By Jim Bruckbauer

Last month I shared some notes on Keith Brophy’s Tech Trends lecture, which he gave in Grand Rapids, MI. He described innovative new technologies that are just around the corner and how we can potentially use these technologies.

This month I’d like to share a couple of programs and technology tools I have been using lately that have helped make me a more productive and informed professional.
Twitter is a social networking service that allows a user to post text of up to 140 characters, which is in turn posted on the user’s profile page as well as to other users who have subscribed to see those posts. The intention of the site is to be a communication tool between loved ones or associates.
Of course some of us are skeptical about how this can be useful and not a waste of time and energy. If someone is posting their every activity, why do I want to know that information? Perhaps you don’t want to know when your best friend flushes the toilet.

But businesses are using this tool for productive communication. You may simply post relevant news articles, new product announcements, events, or links to those who may wish to follow your company. This is just one example of the productive uses businesses have created for this platform.
This web-based program has a search feature, so you may want to search your location to see what people are saying about your community. Go ahead, try it.

Google Reader
Many informational websites constantly publish articles, and it can be difficult to keep track of all your favorite sites. Google Reader is a tool that allows the user to be “fed” any new text articles that appear on a website. You simply subscribe to a website as a “Reader” and any updates from that website will be collected where you can read them at your leisure. From there, you can organize information from multiple sites and share it with people. I’ve just begun to explore this amazing tool.

I receive updates from the Financial Times, the Economist, Lifehacker (which I’ll touch on in a minute), Wired Magazine, Frommer’s, and my local news.

Taking the time to explore other Google tools may be beneficial; we like to use Google Docs, Google Chat, Google Maps and others.
Lifehacker is a website devoted to sharing information about software and tools that help you save time and become more productive. It features articles, tips, and suggestions on how to optimize aspects of your life through technology. Not only does it focus on making your work day more productive, but it also touches on tips and tools for personal finance, grocery shopping, and design, and it even discusses how to take better pictures.

Check this site out periodically, or if you’re like me, subscribe to receive feeds so you can intelligently speak and know about the latest and greatest technology tools.

If you’re using Outlook as your mail server, I would check out Xobni (spell it backwords). It’s a program you can install from that helps a you search and organize your inbox. Once the program is installed, a toolbar appears next to each email you receive. The toolbar will show information about the person to whom you are sending (or receiving) emails. Xobini collects information about the person from several social networking sites and shows a mini-profile of the person. It will also sort and calculate information about the trends in emails that have been sent to and from the person.

This tool is very useful for sorting and organizing your email, which, as most of us are aware, is becoming a large portion of our lives.

These are just a few tools that I’ve found helpful lately. They may not be for everyone, but I thought I would share them with you in hopes that you could at least give them a shot.

What are some tools that have been helpful for you? I’d love to hear about them, as well as your experience with any of the tools mentioned above.