The 5 Best Things I [______] this Year

It’s quiet out there on social media. I’m in San Diego with my wife’s family for the holidays, as per usual. And, as per usual, my email’s a little slower than normal, my Twitter feed a little more empty, my Google+ feed likewise. It’s nice.

But then, I find myself with 30 minutes on my in-laws’ couch, waiting for someone to get ready to go somewhere, and so I scroll through things on my phone or laptop and think “I wish there was something good to read right now.” So, what the heck, maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe you, like me, could use a brief distraction, and something to make you feel productive, sharp, or at least like you’ve got something interesting to share around the table if the conversation takes an awkward or inappropriate turn.

Thus, I’m putting together a few lists of things I consumed and/or produced this year that you will, fingers crossed, find valuable.

Critical caveat: this is my personal opinion and nothing more. It’s also not a wholly comprehensive or wholly accurate list, and there’s almost certainly items from each list that I’ve left off which are better than those I remembered. Such is the tragedy of having a poor memory — hopefully you can forgive ūüôā

5 of the Best Non-Marketing/Tech Things I Read This Year

  1. I’m Just Now Realizing How Stupid We Are – from the Motley Fool
  2. The Fermi Paradox – from Wait, But Why
  3. The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking is Healthy – from Pacific Standard
  4. The Toxoplasma of Rage – from Slate Star Codex
  5. The Uncatchable: How Greece’s Most-Wanted Man Became a Folk Hero – from the BBC

5 of the Best Marketing/Tech Things I Read This Year

  1. The Case for Why Marketing Should Have Its Own Engineers – from First Round Capital
    (included because modern web marketing is almost always tied to and limited by dev resources)
  2. New Findings: This Type of Direct Traffic Is Unquestionably Organic – from Conductor
    (included because dark traffic is such a pervasive and rising force in online marketing; see also this SELand post)
  3. What Happened When Google Pulled Author & Video Snippets – from Moz
    (included because of the critical reminder that not every Google change we perceive as negative actually costs publishers traffic)
  4. People Believe Words are “Arguments” While Images are “Facts” – from Forbes
    (included because it shows the power of visuals for marketing of all kinds)
  5. Google Becomes the US’ 2nd-Largest Spender on Government Lobbying – from The Washington Post
    (included because so many Google observers and critics wonder how and why their activities have drawn no regulation)

5 of the Best Photos/Visuals I Saw This Year

1. Giant Octopus Invades Submarine (via Dean West)


2.  The Hierarchy of Disagreement from CreateDebate (created in 2008, but I only saw it this year somehow!)


3. How Carousel Navigation Should Be from Anthony at UX Movement


4. Sunda Flying Lemur from Hendy Mp on 500px


5. The Mobius Arch in California at Night via Imgur



5 of the Best Photos/Visuals I Took/Made This Year

1. Google’s Algorithmic Journey via this blog post


2. Criteria for Modern Content Marketing Investments via this presentation:


3. Ashland, OR just after a thunderstorm in July (click for larger version):


4.¬†The SEO “Slog” from this Whiteboard Friday:


5. Caveman Rand via this presentation:


5 of the Best Pieces of Content I Created This Year

  1. Mad Science Experiments in SEO & Social Media – my presentation from Mozcon 2014
  2. A Long, Ugly Year of Depression that’s Finally Fading¬†– my blog post about a mental/emotional demon I’ve been fighting the last couple years
  3. Blog Without SEO and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost – my guest post on Problogger
  4. How to Avoid the Unrealisitic Expectations SEOs Often Create – my best received Whiteboard Friday of 2014
  5. Why Content Marketing Fails Рone of my most popular slide presentations ever

5 of the Best Webs Tools I Started Using This Year

  1. Niice – a search engine for designer visuals
  2. Buzzsumo – a tool for content marketing inspiration & competitive analysis
  3. Awesome Screenshot Рbrowser plugin for saving, editing, and annotating screen captures
  4. Fullcontact – Gmail plugin for social and context data
  5. Conspire – Email analytics and connection finder
  6. Voila Norbert – a tool to find anyone’s email address (sorry for more cheating! Had to throw this one in)

5 of the Best Books I Read This Year

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – by Sherman Alexie
  2. Tell The Wolves I’m Home – by Carol Rifka Brunt
  3. Saga – by Brian Vaughan & Fiona Staples
  4. Shadow of the Wind – by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  5. The Rosie Project – by Graeme Simsion

NOTE: I stopped reading business books in 2014, mostly because I found that I received almost no additional value from reading them vs. reading online summaries of them. I’m sure there are some business-related books I should still read (The Hard Thing About Hard Things, for example, has been mentioned by dozens of colleagues), but I intensely dislike entire business books, so I’ve put them on hold, at least for a while.

The 5 Best Places I Went This Year (that I’d never been to before)

  1. Tropical North Queensland (specifically Port Douglas & environs), Australia
  2. Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
  3. The Amalfi Coast, Italy
  4. The Anza-Borrego Desert, CA
  5. Ava Gene’s in Portland, OR tied with Nye’s Polonaise Room in Minneapolis, MN (sadly, the latter is to close next year)

If you have some best things to add and share, please don’t hesitate to put them in the comments. I’d love a few more distractions for the days ahead.