Well we’re approaching the festive period so, like all good media channels, I’ve decided to publish my list for the year. It’s not an insightful look at the past year’s trends or a look ahead at what the New Year may have in store. Oh no. It’s a list of the nice little – and most importantly free – utilities that I’ve come across over the past few months that I thought I would round up here.
Can’t we just get someone in?
The Online Report Creator takes Google results from a search query then marries them to entries on Wikipedia and other information resources. So, instead of having to research further on a load of Google results the whole thing is done for you. This could be a great resource for a very first quick ‘toe in the water’ piece of research and it even lists a load of keywords at the end for you. Nice.
A crate of beers a-frothing
Although more a straight web page than a utility, this wonderful page lists just about every collective noun going, and then some. Among my favourites:
- a mischief of mice
- a covey of ptarmigans
- a pomp of Pekingese
- a horde of hamsters
- a babble of barbers
- … and, from the Some That Might Be section, a shower of meteorologists and a jam of tarts. I’d add an egoplex of bloggers to that.
It’ll probably be foggy
I was cobbling together – err, finely honing some copy for a website recently, and came across this nice utility. There might be others like it, but I just found this one very quick and easy to use. It analyses text, giving FOG values (very handy for a copywriter nervous about how accessible their writing is), but even better than that, analysis of word frequency. This is really useful for keywords.
A perennial problem in copywriting is trying to convey sizes, lengths or weights. So something is 348 metres long. Great. Try making it real in the reader’s mind. How about we say it’s the equivalent of nearly 42 double decker buses? The marvellous chrico Double Decker Bus Calculator is your key to unlocking this particular problem. Simply type in your amount, your ‘convert from’ units and your ‘convert into’ units, and you’re off.
Spend the day in front of the synch
iTunes Agent is a lovely little utility that fools iTunes into thinking your device is an iPod. If you run Win2K you’ll need to download the .NET framework to use it, but that’s no real problem. Then it really is a simple case of plugging in the device – the Sony Ericsson phone profile is one of the default devices but it’s easy to create your own – and off you go. You can synch the entire iTunes folder, or just specific ones. Given that it takes quite some time to shift 8GB of MP3s (actually, M4As cos they sound better and take less filesize), I eschewed – yes, eschewed – the full synch option, and now just synch to my podcast folder.
Kill the relatives
Similpedia is a nice idea. It takes a web page or paragraph of text and cross-references key words in it to Wikipedia entries. In this way you can look up terms or follow the Similpedia suggestions for ‘related content.’
Open the boxes
I’m typing this while listening to Pandora, the alternative to Last.fm which I found out about through Seamus McCauley at Virtual Economics. It is a truly wonderful idea. By identifying a set of musical parameters for each song, Pandora can then match any music to any other music by how ’similar’ they are. So, for example, if you want to listen to music that is ‘like’ Beck, you set up a station for Beck and Pandora comes up with similar material, in my case specifically Cracker and Modest House. I have no idea who these bands are but they sound great. OK, so perhaps this is more a full-blown app than a utility but I do love it.
Google Trends is probably pretty well known, but in case it isn’t, I present it here. I’ve seen some PR people go a bit doolally when presented with this. They just love its immediacy – a la Pandora – and it can give some very interesting insights. Go take a look.
Wake up dribbling
Finally, no list would be complete without a mention of the Social Media Resource, based on the Zoho creator which is itself a great little tool (and, I suspect, capable of much more sophisticated queries than I’ve managed). Go on, give it a go. You know you want to.