Taking the plunge with a new task management system (Teambox)

Prior to using Asana, the team have gone thru Basecamp, ActiveCollab, and GoPlan. We’ve been changing task/project-management systems so much that we just got used to it. At the back of my mind, I welcomed it, because it allowed me to start from zero and review tasks that are still worth pursuing.

Asana, however, was the longest one we’ve ever used. We’ve been using it for more than 6 months, I believe. We loved its email integration – just send/forward an email to a specific address, and it will automatically be created as a task, and include the email attachments. And since we work in a company heavily reliant on email, this was a big plus.

Asana was also very fast. I can see almost in real-time what tasks were updated by others. We also love, although never really maximized the potential, of its integration with Dropbox.

We’ve always wanted to upgrade, especially since we know we need about 50++ users, but there was something about Asana that was just never right.

  • The user interface was just very overwhelming. This was our biggest problem. Our team simply hated using it. We have more than 50 projects and lot of tasks under each project. We have done everything to make it look simpler (dummy projects and dummy tasks to segregate), but we just couldn’t make it work.
  • Tasks lists interface is too linear. It was a pain grouping them together, the groupings are not too distinct, and the tasks at the bottom always end up being neglected.
  • Calendar is not integrated within the UI. In order to to view the tasks in calendar form, we need to integrate with 3rd party calendars. We need to do this for every single new project that comes along. And that is a lot.
  • We were happy when they implemented subtask, but they made it too complicated. The subtasks were not even assigned to the parent project automatically. Each subtasks were treated independent of their container project.
  • Asana was great in reminding us of our tasks, but it does not aid us in planning them. Everything just looks too cluttered.

As more of our team started adopting Asana (we already maximized the free allocation of 30 users), we knew it was time to upgrade. But do we stick with Asana, or go with something else?

Our requirements were:

  • 50 to 75 users with a maximum budget of $300/month
  • Calendar view of tasks
  • Ability to create tasks and attach files via email
  • A user-interface we can work with in all stages of our process – brainstorming, strategizing, planning, and executing.

Initially, Asana was still on the list. We’ve  been using it for such a long time, and I was secretly trying to find a reason to stick with it. I wanted proof that the things we needed were at least planned, and that all we had to do was wait.

But I couldn’t find those reasons anywhere. Not even in their monthly newsletter when they mention their roadmap. The only things I saw were words like memory retrieval, workflow, big teams, growth, etc.

After a week of researching the likes of Do.com, Mavenlink, PivotalTracker, Producteev, Teambox, Teamly, Trello, and Wrike, we shortlisted it to two: Teambox and Trello.

You could tell how I discovered and fell immediately in love with the vertical view of tasks. It was being used by Teambox & Trello as a kanban system, but I knew we could use it to segregate subprojects. And that was a big thing for us, as we have a lot of adhoc one-week projects that suddely come up.

We almost went with Trello. We fell in love with its simplicity, speed, and their mobile apps. The deal breaker was not being able to mark anything as resolved — it forces us to use it as kanban instead.

Teambox was the sweet spot. It’s not perfect though. They have a big problem with speed, I don’t like the fact that you can’t create private projects that absolutely noone can see, and we really need subtasks support. But I like the capability to switch views of tasks (vertical/horizontal) and the integrated calendar & gantt chart.

Weirdly enough, what finally sealed the deal was their Help site. I was able to find out what exact feature they have included in their roadmap. Nothing vague. Only specifics.

I hope & I pray that we will be sticking with Teambox for a long time. Will let you guys know.

Picasa Web Albums – a true Picasso in online photo sharing

Picasa Web Albums has just been launched by Google, and on a lot of accounts, beats the hell out of Yahoo Photos, Flickr, Kodak Gallery.

Check out that clean Google-style design. Slick, baby.

Photos can be uploaded thru the browser. But you haven’t seen anything yet if you haven’t tried uploading thru the Picasa software. Perfect.

It also supports user comments (nothing like a good AJAX to get those responses coming), captions, RSS, and most of the features available in your favorite online gallery.

But wait! Did you know that you can upload videos, too? I love YouTube & everything, but sharing a private video is a real pain in the [bleep].

The most amazing thing about Picasa Web Album, however, is how easy it is to share private photos (called “unlisted” photos).

The usual galleries only allow you to give permissions to existing users. Ergo, if your friends don’t have an account in your gallery service, they actually have to sign up first before they can view your private photos. I blame Yahoo for popularizing this idiocy.

Picasa Web Album, thankfully, bulldozed that. Just click on Share Album, and your friends will be sent the “secret URL” of your private photos. All they have to do is go to this URL to view your private photos.

That’s it. Seriously.

Their “embed in blog” is pretty cool, too. Hopefully, other options will be available, such as the display of the latest image in an album.

The bad: A measly 250MB of storage (c’mon Google, you gave us 2 gigs in Gmail). Additional storage can be purchased for a yearly fee. Cheaper than Pbase, true, but not too attractive to those who already pay for their own hosting services. Maybe next time.