Cool Tools is a site devoted to, unsurprisingly, cool tools. Each day the site features one tool—anything from portable jump kits to banana guards to custom gmail accounts to igloo making tools. (Last fall we featured their awesome DIY contest winner, hand lights.)
The brainchild of Kevin Kelly—who also co-founded Wired back in 1993—the best part about Cool Tools is that about 90 percent of the site’s suggestions are submitted readers who can personally vouch for the tool. And while I can’t speak for every reader, the reason I return to the site over and over again, is because even if I have no need for the tool they’re writing about … reading the review makes me wish I needed it.
Which is why we’re so thrilled that editor Oliver Hulland took the time to talk to us.
1.) Why blog?
I don’t think Cool Tools can easily be defined as a blog. I say that because blogging today has come to mean so many things, and I am always surprised when I realize the site doesn’t really fit into any of those definitions.
Cool Tools is more about curating than it is about blogging. I like to think of it as a web based inheritor of the Whole Earth Catalog that Stewart Brand published and Kevin Kelly edited. By tapping into a community of people who are making and doing and experimenting and discovering and wanting to share what they have learned, we provide a resource that has the potential to expand the limits of what any of us can accomplish on our own.
2.) How did you come up with the idea for CoolTools?
Kevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as a series of email messages containing recommendations for cool stuff. Over time his friends started to add reviews to the list. Eventually, he turned it into a website, and it has grown ever since.
3.) With so many voices in the blogosphere, what sets CoolTools apart?
Unlike other tech and gadget sites like Gizmodo and Engadget and Uncrate, Cool Tools is based on experience. We rely on our readers, those who are actually using these tools to create and do things, for our reviews. This allows us to evaluate a product on its real world use. Furthermore, we only publish reviews of products that we love. There are no negative reviews at Cool Tools because who wants to waste their time reading about something that doesn’t work? We don’t publish press releases, and we don’t get caught up in the latest and greatest flashy piece of tech. Instead, we focus our efforts on providing one really great recommendation a day.
I think our simplicity and our commitment to quality as opposed to quantity is refreshing, and goes a long way in explaining why we are able to maintain such a great community of readers and reviewers.
4.) Is there a specific post you’re most proud of? Or one that best represents what CoolTools all about?
In November we asked our readers to submit any good experiences they have had with companies that have great warranties. In a matter of hours they had created this incredible resource compiling stories about companies that stand by their products. Now anytime I buy anything, I double check the list.
For me, it represented the depth of knowledge that was waiting to be tapped in the community, and that when the collective expertise is shared we all benefit.
5.) What’s been the biggest challenge of running the blog?
Having to post a great tool every day is incredibly hard. Sometimes it feels like the well has run dry, and you have to really fight for every tool recommendation. What makes it even tougher is our commitment to the quality of not only the tools but also of the reviews themselves. Something we take pride in is never sacrificing our ethos for the sake of getting more page views.
Nevertheless, it is rewarding to know that the energy spent finding a new tool five days a week, 52 weeks a year is appreciated by our readers. They depend on us to find the best that is out there.
6.) Going forward, what goals do you have for CoolTools?
The biggest goal I have for Cool Tools is increasing its utility by continuing to tap into our best resource: our fantastic community of readers, commenters, and reviewers. Since commenting was enabled in 2008 we have seen this incredible outpouring of advice and expertise on every single review we publish. The response has exceeded any expectation we might have had. Now the challenge is to come up with tools that allow our community to better share their collective expertise and knowledge.
7.) What do you see in the future of blogging in general?
I don’t know if I can really predict with any confidence the future of blogging. I think Cool Tools is so much its own entity that I haven’t spent a lot of time examining the rapid pace and transformation of blogging elsewhere. I think the challenge has always been how to make money while remaining true to your readership, and I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.