Monday, October 19, 2009

Office Kanban - My Early Experiments

This works well, and it's fun, but a couple of things I've noticed...

You will need some Wall Space

My cube (yes, I work in a cube :p) does not have a lot of wall space. And what it does have is covered by this strange mesh made of recycled carpet or upholstery or shoes or something, so stickies don't really adhere to it. I almost used my window for the board, which would have worked great, but would have made me crane my neck to see, and I was worried might look a bit show-off-ish for people looking in from outside because they would see my sticky to solve the NP-complete travelling salesman problem in nLogN operations securely placed on the "done" side of the board - more about this in an upcoming post (ok, no - not really).

When lo, what did I see? My embedded whiteboard, easy to reach and visible from my computer, the perfect rectangular shape, I could write on it (not with the Jiffy markers though, really hard to get that cleaned off - trust me) and it had excellent sticky adherence. Good-bye whiteboard, hello Kanban board!

Small tasks, but not too small

I started out really small, like 20 stickies a day, it was crazy, like "read email", "clean coffee cup", "recycle TPS reports", "select new screen background". I think I was just reveling in the amazingness of the board, and stuff was just getting done. Whatever I put up there, like magic. Lots of tiny tasks was creating a lot of churn, I was spending too much time writing up stickies, and going to the stationery cabinet for more stickies, and stealing stickies from co-workers. I was also using the Jiffy markers A LOT and I think they were having an affect on me (like I became extra talkative and paranoid and really thirsty all the time).

So I made the tasks bigger, too big unfortunately. Like days, and days big. And this allowed me to get distracted. So, say, instead of writing an AD interface like my task said - I was adjusting my chair height, and then my desk height and then my lamp angle - and those things were NOT on the board. The Kanban "flow" was not happening. I could see it was time to right-size my tasks.

Somewhere in between nano-tasks and uber-tasks was right-sized tasks. How big are they? somewhere around 2. Hours that is. I like them around this big. Why? Well, at the end of the day I can look at the "done" column and say "That was a pretty good day, look at all those stickies in there". Smaller tasks keep the focus, and keep you coming back to the board to move them, which keeps you focused on the board, like a game of tag, a back and forth, a conversation, a flow...

A Great Topic of Conversation

My visitors like to talk about the board. Like "What have you got there? Is that the sticky board you were talking about? Do you have MS Project installed because it can manage tasks? No? Well put in a request to have it installed, and I'll help you get started with it. I think you'll really like Project. And you'll see you don't need this sticky board.".

Or, "Are you using those stickies to track your work, because we have a task tracking system you know. In fact we have two, and people are expecting you to keep that up to date. Well, it doesn't really matter if the task tracking system works for you or not, the important thing is that we ALL use it. It's written in our SOX compliance documentation. Where is that documentation? I don't know, and I don't think we're allowed to see it anyway.".

Here's a picture of it before someone orders the janitorial staff to remove it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Look at 10 iPhone Twitter Apps

A quick summary of 10 iPhone Twitter client applications I have been trying out. I have ordered them by preference, starting with my favorite. My analysis is heavily based on how I use Twitter. I've noted what I like and dislike about each app and added a few screen shots of each.

Prices are based on the Canadian iTunes store

Tweetie 2

Price: $2.99
Vendor: Atebits
Go to the Tweetie 2 site.

What's Nice

  • Wow, what a great product. Tweetie 2 is fast and stable like its predecessor, but offers a rich set of new features.
  • At $2.99 it is the cheapest of the full featured Twitter client apps.
  • Slick integration with follows back and follow cost.

  • Refresh your timeline - "pull down" on the timeline to refresh it. Great idea>
  • Following/Followers list management is very easy

What's Lame

  • I can't seem to get to the Public Timeline.
  • It replaces the old Tweetie, so it really cost me $3.99.


Price: $4.99
Go to the SimplyTweet site.

What's Nice

  • DM and Reply alert - This works like text messaging, so you could use SimplyTweet for texting too.
  • Conversations - Very nice. It can be easy to lose track of conversation threads and replies, SimplyTweet can show reply threads.
  • Bubble Tweets - I find bubbled tweets easier to read
  • Follows back - this feature is well integrated into the product and is displayed on the user profile
  • Nearby - You can specify the proximity of nearby tweets from 1 to 50 miles

What's Lame

  • Follower/Following Lists - I can't seem to display these lists.


Price: $4.99
Naan Studio Inc
Go to the Echofon site.

What's Nice

  • I'm calling this the 'people finder' - from within the tweet window, you can pull up a list of people to choose from for shout-outs.

  • Links are auto-shortened with This just happens automatically once you tweet.
  • Profile detail shows if you are following someone and if they are following you back.
  • Following/Follower lists on profiles. My "can't live without" feature.
  • Trends - Go to current trends through the search feature.
  • Nearby Tweeters. Again through the search window

What's Lame

  • The Name - EchoFon? Is Naan Studio Inc a Swedish company? because 'Echofon' sounds like the name of an Ikea product.
  • I can't find the 'go to user' feature. But the search can be used to find people.


Price: $4.99
Vendor: System Of Touch
Go to the BirdFeed site.

What's Nice

  • Bubble format and fast scrolling - I prefer the bubble format, even though it takes up more screen space.
  • Tied into external tools - Query tweeps agaist FollowCost, DoesFollow, Overlapr - could be better integrated into the app, but still cool.
  • Basics like ReTweets, DMs, Replies and favorites are quickly accessible and easy to find.

What's Lame

  • No URL Shortening - It either can't do URL shortening or I don't know how to find the feature. But when I paste a URL, it violates the 140 character limit and I can't post the tweet.
  • Profile Details - While I can look at profiles and see bio's and follower/following counts, I can't view followers/following lists. I tend to use these to follow new people.


Price: $4.99
Go to the Twittelator site.

What's Nice

  • Horizontal aspect - You can view link web pages horizontally.
  • Paper clip links - Links in a Tweet include a paper clip icon which can be clicked to navigate to the link. Reduces some navigation overhead.
  • TwitPic display - thumbnails of photos are displayed in tweets.
  • Mute - This seems contradictory to the spirit of Twitter, but sometimes, maybe I don't want to hear @Alyssa_Milano's daily minutiae.
  • Groups and subgroups - I think these are specific to Twittelator. There are so many sites trying to provide this feature.
  • Link shortener -

What's Lame

  • Tweet actions menu (to retweet, reply, etc.) was slightly difficult to find. Tap above the tweet text to activate.
  • The Windows 3.1 style shading on text makes it very hard to read.
  • UX - This application just doesn't look that good. Might be time to hire a design and graphics expert.


Price: Free (displays advertising)
Go to the Twitterrific site.

What's Nice

  • What a slick interface - shading and colouring looks great.
  • Feed display - I can collapse tweets to 3 different sizes
  • Access to the public timeline, which I only use to play with the translator
  • Translation - This works very well, especially on latin based languages. Thai, Malay not bad. Japanese? Not so good.

What's Lame

  • It makes "chirping" sounds when you refresh your feed. This is cute, like... once.
  • Ads. Not really intrusive, but I feel like I need to click them or they'll start charging for this app.


Price: Free (Beta Version)
Go to the TweetDeck site.

What's Nice

  • Columns - I love columns. I generally use columns to store searches on keywords and hash tags. With TweetDeck my searches are always available, and I can quickly scan them.
  • URL Shortening - there is a small icon of chain with 'shrinking' arrows on the tweet window to shorten URLs. Tweetdeck uses the shortener.
  • Location Tweeting - Not my thing, but it's there.
  • TwitPic Photos - Take a shot, or choose one from your library. I like this feature.

What's Lame

  • Unstable - Tweetdeck crashes on a regular basis for me. Usually when I start it up, it'll just disappear. Annoying.
  • Column Maintenance - I have a super hard time closing columns, tapping the 'gear' in the top right corner is very challenging. This could just be me.
  • Column update messages - I have a lot of columns and when I start Tweetdeck I get a load of intrusive messages indicating how many new tweets have been added to each column.

Tweetie (1)

Price: No longer available
Go to the Tweetie site.

What's Nice

  • Fast - Tweetie loads fast, and scrolls nicely. The line display lets you move through tweets like a rocket.
  • My Profile - I think every Twitter app should have strong profile maintenance. Tweetie makes it easy to view your bio, followers/following lists and time-line.
  • Nearby - You can see who's tweeting 'nearby' if you allow Tweetie to broadcast your location. Again, not my thing, but still cool.

  • Trends and Public Timeline - I generally avoid the trending topics (mega spamage). I think being able to follow trends is an important part of Twitter and it's good that Tweetie offers this.

What's Lame

  • Follows me? I can get to my following list, but there's something I like about knowing if someone I'm following is following me back. Tweetie doesn't have this feature.

Twitter Pro

Price: $0.99
iApp Ventures LLC
Web Site?

What's Nice

  • ummmm? Well... it has a nice icon.

What's Lame

  • Scrolling is very jumpy - probably the most irritating feature.
  • Can't view profiles, or add users.
  • It costs a dollar - I can't believe this app got through testing?
  • What is this app even called? iTwitter Pro or Twitter Pro?


Price: Free
Takuma Mori

What's Nice

  • Simple. It works as advertised - all you can do is tweet. That's it.

What's Lame

  • Well, this app doesn't really do much.