Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chrometa Review

Chrometa is a time tracking tool unlike others.

I was reading and saw a mention of a unique-sounding time-tracking tool.

At my first Internet job, my coworker and I quickly recognized the value - make that imperative - for tracking our time to know our real costs if we were ever going to break free of the hourly pay model for building Web sites.  A decade later time tracking has become a habit - it is fun to see how many hours (weeks, month, years of time...) I have logged for my long term clients.

The description of Chrometa said it would automatically track my computer tasks. No thinking or time required on my part. With those sweet words, I'm in.

Free to to try for 30 days and no credit card required. After that it is $19 a month for 3 devices and 3 months of data with two bigger plans beyond that.

Mac or PC users who need to know how much time they are spending on computing tasks for billing or sanity.

The site home,  is a page that does not waste words. There is one sentence "Track Your Time- Without Notes or Timers" and a tag line. There is a video, which is really a slideshow but only 57 seconds long (Yay, I have very few resources to give to 45-minute or more videos). I clicked the "Download" button. It said for Window or Mac and did not ask me for any info, so I downloaded (inbound marketers rejoice) and installed it in under a minute (note: you need a recent version of Java).

Once installed, I registered and agreed to the terms of service. Do the people who write terms of service get massive neglect complexes? Chrometa let me choose the location of the files rather than just putting them into Windows program file obscurity.

The program does not interfere at all with my work, but if I come back from a break, it asks if I want to include a note about what activities I had going on away from my computer.  It felt like an affectionate, helpfully-motivated question. I give it rather vague details and it does not pry.

On my second day I logged in to the site from the shortcut in the taskbar icon and learned how much I love Firefox more than anything else in my Web-based work. Chrome, Skype, Open Office and "Other" followed.

Chrometa has a tab called "TimeStamps". I can actually see how much time I spend on each site in my browser (I know, some of you are thinking "and so can Chrometa", positively if you are into marketing,  negatively if you are into anonymity.)

But wait, there's more. You can assign tasks to projects, clients, or personal and total up the time spent. Very cool.

Having spent 6 hours on the computer already today (thanks for the reality check, Chrometa) I am wrapping up this review with a very positive recommendation of Chrometa for anyone who needs but finds it annoying to try to track their time and who spends significant time on their computer.

Download Chrometa's free trial for Mac or Windows:

P.S. On day three, I am also finding the breakdown by how much time spent on each web url (see above screenshot) is very enlightening. Am going to knock off spending half an hour composing individual emails!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: The Lonely Polygamist

The Lonely PolygamistThe Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The irony amuses and the humanity touches me in this story. It is not a fairytale, it is a human tale that takes compassion and life-experience to appreciate. I enjoyed the read and took away some moments and wisdom that stay on my inner bookshelf under "human nature".

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A is for Apollo Project Management, B is for Basecamp

Apollo is a recently released project management tool, designed to take you where Basecamp has never been before. The interface and functionality of Basecamp never won me over so I gave Apollo a try.

There is a 30-day free trial -- long enough to see if it is something you take to or let sit on your desktop until day 29.  Basic is $23 a month with a generous 18 projects, 5GB storage, unlimited project users, 7 CRM users, 5000 contacts, time tracking and 12 deals.

This is going to appeal right away to the niche that doesn't want to pay $49 for the smallest Basecamp monthly plan. The $48 Apollo plan gives you the same leg room as the Basecamp plan.

I found the user interface immediately friendlier. Overdue items take center stage, navigation is on the left and the lower left has the timers, which I found super-helpful for tracking project time right within my project itself. Another nice feature is the ease with which you can track those tasks that don't belong to any project but fritter away your day. They go under "personal tasks". You can even relate a task to a contact, for those time-draining clients or distractions.

The calendars are one of the highlights of this system, easy to use as a Google Calendar but Apollo does the work of integrating the calendar and your projects.  With bright colors it makes it easy to see upcoming perfect storms of work and keep them under control.

If you get the impression I enjoyed using this tool, it is correct. There are the features that are not unique, but not missing, such as messaging with attachments, task lists, milestones, assignments. Nice touch is that files from message attachments and files from elsewhere end up all in the project folder.

There is even a feature to import your Basecamp files and Highrise contacts, and the ability to export your data. Clearly aimed at being a nice alternative if Basecamp hasn't been a good fit for you.

I also like DeskAway and PBWorks but my partners and clients had a hard time learning them and abandoned ship eventually.  Apollo offers the friendliest user interface.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The History of Web Exploration

Web exploration is like a space voyage. We started out as little "internauts" in our Netscape shuttles, peering through the windows of our browsers as we passed by complex and fascinating planets (sites). Just like early man, we were Internet nomads. Netscape made us little navigateurs, enabling us to zip around.

Then Google decided to organize the universe, creating Google Search so we could surf more efficiently, like intergalactic space travelers. Firefox, the browser, even came along with wallpaper and add-ons, letting us decorate our little space shuttles.

Recently, a shift in paradigm has become evident. A huge battle is waging for the ownership of our intergalactic souls. Apple wants us to live and travel exclusively on their Iphone, Ipad and Ipod shuttles, video "facetime" chatting only with other Apple shuttle owners and shopping at their Itunes store. Google, who has been the preferred method of travel for cruising the online universe, gives away rival mobile operating systems...and meanwhile there is a mass  immigration to planet Facebook, thus shifting the whole Internet travel paradigm.

With Facebook, instead of being nomadic space travelers, many became planetary agrarians, playing Farmville and naturally, Cityville followed. While we used to travel around, Facebook recreates the sense of sitting on our couch, hanging out with our Facebook friends and "liking" our favorite beer. Facebook's addictive power is in mimicking how people perceive the daily world -- centered in their point of view, networked to family, friends and peers by common interests.

What many of us visitors to planet Facebook find is that once you visit, it’s hard to leave. Many businesses have moved there simply because not to do business there would be the equivalent of not having a storefront at the local mall  in the 70's.

Once landed, you find yourself easily slipping into a mode where you are getting your information from Facebook. I have a feeling Facebook is getting much more for "free" than its users are, and the commercialization is going to be growing by leaps and bounds in 2011 now that the planet has a thriving population.  As one Facebook expert put it, “Web sites are irrelevant; you can now build your shopping cart in Facebook, you can do your business in Facebook"  and you have to do it there, because this is where all your customers are spending their time online.

The Facebook threads entangle the user, and if you journey elsewhere, you may develop symptoms including disorientation and a sense of being cut off from your life source!

Internauts to settlers, what next?