Official Texas Tie Create custom workflows for your team with project manager and issue tracker, Colabolo

Posted by maggie.hunsucker July 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

Colobolo logo

We’re a fan of web-based project management tools (Basecamp, ActiveCollab, Thymer, etc).  They house all your project minutia (files, deadlines, conversations, etc) in a single location and streamline workflow processes.

But what if you have more than one process or different departments involved in the same project?   You need a project management software that takes into account the different ways that we all work.

That’s where Colabolo comes in.   It’s part project manager, part issue tracker, and the ideal tool for a company whose business team includes web developers or IT professionals (not unlike Digital Scientists).   Colabolo lets you have multiple workflows and customize workflow templates to suit your needs.  For example, you can create a custom workflow for order processing for your sales department and a help desk workflow for your IT department.

Colabolo is a desktop application, built on the Adobe AIR platform.   This means users can use Colabolo offline and the system will sync files next time you are connected to the network.   It operates like most project management tools, but there are some standout features for issue/bug tracking (especially for bootstrapped companies that want to give the appearance of a fully operational help desk):

  • Customers can email issues, and the system will automatically create a ticket in the system
  • Project managers can then comment on the issue or assign issue attributes (type, priority, assignee, description), choosing whether or not this reply will be emailed back to the customer
  • Ability to attach files to issues through an easy drag-and-drop interface
  • Timestamped comment threads

Colabolo is a free download while in Beta, but eventually it will move to a monthly user fee model.   The trade-off is unlimited projects, issues, and files.

Part of the Web 2.0 revolution was bringing traditional desktop software online. Now, we're seeing web-based applications being brought back to the desktop (thanks in part to Adobe AIR).

Basecamp is our go-to project management tool, but our development staff has to rely on a combination of services to monitor our sites, check code, and track issues. We see a definite need in the marketplace for a product like Colobolo.

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  The "other" beaker drops Simplify event prep by adding a Google Doc to your Google Calendar invite

Posted by maggie.hunsucker July 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

google-labs-logo

Google Calendar users may have noticed a little green beaker in the right-hand navigation. This, of course, is the mark of Google Labs, which indicates that an experimental feature(s) has been rolled out.

We’re most excited about the new Google Docs attachment.   This one lets you attach a document (assuming you use Google Docs as well) to your event invitation. It’s important to note that your invitees don’t need a Google Docs account, but you will need to enable sharing on that particular document for them to access it.

This feature is ideal for disseminating a meeting agenda, a client presentation, or a sales report to your staff in preparation for the big event. Since the file is attached to the invitation, invitees will always have web-based access to the document (take that Outlook). Not to mention, there’s less risk of oversight with late additions to the guest list.

Picture 3

To use the feature, you’ll need to enable it through the labs icon (a.k.a. the green beaker).  Once enabled, create an invite as you normally would in Google Calendar. Then, click on “Add a Google document,” which is below the event description. You can browse all your Google documents, filter by document type, or use the search bar. Press select, and you are set.

We’re Googlephiles in our office and use the whole productivity suite – Mail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, etc.. They’re free, web accessible, and intermingle with each other nicely. What’s really great about this new feature is the fact we can offer the same level of collaboration with outside users.

Google Calendars rolled out some other features of interest - the ability to add a background image to your calendar or jump to a specific date (without the tedious clicking on the next arrow), as well as an upcoming meeting feature.

Google Labs allows Google to throw out products (and feature upgrades to their existing products) without the commitment. While some products wait indefinitely in Google Labs, others graduate and are added to Google's main roster. You may be surprised to find what's already at your disposal.

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  Socialwork Create a company social network with Socialcast

Posted by maggie.hunsucker June 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Picture 1Collaboration can be difficult when your workforce is scattered across offices.  Sure, there’s email and online chat, but these communication tools often make public conversations private knowledge.

Stay connected to projects and people, regardless of your location or level of involvement, with Socialcast.  Socialcast is an enterprise productivity tool.  It’s similar to Yammer, an idea we discussed in Everything looks like a nail, but whereas Yammer has a strictly Twitter flavor, Socialcast is a full-on social networking platform.

Employees have profile pages and the ability to follow each other.   Through the “what’s on your mind” status update, they can publish work activity, ideas, questions, general musings, etc, and other employees can view, comment, or attach files to those updates.  There’s also a groups functionality that can be used to manage projects, departments, or location-specific conversations.

The best part?  Everything is public and searchable.  No guessing who is working on what or what stage of development a project is at.   You can follow all conversation threads on the homepage or opt-in to receive email notifications.  The latter keeping you in the know, even when you’re not actively participating in the community.

The even better best part?  Socialcast is free.  The basic version comes with unlimited users, data ownership, administration rights, and more.  There is an enterprise version for companies that want to take the platform behind their own firewall, but we’re pretty impressed with the level of features you get with the basic version.

Socialcast is a great tool for fostering employee communication (think Yahoo Answers for your company) and creating a real sense of community. You can use it to share information that is often left out of the employee handbooks (e.g. best lunch spots, best times to avoid the line at the local cafe, wi-fi dead zones, etc.) and even to coordinate employee initiatives (e.g. carpooling, happy hours, recycling challenges, baby sitting programs, softball teams, etc.).

Socialcast has some pretty sweet integrations too. You can download a Socialcast desktop app, bookmarklet, and even a Google Gadget. You can also import your Facebook feed URL, which will automatically update your Socialcast status.

Socialcast is all about company visibility. Both the enterprise and basic version come with an anlaytics tool for tracking usage rates and trends.

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  On the same page Edit documents in real-time with collaborative EtherPad

Posted by maggie.hunsucker June 5, 2009 at 11:25 am

etherpad-logoThey say it’s the simple things in life that make you happy.  For tech geeks like us, it’s the simple web app with killer functionality and endless possibilities, like EtherPad.

EtherPad is a real-time, collaborative document editor.  Sure, there are similar products on the market,  but unlike, say, Google Docs or the eagerly anticipated Google Wave, EtherPad is the only “real time” editor available now.  Changes are instantly reflected on every participant’s screen (Google Docs has a pesky 5-15 second delay) and thanks to color-coded text, you can actually see who is making what changes.

EtherPad is a completely autonomous word processing platform, which means no sign-ups, no accounts, no permissions.   You can invite anyone to participate by sending them the URL.   It’s worth noting that there is an email invite feature, but it’s not required.   As users populate the “pad”, they see a common editing screen, where they can type directly or import a document, as well as a list of current editors and a group chat window.  EtherPad offers an infinite undo history and easy access to document revisions.   The editing functions are pretty limited (bold, italics), but you can export the final product in plain text, HTML, MS Word, or PDF, and style it further.  Your document and its multiple revisions will remain on your pad forever, however, since there are no accounts, the only way to access your work is through your EtherPad URL – lose that, and you could be in trouble.

etherpad-screenshot

The idea here, plain and simple, is collaboration on demand.  You can connect team members, clients, or any other outside party as they work on a creative concept; augment a team meeting or teleconference with shared notes that participants can take with them; hold a large brainstorming session; or just edit documents simultaneously.   The list goes on and on.

EtherPad is great for programmers and has a syntax highlighting feature for editing code. For pair programmers, who are often forced to share the same screen, you can collaborate and review the other person's work, regardless of physical location.

EtherPad offers an enterprise edition for companies looking to run an EtherPad server on their own network, but say, all you really want to do is create a branded (and easy to remember) EtherPad URL. No problem - just type http://EtherPad.com/yourbrand, and EtherPad will assign that URL to you (assuming it's not already taken).

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  Thingamajiggy Crowdsource product development with Quirky

Posted by maggie.hunsucker June 2, 2009 at 12:56 pm

quirky-logoIf you’ve got a great idea for a product, chances are, you lack the know-how and/or the opportunity to get it off the ground. Not to mention, the capital to build and market the darn thing.

Try listing your idea on Quirky instead.  Quirky is a product development community run by the same guys behind Name This (which we discussed in Hot Pockets).   Each week, inventors submit their product ideas in a competition.  There is a $99 entrance fee, but hear the pitch out:  The Quirky community (a.k.a. Influencers) votes on the best idea, which will then be turned into a real product with the help of the community.   In other words, Quirky takes your concept and sees it through the entire product development life cycle – design, protyping, branding, manufacturing, marketing, and sales.

Like Name This, Quirky offers everyone in the community a stake in the product. Influencers invest points in different ideas and receive payouts when their horse comes in first, which is motivation to keep them interested and active in the crowdsourcing process.   When a product reaches market, Quirky returns $.30 of every dollar sold to the participants involved ($.12 to the actual inventor).   While this may seem like highway robbery to someone not familiar with the benefits of crowdsourcing  – or fiercely protective of their idea – a $99 investment sees your product come to life, gives you invaluable market research and feedback during its design, and then provides a venue for sales (Quirky actually sells the products on their site).

If your idea isn’t chosen by the Quirky community, you are still provided with the demographic data of the community that reviewed your product.   This is valuable information that you can then use to improve your product idea or zero in on a target market.

Ben Kaufman, the young entrepreneur behind Name This and Kluster, has used the same crowdsourcing formula - and platform - with Quirky. If you peruse the active projects in Quirky, you'll notice the similarities to the Name This competitions.

When you sign-up for a Quirky account (free), you will be asked a series of "about me" questions, ranging from age to income to political affiliation. These form the demographic basis for the data that Quirky hands over to participating inventors.

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