Frustrated thoughts about broadband and road traffic

I found myself stuck in traffic this morning on my way to a meeting and frustrated with the amount of time wasted on the road and how better and more reliable broadband could be a huge productivity boost. I basically found myself thinking about a similar issue I ranted about a year and a half ago.

This time I thought I’d record my thoughts (I was driving after all):

I debating the merits of shifting some meetings to video calls with the person I was driving to meet and she emphasised the value of getting out and connecting with the person you are meeting with in a physical space. I am all for both but all this driving leads to massive time drains and additional stress. There must be a better balance (or meetings should be scheduled for off-peak times).

Picking up the Slack

I paused my Basecamp account last year when my team members went their separate ways and I continued on as a solo towards the end of the year. My plan was to resurrect my Basecamp account in the new year once I started building a new team.

I’m not sure where I came across Slack but I’ve started using it with a new addition to my team and it is proving to be a really dynamic team communication tool. If you haven’t heard of Slack, you’re probably not alone. It is only a few months old and it has been growing at an impressive rate due largely to word of mouth referrals. This is how GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram describes Slack in his post “Flickr co-founder launches Slack, an all-in-one messaging tool designed to kill email forever”:

Slack, which has both an iOS app and an Android app as well as a Mac app, allows team members to easily track messages from co-workers but also to see status reports from across the company, by connecting to tools like SVN, Github, MailChimp, Crashlytics, Heroku and JIRA — things that would otherwise have likely remained in a separate silo or service. An API allows for almost any other service or tool to be integrated into the system as well, Butterfield said. When I thought about what I could do with my team with Basecamp and compared it to what I seem to be able to do with my new team with Slack, the one thing that is missing from Slack’s native features is a task manager. You can integrate Asana or Trello into Slack for that (for now, I am leaving task management up to each individual in my team – I use OmniFocus). We never used Basecamp’s calendars all that much (Google Calendars) although we often forwarded emails into our projects. I thought I saw something about this in Slack but can’t seem to find a way to do that yet.

Slack works really well as a team communication tool (which it basically is) and as a way to share files (the Dropbox and Google Drive integrations look pretty interesting). It will also cost quite a bit less that the $50 to $100 each month that Basecamp costs for a decent number of projects (Basecamp is a remarkable tool and worth what you pay but the exchange rate just aggravates Basecamp’s somewhat premium pricing).

What I really like is the attention to security and confidentiality concerns. Here is how they secure Slack:

End-to-End Encrypted Communication Whether you’re at your computer or on your phone, absolutely nothing goes over the network in the clear. Slack uses 256-bit AES, supports TLS 1.2 for all of your messages, and uses the ECDHE_RSA Key Exchange Algorithm. We monitor the security community’s output closely and work promptly to upgrade the service to respond to new vulnerabilities as they are discovered. I also really like how you can export your data as a JSON file/stream (not sure how to describe JSON output).

Anyway, this post was meant to be a short “I use this too, you may want to take a look” post so thanks for reading this far. If this tool interests you, definitely try it out. I’m enjoying it so far.

Update (2014-02-13): Slack is offering a $100 credit when you sign up. It is available until 15 April 2014 or so:

Shun the vampires

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately but more in the context of which work I take on. Some clients mean well but their expectations can be disproportionately draining and counter-productive. Seth Godin has sage advice (as usual) in his post titled “The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires” which includes this gem:

Don’t buy into the false expectation that in an organizational democracy, every voice matters. Every voice doesn’t matter–only the voices that move your idea forward, that make it better, that make you better, that make it more likely you will ship work that benefits your tribe.

Although vampires may be emotionally related to trolls, don’t confuse them. They are not necessarily the same.

Relaxing in the middle of a task tornado

Ever have one of those days when you feel like you are in the middle of a task and project tornado? Times like those remind me of one of David Allen’s mantras from his book “Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life”:

Relax, refocus

The other two members of my team are going on leave for the next week (one on study leave and the other on much needed general leave) and my office feels a lot like this right now.

Software to love and that induces vomiting

I had a rough day with my arch nemesis today so I thought I’d vent a little with this list. It is not a closed list, just a little vent list.

Software I love and which brings me happiness when I use it:

Software which induces vomiting, tears and panic (and must DieDieDie!):

  • Microsoft Word
  • … there probably is more but I can’t think of others …

Software I’m on the fence about lately:

OmniOutliner for iPad envy

This OmniOutliner for iPad video makes me want to go back to using OmniOutliner for my notes!

I used to use OmniOutliner on my Mac for all my notes (I especially used it for meeting notes) and when Nastassja joined me in January with her PC laptop, we needed a way to share notes so we switched to Evernote for all our meeting and other notes. Evernote lacks the powerful outlining options OmniOutliner has but we can sync our notes (well, with the exception of Nastassja’s iPad which has a weird sync bug) but its easier to share notes in a convenient location.

Evernote is probably still a better option for us for what we need to do but OmniOutliner appeals to the productivity nerd in me.