they do that?
I still use my red Moleskine Cahier notebooks for freeform scribbling and note-taking. However, Evernote has increasingly become my home for other kinds of notes and for personal lists.
I admire Evernote's grand goal to become your "online brain" - to store everything from your lists, to notes about foods you discover, to photos of business cards. I'm nowhere near using it to that extent, but perhaps next year I'll extend my use cases for this product. It's nice that Evernote has that flexibility, in any case.
I still find Twitter to be a user experience mess at times. For example, little bugs with Twitter lists that seem to occur every time I use them. TweetDeck has some of those frustrations too - in particular the syncing between devices is troublesome and imperfect. Nevertheless, I use TweetDeck each and every day to manage and write to @RWW (the company account, since August 2010) and @ricmacnz (my personal account now - follow me there if you can put up with my art and music ramblings).
Without a doubt the most addictive business tool I use. Tracking statistics for ReadWriteWeb is a crucial part of my work and Woopra provides a real-time view of what's happening on ReadWriteWeb at any time of the day. I check it constantly. I get warm fuzzies when I see the WikiLeaks website driving lots of traffic to RWW. I smile inwardly when I see one of my own posts doing well. I frown when a post that I wrote isn't setting the online world on fire. My curiosity is piqued when I see an old post getting action all of a sudden. So many emotions to sustain me through my working day as an online publisher!
At the beginning of the year, everybody was wondering which of the location-based social networks would take off: Brightkite, Gowalla, Foursquare, or a new entrant? The answer in 2010 has been Foursquare, which most of the people in my social graph use. I began to use it too, although frankly there isn't a lot of practical benefit to Foursquare where I live - not enough people in my city use it for there to be real-time social benefits, nor have there been any discount coupons for me. However, I have found it to be a fun addition to my Facebook updates. I hope it becomes more useful though, because the game mechanics aren't enough to sustain me.
In 2009 I switched from Firefox to Chrome, as my default browser. I felt bad for Mozilla, the organization that builds Firefox and whose ideals I admire. However, Chrome was simply faster and less prone to crashes. Chrome has continued to serve me well over 2010 and the addition of the Chrome App Store makes me curious about what it will offer in 2011.
The browser market is fiercely competitive currently and I did check out a new entrant, RockMelt, recently. However I stuck with Chrome, as it hasn't let me down.
Like many people, I'm enamored of the iPad app Flipboard and the way it's changed how web content is consumed. I must admit that I'm not a daily user though. I sometimes feel like I'm flipping through too much content I just don't want to consume. I'd like more serendipity. Perhaps I haven't populated it yet with the right Twitter lists.
Still, I hold out a lot of hope for Flipboard's magazine paradigm of consuming blog and similar content. In 2011, I plan to use Flipboard a lot more.
Products that didn't quite make my top 10, but which I use a lot and enjoy: Soup.io (my light blogging service of choice), Diamedic (an awesome iPhone app for diabetics), Lazyweb (my favorite topic tracker of the year, but this is a field which I think still needs a lot of work), DropBox (great way to sync files across devices), Mediagazer (probably my favorite news aggregator currently), Newsy (a video news app for iPad that I enjoyed throughout 2010) and Brushes (a finger painting app for iPad and iPhone).
This post was originally published on ReadWriteWeb on December 12th, 2010.