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25.04.2008 Organizing Thoughts Openly (part 1): Communityism

This is part one of a series of posts called “Organizing Thoughts Openly”. In this series I search for solutions and software to help in organizing thoughts and being the master of puppets on your computer and the big bad Internet.

It has been almost a year since I got my first touch with Flock. It is a browser that derives from Firefox and enhances it with community features. A friend used it and liked it a lot. He is a bit of a gadget freak, using lots of community sites (it took him months to join Facebook though) and I am mostly just an Open Source enthusiast. I am not taking so many pictures and after all not many of them end up on Flickr. After reading the terms on Facebook, I am definitely not uploading any of my images there. As an old friend of IRC I am not so keen on all the new things like AIM or GoogleTalk. I am pretty new to forums as well: I started on my first one for leisure purposes roughly a year ago. LinkedIn was the first community I joined voluntarily without a doubt.

The features of Flock include: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Blogger, webmail and various other sorts of integration, an RSS reader, a blogging tool, the Mozilla engine with a recognizeable user interface. I have mine sautéed with my favourite Firefox extensions.

So what does a guy like me get from Flock, the social browser? I wouldn’t describe myself as anti-social, I am an amateur stand-up act for Pete’s sake. I am not sure if I am comfortable telling people that I am home again and I don’t bother with mobile presence. If somebody does give a toss, they know my mobile number or don’t know and are incapable of asking the number service. They might as well ask me on mobile IRC which I use while using a form of public transport. The intuitive answer for the question would be: nothing. That’s an easy guess but still a bit far fetched. I am not an active content provider, unless you consider this blog active which it actually is compared to most blogs which despite the great audience and response die with a total of ten posts. I do like content, I would love to have the time, the energy and the commitment to create a lot myself.

The problem with content is that there is too much of it. It is too easy to get caught in the avalanche and spend a few hours of the precious working time doing absolutely nothing productive. In my case of working from home, I have a rather strict view of what is billable and what is not. After a few days with Flock I feel that I can finally hide my communities during working hours and bring them up with a single click to go with my coffee whenever I “need” them. I can see that Flock can work as a part of the problem as well if you use it with a wrong kind of philosophy. I couldn’t imagine working with a browser that has a constantly updating media bar and everyone’s Facebook status popping up every so and so minutes.

I have never been the first to jump on a bandwagon when it comes to these hyped new communities. Someone has to invite me first. I know it has its cons as well: it took me until yesterday to join I first met with it as late as a few months ago and for a bloke running several computers in parallel and constantly missing a synchronization feature in Firefox, it was an earth-rumbling experience. The browser plug-in, even while taking a lot of space, has now almost completely replaced my bookmark tool bar. I love adding pages to my toread tag so that I can actually remember to read them when I am not working.

Results: I give Flock a thumbs-up for moving my communities to a single sidebar. The blog feature gets a high-five in case this post succeeds. Missing Ubuntu packaging and 32-bit-only tar-balls are a turnoff. Combined with and my favourite plug-ins I have high hopes that I will one day feel organized again.

The next post will be about keeping your calendar and time management devices in sync. You may make suggestions for any future post by email or commenting.