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Digital tools that fulfil YOUR needs first

Look after your software and it will look after you - and your data.

"Host your own!" That's what I keep telling friends when they ask what web software to use. Which isn't really much help when you don't want to rent your own server.

But, there it is. You can only determine your own data's future when you control the software. And the best way to do that is by running your own server.

Meanwhile, in the real world...

I'm not recommending everyone should suddenly get their own server and start learning how to maintain it - although it would be great. What I am recommending is that everyone should begin taking responsibility for, and control of, their own data and not depend on others to do it for them. Others who may not have your security and privacy in mind.

For example. Here's how I manage RSS feeds I want to read and highlight certain articles for reading later.

Fever

I bought and host a copy of the excellent RSS reader, Fever, from Shaun Inman.

As an aside: After the news of Google Reader's forced retirement, Shaun posted an useful list of things to know before considering switching to Fever.

I use Fever to maintain and organise a list of RSS feeds that I follow. I regularly skim through them to find articles I may want to read in full. It has a great feature that lets me specify sharing methods. I can read the full article on the source site straight away by clicking the link in Fever or, if I want to read it later, I can send it to my Instapaper account, instead.

Instapaper

Instapaper is a nifty online reading tool from Marco Arment. When I find something I want to read later in Fever, I share it with Instapaper, where it sits in my Unread list until I read it and delete it.

Instapaper also, handily, sends my collection of unread articles to my Kindle, on which I prefer to read long-form pieces.

Toolbox

You can certainly find a huge number useful products that won't ruin your digital life if they suddenly disappear. The trick is not to depend too much on one thing to do everything for you. Instead, compile a toolbox. Just make sure to pick tools that do a single thing very, very well.

I've tried out, selected and whittled down the tools I use over the years and now have a toolbox I'm happy with and which serves my needs. Hear that? My needs.

If Shaun decides to retire Fever, it doesn't matter to me that much. He may decide to no longer provide updates or not add new features. But, as long as it runs on my own server and I control it, it ain't going anywhere until I decide on a replacement product or to simply keep hold of the existing one. I can even export my collection of feeds from Fever (when and how it suits me) for importing into any new product I may decide to replace it with.

Just ask

There are plenty of people out there willing to share their experiences and knowledge with you. Ask for their advice via twitter; facebook; e-mail; blog comments or face-to-face. Start building your toolbox, so that when the next provider decides to "retire" their product, you won't be left hanging.