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How to Live Your Entire Life on Facebook
By Christopher Null
We’ll concede that the average Facebook user is doing nothing productive with their day, likely burning hours on end playing Mob Wars or agonizing over the finer points of a 25 More Things You Didn’t Know About Me note. Or perhaps goading colleagues into frittering away their time in endless rounds of Scrabble. But it turns out that the uber-popular social networking site is good for more than just fooling around. In fact, many Facebook applications can be so surprisingly productive and useful that you might not ever have to leave its environs during your Web-browsing day. Dare we even suggest you might be able to get honest-to-God work done using Facebook? Poke your boss and make sure he knows! Here are some of our favorite Facebook apps for the truly obsessive.
Zoho Online Office
This is about as close as you can get to doing actual work using Facebook. Zoho has ported a hefty chunk of its popular Web-based Zoho Online Office application suite to work within the Facebook site. When you sign up, your Facebook account can be linked with an existing Zoho log-in (or you can set one up on the fly), and you’ll find all your saved and shared documents available for browsing–and for sharing with other Facebook+Zoho users. Unlike the other apps on this list, editing documents ultimately opens a new window on the Zoho site, rather than being hosted within the Facebook app directly; but rest assured, you can hustle back to your safe zone once your work is done.
Just because you’re a shut-in who never logs off of Facebook doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat once in a while. The TripAdvisor-developed Local Picks app has more than 530,000 restaurants covered in its entirely Facebookized recommendation utility, letting you read millions of reviews and, of course, add your own. An easy map-and-zoom system lets you locate the nosh nearest your intersection. You can also compare your ratings with those of friends–and find out who among your Facebook circle has the same “dining compatibility” as you. Don’t forget to chew thoroughly.
Nothing else quite goes with the Facebook experience as drinking copious amounts of wine. And true to form, several Facebook applications are designed to appeal to your inner wino. Bottlenotes is largely self-explanatory: It’s an application that lets you archive personal tasting notes and opinions regarding everything you drink. Just type in the name of the wine, some comments, and a star rating, and Bottlenotes archives the memo for posterity. Naturally, you can compare notes with friends and also add “wish list” wines that you’d like to buy (or receive as a gift–hint, hint).
What’s going on out there in the real world? So-called “meetups” are becoming an increasingly popular way for like-minded citizens to get together and expound on their love for beer, board games, Obama, or just about anything else. Mind you, attending a meetup does require leaving your house, so if that’s too much trouble, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of just browsing the application to see exactly how far out some of these meetups can get. Turns out people will meet in real life to talk about anything.
No need to deal with a stand-alone video messaging client to get your live pic up on your Facebook page. Dynamite Webcam can pull in any Webcam feed and populate your profile with the latest picture you’ve snapped. Setup isn’t the easiest process in the world, but it generally works as advertised. If none of your friends are updating their cam pics, just browse the gallery and get a peek at the rest of the world. Don’t be surprised if most of them are…sitting at their desks looking unfathomably bored, just like you.
Web Presence doesn’t really do anything for you, but it can be a great help for your legions of fans and friends: It’s a blogroll of sorts, all about you: Just punch in the URLs for your Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and other social networking accounts, and Web Presence gathers them all up, adding the appropriate icon for each site into its convenient box. You aren’t limited to just the major social networking sites, either; you can add links to your personal blog or, really, to any Web site you want, making it not just a handy directory of your Web presence, but a place to drop your favorite bookmarks, too.
What a pain it is to spend all that time writing a blog post…and then have to manually add it as a link in your feed using Facebook’s “Post Link” feature. Make it simple–or rather, automated–by using Simplaris Blogcast. With this app, you simply paste in the URL for your blog’s XML or RSS feed, and just like an RSS reader, Blogcast pulls in the most recent headlines and a digest (you decide how long) once a day (or immediately, depending on what blogging software you use). And for the truly lazy, it doesn’t even have to be your own blog: Blogcast works with any feed you give it; but, alas, you can only bring in one feed at a time.
Maniacal genealogists should absolutely love social networks–this way they can combine their need to document the name and whereabouts of every relative they have with their love of status updates and SuperPokes. FamilyLink.com’s We’re Related app is probably the best ancestry tool available for Facebook, letting you add your Facebookin’ relatives to an easily navigible tree or list view. With more and more older users getting into the Facebook game, such genealogical trees are expanding more rapidly than you’d expect, and even if you can’t convince Grandpa Walter’s ghost to register for the site, you can still add his information (and that of other not-on-Facebook heathens) manually.
Everyone dumps their photo library into Facebook, but then what happens? Aside from the pithy comments about your hairline or your ‘do from your so-called “friends,” basically nothing. Picnik puts a full-featured photo editor at your disposal so you can turn a lifeless shot into something far more interesting. All the usual tools are here–a red-eye zapper, color tweaker, exposure adjuster, edge sharpener, and of course resize, crop, and rotate capabilities–then add stickers and speech bubbles if you want to get playful. It’s all designed to let you tweak pics without ever leaving your Facebook profile. A premium version ($25/year) adds extra goodies. “Photo editing awesomeness”–as the app’s tagline goes–just about sums it up.
The Internet isn’t exactly desperate for more music-focused applications, but if you’re on Facebook, your options are actually rather limited. Probably the best way to spin tunes within the site is through iLike. A partnership with Rhapsody lets you play up to 25 complete songs, not just clips, direct from Facebook, and if you use the iTunes plug-in (available on the ilike.com Web site) you can automatically import your entire music library, complete with playlists, to the service. Additional social networking features let you share all of this with your friends; plus, you get upcoming album info, concert dates, top-track charts, quizzes… enough, really, to eat up your entire day in a Blondie-fueled haze.
Keeping your schedule together is a critical part of the life any well-tempered computer user, and the bluntly named Calendar, from 30 Boxes, is the best one available for Facebook. Just click the self-explanatory calendar boxes for the upcoming days, and type in what you have to do. The system defaults to “all day” events, but click again and you can set start and end times and invite other people to group meetings (though you’ll need a 30boxes.com account to do the latter). Super handy, and a digested version can be dropped onto your profile page… but we’re at an utter loss to explain why the app won’t accept any events that begin with the word “malt” (no, we’re not joking).
What to do about all the bookmarks you’ve archived on del.icio.us? Bring ’em into Facebook in a box of their own. There are several del.icio.us-oriented apps available, but the one we’ve found that works best is My del.icio.us, which lets you import up to 25 of your most recent del.icio.us bookmarks, complete with notes and/or tags. You can also limit it to show only the links with a tag you specify (say, “facebook”). The box automatically updates every half hour to 45 minutes, pulling your latest picks in for all to see.
Yo’, dawg, I heard you like Web videos, so I put a Web video viewer in your Facebook so you can watch videos while you do your Facebooking! That’s right, YouTube+ shrinks down not just YouTube, but Revver and Metacafe too, bringing you just about all of the features of these sites right inside Facebook’s environment. Search for clips and watch and rate videos: You can do it all without having to leave your FB session. Whenever you mark a video as one of your favorites, a link to it is automatically added to your profile feed.