I thought I'd plug some of the random web gadgets I came across last year. So here are my top 5 gadgets from 2008:
The jury is out on this one. It's a bit of a personal experiment - I've just signed up and I'll give it a few weeks before delivering my verdict. Basically: Twitter is a glorified Facebook status-update bar. Or an enormous chat-room with your friends. How useful it is depends on how many people you know that are signed-up to it, and Twitter doesn't have what marketing types call "high penetration" amongst my friends. This is why I'm plugging it in the number one slot: not because it's great, but because it could be great if more people I know sign up to it. You know who you are... :D (P.S. I'm JosefLitobarski on Twitter [EDIT: I've since changed my profile name. Now, I'm CitizenEurope])
This little program is pure groovoir sous forme électronique. It's actually the real number one app from 2008! Digsby lets you access all of your online social programs (e-mail, Facebook, gmail, MSN, and tons more) from one place. Once you've set it up, you can have access and manage all of your different accounts at the same time. I have my Digsby managing 3 e-mail accounts, 1 social network (Facebook), and 7 IM accounts. And it'll manage Twitter for me too, when I get the bloody thing set up!
3) Info-War Monitor
Infowar Monitor is an online resource/webzine/smörgåsbord of developments in cyberspace. There are some worrying long-term trends in c-space which I had no idea about, and it's nice to have things summarised by people "in-the-know." It's easy to get a bit tinfoil-hat about this sort of thing, but the people at the Monitor write professionally and objectively. It's also edited by a guy I went to University with, so I've been getting his perspective on what's been going on in cyberspace over the last few months. Interesting stuff, and worth a free subscription to their newsfeed.
Questia is an online library of books, just like Google Books. However, unlike Google Books, you have to pay for access. Once you have access, however, there are no limited previews - everything is open to you to search, highlight and print (you can't download books yet). Access is reasonably priced (something like 70 euros a year [EDIT: Erk... more like 90 euros a year!]) - and it has plenty of rare books useful for students and academics. Many of the textbooks on Questia would cost 30 or 40 euros to buy, so for students it's a godsend! In my quest to hold the cultural roots of Europe in my hand and lick the ends a bit, I also think Questia's history section will be pretty useful.
Finally, this one isn't real yet (AFAIK) - but it should be.... I've already posted about my newfound love of "wiki-reading." I highlight text from chapters of books I'm reading and then look everything up online (typically on Google Scholar/Books, Wikipedia or Questia). I've been thinking about how to streamline the process - and I came up with a sweet idea! I wish I had a pen-scanner instead of a highlighter, which I could use to highlight interesting text and which (with wireless access to my laptop) would then take me straight to the relevent Wikipedia entry. If any pen-scanner manufacturers are reading my blog: please take note.