The Blogger’s Toolbox

Every craft demands its own unique set of tools. Expanding on an idea from Chris Brogan, I’ve decided to take a moment and outline the tools that I personally find useful for blogging. Anyone who’s ever taken an acting class knows that journaling is an exhausting part of the experience. However, acting teachers have students journal to help them recognize and define their process in what is a very subjective, personal craft — not unlike blogging.

In blogging, as in acting and carpentry, you need to identify the process and the tools that work for you. So think of this as simply going through my toolbox and citing tools needed for a project.

  • iPhone — Not only does this handy device keep me in touch with the world but it gives me mobile access to a number of other tools on this list including mobile apps for Flickr, Twitter, and your blogging platform of choice. Additionally, an often overlooked iPhone tool for bloggers is the camera. While not providing you with the quality you want to matte and frame and adorn your fireplace with, the quality is good enough for the web. The blogger advantage with any built-in mobile camera is that it is always with you. See some distracting Pepsi bottles in the supermarket that need to be blogged about? Click. Email. Post.
  • Moleskine Cahier — Beyond the iPhone, this notebook is the only other tangible item in my toolbox and it’s blissfully simple. I carry the Moleskine in my back pocket to capture blog ideas when they come. As anyone who blogs on a regular basis knows it never rains and then it pours — you need to have a bucket standing by or they’re gone. On a particular Saturday away from the desk I had about eight ideas come to me that I captured in this tiny little book and carefully doled out over the next month’s worth of posts.
  • Google Reader — The best way to stay abreast of what people moving in your sphere are talking about is reading other blogs and the best tool for aggregating all of these is Google Reader. Sign in and subscribe away! Careful – it’s easy to overload and end up with several hundred unread posts.
  • Google Analytics — One of the best and most basic way to track your blog’s traffic. Beyond the obvious exercise in vanity, Analytics provides actionable data that can help you shape your blog’s content and grow your audience. Is your traffic spiking when you blog on certain topics? Is one of your category tabs getting clicked on a lot? Blog about those topics more and you’ll quickly find both your niche and more traffic.
  • Firefox — Citing a browser is kind of a basic toolbox component but Firefox wins first prize in ease of use and runs most of the ubiquitous blogging platforms better than Safari or IE. Plus you can’t beat one-click RSS subscriptions.
  • Flickr — Hands down the best way to host and share photos on the interwebs. Additionally, you can search for photos to accent your posts and provide some visual flare (Flickr/Advanced Search/Creative Commons).
  • Twitter — While I’m not saying that Twitter should be reduced to a mindless feed of all of your new posts, it does offer a great way to share your blog updates with those who like to hear from you. It’s simply another channel in addition to RSS and email subscriptions for getting the word out. As long as you provide personal content and valuable retweets on your Twitter stream, tossing in your updates is permissible within reason.

You may find that a toolbox like the one outlined above works wonders for you or you may find that you need a different set of tools. Regardless, the biggest take away is the need to define a system for your blogging. That is the key to success. More than a paint-by-numbers approach, you not only need to find what works for you but you need to capture it in a system that you can follow. While it may seem rote and systematic during your creative times, it can help you out of a jam when your well dries up.

What tools are in your blogger’s toolbox?