I return to Asana after trying Any.do for a few weeks (see Asana announces Chrome extension (at last)).

The announcement of a better Chrome extension was an important consideration, since Any.do has a great integration with Gmail:

I loved that Gmail integration. Frankly, I hope Asana knocks it off. But the extreme limitations of accessing and manipulating Any.do tasks — and their bizarrely cheerful support responses — made it very difficult to use the app on the Web. Better on the iPhone, but even there it was less than optimal.

The 2013 task management tools market — Stowe Boyd via GigaOM Pro


My review of ten team task management tools now available at GigaOM Pro, using a task model versus team model 10x10 grid approach:

  • Top tier: Asana, Trello, Do, and Wrike
  • Mid tier: Producteev, and Astrid
  • Lower tier: Basecamp, Remember The Milk, Action Method Online, and Workflowy


Excerpt to give a sense of the analysis in the report:

Three offerings in the top tier — Do, Trello, and Asana — cluster together, with Wrike as an outlier. Do and Asana are competitive products, sharing common design metaphors as well as similar team and task models. Both scored an eight for having effective killer features, as did Trello. Trello has perhaps the most innovative user experience of all of these top-tier solutions. But the choice between those two user experience design approaches has to be left to the user, ultimately. Wrike, the outlier in this tier, is a somewhat less team-oriented tool but has the richest task model of all the products.

I think in future versions of this report I will a/ start with a larger group of products, b/ winnow down more aggressively, with one sentence or one paragraph characterizations of the lower tiers, and c/ provide in depth reviews of the top tier solutions, only.

Blossom.io brings Kanban to task management — Stowe Boyd via GigaOM Pro


I took a look at Blossom.io, a task management tool built around product development, incorporating as its major design premise the use of Kanban boards for projects.


Blossom.io makes the stages of a Kanban board the central motif of task-based coordination of work, which is a reasonable approach in product-centered work. Blossom.io is a lean and lightweight tool, a handsome member of the small and simple school of design.

Read the whole review at GigaOM.

Upping My Efforts At GigaOM Pro

I’ve taken a new role at GigaOM this week, writing regularly for the Pro service in the Social   topic area. It’s not a great departure since my work at GigaOM upt o the present has been social tools and the future of work, but I am now a regular contributor — a Curator, in their terminology — as well as writing a number of reports this coming year.

It’s a great group, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the collaboration of working with David Card, the VP of Research.

I have recently written a report on team task management tools (in production), and earlier this year I wrote the Work Media Roadmap (subscription required), tracking a number of leading work media tools — enterprise social networks — and most importantly, the forces that are causing companies to adopt them:

The old architecture of work was based on process-centric, collaborative work. That is, all the people involved in a business process — for example, new customer acquisition for a consumer-products company — would work exclusively on that process, and the process defined everyone’s work. In principle, each member of the consumer acquisition team would spend 100 percent of their time on that process, and all the members would be co-located (in cubicles or offices) so that the process could be as efficient as possible. Considerations of what would be best for the individual would be deemed irrelevant. Collaboration was the byword, and web tools were designed around symmetrical projects, where members derived their rights by being ‘invited’ — in other words, assigned — to process-based project groups.

A new architecture of work is now emerging. “White collar” work first became “knowledge” work. Now it is known as “creative work.” The transition from process to networks is not just a recasting and not just a different style of communication. Work is increasingly being styled as information sharing through social relationships, where following takes the place of being invited. People coordinate efforts but work on a wide variety of independent projects with different co-workers. A new degree of privacy and autonomy animates cooperative work, in comparison to collaborative work. 

Individuals cooperating hand off information or take on tasks in a fashion that is like businesses cooperating: They understand the benefit in cooperating but don’t have to share a common core set of strategic goals to do so. They don’t need the complete alignment of goals with everyone they work with that defines old-style business employment.

We are moving into a world of work where individuals will act increasingly independently but still need to work closely and intensely with many others, in various forms of asymmetric and intransitive relationships. Business software will need to provide a much greater degree of fluidity in this new era than ever before.

I’m looking forward to continued investigation into the business of social business, and the future of work.

Flow Adds Virtual Concierge Service

I got an email from the people from Flow, the task management tool, announcing an integrated virtual assistant capability, here indicated by the green icon to the right. The use case is 1/ I create a task, 2/ delegate to the concierge service, and then 3/ magic happens.

click to enlarge

Alas, I didn’t get to experience the magic part because the 14 day free trial does not support even a single concierge task.

I bet that this promotion is going to end up with a lot of drop out, because the whole point of responding to an email about the concierge capability is to try it out, especially because the email says

To get things rolling, we’re giving all Flow subscribers a free task each month as part of their subscription. After that, Concierge plans start at less than $1 a day.

I hadn’t parsed the ‘Flow subscribers’ carefully, and as a result didn’t see the pitfall: during the 14 day free trial I am not a subscriber, so I don’t get the free task.

But it might be an awesome service for subscribers, but I will never know.

It’s The Little Things: Metaphors Matter

Sometimes, a company needs just a little bit of help, for example with terminology. I am always willing to take a look and see how I can help.

Recently Producteev was going back and forth on the particular way to differentiate between two kinds of workspaces in its collaboration tool. They seemed to be conflating (or confusing) the concepts of privacy and access.

Here’s how it stands now (from their blog):

1. When you collaborate with other users on a specific workspace, by default, everyone will be able to see all tasks posted by the members of this team (members who got invited and joined the workspace). Note that except the creator, the assignee and the administrator of your workspace, no one else can EDIT them. They can only view them, and post comments on them. They can’t change a deadline, edit labels or change the person in charge for example.

2. If you want more open collaboration, and let everyone from your team interact with all of your workspaces’ tasks, we recently launched a new setting for that, it’s called an “unlocked” workspace. Once that feature activated, anyone from your team can : complete a task, edit labels, set deadlines and reminders, change the assignee, etc. Anyone can do anything! Your workspace is not public, just editable by all the members of that workspace.

UPDATED ON MAY 7, 2012: Thanks to @stoweboyd for helping find the right terminology for “Locked’ and “Unlocked”!

Little things matter, metaphors matter. Getting terminology right — to be clear and intuitive — matters.

Alarms: A Deceptively Simple Calendar Tool

I saw a mention about Alarms, a new Mac OS X take on calendars.

The UX is based on a bell-shaped toolbar icon, which opens a top-of-screen calendar when clicked, pushing down and graying out other running apps:

click to enlarge

The app presents a left to right scrolling arrangement of hours. You can click anywhere and create an event, and at the time that the time for that event reaches ‘Now’ (as time passes the hours move to the left), an alarm goes off. This includes a blinking display of the alarm icon, and various tones can be selected too.Note that selecting a date on the calendar to the right allows other days to be displayed, and then the same calendar UI is presented but for that date.

An alarm can be created by dragging a URL to the icon, which opens the calendar display. You can then drop the URL on the time that you’d like to do something, like responding to an email (after grabbing the email URL), or writing a post (after drag-and-dropping the piece’s URL). I’ve even grabbed images and dragged them to the tool.

When the alarm goes off, the display pops a small display, and the URL can be accessed, or the alarm checked.

There is a keystroke setting to snooze tasks, and one for opening/closing the alarms calendar.

There is a deceptively important integration with iCal:

  1. Since iCal tasks may be shared, it is possible to use that mechanism to share alarms, so long as both (all) users have Alarms installed. But there is no way to only sync some alarms, so all must be shared.
  2. iCal serves as an archive for alarms when synced, while in Alarms, checked off tasks disappear. This alone justifies taking the five minutes to set up syncing. Unchecking tasks in the synced iCal calendar makes them current again in Alarms, too.
  3. URL tasks can have their text fields edited in iCal, which can’t be done in Alarms.


My calendaring is all over the place right now. I use Google Calendar for scheduled events, like calls and meetings, and until recently I used Remember The Milk to track larger scale activities, but that app’s biggest benefit is integration with Gmail and it breaks every time Google updates the tool. That makes it pathologically annoying.

I have been experimenting with CRM capabilities of some of the products reviewed in the Streams In Business research project (which I am finishing up this week, I swear!). But the jury is out on that larger scale coordination.

On the finer grained, moment-to-moment task management, Alarms is appealing. It’s faster than writing a note to yourself, and much faster than creating an event in iCal. It’s conceivable that it might even take over the more traditional schedule-a-telcon sort of task, but I think to edge into that region it would have to integrate email invitations, and a number of other features. If the developers behind Alarms could do that, and still keep it small and simple, it would be a real winner.

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