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A toolbox on remote 2.0

#tools #productivity #mobile #desktop #use #cases #UI #UX #10min #read

Hi! I am Olga and I am extremely curious on collective ideas exchange and development, how it influences collaborative work, and how well various tools fit into that.

I love to explore how people think, ideate, operate and manage information flow, what`s usefull, comfortable, intuitive, valid in the context of tools they use
Thing is, one same app is used differently by different people: the same interface & user flow is valid under very different scenarios. This consideration fascinates and delights me
all the time
: we, humans, have our own meaning, and we place it into a tool`s form to solve a particular task. Sometimes a tool turns out a Procrustean bed. Sometimes it helps us think, improvise and see things anew, hence, unlocking our potential. Isn`t it awesome?
My recent personal infatuations are:
, sped up
,
, and most importantly - whatever there is out there that enhances and supports a lightening speed of decision-making process.
I am also recalibrating my understanding of
,
crossed with
,
,
and other usefull probabilistic or approximation technics while dealing with humans and with uncertainty.
Drop me a line if you are intesrested in building collaborative tools together:

The tools are made for humans, not the other way around: they should clarify, simplify, enhance, and accelerate everything you have in mind. When that is so, they empower you to create together effortlessly.


Hint
: if you read it on mobile, click on the first card below 👇 to see the full content, and simply keep swiping 👉 from there on. It’s a 10-minute read.

As it happened, I have been working as a remote entrepreneur for about 15 years. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with highly skilled professionals across 20+ industries over a wild array of cross-discipline projects. Curiosity is a bitch, but a lovely one.

I figured, it might be of help to share some field notes - some personal
use cases
- as so many people around the world are getting used to a distant work environment, restructure to an online-offline mix, need to be even leaner as a company or preparing to launch one - and who likely doesn’t have extra or any money. These tools are either free or free to the point.

I have prioritized my list based on the level of information & communication complexity these tools manage - and the difference of my user scenarios on mobile and desktop. I limited it to the
toolbox
we would use for early stages of a startup, a place, a project or a gig. Meaning: before hardcore coding, building, engineering, producing (debatable thouth; some things are simpler than they seem).

Set aside the utility purpose, this list is
a thank you note
to all these awesome companies. You have made life so much easier for me and the people I was and am fortunate enough to work with.

It’s a personal experience, so take it with a grain of salt. Common sense still works miracles last time I checked.

Quick technical notes
:
I work with Dell Latitude 7200 2-in-1 with Windows 10 Pro; Moto Z 3 Play with Android 9.
Here is a
wild estimate of my
time split for desktop/mobile/tablet (understanding, that the last few months involved way more desktop zooms than usual). I personally shift between the two modes every other day or every week. But the medium number would be a lie, because different types of usage influence my experience and adoption differently.
any stage of active business negotiations: 20%/80%/0%
pretty much any other stage: 50%/40%/10%
My tools and how I use them
0

Self-chat functionality
Use cases:
Making quick notes, recording audio ideas, attaching files. Plus hashtags for easy search, and pinning messages for the stuff I use frequently.

Functionality:
There is a shared media tab which is essentially a library of your pictures, audio, links accessible via the profile link.

Field notes:
It’s perfect for idea creation stage, when you ping-pong ideas in your head, and think of whom to talk to or what to research.
Great side effect to a habbit of audio recording is that you continuously learn to (1) be short, specific and precise (2) see how idea evolves over time (3) get a self-check in on your mental health (5) see different methods of thinking that you use
Use cases:
Edit notes, move bits to other documents or apps, open links from the desktop and such. Ping pong ideas between devices.

Flaws:
One major limitation is that audio file is in *.ogg, so you can`t easily integrate it into other apps or platforms (as in: available to listen directly). I have not found any good solutions to that issue.

Field notes:
Have you noticed, that ideas read differently on a mobile or desktop, and in various apps? Collective ideas - even more so.
More on why I`d love to keep the audio & be able to transfer it between apps & platforms: it seems that when you record an idea, it`s given within a context, and with feelings. It`s a much reacher medium to hold information. Think of it as if you go from 1 dimention to 2.

Group communications
Use cases:
Rather a tool to catch on the news, exchange ideas, make a call or schedule a meeting, send links and such, to my taste. I usually check in what`s up on mobile, and unless it`s a simple question, I revert to continue working from the desktop.


Use cases:
Basically, to write anything bigger than an abstract, but be still suitable for a messenger to read it in, plus edit or move notes and links and materials to other apps, or to go between chats, browsers and apps. When applicable, we screenshot bits of conversations to insert those into a project or research outline to keep the context and cut down the time to collect it all around.

Functionaity:
Set aside a shared media tab, there is folders tab to filter groups by labels that you see fit. Each folder allows up to 5 pinned conversations at a time, which helps to easily find comms that are alligned with my current business focus.

Field notes:
As soon as you hit the stage when you already need a collective todo list, you grow out of a group chat to exchange things to do there or risk hitting a “way too many messages to catch up on”. At this stage some part of information exchange moves into a different tool.
I am super curious about how to move between various tools that manage information complexity in a
seamless
way, so that you can keep a coherent picture of what`s where.

Voice meeting notes
Use cases:
Recognizes English speech into a transcript. I record on mobile + send a link for everyone to listen and edit.

Field notes:
(if the consent for the record was given, surely)
It’s cool to use, when you start brainstorming with your peers and need to quickly catch some really cool bits, but they are all flying within a larger stream of collective consciousness.
It`s superb for a strategic session or negotiations or interviews or other types of loaded professional discussions, where you analyse multiple angles at the same time, rarely able to write down as much as you desire, and have to remember a lot afterwards. And - no, we don`t hire interns or asssistants unless there is a good and mutually beneficial reason for one. Transcribing audios ain`t one of them.
Use cases:
The auto-transcript is easily convertable to idea notes, CRM notes and early to-do lists.

Functionality:
You can only edit it in a desktop version of Otter, but it’s actually more comfortable to sit down with the record and think on it on a slower lane.

Field notes:
Driven by desire to speed up and simplify things in our daily management, i made a tool out of Otter & Coda. It works simply: work zoom call + Otter recording from the phone + voice commands / meta-commentary while being on the call (people, tasks and deadlines or even hashtags). And then Otter`s transcript turns into a todo list, an instruction draft or CRM entry with minimal hand labour and minimal information distortion.
Yes, it requires an extra level of consciousness & attention during the call

Making such tools is matter of habit and of utility: I make myself at home with any app i use and juggle it around till it flyes or dies.

Personal check list
Wunderlist was recently bought out by Microsoft, the new name is ToDo, and its nearly as good as it was before. Nearly. Oh, well. The pain of a loss is still fresh though.

Use cases:
Personal or business, you can setup a reminder for each list or a task within the app, integrate to a calendar, or share / assign tasks. Intuitive and minimalistic interface design, one love.

Field notes:
It’s handy, when it’s not really a project or a startup yet, there is no team or the team is forming, but there are already some things to read, research or try out.
it`s still of a perfect use at an early stage of ideation and research, but as soon as the team hits first real execution requirements (custdev), an advanced task planner is required in my experience.
Field notes:
Wunderlist`s been my personal go-to planner for years, and I used to switch between mobile and desktop versions depending if I need to type a lot or not.

Flaws:
ToDo for desktop is so not great, that I dropped using one. I mean: sub-task tree is shifted to the left part of the screen, so editing is highly uncomfortable. I mean: why? Why did they fuck up a Wunderlist perfectly neat interface design fitting a user scenario logic & editing usability? I am in pain!

Collaborative docs
Use cases:
Reading & sharing & commenting materials only.
Use cases:
It's nice to use Paper for early drafts and collective idea generation, writing down meeting notes

Field notes:
It`s usefull for the early days of the team, for about a couple of months I`d say - afterwards you would need something resembling data structure, which Paper does not provide
It`s good for external collaborations or client calls - easy to join, good collaborative tool

Flaws:
You can`t out together all paper documents that you have in some sort of order, except via folders. No data architecture whatsoever.
Paper/Dropbox seems to be working very slow these days, it takes ages to open the page or a folder.

Team checklist
Use cases:
manage the task pool and control team`s load

Field notes:
It is super simple, and helps navigate the workflow, once operations are up. Works greatly when you have a team and things to do, and the growing workflow does not fit anywhere anymore.
Say, milestones or tasks to make a website, structure early days CRM, create look and feel for the product, prepare a festival schedule, model a budget and whatnot.
It`s superb for 1 idea/startup/tasks tree

Us as a venture fund working with several startups at a time skipped Asana step and moved in to Coda
Use cases:
I rarely use it from the desktop, but my partners and teams do.
I can setup a tree of tasks from my computer once (a lot of typing), and then get back to mobile


Group communications
Use cases:
For a business team, with multiple chats separated by topics. Well, you know.

Flaws:
its capacity is extremely limited if you have way too many people chatting in the same workplace.


Use cases:
I usually use on desktop when I need to send a file from the computer; plus it`s easier to read across multiple sub-chats.

Field notes:
To be honest, I have been in Slack only when the team desires to use it for about a few years by now. Team’s comfort is the priority. That being said, Telegram with folders tab casually beats it.

Research:
And here is what we are looking for to simplify our daily communication flow:
All modern messengers fail completely if the same group of people (our team) ideates, grows or helps building startups (several other small teams) with different stake holders / owners / leads on each one, but we need to:
Exchange and conjugate ideas, observe a cross-discipline match for business models or market gaps, or IT architecture approach, find out a valid model failure, enable a skillset, experience, practice, typical doc formats, some use case or scenario or methodology transfer.
Not sure anything like that exists yet; it`s horizontal chat for SLLC of sorts. I am hopefull though.
Telegram folders + coda shaared knowledge system works -
but to the point.

Video conferences
Use cases:
I honestly do not do calendars unless I must. I accept what other people send me, or send invitations through a Zoom integration.

Testing:
I tried a few appointment scheduling integrations (
and
to name a few) many times, but sensations-based reality suggests that my most frequent user scenario is this one described above. It’s been in use for several years and it sticked.
Use cases:
I use them on desktop most of the time, so I can also type notes, or share screens, or send links easily.

Flaws:
Chat sucks. It`s useless and uncomfortable during the call (specially if it`s a group call or a conference - it`s a cascade of messages and - brrr - notifications). And you cant import any of it afterwards. We either exchange notes in messengers or via email.

Field notes:
I loved them since forever. And I am in awe with how they handle 16 figure growth, during the lockdown, fixing bugs and rolling out updates on the go. It’s incredibly difficult IT-wise!

Mobile reading app
Use cases:
Nothing can beat kindle mobile to read PDFs on the go. And books, but workwise: PDFs (pitch decks, research, analytics or similar).

Field notes:
To read files within the app, choose kindle as the default app to open PDFs from mobile.
I usually send files to read to my-self-chat in telegram, and open them in kindle; a mobile library & a chair.
Use cases:
I could read some infographics or a heavily loaded research or literature from the desktop or from the tablet part of my notebook

Data & project management
Use cases:
copy and send links or make screenshots to send to someone
read, add comments, edit notes
shuffle or lightly edit task lists

Field notes:
It seems that there is no much difference to them except UI. I personally prefer Coda. It seems simpler to me, and they absolutely ROCK mobile. I mean it.
My gut feeling is that various teams prefer either one or the other. I usually go with the flow:
team’s
comfort
is a priority, and a huge part of what makes creating together a seamless experience.
Architecture:
Coda’s and Notion’s method of organization is based on an information unit.
It means that you can add any type of asset (text, table, graph, audio, video), and get them connected via formulas or meta-tags. There are many templates, shortcuts, integrations, or add-ons to insert documents, types of text formatting, and such.
Say, you can upload and interlink a CRM, setup a sales funnel, put together product assumptions, navigate company registration, accounting and legal included. Or structure a festival’s schedule, including timetables, documents, equipment, artists materials and such. Or outline early hardware device specifications, with design, equipment, electronics and software layouts. All that in a matter of an hour or a few hours. Imagine that!
Use cases:
setting up data and management system to operate a business with presets or your own templates; from idea or article outline to task tracker, CRM, assumptions conveyer, project base, sales funnel, roadmaps, schedules and budgets to name a few.

Website constructor
Use cases:
Browsing to check if the design looks fine on mobile.
Use cases:
Register a domain, with SSL or not, make landing pages with CTAs, add analytics to measure it all; cross-wire to SMM.

Field notes:
We would have at least design docs or specifications at this point. Say, of a target market and customer assumptions, product assumptions, sales ideas, website specifications, name for the business and branding ideas, some references for the company style and such.
With that at hand, we would go to our awesome partner
to make it all work and look neat, clean, and professional.

And here is how we all can concentrate on what we do best!

Design and interface tool
Use cases:
Browsing; either to see what’s in the works or to check if the design looks fine on mobile.
Field notes:
Now, I am personally learning how to make simple b&w sketches & prototypes for the software or for industrial design or ping pong ideas on a look & feel or a user flow in Figma now, and I love it.
I draw like a broken legs chicken (for real), but i need to transfer and communicate visual ideas from time to time, and desire to do it better. I can snitch or copy an outline from a picture or a design or a scheme, and while simply, it’s a surprisingly incremental improvement.

Much like with Tilda, we would have a lot of things done at this point, and would invite Jetstyle to make it work, and look neat, clean, and professional.


Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, and I thank you for yours.

Please, feel free to leave comments, questions, links and ideas, and do share around, if you found this article usefull. Drop us a line if you are intesrested in collaborative tools as much as we do:


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