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Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

9 Minimalist “Chores” Streamline Project Management

Posted by contentgrrl on February 28, 2012

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

ironing is not really the kind of chore I mean

I am a big fan of Michael Greer (michaelgreer.biz). I first became a fan while I was an instructional designer with his ID Project Management, which I used successfully along with other tools to continually trim my ratio of design hours to student lesson time, whether it was a classroom/lab manual, live video training, or an e-learning program.

Now I do a host of other kinds of projects, including emarketing, knowledgebases, wikis, software release announcements, crunch time preparation, Webinars, video scripts, and newsletters.

Greer’s Project Management Minimalist is a godsend to those who are intimidated and even offended at the breadth and depth of professional PMI certification.

For example, check out his one-pager on page 10 of the free preview “Quick Start Checklist: The Absolute Least You Can Do“.

It shows 9 minimal “chores”:

  1. Mini-Charter (Get a statement about the “tangible finished product” approved.)
  2. Team (Gather contributors, users, and stakeholders.)
  3. Go Wide (Team brainstorms a complete wish list.)
  4. Slash & Burn (Team divides wish list equally among “Must”, “Could”, and “Can Wait.”)
  5. To-Do (Team assigns “Must” tasks to specific contributors.)
  6. Schedule (Team estimates time and sets deadlines.)
  7. Start (Team will start the “Must” tasks, “Keep moving,” and “Handle scope changes”.)
  8. Inspect & Correct (Check punctuality, quality, completeness, then discuss obstacles, assistance required, changes required and gain consensus.)
  9. Post Mortem (Review “lessons learned” for future projects.)

I LUUURVE “Slash & Burn”! Unfortunately, it seems to be missing from his more detailed one-page 10steps.pdf.

So many projects suffer from:

  • analysis paralysis
  • technology that doesn’t do what you think it will and must be rethought
  • directional changes that veer contributors off course
  • great ideas that come up in the middle but break the budget

But now for thoughts from you — have you done projects at work? Large-scale? Small-scale? In between? DIY projects at home?

What have been your biggest challenges in managing your projects?

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Posted in performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Right Way to Add Adobe Connect to Outlook

Posted by contentgrrl on April 9, 2011

For Web conferencing, demos, and collaboration, Adobe Connect Pro is a nice tool for sharing a whiteboard, document, slide show, spreadsheet, or your whole screen, and record those conferences for later editing and publication.

Unfortunately, the ability to schedule Web conferences in Outlook is beset by a counter-intuitive installation interface for the Connect Pro Outlook Add-In.

I had to uninstall & reinstall many times, and I’d like to help you avoid that hassle.

The right way to do this:

  1. Print out or copy to Notepad your Adobe Connect logon ID, password, and room URL so you’ll have it handy when the configuration wizard comes up.
  2. Close Outlook.
  3. Download and run the installer (http://download.macromedia.com/pub/connect/updaters/connect_outlook_update.zip).
  4. Restart Outlook, which launches the 2-page configuration wizard.
  5. Uncheck Use secure connection, which removes the “s” from the “https” in the URL.
  6. Re-enter the “s” in “https” in the URL.
  7. When configuring the default text, you can personalize it with audio-conference information, such as the phone number, access code, and mute/un-mute keys. (I use freeconferencecall.com)

Hat tip to the kind folks on the Adobe Connect User Forum for steps 5 & 6.
(http://www.connectusers.com/forums/cucbb/viewtopic.php?id=4451)

In Outlook 2010, I can add the connection instructions to a New Meeting Request. If installed properly, the Adobe Connect button is in the New Meeting Request’s ribbon in the Add-Ons tab, as shown in the screen shot above.

Posted in illustrating, publishing, tools, video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

GTD like Your RPG Avatar Builds Real-Life Character

Posted by contentgrrl on April 8, 2011

I love lists. I’ve used so many systems: daily checklists on my tear-off-a-day desk calendar from the ’80s, Franklin Covey and Success Management Institute in the ’90s, FlyLady’s Control Journal in the 2000’s. Post-it notes to be rearranged and updated daily on my wall. Folders/binders front and center for each duty or project, with immediate next steps clipped on top. Calendar time reserved for a couple of weeks ahead when I need to devote my attention and dissuade distractions and ding reminders.

And I gotta say I’ve accomplished a lot: master’s degree, happy career, healthy family, some spiritual development along the way, and forays into wide-spread interests. Not perfect by any means; always room for improvement.

Now I’m an iPhone app hound :P, especially for recurring tasks so I don’t have to write them down again.

My two current faves:

  • At home, I use [url=http://www.homeroutines.com/]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=http://FlyLady.net]FlyLady.net[/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
  • For both home AND WORK, I use [url=http://www.epicwinapp.com/]EpicWin [/url]for its chores to-do lists inspired by role-playing games (RPGs). I build (“level up”) character in real life for quests, and feats of strength, stamina, intellect, social, and spirit. I use mine for work and various project to-dos.

I also get virtual loot, and can update Twitter and/or Facebook as follows: “I’ve been doing my chores and just scored a Undercover Shrubber – Epic Win! http://bit.ly/ao6xRS”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.

One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=http://www.sparkpeople.com/]Sparkpeople[/url]. But it is so rich in content, tools (menus, calorie counters, tracking databases, reports) and community (login point spinner, groups, blogs, forums, gifts, statuses) that it can be overkill. Eventually it becomes a time-sucking distraction from actually getting out and burning calories.

I keep falling off the wagon there. I tried to simplify – merely log in to note that yes I’ve exercised for 20 minutes today, and I’ve drunk 8 glasses of water, and eaten 5 fruits & veggies. The SparkPeople iPhone app is more about logging calorie intake and burnoff, which is not my program.

Now I can do my three simple daily health to-dos on my iPhone in HomeRoutines and/or EpicWin.

How do you get things done?

What do you do to build your own real-life character?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in games, grrly, heroes, heroines, performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Poll: Email Newsletters or Onesies?

Posted by contentgrrl on April 11, 2010

Posted in citizen, community, marketing, office, persuasion, publishing, reading, tools, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Lose Visitors To SurveyMonkey’s Default Landing Page

Posted by contentgrrl on February 4, 2010

While SurveyMonkey.com is one of my favorite tools to collect feedback and information from various publics (readers), the default settings can be rather self-serving on SurveyMonkey’s part.

Especially when your visitor finishes the last question: By default, SurveyMonkey will invite them to create their own survey.

If you leave it at that, you’re losing your visitors. They’re a click away from leaving your site to sign up for a free SurveyMonkey account.

Why not take the opportunity to give your visitors one more call to action? For instance, you can direct them to related articles and testimonials on your site, or to relevant product categories, or to details about the contest they’ve entered just by answering a few questions.

The nuts and bolts of it are surprisingly easy, and here I’ll tell you how. (I will say the steps were a tad buried somewhere outside of SurveyMonkey documentation, which is why I felt the need to write this up.)

The instructions below assume you’ve created a survey, and have a landing page on your Web site ready to thank your visitors for completing the survey, and provide the next call to action that keeps them engaged on your site.

  1. On the My Surveys page, click the Collect icon for your survey.
  2. If you haven’t already, select Create a link to send in your own email message or to place on a Web page, and give it a title that makes sense for your purpose.
  3. Click the Collector Name you entered.
  4. In the warning: “Before you send out your link, be sure to review the collector’s settings and restrictions” click the settings link.
    • SurveyMonkey Collector Settings - ! Before  you send out your link, be sure to review the collector's settings and restrictions.
  5. In the Collector Settings page, set fields as follows and as shown below:
    1. Allow Multiple Responses: No.
    2. Allow Responses to be Edited: Yes until they exit.
    3. Display a Thank You page: No.
    4. Survey Completion: Redirect to your own webpage and enter a URL to jump to on leaving the survey.
    5. Save IP Address in Results: Yes (This can give you another way to count unique responses)
  6. Click Save Settings.

That’s it! I welcome your feedback. Stay tuned for more entries on different ways you can put SurveyMonkey to work for you.Collector Settings in SurveyMonkey to point to your own landing page.

Posted in community, marketing, persuasion, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

the secret behind lorem ipsum dummy content

Posted by contentgrrl on February 6, 2008

For the latin text that supposedly served as the source of the “lorem ipsum” dummy placeholder content, see lipsum.com.

According to this site, it’s from The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero in 45 BC:

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

There’s even an English translation:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

The site also has an application that generates so many paragraphs of the stuff from the source. You can use these generated paragraphs in your template layout designs to test styles and image placements, without  distracting your reviewers with the actual content. At least until they approve the design and the real content can take its place.

Posted in culture, learning, project management, publishing, reading, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

wii steps closer to virtual reality in your living room

Posted by contentgrrl on February 1, 2008

o mii gosh! My husband found this video on YouTube, where Johnny Chung Lee, a grad assistant at Carnegie Mellon U’s human-computer interaction department, has adapted the Nintendo Wii remote to serve as a digital whiteboard and head tracking for VR displays.

It’s amazing what he does with some hardware driver programming, a PC, the Wii remote controls, and some basic items you can pick up at your local Radio Shack.

With head tracking turned on, the TV actually looks like an entrance to a real room. Just like in real life, when we move our head around, we can look behind objects. As you look closely, some targets appear to be floating off in front of the screen, reaching into the real world. As we get closer to the screen, we get closer to the objects, and even get behind the ones floating in front of the screen. (Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote on YouTube, 2:43)

Tom Cruise, Minority Report, finger LEDs, computer interfaceThe finger tracking technology is the future now. Remember how Tom Cruise flipped through images on a virtual interface in Minority report?I would love to see some games where you can look around corners like I always want to in a race or a stealth mission.

I’d also love to use that whiteboard, since you can “draw” right on the wall, and it can record your notes for later. Oh, collaboration!

Posted in games, heroes, office, tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

useful basics on digital images and graphics

Posted by contentgrrl on December 27, 2007

As I was helping a third-party company develop their email marketing material, I passed along these very useful basics on digital images and graphics, from my favorite shareware review site, tucows.com:

How to Convert Graphics Images
GIF, JPG, and PNG files are most used for Web, and other file formats are better for print.

Digital Imaging: The Differences in Raster and Vector Images
Fundamentals, with links to well-reviewed software for each type of image. Vector usually includes shapes or text, and don’t take up as much disk space or bandwidth as raster images.

Digital Imaging Part 2: Lossy Vs. Lossless
Shows how compressing a graphic file down to a smaller size can affect quality. As in everything, you have to balance quality with speed. JPG is a lossy format, and may lose detail, but is the defacto standard for emailing photos. GIF usually has the smallest file size, and is best for emails, even if it’s lossy.

Tucows Complete Image Editor shareware selection

Posted in illustrating, marketing, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

writing about policy using ABCDEs of performance objectives

Posted by contentgrrl on December 20, 2007

As part of my rather broad work in writing, I’m often asked for policy statements or alerts. In an effort to communicate completely about a policy, I like to concentrate on the ABCDs of performance objectives (interlaced with the 5Ws and the H from newswriting interviews):

  • A is for Audience: Who is required to perform a task or comply with a new rule?
  • B is for Behavior: What skill, task, or operation is required?
  • C is for Conditions: How are tools involved in performing the task or complying with the rule? Are there prerequisite procedures that must already be completed in advance? Are there certain deliverables, inputs, or variables that need to be given?
  • D is for Degree: Why, Where, and When is it critical? What are the measurable constraints (in time, place, budget) that determine whether the behavior is successful? Is there a minimum and/or recommended criteria? What resulting benefits and consequences may be persuasive motivating factors?

I come from an instructional design background. There, the standard ABCDs of instructional and performance objectives are used to design lessons and identify the criteria for testing whether a student actually learned the new skill. It’s based on the work of Mager, Gagné & Briggs.

The ABCD formula works in everything — from basic math drills to complex software troubleshooting labwork to sales techniques to regulatory compliance training. But it may not be obvious that the performance objective typically comes from an organizational need. The objectives are measured so that the people in one stage (such as a Kindergarten class or a network engineering division or a marketing team or a safety inspector) do their jobs well enough for the rest of the organization to take it from there and fulfill expectations.

But I’d like to take it one step further:

  • E is for Exceptions: Are there exceptions to the rule? How do you know if a rule or issue does not apply to you, or that you are outside its scope? Are there special situations that may apply, and if so, how do you proceed?

Understanding exceptions takes a level of expertise that may not always be available when writing policy or alerts. But if you can nail that down, it’s one way to set your communications apart and be truly helpful to your readers.

Posted in citizen, heroes, learning, performance, persuasion, reading, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

vector diagram editing tools compared

Posted by contentgrrl on December 11, 2007

Oh, do I love diagrams.

Especially cross-functional diagrams, where you know exactly who does what at what stage in a process, what decisions are made in order to hand it off to another department. I like a vector diagram editor that makes it easy to drag-and-drop decision diamonds with smart arrow connections. And style the shapes with Web 2.0 goodness. (I know. What a geek!)

When I was at Creative Education Institute, I’d use Visio (now owned by Microsoft) to illustrate the stages of learning, practice, and testing with Mathematical Learning Systems. When I was doing network training at SBC (now AT&T), I’d import network diagrams into PowerPoint to layer and animate the pieces. At ECI², I’ve done a host of cross-functional diagrams to communicate standard operating procedures among departments.

Oh, sure, you can get Visio Professional for about $200 now, and Visio Technical for about $300. And you can get SmartDraw for about $200 too. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a biased comparison.

But if your diagramming needs are more modest, Smashing Magazine site has a List of Nifty Tools and Diagrams, which introduced me to the free Gliffy.

A diagram is often worth a thousand words. Gliffy.com is a free web-based diagram editor with some of the same functionality as Visio. You drag-and-drop shapes to create clean yet modern-looking flowcharts, network diagrams, floorplans, user interface designs and other drawings online.You can even upload your own images (logos, icons, specialized shapes etc.) but use the intuitive connection, resizing & rotation tools. You can collaborate via email, or export to:

  • SVG for use in Visio, Illustrator, and Freehand
  • PNG for use with Fireworks or Photoshop
  • JPG for publishing on a Web page or HTML email.

Gliffy Flowchart

In addition to flow charts and entity-relationship diagrams, Gliffy even does Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams (object, class, node, aggregation, message, dependency, actor, use case). If you want watermark-free, ad-free, private, unlimited diagrams beyond the basic 2MB limit with tech support, it’s available with a Premium account for about $30 a year.

Posted in illustrating, tools, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »