The One Thing Virtusize Does Every Day to Provide the Perfect Fit

Anyone who’s ever had to return ill-fitting clothes bought online knows how disappointing and annoying the whole process is. The two-year-old Swedish startup, Virtusize, solves that problem with a sizing application placed on product pages of online stores such as the British retailer ASOS.

Inspired by seeing how top sellers on eBay provided detailed specifications, the founders of Virtusize realized they could help shoppers buy clothes on the web with the right size and fit by comparing measurements to garments they already own. This simple yet handy service, currently used by customers in over 100 countries, is reducing fit-related returns by up to as much as fifty percent.

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Why Foursquare, BuzzFeed, and Shopify Use Google Snippets

There’s one internal communication tool, little known outside of tech circles, that’s been the management engine behind many of tech’s biggest successes. Known as Google Snippets (having started as an internal tool at Google), this single tool has grown to become one that many of the best technology companies use to keep their teams aligned and working in sync while giving them the freedom to work creatively and autonomously.

The reason the system at Google caught on is that it’s not only powerful but incredibly simple to use.

Snippets sends everyone a weekly email on Monday asking you what you did last week and what you planned to get done the next week. When you reply to the email, your response goes onto an internally accessible webpage, and the next day, you’ll get an email that shows you what everyone else in the company is working on.

What began as a modest tool for keeping everyone in the loop became a powerful tool for company-wide transparency, as Google grew from hundreds to tens of thousands of people. With snippets, every employee had access to important knowledge regarding what was happening in the company — a stark contrast from the old days when managers hoarded information and kept it from their reports.

As Googlers eventually spread their wings and left the company for other tech pastures, they brought snippets with them, which is how similar systems became critical management tools at companies like Foursquare.

Here’s why three of the fastest-rising tech companies today use snippets and how it fuels their success:

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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 iDoneThis in 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.

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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.

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Buzzfeed’s Kismet Engine that Drives Deliberate Focus

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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.

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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.

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How Wistia Builds Its Competitive Advantage

Wistia provides super easy, distinctive video hosting, management, and marketing for businesses. We wanted to find out from co-founder and CEO, Chris Savage, how Wistia uses iDoneThis and why they love it.

In the past year, Wistia has gone through a growth spurt, doubling to a total of fifteen people. Chris wrote a great blog post about the challenges of staying productive during such rapid growth, pointing out how Wistia’s “internal communication mechanisms have had to evolve so that they are less disruptive, more relevant, and more helpful.”

Allotted ample ownership and authority, people at Wistia have a great deal of freedom over what they do. As a result, as Chris explains, “it’s hard to know what everyone else is doing, which I think is really important.” So, the Wistia team uses iDoneThis to “facilitate what would often be those random connections that would happen if you were sitting next to somebody, if you were walking by somebody working on something.”

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The art of getting stuff done without bossing around

The availability of seed-stage funding today means that there are a ton of first-time entrepreneurs out there assembling teams and building companies without any experience running a team or managing people.  Building a team in this environment is especially difficult because funded companies typically grow teams prior to sustainability or product-market fit. It’s hard to steer the team in the right direction when you yourself don’t quite know what to build.

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Naval Ravikant at AngelList has blogged about “Building a team that ships”, describing his assembled team as “self-managing people who ship code.” Naval calls this peer management: one person per project (with help from others as needed), no middle managers, and individual choice on what to work on using accountability is the rudder. In his words: “Promise what you’ll do in the coming week on internal Yammer. Deliver – or publicly break your promise – next week.”

At iDoneThis, we’ve seen peer management as an effective approach to take for the young startup CEO.  We’ve worked closely with many first­-time entrepreneurs like Danny Wen at Harvest and Tobi Lutke at Shopify who have succeeded in building unique, quirky, and profitable companies by empowering individuals at their companies to manage themselves and each other to build out great products exceeding a high standard of excellence. Here are some keys to effective peer management that we’re seeing.

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How Mozilla Foundation Navigates Across Teams

The Mozilla Foundation has a super software team working on projects that range from Popcorn (a video remixing application) to Thimble (an easy-to-use web page maker) to Open Badges (a digital badges system that support learning and achievement).

Developer Jon Buckley talked with us about the struggle to align three teams when Mozilla wanted to integrate Badges into both Popcorn and Thimble. Combining multiple product worlds could very well collide into chaos and confusing communication, but Mozilla is seeing smooth sailing.

Status update discussion used to fall to a weekly call, which was time-consuming, while a shared mailing list was only used periodically for such purposes. The Mozilla teams soon turned to iDoneThis to coordinate communication for people spread across time zones and for cutting across teams.  “You don’t have to worry about being in the same room at the same time. That asynchronous nature of updating people is very helpful.

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Account Association Security Threats for Google Single Sign-On

iDoneThis recently added itself to the Google Apps Marketplace and the Google Chrome Web Store, providing OpenID single-sign-on access to iDoneThis through Google accounts. It’s a great feature to have, but as we found during our implementation, one rife with security concerns.  Security advisories from both Google [2] and the OpenID foundation [3] pointed out possible vulnerabilities with various OpenID implementations related to the failure to check  for signed AX attributes.  But the failed check for signed AX attributes by certain implementations of OpenID is really a peripheral issue. A more fundamental security threat results from the incongruent use of the OpenID protocol for trust when it was meant for identification.  This article discusses how our integration of Google OpenID single-sign-on addresses the issues brought forth by the security advisories as well as the more central issue of proper OpenID usage.
Credit: openidexplained.com
Illustration from: http://openidexplained.com

 

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