Twitter eats Cleveland View activities, agendas, and time-tracking across your team with Co-op

Posted by maggie.hunsucker May 14, 2009 at 11:49 am

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We’ve seen and reviewed many tools that help you manage project workflow. If all you really need is visibility into your worker bees’ activities (or if you are a happy bee and want to give the Queen or King a view of what’s going on), platforms like Basecamp and Liquid Planner might be overkill.

Try Co-op instead.  Co-op is a group communication tool, not unlike Yammer, an idea we covered in Everything looks like a nail. Simply set-up a group, invite members via email, then start logging status updates.  These updates appear as a Twitter-like stream on the group page.  You can also create an agenda (and view other people’s agendas in your Co-op) or make group announcements.

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That little extra something that makes Co-op special – and different from Yammer – is the ability to log time to your status updates.  Ideally, an employee would enter their current activity and start the timer.  So when you view his/her status in the Co-op stream, you can see total time spent on that activity.   While this is handy for any manager or group to see, it’s worth mentioning that Co-op is designed to interact with its sister product, Harvest.  Harvest is a time-tracking and invoicing platform, and coincidentally, offering a free trial if you would like to give a test drive for 30 days.

Co-op is great for freelancers or multi-office teams where communication is crucial to keeping everyone organized and on task.  From a management perspective, you can easily monitor your team’s productivity without having to disrupt the work schedule with those pesky status update meetings.    Since Co-op is free and web-based, it’s pretty easy to implement in your routine.

Co-op has an open API, so you can pull data regarding group, team statuses, time entries, and agendas. If you wanted to use Co-op, but not Harvest, you can generate custom reporting to suit your needs.

Harvest offers integration with Basecamp, our project management platform of choice. You can log time to Basecamp activities through Harvest or use Co-op and pull time directly from your status entries. We'll keep an eye on this partnership as a Co-op status stream that displays in Basecamp would be a powerhouse offering.

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  Go with the flow Create media and web-enabled sales or demo presentations with Flowgram

Posted by maggie.hunsucker April 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm

With so many media types – webpages, audio, video, etc. – why is presentation software so behind the curve?   Why show a screengrab when you can show the actual webpage?  Why explain with drab text when you can layer a voice recording over your presentation?

That’s the idea behind Flowgram, an interactive presentation software that lets you incorporate a little bit of everything and mix-master it from a web-based interface.   Here’s the quick run down of what you can include in your presentations:

•    Webpages
•    Photos
•    Background Audio
•    RSS
•    Photos from Flickr, Facebook, & Picassa
•    Recorded Narration
•    Microsoft docs, including PowerPoint

You upload each as an element of your presentation, arranging and editing as you go.  You can create custom pages to fill in the holes or create transitions, as well as highlight text in documents or on webpages to draw the viewers eye to an important selection.  When you’re done, just tell Flowgram how you intend to share your presentation – you can make it a public document on Flowgram, embed it in your website, email it, upload to YouTube, or publish it directly to your blogging or social platform of choice. Whew.

Check out the Flowgram we created to demo the new version 1.5 of the Mission Zero iPhone App:

If you’ve ever sat through a boring PowerPoint presentation or lackluster demo, then you understand that a little rich media can go a long way.  If webpages are an integral part of your presentation, this is the tool for you.

Flowgram also offers a bookmarklet tool, so you can gather presentation elements as you surf the web. Simply drag and drop the bookmarklet tool to your browser toolbar, and you are good to go.

Flowgram comes with a built-in community, so you can make your presentations public and distribute them across the network. From the homepage, you can view Newest, Features, Top Rated, and the Most Discussed Flowgrams.

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  That's gonna leave a mark Simplify design revisions with RedMark annotation tool

Posted by maggie.hunsucker April 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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Design is a collaborative process with many iterations and a lot of back and forth between the client and designer.  The process is further complicated by the fact most conversations take place over the phone or through email.

One way to get the visual feedback you need is to use a revision tool like RedMark.   Clients can mark-up creative (image, documents, whatever) through a simple point-and-type interface, and RedMark automatically sends feedback to the designer.   The process continues as the designer uploads new versions, and all revisions and conversations are easily accessible through the web-based system.   The benefit is obvious here.   Beyond an initial meeting, designers and clients are rarely in the same room together.  Clients can quickly and demonstratively identify creative elements that need to be fixed.  Also, we’re talking about a fairly straight-forward tool, so technophobes can use RedMark with no instruction needed.  There is less chance of feedback being lost in translation – or lost somewhere in the designer’s inbox.

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RedMark is a free service, but it is in private beta.  However, 50…scratch that, we had to demo the product ourselves…49 of our lucky feed growth! readers can use RedMark with the following invitation code:  AZ0103.  Enjoy and leave us a comment, letting us know how you use Redmark!

Redmark might appear to be a Flash application, but it actually utilizes JQuery, a JavaScript library. JavaScript can be ported into widgets, opening up the possibility for Redmark to integrate with popular project management applications.

Even if you aren't a designer, the ability to annotate and collaborate on documents, as well archive these conversations, can be utilized for a variety of things. Marketers are frequently asked for their input on design decisions like product packaging or advertising copy.

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  More bounce to the ounce Crowdsource web and logo design with CrowdSpring

Posted by maggie.hunsucker February 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm

crowdspring-logoDesign-related crowdsourcing may seem like a saturated market, but if the whole idea is the more the merrier, one more contest service can’t hurt.

Consider using CrowdSpring for your next creative project.   CrowdSpring is similar to 99 Designs, a service we discussed in Take that- Luftballoons, but buyers have more control over the contest parameters – like reward money and duration – and receive a protection plan of sorts that includes a money-back guarantee (at least 25 entries per contest), a secure escrow service, digital watermarking, and a legally binding intellectual property contract.   The service also offers feedback mechanisms, so you can tell the community about your experience or do your homework before committing to a specific designer.

To create a contest on the site, sign-up for a free account and let CrowdSpring walk you through the setup.  You will be asked to submit a project brief, where you tell the design community about your creative needs, your target audience, and designs you like. If you wish, you can upload files that will aid in the design process (e.g. your company’s logo or existing marketing materials).   The only thing left to do is establish prize money amounts and contest duration.   The average CrowdSpring contest generates 68 design entries and with a community of creatives that is 15,000 strong, you should see a healthy return on your investment.

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While we really like is Crowdspring’s buyer slant, we’re big fans of crowdsourcing services in general. They give you the opportunity to tap endless creative resources, but only pay for what you really want.

Creatives looking to line their pockets can stay on top of CrowdSpring competitions by subscribing to category-specific RSS feeds, which are broken down into 3 main categories - Graphic Design, Website Design, and Photography - then further divided into individual competitions like logos, site design, banner ads, etc.

Crowdsourcing has been popularized by publications like Wired magazine for its low-cost, comparative model. The concept lends itself to many applications and market segments. Innocentive, a biomedical and pharmaceutical solutions broker, matches "Seekers" and "Solvers" for industry-relevant research and development challenges.

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  Saves Nine Annotate and share screen captures with Skitch

Posted by maggie.hunsucker February 10, 2009 at 12:30 pm

skitch-logoWe frequently cover tools that make the collaborative process possible. Sometimes, like today, we have the chance to discuss something that we know and use just about every day.

That tool is Skitch.  Skitch lets you grab photos or images online, edit or annotate them, then easily share them through your email and chat, or publish them on a web page or blog.  In other words, no need to waste your precious time or energy trying to communicate what you really want to illustrate.

To get started, download the Skitch application and sign up for an account.  While Skitch is free, only users with a Mac operating system can use the service (sorry, PC’s).   When launched, Skitch appears as a small application window. From here, you can snap screenshots of your browser or take a webcam picture, then use Skitch’s mini arsenal of editing tools to draw on or resize your image.   When you are finished, push save and Skitch will upload your image to your personal Skitch page.  You can share this url with people, drag and drop the image into your email or text editor, or generate an embed code for your web site or blog.   All in all, the process takes 10 seconds.

Check out my Skitch below:

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While Skitch is just plain fun to mess around with, it’s a great tool for communicating with your colleagues, especially when you’re editing just about any kind of marketing or selling materials.   In today’s digital landscape, team members often live in different cities (or countries).  Tools like Skitch make it possible to share your work, and perhaps more importantly, point to exactly what you want others to see.

Listen up Twitterheads! You can even sync your Skitch and Twitter account so that every time you save an image to Skitch, it automatically publishes to your Twitter page - making it, perhaps, an even better way of telling everyone what you are doing.

Skitch is like a screenshot on crack (for lack of better terminology). It lets you take a snapshot of what you are working on or viewing, comment directly on the image, then instantly share with anyone and everyone. The same process would require you to take a screenshot, convert the .png file, annotate with a photo editor or drawing application, save, then attach to an email or upload to your site.

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