10 From 2010

Looking back on 2010, I put together a list of my top 10 favorite things that made a difference in my year and was surprised to see how heavily travel featured in my list:

Pandora One:  I love listening to music while working, so my iPod is always close by. But this year I discovered Pandora – a music streaming service that finds and plays songs based around any favorite song you use to seed it. You can create multiple “stations” around different songs, composers, bands and even combine multiple seed songs on one station. I have created music stations for every genre of music to suit my mood. For example, while writing research I listen to one of six classical stations and while chilling with a glass of my favorite wine I listen to a station I called… "glass of wine radio"! Pandora offers a free version supported by ads and a premium version, Pandora One, which offers unlimited high-fidelity ad-free streaming for $36 a year. This year I moved to Pandora One because I wanted the higher-quality music feed and I love finding new music through Pandora. I regularly listen to Pandora on my PC, through the desktop app, and on my BlackBerry, which I connect to my home audio system to play music back through my hi-fi. http://www.pandora.com

Netflix Watch Instantly: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my wife and I are real movie buffs so having easy access to movies through streaming is a big deal for us. We love the variety available through Netflix and their watch instantly service. As well as watching movies, we also find ourselves watching TV series through the service. http://netflix.com

TED videos: I just discovered TED online videos this year (I've known about TED for years but hadn't realized so many great videos were available online). The TED talks are at times amazing and at times inspiring –and sometimes both at the same time. If you haven't watched TED yet, check it out at TED.com. The TED app for the iPad is brilliant -- which brings me to… 

iPad: I was a late adopter of the iPad. Frankly, I couldn't see the need for yet another digital device in my life. However, after buying one for my wife Sue’s birthday, I was hooked (she let me try it out). Sue bought me one just four weeks later for my birthday -- proving the saying that you need to give to get! The iPad brings a whole new dimension to the internet that makes it a great entertainment device as well as a fast research tool. The apps available for the iPad provide a highly intuitive interface to a wealth of great information (and fun). The battery life is simply amazing and the image quality is stunning. My only peeve with it is the lack of support for Flash -- with so many web pages using Flash, this really prevents the iPad from being a truly great web device. Regardless of Flash, Apple has put together a formidable customer experience where iPad customers derive value from far more than a great tablet device -- it also comes from the service experience of going to the Apple store and connecting through the App Store and iTunes. While devices can be copied, the value experience is much harder to replicate. 

Executive Platinum on American Airlines: Analysts travel a great deal. Finding things that make travel bearable is important when you travel as much as we do. Sticking to one airline as much as possible certainly helps -- airlines reward their frequent travelers with many perks. But last year, thanks to a bonus offered by American, I qualified for American Airlines' highest frequent traveler level for the first time, and it transformed my 2010 flying experience. Put simply, at the exec platinum level I rarely traveled in economy because of free upgrades to first class. When you fly 100,000+ miles a year this really makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, you have to travel 100,000+ miles to qualify -- on balance I'd prefer to travel less. But if you have to travel, you may as well travel in comfort. Thanks American! 

Soundmatters foxl speaker - one of 10 from 2010foxl speaker. Since I travel a great deal, and I like listening to music, the quality of portable speakers is important to me. I admit to being a bit of an audiophile but I happen to believe music shouldn't sound like it's being played through a shoebox. Last December I came across the tiny foxl portable speaker -- the reviews were almost too good to be true. After telling my wife about it she decided to get me one for Christmas (alas sourcing problems delayed it's arrival till Fathers day) -- when I plugged it in, I was blown away! This tiny speaker packs a stereo sound that is simply unbelievable from such a small package. One clue to its amazing bass response is the way the design uses the lithium battery as a low frequency driver. If you have a need for high-quality portable sound, and you're willing to fork over what may seem like an unduly large sum of money, take it from me ... This is an investment you won't regret. http://www.soundmatters.com/foxl/

Xmarks: I use multiple browsers across multiple devices and I make extensive use of bookmarks. My frustration, up until this year, was that there was no easy way to sync all my bookmarks across all my browsers -- if I bookmark a site in one browser, I’d like it to be available as a bookmark in another browser. This year I discovered Xmarks which does the job nicely. Thanks for a solid utility that's a true time saver. http://www.xmarks.com/

Royal Caribbean cruises: I am one of those people who hates to have their vacations planned out in advance. I've been known to head out on vacation knowing only where I'll be on the 1st night. Cruises always seemed to me to be the opposite of my idea of a relaxing vacation. I always had the idea that everything on a cruise was organized for you ... boy was I mistaken. Our first cruise was in 2007 -- Sue and I were actually married on the ship! Well this year we went on our second cruise with Royal Caribbean and we're hooked. I love the fact that our hotel arrives somewhere new each day; I love the fact we can eat whenever we feel like it; I love the fact that we can go on shore excursions if we want or we can simply laze on the ship ... or go rock climbing, play table tennis or take a sauna, etc. 

Priceline.com: Amazingly, I only tried Priceline for the first time at the end of 2009 -- I was reluctant to commit to paying for a hotel without first reviewing the hotel. When I did get around to trying Priceline, I discovered that you could indeed stay at a four or five star hotel at a fraction of the room rate quoted on other travel sites. As long as you stick to four or five star hotels you know you are going to stay somewhere clean and comfortable. So if you just need a room in a city, you really can save big. If you don’t mind possibly not staying at your preferred hotel chain, Priceline is a great service. http://priceline.com

TripAdvisor.com: As well as traveling for work, I also enjoy traveling for pleasure. When I do, I always go to TripAdvisor.com first. I use it to check out hotels, restaurants and things to do -- looking for places to go and places to avoid. You can’t trust every review you read -- companies are actually selling services to hotels to post good reviews for them, and they know to always say something a little negative so people think they are genuine -- so be wary of anything with just two or three reviews. And don't forget negative reviews can just as easily be posted by a competitor next door. But overall there is no better site for getting the feel of travel services. We even used TripAdvisor to help book our cruise excursions this year, getting better trips than were available through the cruise line. http://tripadvisor.com

These are my top 10 for 2010. As you can see, they are heavily influenced by travel, which is not suprising since it's such a big part of my year. What are your top 10 for 2010?

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