Connect Your Services to iDoneThis Effortlessly with Zapier
One of the biggest pain points we’ve heard from our customers is that the vital information on what’s getting done in the company is fragmented across different systems. Changes to the code happen in Github, meetings happen in Google Calendar, and tasks are marked as done in Trello. There’s no one place to see, talk about, and get excited about everything that’s happening in the company.
iDoneThis is meant to be that place, but we’ve heard that one of the biggest pain points is that you have to enter dones again into iDoneThis, what you might’ve already entered into another system. And that means that iDoneThis is just more work to do.
That’s why we teamed up with Zapier, an awesome tool that automates tasks between two apps with “zaps”, to make it even easier to record and share what you’re getting done in all the tools you use — without any change to your current behavior, to empower you to use the tools you love. We’re excited to share some of the most popular app integrations with iDoneThis using Zapier.
Zapier’s zapping magic takes small but accumulating tasks that you do every day off your plate. By automating the recording of dones, now you don’t have to enter duplicate information into iDoneThis and you can spend more time on the things that matter.
Share Accomplishments and Build Transparency Effortlessly with Zapier and iDoneThis
— The Zapier team itself found that people who habitually didn’t spend much of their day in their email inbox, such as engineers, always forgot to enter their dones when the email came around at the end of the day. They created zaps that automatically sent GitHub commits to iDoneThis which looped the business side into the progress that the dev guys were making on improving the product and squashing bugs.
Co-founder and CEO Wade Foster loves the GTalk to iDoneThis zap. Whenever he completes a task, he just sends an IM to the Zapbot on GTalk through Zapier, and the message gets logged in iDoneThis. Ever since he started using the zap, the number of dones that he logs surged two- to threefold, simply by logging them as they happened rather than batching them later.
— The Buffer team uses Zapier to connect Trello and iDoneThis. In their pipeline of tasks on a Trello board—To-Do, Doing, Done—when an item gets moved into the Done column, it’s automatically recorded in iDoneThis. That makes iDoneThis the place where they can see what’s getting done across all of the different services that they use without any additional work on their part.
— Here at iDoneThis, we zap meetings and events from our Google Calendar into iDoneThis so that the whole team gets a better sense of who people are talking to and meeting on a regular basis. Before Zapier, the engineering team often wouldn’t know what the business side of the team was doing. This is a powerful force for creating transparency in the organization, because oftentimes business guys pass of their work as inscrutable to engineers and this creates a harmful rift in the team. When the engineers know that the business folks are taking important, valuable meetings, that builds trust in an organization.
Every zap is like a recipe, consisting of a trigger plus an action. For our particular zaps, the action is an email sent to iDoneThis.
Each automation that Zapier does for you is a task. For example, if you send your dones to iDoneThis through the Gtalk zap, every instant message you send that gets recorded in iDoneThis is one task.
Now, to get these zaps going, you need to sign up for a Zapier account. Zapier has multiple plans with four tiered pricing options, but the free plan that gives you 5 zaps and 100 tasks will get you started on all of the zaps that we offer.
How to Get Started Setting Up Your iDoneThis Zaps
Head over to our Apps page and click on the Zapier link where you’ll find our specially curated collection of zaps.
To set up a zap, Zapier will walk you through each step. We’ve pre-filled in the zaps with default settings, but you’ll need to make a couple tweaks to make it work for you. Here’s a quick run-through and some tips for each step.
STEP 1:Pick your trigger and action for this zap. This is where you pick the two apps you want to connect. Depending on the app, there may be more than one possible trigger. For example, a Trello trigger could be when there’s any new activity in Trello or the addition of a new card.
STEPS 2 & 3:Connect accounts. Here, you’ll connect your two app accounts to Zapier, one of which will be your email account which will be used to send emails to iDoneThis.
STEP 4:Filter. Depending on the app, this step is either required or optional. Filtering means you can choose the conditions for when a zap’s trigger is set off to record your iDoneThis entries. For example, you probably want to choose a specific Evernote notebook or Trello board. This way, you won’t have all your notes, cards, and lists flooding your iDoneThis.
STEP 5:Create your email. Don’t worry about filling in any optional information unless you have a very specific purpose in mind.
Now for the required steps. You must choose a destination address for the email. Depending on whether your zaps are headed to a personal or team iDoneThis account, the email address will be different. In both cases, make sure you’ve connected the same email account that you use with iDoneThis.
Unless you’d like to send the done to both a personal and team iDoneThis account, click the minus sign to delete the email address you will not be using.
Personal: Fill out the “to” field with firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have more than 1 personal account, use the following team directions.
Team: Your “to” email address is something that looks like [your_team_short_name]@team.idonethis.com. Check the address from which your daily reminder or digest emails are sent to find out what it is. For example, if you receive emails from email@example.com, enter that into the field.
Alternatively, find the last part of the web address when you log onto your team calendar (this may be different from your actual team name), and that’s the team short name that goes in front of "@team.idonethis.com". For example, if your team calendar is at http://idonethis.com/cal/elephants/, the email you use should be firstname.lastname@example.org.
The subject and body fields are required as well. In our collection of zaps, these fields will be pre-filled, but feel free to experiment with what information you want to include in the body, which is what gets recorded into iDoneThis.
For instance, add hashtags such as #trello or #github so you can keep track of specific zaps. Here’s how we filled out the Body field of our Trello zap to record cards that are moved into the Published column of our content board into iDoneThis.
STEP 6: Try out your zap. Give a few test runs to test your zaps. Make sure everything’s hooked up and working, and that all the fields you want are included.
STEP 7: Make zap live. Give your zap a name, and then you’re ready to go. It’s alive!
The Shit Sandwich and Other Terrible Ways to Give Feedback
Giving feedback well is one of the manager’s most difficult skills to master, because, as famed tech founder and investor Ben Horowitz points out, it’s incredibly unnatural.
If your buddy tells you a funny story, it would feel quite weird to evaluate her performance. It would be totally unnatural to say: “Gee, I thought that story really sucked. It had potential, but you were underwhelming on the build up then you totally flubbed the punch line. I suggest that you go back, rework it and present it to me again tomorrow.” Doing so would be quite bizarre, but evaluating people’s performances and constantly giving feedback is precisely what a CEO must do.
Here are three fundamentally flawed approaches that inexperienced managers take in trying to perform the dark art of giving feedback, and how to avoid them.
The Shit Sandwich
The shit sandwich, or the praise sandwich, as some ironically call it, is a technique for giving feedback that involves sandwiching critical, truthful feedback (the shit) in between two slices of praise.
The idea behind the shit sandwich is that it’s a way to ease people into harsh feedback by starting off the conversation with complimentary praise. This surprisingly results in the exact opposite of what’s intended.
In a study at the University of Chicago, behavioral science professor Ayelet Fishbach conducted a simulation in which she divided a class in half and instructed one half to give negative feedback to the other. Amazingly enough, the half receiving feedback thought “they [were] doing great.”
Why did they walk away with a positive impression of their performance when the students giving feedback set out to let their them know that their performance was unsatisfactory? “Negative feedback is often buried and not very specific,” according to Fishbach. In other words, when you feed someone a shit sandwich, they’re liable to walk away licking their lips.
Feedback conversations can often devolve into “one big pile of information” from which “data points [are chosen] almost at random,” according to Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Dalio calls these “below the line” conversations, where it’s difficult to derive a coherent sense of what the feedback is to begin with and what steps can be made to improve.
Imagine your feedback organized in outline-form, with main points and then subordinate points organized beneath them. Below-the-line conversations focus on the subordinate points without connecting to the broader, fundamental points about an employee’s performance.
[S]uppose your major point is: “Sally can do that job well.” In an above-the-line conversation, the discussion of her qualities would target the question of Sally’s capacity to do her job. As soon as agreement was reached on whether she could perform competently, you would pass to the next major point—such as what qualities are required for that job. In contrast, a below-the-line discussion would focus on Sally’s qualities for their own sake, without relating them to whether she can do her job well. The discussion might cover qualities that are irrelevant to the job. While both levels of discussion touch on minor points, “above the line” discourse will always move coherently from one major point to the next in much the same way as you can read an outline in order to fully understand the whole concept and reach a conclusion.
According to Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, brain scans have shown how people start holding back when they encounter judgmental language. Below-the-line feedback can have this inhibiting effect, as unfocused, disjunctive statements are bound to come off as overcritical and disapproving when they’re not tied to purpose.
One-Size Fits All Feedback
One of the biggest mistakes by managers is to take a singular approach to giving feedback. This usually originates from the misconception of the person giving feedback that it’s all about his emotional need to express himself, not the usefulness of feedback to the recipient in helping her adjust and improve.
In Horowitz’s words, “[s]tylistically, your tone should match the employee’s personality not your mood.”
A recent research paper published in The Journal of Consumer Research showed a specific type of tailoring that’s required for giving impactful feedback. The researchers found that the type of feedback that people prefer to receive is dependent on whether they’re an expert or novice. Experts are more likely to seek out negative feedback, while beginners need positive feedback and encouragement to gain confidence in their new endeavor.
* * *
As with language, mastering the art of giving feedback is a skill that gets better with practice. And when feedback is approached as a more frequent, real conversation rather than an event that becomes stilted, anxiety-filled, and unproductive, it then becomes a sharp, valuable tool for improvement and growth. Approach giving feedback the way tackle your work overall — with purpose, directness, and empathy — and you’ll start getting through.
Walter Chen is co-founder of iDoneThis, an ex-lawyer, and an amateur Starcraft player. You can follow his tweets at @smalter.
Written communication creates lasting consistency across an entire team because a piece of writing is leveragable collateral from which everyone, from marketing to sales to QA to engineering, can work and consult.
Accountability spreads as a manager’s written work product — product requirement documents, FAQs, presentations, white papers — holds the manager responsible for what happens when the rest of the team executes on the clearly articulated, unambiguous vision described by the documents.
To Horowitz, the distinction between written and verbal communication is stark and in fact is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Good managers want to be held accountable and aren’t looking for ways to weasel out of responsibility. And so, good managers write, while “[b]ad product managers voice their opinion verbally and lament … the ‘powers that be’.”
"There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."
—Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Jeff Bezos values writing over talking to such an extreme that in Amazon senior executive meetings, “before any conversation or discussion begins, everyone sits for 30 minutes in total silence, carefully reading six-page printed memos.”
Writing out full sentences enforces clear thinking, but more than that, it’s a compelling method to drive memo authors to write in a narrative structure that reinforces a distinctly Amazon way of thinking—its obsession with the customer. In every memo that could potentially address any issue in the company, the memo author must answer the question: “What’s in it for the customer, the company, and how does the answer to the question enable innovation on behalf of the customer?”
"Reports are more a medium of self-discipline than a way to communicate information.”
— Andy Grove, Intel
Like Bezos, Grove finds value in the process of writing. The surprising thing, then, is that reading what’s written isn’t important to Grove. The main point of this self-disciplinary process is to force yourself “to be more precise than [you] might be verbally”, creating “an archive of data” that can “help to validate ad hoc inputs” and to reflect with precision on your thought and approach.
Writing, according to Grove, is a "safety-net" for your thought process that you should always be doing to "catch … anything you may have missed.”
Accountability, coherence of thought and planning, and commitment to vision and mission are amazing benefits of what too many consider a ho-hum, even old-fashioned, tool.
How do you use the management and work skills of writing?
Walter Chen is co-founder of iDoneThis, an ex-lawyer, and an amateur Starcraft player. You can follow his tweets at @smalter.
Tim Cigelske, on How to Keep Track of Interns and Think Bigger
As the director of social media at Marquette University, beer expert, running coach, writer, husband and father, Tim Cigelske inhabits many roles, and he’s accordingly found multiple uses for iDoneThisin his personal and professional lives. While he recently started using iDoneThis with his summer interns, Tim has been a member for over a year, with a personal account for his freelance work and a team account with his wife, Jess.
Along with Google Calendar, the couple uses iDoneThis to keep track of their household, their three-year-old daughter and her dance classes, and what’s going on in their lives. “There’s a lot going on outside of work so this helps keep tabs,” Tim says. And for his freelancing, he uses iDoneThis as a handy reminder system, recording published links, and using his iDoneThis emails to prompt him the next day or next week to promote his work on social media.
Though summer is traditionally a quiet time on campus, the intern team is in full force, having grown from one regular contributor to five, and hard at work on the school’s manifold social media channels and longer-term projects. “It’s the same thing, lots of social media promotion,” so Tim decided to bring in iDoneThis as a tool to keep track of what the interns get done, leave feedback and notes, provide reminders to publicize content, and show his team the overall path of their work from plan to production to promotion.
“One of the things that’s so awesome about iDoneThis is the simplicity. You don’t have to learn a new skill, you don’t have to download anything, you just have to know how to email,” Tim remarks. Yet he was still surprised when he sent his new team invites for iDoneThis, and “they got it right away! Before I even instructed what to do, I started getting emails saying what they’d done.”
Still, Tim realizes that college students tend to have a certain comfort-level with new tools. “There’s just a lot of openness to trying new things in that age group,” he observes. “We actually use a Facebook Group to discuss ideas and get to know each other on a more personal level.”
The interns are all on different schedules from each other and from Tim, another challenge that the iDoneThis/Facebook combination addresses. “It’ll change again in the fall. It’s not your traditional nine to five, and it’s another reason why this helps. They post what they’re doing when it’s convenient for them, and I can start my day with an overview of all that’s going on.”
While regularly dealing with constant streams of social media, Tim is a firm believer in setting up systems to take some of the cognitive load off your mind. “We always think willpower is what’s going to solve our problems and that’s usually not the case, or ever the case,” says the man who was on a daily run-streak of 973 when we spoke. Establishing the framework of “I’m going to run today” as a mental given helps make it happen. “A lot of people might think that that’s difficult. I mean, it’s not necessarily easy but it takes a lot of the thought process out of exercise.”
Tim — who has also eaten the same thing for lunch, by and large, for the past five years (cold meat and cheese sandwiches, in case you’re interested) — explains why such systems are so important: “It makes it easier to not have to think too much about unnecessary decisions and leaves more bandwidth for decisions that are more complicated.”
“That’s why iDoneThis is helpful,” he continues. “I’m going to get that daily digest of everything that’s going on as opposed to me having to go to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Pinterest to see what’s new. This gives me a system that I can rely on to make my life easier. It helps you free up that space for bigger decisions and bigger thoughts.”
We’re happy that we’re helping to make room for Tim and his Marquette University interns to do great work and think great thoughts!
The Most Engaged Employees Work at Companies of 10 People and Fewer
A recent survey published by Gallup showed that when employee engagement is broken down by company size, the smallest companies have the most engaged employees—and it wasn’t even close.
42% of employees working at companies of ten and fewer reported that they were engaged at work, a huge increase over the 27% to 30% of engaged people at larger companies.
Unfortunately, only 9% of the U.S. employees work in small companies compared with the 44% of people who work at companies with over 1,000 employees —and that’s why we’ve seen a massive push from even the largest enterprises into organizing in small, self-contained teams.
Here are three fascinating illustrations of why employees on small teams are more engaged at work and what that means for you and your company.
We’re All Social Loafers
In the 1970s, a team of researchers from UMass Amherst confirmed an intriguing social psychology phenomenon known as “social loafing.” They had different-sized teams pull on a rope, but unbeknownst to the entire group, some of the rope-pullers were only pretending to pull. What happened was that individuals on larger-sized teams pulled with less effort than their colleagues on smaller teams, even though the larger teams actually had the same number of people functionally pulling as on smaller teams.
Even when you think you’re on larger teams, you don’t try as hard.
Jeff Bezos’s Two-Pizza Rule for Autonomy and Empowerment
Teams should be no greater than the number of people who can be fed by two pizzas, according to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
Bezos found that when teams get bigger than 10 people, they become subject to groupthink, the psychological phenomenon where group members favor consensus and minimization of conflict over critical and independent decision-making. Groupthink kills your initiative to engage actively in thinking through problems yourself, drawing your own conclusions, and voicing those opinions.
Falling for the Team Scaling Fallacy
A group of business school professors analyzed what they called “the team scaling fallacy,” or the recurrent misbelief in the ability of larger teams to get stuff done more quickly. They asked two-person teams and four-person teams to assemble the same Lego figure. Two-person teams took 36 minutes on average, while four-person teams took a whopping 52 minutes to finish assembling.
Worse yet, we become more overconfident as our team size increases. The study showed that large teams consistently underestimate the friction that additional team members add to communication overhead and other process losses. Larger teams were nearly twice as overoptimistic about the time it would take to complete the Lego figure, a huge margin of overconfidence compared with smaller teams.
The mere expansion of people in a company means there’s a precarious potential for people to experience less motivation, diminished decision-making capabilities, more miscalculation, and overconfidence. While most businesses revolve around growing bigger and bigger, it turns out they should look to what smaller companies do best to help prevent employees from checking out.
Walter Chen is co-founder of iDoneThis, an ex-lawyer, and an amateur Starcraft player. You can follow his tweets at @smalter.
Buzzfeed's Kismet Engine that Drives Deliberate Focus
People often hold this ideal about how great work gets done through serendipity, as if brains to stumble upon each other like characters in a romantic comedy. More often, the spark happens when we create the conditions for it to do so. If you really want lightning to strike, you don’t just mosey along empty-handed, you go out there with a lightning rod.
Jon Steinberg, president and COO of Buzzfeed found his lightning rod system, what he calls his “kismet engine.” That fateful engine is Snippets, a surprisingly simple productivity system that originated at Google.
How Snippets works at Buzzfeed is this: employees send Jon a weekly email by the end of the workday on Friday identifying what they’ve been working on and what they need help with. Everyone can also subscribe to each others’ snippets. As for Jon, he reads his compiled snippets over the weekend and then responds with feedback and questions.
He explains, this makes it possible to “connect dots and people on things I wouldn’t otherwise know about.” Voilà, facilitated kismet.
With Snippets showing Jon and the growing team at Buzzfeed where all the dots are, they get a sense of the layers of individual details and multitudes of dots that help create the big impressionistic picture. The result is that:
"Snippets … forces me to review my week and tell the whole company what my contributions and challenges were for the week. Some weeks it feels great, other weeks not so much. On the weeks it feels disappointing, it’s a great forcing function to prioritize and focus."
Depending on what’s going on, that kind of transparency may show you something wonderful or ugly or what’s sticking out. Getting a view of the picture’s composition is revealing and full of insight. And it’s a good deal better than the alternative of merely having a random, vague sense of what’s going on, only seeing some percentage of the whole.
This kind of process is essential given how — as Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, suggests with great wisdom — “if you don’t take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it.”
Oftentimes, in the workplace, we don’t take time to think, reflect, and situate ourselves. So we try to connect the dot when it’s actually someone else calling out Twister directions and end up entangled and mired.
The ironic thing is that thinking — no matter how proactive it is — looks like you’re doing nothing. And maybe this explains people’s reluctance to put reflection and review into real, meaningful practice.
Yet embracing that appearance of doing nothing and taking the time to think is integral, psychiatrist T. Byram Karasu explains, “for previously unrelated thoughts and feelings to interact, to regroup themselves into new formations and combinations, and thus to bring harmony to the mind.” And tuning in, Dr. Karasu says, ultimately creates rather than takes away, because you build a better sense of reciprocation.
By being in touch with the internal, you establish links with the external world. Tuning in, not just on an individual but team and company level, is how you connect, sync, and plan, enable kismet instead of waiting for lightning, influence rather than react.
Janet Choi is the Chief Creative Officer at iDoneThis and keeps the wheels of the iDoneThis blog turning. She is not a morning person. Follow her tweets at @lethargarian.
While it’s tough enough to get into good personal habits, how do you get your employees to adopt good companyhabits?
Changing your behavior starts with an intention, and when you’re herding multiple human intentions, that transformation process can become tricky.
Pipedrive, a startup that makes a simple CRM that people actually like to use, is one of our oldest team customers. As the company grew rapidly, from six to twenty people within a year, overall iDoneThis usage flagged because new people weren’t getting on board. Pipedrive found a way to turn that behavior around, hacking the iDoneThis company habit with great success.
A bad habit arises
Split between San Francisco and Talinn, Estonia, Pipedrive started using iDoneThis to address the challenge of working together across the globe. “It’s been incredibly useful,” says Martin Henk, co-founder and head of customer support. “Keeping track of everyone with the ten-hour difference is pretty huge. We wouldn’t know half of the things people are doing without iDoneThis.”
But capturing the full advantage of that knowledge and conversation about what people are working on relies on full participation. A core group had continued to use iDoneThis regularly, but new people, says Martin, didn’t seem to understand the value of the tool or ever get comfortable with how to record their accomplishments, ignoring their iDoneThis emails.
Changing the habit
Since the founders had seen first-hand the benefits of using iDoneThis, they wanted to fix this problem of team buy-in. Merely telling people to do it failed to catch on. The next idea floated was administering some kind of punishment, but the founders instinctively knew that threats would not only be ineffective but damaging. “Luckily we didn’t go through with it,” Martin recounts. “We couldn’t figure out a way to do it that would end well.”
Ragnar Sass, co-founder and head of partnerships & HR, then proposed counting the number of dones and likes and rewarding the person with the most activity with a small prize, like flowers or a gift card. “I can’t believe how well this worked,” Martin reports, still sounding surprised. “In hindsight, it’s logical that positive reinforcement works, but it worked incredibly well. Now there’s so much interaction going on in iDoneThis.
“It sticks when you get into the habit.”
The positivity effect
Now that the whole team is on board with the tool, Martin says, “I can rest assured that the entire team knows what someone’s doing.”
The positive prize method has had lasting effects. People who had, just a few months ago, filled out iDoneThis on some haphazard, even monthly basis, became some of the most active users. Likes and comments have gone up six-fold. The support team started recording and celebrating impressive numbers of support cases completed in a day. An “iDoneThis report” has become a core part of the monthly all-hands team meeting.
Newcomers can quickly make sense of what coworkers do and grasp that feeling of being in the same boat, one of the hardest challenges of distributed and split teams. For example, people could immediately connect with a recently hired designer and his work and vice versa. Martin observes, “It’s rewarding for him to know that other people know what he’s doing and actually give feedback right away. So he’s not feeling alone in a new company.”
Pipedrive’s success with this company habit hack was critical for a company that found it difficult to even see each other online. What has been so surprising to Martin and the other founders is how a thoughtful change led to richer conversation and connection.
“People are actually commenting and having a discussion there.” He explains, “Otherwise something like that would be drowned in a Skype chat. The time zone difference doesn’t matter as much. You can have a conversation that’s happening every ten hours but it still gets done.
“It’s funny. So many apps now have likes and comments, but not every app actually has a reason for having them. But in iDoneThis, it’s essential, especially with the time zone difference.”
Why Pipedrive’s company habit hack worked
Dangling goodies like money or looming with threats is not effective. On the contrary, people do their best when motivation comes from within, when they simply want to. According to notable psychologists, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, people are naturally and deeply driven by needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
At first glance, Pipedrive’s habit hack of giving out a prize seems to undermine intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory. The monthly prize looks like an “if-then” motivator — do this, then get that carrot or stick — which Daniel Pink has written about in his book Drive. He describes how such extrinsic motivators fail because they focus attention away from the work itself. According to Pink, if-then motivators work fine for routine tasks, but “even with routine work, people are going to work even better if you … let them know why they’re doing it.”
Yet iDoneThis not merely an empty, routine task, nor is Pipedrive’s prize a focus of attention. A small token like a bouquet of flowers is not exactly a brass ring. Instead, it acted more like a trigger, easing the path for new employees figure out for themselves what iDoneThis was all about — to find their own meaning and value in the product.
“The coolest thing about this was the fact that we didn’t have a lecture in a meeting about iDoneThis being really important. Everyone got it by the hint of the subtle award.” Martin describes the extent of the change, “The number of dones and likes are one thing, but the feeling and fun comments are completely different.”
Pipedrive’s habit hack worked because the company approached the behavior change with positivity and a light touch, and because iDoneThis is a tool that aims to blends routine and purpose into a ritual that both builds and is built out of meaning based on hard work and interactions with each other. There: autonomy, competence, relatedness.
How ScribbleLive Powers the Moment with Liveblogging
ScribbleLive is bringing media companies and brands up to speed with software that allows them to publish, curate, and syndicate content in real-time.
Recently, ScribbleLive powered Boston.com’s liveblog coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and even served as their homepage when the traffic surge caused Boston.com to go down. By providing tools for journalists and media companies to adapt to this era of always-on social media, ScribbleLive helps fill in context and provide reliable reporting of breaking news.
We talked with Matt McCausland, software development manager at Scribblelive, about how the Toronto-based company manages and communicates with each other.
There’s the company-wide liveblog, ScribbleLive Daily, which serves as a fun watercooler-type communication channel. Employees publish posts on side projects and Hack Days, share interesting links and photos, and celebrate good news such as positive feedback about their customers’ liveblogs.
Matt explains, “It’s an ‘eat your own dog food’ kind of thing. You’re supposed to post one interesting thing a day related to your job or not. So people will share cool things that our clients have done or an article about development or whatever their job is. You get a wide range of stuff. It’s like an internal social network.”
With the bulk of the ScribbleLive team is in Toronto and a small sales team in the UK, the Daily liveblog helps people stay in touch and build camaraderie, on top of Skype and email. “We get to know them better than we would otherwise,” Matt explains.
For their own communication needs, the dev team turned to iDoneThis, especially to help keep a record of innovative projects for a Canadian research and development tax credit program. More generally, the team can see what’s getting done and how long it takes. “It’s good to keep track and have a log of things we worked on,” says Matt. “We like it because it’s so simple — just reply to an email with what you did. If a project gets out of control, we can go back in iDoneThis.”
As a team manager at a workplace with flexible hours, Matt finds the digests especially useful. “Sometimes I leave at 4 and other people are here until 6, so I can just see what everybody worked on all day. And Jonathan [the CTO] likes [the digest] because he’s not as hands-on as I am. Within two minutes you can quickly read what everybody was working on yesterday.”
As the dev team grows rapidly — doubling every year — Matt is reconsidering how sheer size may change his management style. “We’re a startup, so we just try to get things done quickly that’ll push the business in whatever direction we need to be going in at the time. We don’t really have a project manager, we don’t have charts, it’s all pretty loose. We don’t have any software. We schedule out one project and work through it when things come up. Now we’re going to have 15, 17 people, so I might have to bring in some tools or we could use iDoneThis differently.”
The dev team does hold standup meetings in the morning, and Matt admits in regards to iDoneThis that, “Some of the developers are like, ‘I’m just telling you what I wrote the next morning.’ But the meeting is to talk about it.” With standups getting longer with team scaling up, iDoneThis could be used to make sure that those meetings stay short, by doing away with reports on what you did and jumping right into problems and issues.
All in all, Matt and the ScribbleLive dev team understand that a regular review of priorities is key to how the company moves forward. “We have a master list. We meet regularly with the exec team to discuss the importance of the top ten things on the list to make sure what we’re going to be working on in the next few weeks are the most important — not necessarily the most urgent, but the most important.”
We’re delighted to help ScribbleLive build software and share information in real-time by focusing not just on speed but on context and significance!