Posts Tagged tool

Mind Mapping: Online Collaboration Tool


Note: This guest post by Richard Egan has a focus on education but the principles covered can easily be translated into other settings.   Collaborative tools like MindMeister are powerful ways to bring people and their ideas together.

Online Collaboration

Online collaboration has become very popular in both education and business. We now have the ability to easily and freely share all file types using different cloud based platforms.  People working collectively on a project or assignment no longer need to be in the same room or even in the same country for that matter.

Collaborative platforms have enabled educators to create online learning environments where students can benefit from sharing ideas and communicating with each other, their mentors and external organizations.

Mind Mapping and Online Collaboration

Mind maps are an excellent method for individuals to graphically represent and structure ideas or thoughts. It is a very valuable tool which can be used for project management, creating to-do lists, idea generation, planning articles or papers.

Mind mapping can be implemented for collaborating and brainstorming, it gives students a platform to work simultaneously and a facility for learning together. Introducing mind mapping to students is a great way to encourage group participation and when managed properly will generate great results.

Benefits of Collaborative Tools:

  • Easier project management
  • More informed decision making
  • Promotes critical thinking
  • Meetings and brainstorming sessions conducted remotely
  • Develop new skills for a business environment
  • Files stored in one place i.e. no waiting for a document to be emailed
  • Improved communication between students, lecturers and research groups

Collaboration: Mind Mapping Uses

Using mind mapping for collaboration presents students with the opportunity to share ideas with peers and to think creatively through social inspiration. I have made a list of some of the situations where mind mapping can be used as a solution for online collaboration.

  • Managing group projects
  • Class assignments
  • Sharing lecture notes
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Study sessions
  • Group presentations

The video below is an example of multiple users collaborating on one map – they are creating an IKEA shopping list for their office. All changes to the mind map can be seen in real-time by all collaborators

Mind Mapping Example: Project Management

The next time you are assigned a group project in school or college I would encourage you to use a mind map from the beginning. To get started you can follow these easy steps:

  • Create a mind map with title of project
  • Invite all teams members to be collaborators
  • Have a brainstorming session with all collaborators

At this point you should have a map with many topics, ideas and tasks to be completed. The next step is to appoint a team leader who can:

  • Sort and structure all the information in the map
  • Delegate tasks, create deadlines and set reminders for each member

Once this has been completed you will have very quickly created a project plan and a great starting point for the project. In addition to this, create another mind map with all details of each team member i.e. contact details, to-do lists and daily schedules; it can then be linked to the main map. The purpose for this is that everyone can see what the other is doing, progress can be monitored and meetings can be easily scheduled to suit everyone.

Some of the mind mapping software providers also support smartphones and tablets meaning that members can literally participate whenever or wherever they may be!

Conclusion

Online collaboration is becoming ever more important and is being used by businesses all over the world to increase productivity and creativity. Following the principle that two brains are better than one many companies are taking advantage of new software being made available to them. Collaborating online has many benefits in education but it is also very important that students are prepared for such working environments after their studies.

New online collaborative tools are emerging every day with numerous platforms for saving and sharing files, conducting meetings and managing projects. Mind mapping is one such tool but with a bit of a difference, it is a visual tool. Not only can files be stored and shared on the cloud but you can also see and watch how the whole thought process evolved and how a conclusion was formed or how a plan was made. And because each collaborator can add to a mind map simultaneously no one person can dominate the direction or outcome!

This is a guest post created by Richard Egan, a mind mapping specialist at MindMeister — a leading provider of mind mapping solutions.

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Flickr improves sharing options


In my weekly review of feeds concerning Web 2.0 and Web 3.0  I ran across the news that Flickr has improved their ability to share content with other sites.  As I continue to collect material for my “WEB 2.0 for Students” class that I’ll be teaching at our local college, this one hit home.  I use Flickr for my photo repository.  So it is nice to see new feature showing up in this service since I haven’t seen to many in the last year.

Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web

by Erez Zukerman on March 31, 2011 at 03:30 AM

It sure is nice to see some new developer action over at Flickr. The relatively slow-moving photo-sharing service has just announced a new sharing update, which consists of several new and easy ways to embed or link to your photos:

via Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web.

So the thought came to me that this is nice but what could be implemented to improve the experience:

  1. Photo comments made on Flickr would also be shown on the shared item in Facebook.
  2. Post comments made on the shared item would also be available on Flickr.
  3. Multiple authors – One pool.  One of the biggest problems I have with my clients.  Many photographers, one common pool to associate them with.

Either way, Flickr is a great tool to use to keep all your photos.  It’s worth a good look at if your in the market to implement such a capability.

Good Hunting.

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LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers


LinkedIn Today

LinkedIn has introduced a news aggregation service called LinkedIn Today. This delivers a personalized news experience, letting you quickly discover the top headlines of the day based around what your connections and industry peers are reading and sharing.

via LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers.

Well this really isn’t much of a surprise, but it is a feature I think is long overdue.  Anyone that has a large network will tell you that it’s difficult to keep up with what everyone thinks is important.  We started receiving emails with the ‘top stories’ from our networks some time ago.  I really thought that new email was helpful.  Now if they can merge in my delicious and stumbledupon and (name your tagging tool here) to this mix and make it contextual based on something you also have deemed important then we are well on our way to heading to web 3.0, in my opinion.

Either way, this is a welcome add on to LinkedIn and I look  forward to the tool’s growth in capability and features.

Good Hunting.

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Techno Valentines Idea: Cloud Tags


Here’s an idea I worked on and provided my wife.  And it WORKED!  Generally speaking, create a thought stream of your loved one in any word processor.  Don’t worry about sentence structure.  Just type out any word that comes to mind.  Don’t worry about punctuation.  Don’t worry about duplicating words, in fact, that’s the point.  The words that are most important should be repeated naturally in the thought stream.

Wordle Tag Cloud

You can create a cloud at Wordle.net for this exercise.  Cut and paste your text into the box they provide.  Below I have included a cloud created from one of my blog post. (I don’t think my wife would want to put my gift to her on this, it was a bit intimate … hint, hint)

Ditch the Office: Next Week is National Telework Week

Good hunting and good luck!

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Team Collaboration Gets Better


Screenshot of the MindMeister mind map editor

Screenshot of the MindMeister mind map editor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite tools for team collaboration and idea collection is MindMeister.  I use it for organizing my thoughts on large blog posts (see Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle and Mind Map: The iPad Battle), helping my boys organize their thoughts for their school writing assignments, and many more instances.  Because it can update the mind map in real time with many users signed into the map simultaneously, I have found it to be valuable when working on conference calls while trying to keep the team focused and not hindering the collection of tangent ideas in the middle of a thought stream that is being debated.

MindMeister 4.7 has been announced with some improved features:

  • drag and drop attachments and images directly from their desktop to a selected node
  • Google API used to view attached files rather then requiring you to download them
  • a new social sidebar
  • Auto Condensing of maps
  • iCalendar task feed has been updated
  • Team Edition will now find custom branding options

Check out MindMeister, I think it will help you organize your thoughts and projects.

Good Hunting

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Social Media Tool: NutshellMail.com – account aggregation


I’ve been noticing a theme in some of the posts/news feeds/articles I’ve been reading about social media.  There seems to be a question about what is coming up next in the realm of technology now that we’ve got Twitter and Facebook clearly entrenched as leaders in the social media space.  MySpace seems to be loosing ground.  Linked is specialized for business use.  Twitter is creating so much content volume you begin to ask a the question, if I tweet and no one replies or retweets did I really tweet?  Facebook users will probably keep the psychiatric industry funded for year because more and more people are feeling inadequate when friends don’t ‘like’ their status updates, links, and notes.

Small Business Owner Problem

So how does a small business owner, or maybe a person on their staff, try to keep up with all this volume of data flying past their eyes and still do their day job.  You could literally be connected 24 hours a day and still miss something.  How do you find out what people are saying about you on Twitter.  Maybe you are a company that has several fan pages and you are having a hard time keeping up with all that is going on.  What you really need is a tool that aggregates the content into a simple email that helps you review all this material in one sitting.

That tool is NutshellMail by Constant Contact.

In a nutshell …

Earlier this year Constant Contact acquired  NutshellMailConstant Contact is a service provider that I recomend to my client for email marketing activities.  In the past they added Survey, Event Marketing tools,  and continue to improve their primary email marketing tool.  Now with the addition of NutshellMail they continue to improve their offering.

Here are some reasons why you might want to give NutshellMail a try:

  • If you have or help manage multiple Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn accounts
  • You want a better way to communicate with and manage all your messaging accounts
  • You can save time by only logging into the accounts that had any activity
  • Keep track of what people are saying about your company with saved searches being delivered to you email in-basket
  • You can’t access personal messages while at work
  • With your smart phone you can see all activity from one email while away from your computer
  • You want to monitor your children’s incoming messages
  • It’s Free, Easy, and Secure

Oh did I mention it was FREE!

Good Hunting.

Sample Email

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Affordable Video Phone for Home & Business


Affordable Video Phone

Small Business

I can’t remember if I have ever posted anything about hardware.  I often find myself contemplating process improvements,  marketing tactics, and internet tools which I assume will help small businesses improve their market share.

I know a version of this affordable video phone was on Donald Trump’s show “The Apprentice” and this launched the phone to new heights, but I can’t help but think that the video phone would be a great tool for a small business to improve it’s image.

Family Friendly

This phone in the hands of families across the US and world will enjoy video conversations with each other.  As more house holds have the phone the more fun each family will have in hold video calls with each other.  I can’t wait until all my family in Germany have these phones either.

Phone Information

ACN’s newest revolutionary video phone gives you enhanced features that you can only get here!

  • See the person you’re talking to
  • Unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico
  • Send and receive video mail messages
  • Project your conversations onto a larger screen
  • Bonus Feature: Display photos with the Digital Photo Frame

Added Benefits

  • Automatic Network Detection: easier for customers to set up their Video Phone
  • Enhanced Video Clarity: images/colors are sharper
  • Automatic Bandwidth Adjustment: automatically adjusts bandwidth setting to match available bandwidth speed
  • Enhanced Light Sensor Camera: camera offers higher pixels for improved A/V sync plus more clarity in the video
  • Dual Speakers: audio speakers offer stereo sound quality
  • New, Sleek Interface: user-friendly options for exceptional customer experience
  • Softkeys: allows user to make selections from the specific screen for easy navigation
  • Large 7″ screen: for face-to-face conversations

Plus traditional calling features you expect:

Caller ID • Call Forwarding • Call Waiting • Do Not Disturb • Speed Calling • Three-Way Calling
Call Return • Auto Redial • Voice/Video Mail

Phone Plans

Family Plans
$11.99 /month/ line

$159.99 per Video Phone

See your loved ones more often! Purchase additional Video Phones and add up to four lines to your account. Calls on Family Plan lines can only be made to other ACN Digital Phone Service customers.

Virtual Phone Numbers
$4.99 /month/ line
Stay local! Create a virtual phone number from any domestic area code – no matter where you live.

International Calling Plans
Bring your world a little closer. Take advantage of discounted rates on our 300-minute plans
European Plan $4.99/mo
Asia Pacific Plan $5.99/mo
Central & South America Plan $9.99/mo

See the Phone Here

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Google Groups: Team Collaboration Tool


Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups.  I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities. If you have a team collaboration tool you would like included in my analysis, please leave a comment with tools name and URL.

I am working with a team of five students chartered with the task of creating a new product for the marketplace. I recommended and have created a private Google Groups site for us to collaborate in. I personally have used this tool in the past for social media experiments, all private, so I am completely aware of the tools limitations and strengths. This seemed to be a perfect fit for the diverse team we find ourselves on. Each person in the team has a demanding schedule and other responsibilities to attend to.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about Google Groups and how this tool can help groups or communities work together and avoid the need to hold traditional meetings or conference calls.

Google Groups Functionality

Home Page

This is the main page with provide a summary of activity and the main navigation points to the rest of the stie.

Discussions

A place where your team can create thought streams which other teammates can reply to, brainstorm, or refine their ideas. If the team can remain disciplined to keep the thought streams together, it becomes a very strong tool in collecting and refining team ideas.

Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups.  I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities.

Pages

Comparable to web pages, these are places to store content rich knowledge. It is a collection point of information that would normally be stored in a document or single piece of work. Discussions can be generated from pages.

Files

Files that are externally created can be imported into a common storage area for the entire team to review. Discussions cannot be generated from files.

Administration

Tools needed to manage subscriber lists, the site’s look and feel, and pending discussions or posts if moderation is turned on.

Email Integration

You can create/response to discussions via a team email address. The system can notifiy you each time a new message is created. You can set the frequency based on your personal or group requirements. I nice feature I love is “Subject Prefix”. This allows me to have the team set filters in their email clients to help organize and manage team activities.

Several Google Groups Concerns

Tool Usefulness

This is not really an issue of Google Groups but rather the people you invite into your group. This tool only works if people use it. The quality of the work generated in this environment is only as good as the participation of its members. This tool does not completely remove meetings from the project but it does allow a diverse set of teammates to work on their assignments, any hour of the day, request and provide feedback on their work and others, and be productive beyond the normal meeting driven project.

Page – Content Rich

By this, Google means words and pictures. They draw the line with anything the Google Development team deems as a security risk. So trying to embed a JAVA applet of your team Google Calendar is not allowed. I’m sure the Google Calendar integration issue will be resolved at some time in the future. Yet, if your team desires to store examples of dynamic content rich code on your Google Groups site, you will need to find another creative way to do this.

Email Overload

The notification system default is to alert you each time a new message is placed on the site. With very active members or projects, you could return to their desk and find hundreds, if not thousands, of emails in their in-box notifying you of all the changes the team had made.

Poor SMS Support

Considering the SMS support built into other Google Tools, like Calendar, I found this omission a bit strange. It could be they simply expect you to rely on email, but most phones can send SMS to email now. A work around is to use the filter features of your mail client to then forward a copy to your cell phone as a SMS. With a real active group, you could set your phone on vibrate and rent it out as a personal massage device because it’s going to be going off a lot. You might want to change the notification settings to digest or abridged at that point.

Conclusion

The ROI Hunters find this tool to be very productive. We would love to hear how your team has used it. What you believe it’s strengths and weaknesses are. Please leave a comment.

Good Hunting!

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Jott this down!


This is going to be a slightly different post then normal. We usually talk about Internet Marketing, but on this occasion we want to sing the praises of a new tool we have come across. This tool will increase the productivity of your organization, especially if mobile. I wish I could remember where I heard this tool first, because I want to thank them for bringing this to our attention.

Jott™ Beta – Get Simple Back

This is a voice to text service that we have been using for several months now. We travel a lot, visiting customers or in general to soccer matches or other family events. I can’t count how many times I text messaged my client’s or family’s phones while driving without every having to find a key on my phone keypad. It is easy and safe, and so much more.

Things you can do!

Remember, this is using your cell phone to talk to Jott and they convert it to text and send it to where you wanted it to go:

  1. send emails and text messages by voice
    • to yourself
    • to someone else
    • to a group of pepole
  2. set reminders by voice
  3. create to-do items by voice
  4. post to web services with their voice

Web Services

Now they call it Jott Links. I call it exponential productivity. With Jott Links you can use Jott to send items into other web services. I, for instance, use it to update my different Google Calendars, Remember-the-Milk To-Do Lists, and soon my Jott Thoughts here on this WordPress Blog.

Here is a page which shows the current Jott Links you can set up: Jott Links

It Is FREE!

Enough said.

(Updated 8/21/08 – Jott out of BETA – it’s still free but some features cost!)

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