5 Useful (and Free) Web-based Blogging Tools

blog-tools
computer-security-guide-cover-2nd-ed

4-Step Computer Security Upgrade

Learn to encrypt your files, secure your computer when using public Wi-Fi, enable two-factor authentication, and use good passwords.

I launched my first law blog in 2005 and continue to blog to this day. Along the way I’ve discovered a number of web-based content curation and blogging tools that I’ve found to be invaluable time savers. In this post, I’m going to share my top 5 favorite blogging tools with you.

Content Curation

One of the most difficult parts of blogging is coming up with topics for posts. Arguably the best way to locate ideas is to stay abreast of the news related to your topics of choice and to read what other people in your field are writing about. And one of the easiest and most efficient ways to do this is take advantage of the many free content curation tools that are readily available.

Feedly

First and foremost, you need a good RSS feed reader. Why? Because RSS feed readers simplify your life and bring information relevant to your  interests directly to you, in one place. The way these web-based applications work is that you subscribe to RSS feeds of various websites and blogs that interest you and then as new updates are posted, they automatically appear in your feed reader.

My RSS reader of choice is FeedlyI’ve used Feedly since 2009  and think it’s the best feed reader available. And, now that Google reader is shutting down, it’s arguably one of the best remaining RSS readers out there.

If you’re not familiar with it, Feedly is a browser add on which is also available as a smartphone or tablet app. Once you install it, you subscribe to blogs and you can then organize your various subscriptions into different categories. One thing that makes Feedly so useful to bloggers is that it “learns” as you interact with it and serves up the most relevant content based on your usage habits. It’s a really useful, free tool for bloggers and I highly recommend it.

Prismatic

Another great source for content curation is Prismatic.  Prismatic is my favorite news aggregation and content discovery tool. It’s available as a browser add on and also as smartphone or tablet app. Prismatic locates relevant content for you by crawling social networks and the web for content. It then serves up content it deems most relevant to you based on your social networks, your chosen topics of interest and your past interaction with the program. I love Prismatic because it does an incredible job of providing interesting, relevant links to content I wouldn’t necessarily have discovered otherwise.

Twitter lists

Another great source for locating useful content is Twitter lists. I find that carefully curated Twitter lists often provide a really interesting assortment of links. In many cases, the most useful lists are limited to people within a certain sphere of influence or to people who focus on a limited number of topics. You can either create your own lists or simply follow lists curated by others. One way to find relevant lists is to see which lists your favorite people on Twitter appear on or have created. Another way is to locate lists that consist of attendees of a conference about your areas of interest. For example, right now one of my favorite lists to follow is the ABA TECHSHOW 2013 attendees list that I created. It’s chock full of interesting legal technology links and discussion.

Blogging Tools

Of course, blogging isn’t just about locating content to write about. It’s also about creating content and sharing it. And there are some really helpful tools out there that help you do just that. Here are two of my favorites.

Zemanta

I discovered Zemanta, a blog publishing aid,  a few years ago and it’s now one of my most relied upon blogging tools. Zemanta is really handy, free browser add on that is designed to supplement and assist bloggers.

After installation, it appears as an overlay to your blogging platform and provides you with an assortment of useful data based on a contextual analysis of the text of your post. Information provided includes: images with understandable license details (obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr and various stock photo providers), links, tags and related articles. Zemanta is an invaluable time-saver and is a tool that I simply couldn’t live without.

Buffer

And, last but not least, Buffer. Locating ideas and writing about content is important, but so is strategically sharing it and tracking the interests of your followers–and that’s where Buffer comes in. Buffer is a free browser add on and also comes in a smart phone and tablet app. Buffer makes it easy to schedule when you share your content via  different social media sites. It also provides very helpful analytics, so that you’ll know which posts were most popular and on which social networks.

Like the other tools discussed above, Buffer is an great app and helps to round out your blogging toolbox. So give Buffer and the other blogging tools I mentioned a spin and see what a difference the right tools can make!

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jrhode/4632887921/)

Subscribe

Get Lawyerist in Your Inbox, Daily

Current Articles
Current Lab Discussions
  • Thomas

    I discovered Zemanta a couple of days ago whilst installing a plugin called Related Posts, didn’t pay much attention to it until reading this post. When you claim you “couldn’t live without” which is quite a statement by the way, it deserves a further look.

  • I use Zemanta daily, and I concur that it is a great tool for curation. For WordPress blogs, you might check out the MyCurator plugin at the repository http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mycurator/. It works like Prismatic to find interesting content automatically, proactively pushing it to a private page on your blog. As a plugin, you can easily curate this content right to your site using your standard WordPress environment. Free for those getting started in curation too.

  • J

    +1 for Zemanta. I also use their Related Posts plugin on my blogs.

    However, the blogging plugin is not the most discoverable. So to save you a Google search, you can see the demo & download the plugin for your browser or site at http://www.zemanta.com/download/

    • J-

      Thanks for including the Zemanta link in your comment. I inadvertently failed to include it in my post so your addition is much appreciated!

      Niki

  • Hi Nichole,

    Zemanta, what a great discovery! :)

    Hope you’re doing well.

    Rafi