Category Archives: Tools to Use

Great social media and other communication tools you want to try.

To Do: Try Trello

39407wwbu0t4ybxI’ve played around with several tools to help me plan and track tasks across both the personal and professional parts of my life, and think I finally found a winner: Trello. There are free and paid versions of the tool, but all of my comments apply to the basic free version.

Trello is pretty simple and that may be part of the reason why it is such a great tool. Unlike a typical tracker—which let you make lists with little check-boxes next to each item—in Trello, each task is a virtual card that can be dragged and dropped between different columns that the user defines.

Task cards are arranged on boards. (I have a board for this blog, for example, where I track post ideas, moving the cards among columns for Ideas, Write this Week, and Done.) For each card there is the option to:

  • Assign to someone
  • Add a label
  • Add a checklist
  • Assign a due date
  • Add an attachment

A great aspect of this tool is that it is intentionally designed to help users get things done, rather than just create lists. In a recent article in Wired, one of the developers offered that as a secret of Trello’s success: although it’s flexible enough to be used for a whole range of projects, it’s also deliberately constrained.

“It’s not easy to put a lot of things into Trello. It’s meant to keep you focused on the things that are important right now, rather than way of building this backlog of items that you’re never going to work on.”

One interesting way the tool keeps you focused: cards that haven’t been touched in a long time start yellowing, like aging paper. So far, I haven’t experienced that feature, but i have experienced the increased productivity that comes from being able to add and address tasks from any online tool.


Guide to Google Forms

I just found Google Forms, a (free) way to create quick surveys and forms. There’s a simple interface to create the form and then you can share it by email, a link, or embedded on a site.

A form can use a basic default look or be wrapped in fancier designs with different colors and patterns. At a quick glance there seemed to be something that would fit for just about any purpose.

Here’s my first experiment with a Google forms. I used the default design and the embed code to present the form here. Can you respond so I can see how the data collection to a spreadsheet works?

Google automatically aggregates this data into a Google Spreadsheet. The information collected is as secure as anything saved to Google Drive. That means the information is only available to the people who you share it with unless you make a document public. (I’ll let you be the judge of whether that is secure enough for you.)

This can be a great way to collect information like RSVPs to an event or a request to be contacted. I wouldn’t recommend you try to collect any private information beyond an email address (note that by default the form tells users not to use it to submit passwords) .

Users get a confirmation message; you decide what text they see. You can control options that then allows them to submit another response, get the link to the form results, and/or edit their response after submitting.

Responses are gathered into a Google sheet so you don’t have to spend time entering data later and you can electronically store and share the information with others as needed.

This seems like an easy and free way to add some basic forms to your website or to collect information with an email. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


LinkedIn Makes Blogging Easy

linkedinHave you always thought you should share your expertise in a blog, but the hassle of establishing yet another account on a blogging site kept you away? Well, if you are on LinkedIn, sharing your thoughts just got easier. The LinkedIn Publishing Platform gives you the opportunity to publish your content as part of your presence there.

Once you have been granted access to this feature (which is being rolled out to all members), you’ll be able to create and post articles/posts. All you need to do is click the edit icon in the “share an update” box on your homepage. When you mouse over it, you will see “create a post.” Select that and LinkedIn will guide you from there.

Posts will appear in your profile. Your writing will get visibility to through feedback such as views, likes, comments, and shares. Your post may make it into LinkedIn Pulse, which uses an algorithm that serves up content to users based on their interests.

Stats allow you to determine the relative popularity of each of your posts.

I am giving it a try and just published my first post.