Tag Archives: Basecamp

OmniFocus + Basecamp + Spootnik = Perfect Productivity

spootnik_logo_small

As a productivity whore I’ve extolled the virtues of OmniFocus and Basecamp in the past.

In my opinion, these two productivity products are tops in terms of project management, collaboration and milestone tracking.

For those of you unfamiliar with either of these applications, a brief introduction is in order.

OmniFocus (which I’ve written about before) is a personal task manager by The Omni Group built for the Mac OS and iOS devices.

The Omni Group’s website describes OmniFocus as an app “designed to quickly capture your thoughts and ideas to store, manage, and help you process them into actionable to-do items.”

I’ve been using OmniFocus for about three years and it really helps you to work smarter by giving you the tools you need to stay on top of all the things you need to do.

Basecamp (which I’ve also written about) is an online collaboration project management software.

Basecamp’s web-based platform offers to-do lists, wiki-style web-based text documents, calendars, milestone management, file sharing, time tracking, and a messaging system.

Combined, OmniFocus and Basecamp provide all the online tool you need to manage multiple projects.

OmniFocus offers a series of mobile applications, which extend the power and utility the software offers through its desktop application to mobile and tablet devices.

Through the Omnisync servers, activity conducted on one device syncs seamless with all of your connected devices.

Basecamp, which had traditionally focused solely on its web platform, has developed its own applications for mobile and tablet devices, also extending its project management and online collaboration tools to connected devices as well.

Having used the desktop, web and applications with great success, I swear by them.

Notwithstanding, its still challenging working with two platforms that possess independent calendar, time tracking and milestone components.

OmniFocus has a scheduling and forecast function, which lets you see past, present and future events, tasks and milestones.

It synchs with Calendar, and allows you to see your tasks alongside any event, task or to-do that you’ve got scheduled.

Basecamp also has a calendaring function, which lets you schedule events and milestones.

The subscribe feature gives you the ability to have your events show up in Calendar too.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it definitely involves a bit of juggling.

Enter Spootnik.

What’s Spootnik?

Spootnik is an application that connects OmniFocus and Basecamp, allowing you to keep them in sync.

It was developed by Lars Steiger, who wanted to bring both his worlds of productivity together.

Spootnik pulls all of your Basecamp milestones, calendar events, and to-dos into OmniFocus, allowing you to see everything in one place.

It also allows you to make changes and updates to Basecamp items within OmniFocus, and have those updates sync automatically in Basecamp.

Having used Spootnik for over two months now, I am grateful that Lars was so inspired.

It’s put my productivity on ten and there’s no looking back.

If you’re using Basecamp and OmniFocus, I’d definitely advise getting a Spootnik account.

There’s a free 30 day trial, so you can test it out commitment free.

And thank me later.

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‘Bug fix’ is not an update. Develop your app voice.

bug fixes

As someone who deals regularly in apps, I’ve seen quite a few in my day.

I’ve dealt with my share of crappy apps.

That were buggy and jankalicious.

Jankalicious: the condition of being inferior or dilapidated.

Chock full of unnecessary features and functions.

Or just downright useless.

On the flip side, I’ve beheld loads of well designed apps.

That seamlessly blend form with function.

Buttons and navigation built with adult humans in mind.

And not wee-fingered halflings.

And don’t require a PhD or savant to figure out how to use them.

But both good and bad apps have something in common.

Every once in a while, they require a fix.

Or an update to improve speed or performance.

Or a tweak to make them more compatible with an updated OS.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the counter in the top right corner of the App Store icon on your iPhone.

app update iPhone

Alerting you to updates available for the apps you’re rocking.

If you’re like me, you ‘Update All’ without thinking about it.

The behavior is so rote by now, that most of us don’t read the ‘What’s New’ copy accompanying any of these releases.

We take it for granted that we need whatever the update is.

So we download it.

We’re not going to spend the precious few seconds required to read what the update is actually for.

Before my Jailbreak, I’d ‘update all’ without a moment’s hesitation.

I typically ignored the ‘What’s New’ text, which (should have) spelled out what was bundled in the update.

Usually, it was some generic ‘Bug fixes’ language that gave no further info about the nature and extent of the fix.

But since it was a fix…

Today, though, I broke with tradition and read the ‘What’s New’ section.

I wanted to see what tinkering was taking place under the hood.

There were three updates: HopStop (Transit Directions for iPhone), Square (Register) and Basecamp (Official App).

I was curious to see which of these brands used their update to provide comprehensive information about how their app was being improved or what exactly it was they had fixed.

And who was just faking the funk.

app updates iPhone 5

HopStop was, by far, the most informative.

Not only did they tell me exactly what was new, but also that I’d need to upgrade to iOS 6+ in order to take advantage of the new features.

HopStop app update

Basecamp was the next most informative.

Their ‘What’s New’ update informed me about support for Basecamp Classic (it’s about time!), and had a few quick blurbs about the specific bug fixes included in the version.

Basecamp Official App update

Square the least informative.

Their’s was the bland ‘various bug fixes.’

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Square, you make me sick.

Square Register update.

Most brands are like Square and completely miss the opportunity to truly inform their users about what’s going on.

Their’s is usually a cut-and-paste job of some developer’s uninsightful version-controlled update republished to their users.

It’s rubbish.

Now, when I see ‘Bug fixes’ as an update, I automatically think ‘lazy brand’.

Best practices dictates that when there’s an update to your app, you provide the salient details of that update to your users.

‘Bug fixes’ is simply too generic to be useful.

If a user was experiencing a bug with your app and got that update, there would be no way for them to determine whether your ‘Bug fix’ was the one they’d observed or something entirely different.

More importantly, it completely flubs the chance to connect with the user and turn them into informed brand evangelists.

So <brand who uses ‘Various bug fixes’ to describe updates to your app> know that you’re doing yourself a grave disservice by not providing more substantive updates.

Don’t your users deserve more?

Note: I’ve got to give credit to one of my pseudonymous colleagues, Mr. Kate Moss, who urged me to write this point to address something we routinely observe.

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The Secret of Success? Planning and Execution.

I frequently consult young entrepreneurs seeking advice on establishing new business ventures.

Typically, they’re a group of close friends, former classmates or loose affiliates, galvanized by a strong central figure or idea that they collectively believe in.

Often this allegiance manifests itself in some form or other, that evidences the sincerity of their commitment and desire to bring their idea to fruition.

Sometimes this manifestation is a one-sheet or prospectus.

Other times, it’s the first draft of a business plan.

And still others, its a landing page or website.

Very rarely, though, I come across a young entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs, who have it all: business plan, marketing materials, financial projections, website and launch strategy.

I’m always excited when I encounter individuals like these, because it’s much easier to refine material that’s been primed, than trying to work the raw material itself.

Recently, I’ve been approached by an organization that seems to have the hallmarks of this rare breed of entrepreneur.

Since I’m bound by an NDA, I can’t talk about them or their project in any real detail.

But I can talk about what makes them exceptional, as a case study for other young entrepreneurs seeking to find success outside of a traditional 9 to 5.

So here are the five signs of a successful entrepreneur.

1. Planning makes perfect. One of the most important traits of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to plan. Success doesn’t ‘just happen’. It comes as the result of careful planning. I frequently refer to Sun Tzu, when I talk of planning, because it’s through planning that one defeats their enemy. Failure is the enemy. And as the saying goes, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I’ll take it one step further and say, “he who plans poorly, fails miserably.” To avoid the pitfalls of no/poor planning, I recommend the use of online project management and collaboration programs, like Basecamp, to take your planning to the next level.

2. Document everything. Having an idea of how you plan to get something done isn’t the same as documenting that plan. It’s important that your plans are memorialized in writing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it puts everyone on the same page (pun intended). If you’re concerned about maintaining documents in a usable and shareable way, Google Docs is an excellent tool for storing, sharing and editing documents online.

3. Scared money don’t make no money. A serious entrepreneur understands the importance of raising and spending money. The best ideas in the world go nowhere because they can’t get investment. I’m not talking IPO money or VC capital to build a prototype, hire staff and file patents. I’m talking basics: get a domain name, hire a web developer, get some business cards made. You’ve got to have a strategy for funding your company or idea, especially at its initial phases. Optimally, you can get your business up and running and generating revenue before you have to ask anyone (beyond friends and family) for money. Once you’ve got it going, you’ve got to have a strategy for sustaining and growing it. The presence/absence of a fundraising strategy is one of the key indicators of the viability of any business. Kickstarter is a great resource for jump starting York fundraising initiatives.

4. Get your tech on. In business nowadays, technology is the great equalizer. One trait that I find particularly intriguing about young entrepreneurs is their propensity to develop new platforms, and the fact that they understand the strategic importance of positioning technology in the marketplace. A good idea can become an overnight success through the effective utilization and implementation of technology. Whether its something as innovative as a new platform or as mundane as having a mobile website, integrating technology into your strategy is a sure means of differentiating you from your (potential) competitors.

5. Get sound advice. Have you ever drafted what you though was the perfect email? You labored over every word and read and re-read until you were certain it was just right. Then, satisfied, you press send. Of course, the minute it leaves your desktop you notice you’ve misspelled something. Or used “your” when you meant to use “you’re”. Or “there” instead of “their”. If only someone else had proofread it before it went out!

Starting a business venture is like preparing that email. Even when you think you’ve thought of everything, a more seasoned eye can spot things that you’ve missed. Having an experienced advisor, advisors or board of directors can be a valuable tool for not only launching your business, but growing and expanding your business as well.

If I had to give a formula for a successful entrepreneur: success = planning + execution.

Lots of people have good ideas.

What separates them from the guy sitting on his couch saying, “Hey! I thought of that years ago!” is that they got off their asses and did something about it.

Now get off your ass!

If you’re interested in getting some advice for your business idea, feel free to drop me a line.

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My Top 5 (Productivity) iPad Apps

I’m frequently asked which apps I’ve got on my iPad by friends, colleagues and clients, alike.

Notice OutPost and OmniFocus in my dock.

But unlike most folks, who use their iPads for entertainment and have a gang of apps on their devices, from Angry Birds to HBO Go, and everything in between, I primarily use my iPad for work, and my apps are focused on productivity.

And while I’m sure you were ready for a juicy, fun, exciting or at least interesting “top 5 apps” list, this one will probably be very dry by comparison.

But among my six loyal readers, I’m certain that one of you will be rewarded with a salient or applicable take-away.

So without further ado, reader “X”, here are my Top 5 iPad Apps.

1.  OnmiOutliner

OmniOutliner is the ultimate outlining app.

For most of my clients, I am really a glorified project manager.  In this capacity, I’m routinely called upon to come up with creative ideas, and then figure out ways to design, develop, resource, implement, staff, deploy, track and report – essentially everything from ideation through execution.

I’ve found that being able to outline projects, from start to finish, and make adjustments on the fly is critical to managing all these moving parts effectively and efficiently.

OmniOutliner, by The Omni Group, is the perfect tool for creating, manipulating and sharing outlines.

OmniOutiner’s most appealing feature is it’s ease of use and malleability. I’ve created instruction manuals, proposals, schedules, equipment lists, budgets, you name it, with OmniOutliner.

From basic text/data entry, to hierarchical organization, lists, attachments, notes, reminders – I could go on and on – OmniOutliner is an organizational godsend.

2.  OmniGraffle

The perfect tool for mapping ish out!

If you’re a visual person or think in pictures, you probably find your notes peppered with sketches, diagrams, flow-charts and various other forms of doodles and drawings.

While your scrawling may appear to be scribbling and goofing-off to the casual observer, you know that these crude drawings are replete with meaning and value.

Your Moleskin notebooks are probably full of such drawings, which may (or may not) ever be referenced or used again, relegated to some dusty shelf of half-baked ideas.

OmniGraffle, also by the Omni Group, saves your (probably) good ideas from a life of obscurity, by making them useful and understandable by the common man, team member or just you.

OmniGraffle lets you create “graffles” (or drawings), maps, flow charts, organizational diagrams, wireframes, processes, or layouts, using stencils, lines, connectors and a host of useful tools.

Using the iPad screen as a canvas, OnmiGraffle can even take your hand-drawn sketch and turn it into something immediately useful.

3.  OmniFocus

OmniFocus helps you organize disparate thoughts.

Sometimes, you just want to jot down a thought, note, to-do or what-have-you because you don’t want to lose or forget the thought.

If the impulse to jot down a thought happens to you a lot, you’ve probably got a collection of scraps of paper, and/or fragments of ideas, notes and reminders, scattered about.

If you could assemble them in one place, you’d probably have a fully formed thought, idea or plan of action among those various disparate thoughts.

OmniFocus, by (once again) the Omni Group, helps to coral your random note-taking, thought-jotting, to-do-ing(?), and helps you, well, focus.

OmniFocus is all about task management, helping you to define, assign, prioritize, track and manage tasks.

With a simple-to-use interface, synching between multiple instances of OmniFocus, and integration with your calendar, it’s the perfect tool for staying organized.

4.  Outpost

Productivity personified.

As a Basecamp junkie (FYI Basecamp is a web-based project management and online collaboration tool developed by 37signals), being able to access my Basecamp account is critical to staying on top of my projects.

Sometimes, however, when wi-fi isn’t available and my 3G is spotty, accessing my account sometimes proves challenging.

OutPost, by Enormego, is an app that puts Basecamp on your iPad (and iPhone).

OutPost give you access to all of your accounts, projects, messages, assignments, contacts, calendars, milestones, writeboards and time-tracking.

It also synchronizes your activities, so that all your activities in Outpost seamlessly integrate with the Basecamp account.

OutPost is the ultimate in on-the-go productivity.

*Note: OutPost is one of the “buggier” apps that I use. It’s prone to frequent crashing. Can we work on this Enormego? Hello?

5.  SoundPaper (aka SoundNote)

Note-taking+audio recording. SoundPaper.

If you’re like me, whenever you take a meeting, you take meticulous notes.

I’ve always been really good about recalling the details of conversations – even when I wasn’t taking notes.

But sometimes, people talk fast, you mishear something or you get so caught up listening, that you stop writing.

Even the most meticulous note-taker missed an element or two, that for the life of them and despite their best efforts, they can’t recall.

SoundPaper, by David Estes, remedies that.

SoundPaper is a really handy app that combines a notepad with audio recording capabilities.

Simply click record and SoundPaper will automatically begin recording audio.

What’s especially cool about it, is that the recording is linked to your note-taking.

SoundPaper is really useful for lectures and other scenarios when your note-taking might not match the pace of the speaker.

So if you get caught up and can’t recall what was said, simply click on a word and SoundPaper takes you to the exact session and you can play back the audio you missed.

Three of the big five are in my "Productivity" tab: OmniGraffle, SoundPaper and OmniOutliner.

I’ve got a few other apps on my iPad, that I use from time-to-time, but these five are my “go-to” apps that keep me focused, organized and on-point.

If you’re looking to get yourself organized in 2012, and you’re planning on using your iPad to help you do it, then by all means, check out the apps I use!

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