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I’ve been using Web-based project management tools both as fodder for blog posts but, more importantly, to explore how they might positively impact my Web work. I’ve been using Basecamp the longest and pay about $24/month for a slightly upgraded service. After a small learning hump, most of my virtual team members are on board and some of my clients are working with it.
I also started using Deskaway‘s free level of service for a new client project as I wrote about in May, and after a little over a month using it, my team and I are abandoning it because it just hasn’t been intuitive enough for us. So I recently learned about Joint Contact through a series of serendipitous events and decide to try it out. Next thing you know, I’m getting a demo from the company’s founder and having a great discussion about usability issues and incorporating social media tools into project management tools, namely Twitter.
What? Twitter incorporated into Joint Contact? What does that mean exactly?
Well, first, I have to say that from a usability standpoint, for me Joint Contact falls somewhere between Basecamp (which I find to be pretty straightforward) and Deskaway (which I find to be a bit confusing), and much closer to the Basecamp end of things. Like many new companies, they use some of their own terminology that doesn’t necessarily match up with what I’d expect things to be.
For example, when I wanted to sign up a team member, I couldn’t figure out where to go. Team History? No. Contacts? Maybe. But as I set her up as a contact, I saw a feature to convert her to an account then realized that team members were called Accounts and to add a team member you went to Subscriptions (Accounts). Messages are “Conversations.” Projects are “Workspaces.”
Once I wrapped my head around the terminology, I had a little blip with the icons. The workspace icon looks a little bit like a briefcase but I think it is supposed to be a folder. In Conversations, you cannot access the messages unless you realize you must click the tiny talk bubbles to the far right of the Conversation title. In Tasks, once I created one, I couldn’t figure out how to get back into it and during the demo learned that the little stapler icon on the far right was clickable. My comment that it would be helpful if the task title was also clickable was met with genuine enthusiasm.
But before you think I’m disappointed with Joint Contact, I have to say that not only do I love their clean interface, I love their eye toward innovation. They are trying to rethink the way we each work with our Web-based project management tools, from how we toggle between email and the Web-based tool to how our tasks also often have subtasks and that document management is as important as message management so being able to make certain files private versus public is useful.
The thing I’m most intrigued by is how Joint Contact is looking to integrate Twitter into their toolset to provide yet another way to notify team members of a new Conversation added to the Workspace. While this feature is still in the preliminary stages of implementation (i.e. available now but not with all anticipated capabilities), just thinking about how Twitter could actually be used as a work tool is getting my wheels turning about its implications on work process and information flow.
The company imagines several scenarios for Twitter integration. You can set up a private Twitter account for your team members and they can follow your tweets. Then tweets related to the project show up each time a new Conversation is posted letting them know to log in and get cracking – the title of each message in Conversations is the content of each tweet. All Conversations that have been “tweeted” have a tiny Twitter icon next to it. You can also set up a Workspace that consists solely of Conversations that you want to broadcast to Twitter and manage all “tweeted” messages in one place.
If you are someone like me who could use all the nudges I can get – from an email to a Tweet to a text message – in order to pay attention to something that needs to get done, I could change my Twitter settings to receive text messages for that particular project management Twitter account. And voila! I’m now fully informed, even when I’m Twittering and/or away from my computer.
Scott Blitstein recently wrote about Basecamp adding a new email interface that allows you to not only interact with Basecamp via email to respond to Messages, but you can now set up new project items. You can “create and assign custom email addresses to any area of your project and then forward messages, to-do items and milestones directly into your project without logging in.”
One piece that is missing from the Twitter integration right now is pretty mission-critical in my mind: the Conversation tweet does not yet have a link that brings you back into Joint Contact immediately – but that is definitely in the works. Still, if Joint Contact can provide this kind of functionality through Twitter or another more stable social networking/microblogging tool…I don’t know, it just seems to be a missing link in working through Web-based project management apps.
Keep your eye on Joint Contact, and if you like new apps that you can actively participate in helping to make a good product better, your input can really help the company to work out the fine details. You can read more about their thoughts about their Twitter integration on their corporate blog.
You can try them for free, and you get two users and two workspaces at that level. But if you upgrade to a paid account within 7 days of signing up for free, they will double your value to reward you for upgrading so quickly. If you choose a 5 user account at $15/month, they’ll automatically upgrade you to a 10 user account at the 5 user price – a $25/month value for only $15/month – and that price lasts for the duration of your account.