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March 21, 2006

Like an inbox for your imagination

During the last two years, one of the many pleasures of testing NoteShare has been the ongoing discussions (collaborative exchanges) with users about their use of NoteShare and where it fits into their workflow models today and in the future.  NoteShare's easy to use sharing model is one of the many reasons the software can be adopted quickly to augment current practices.  Certainly the "instant" sharing aspect makes NoteShare very convenient as well as compelling.  But it's exactly this on-demand sharing capability that allows NoteShare users the freedom to enhance, encourage and extend group productivity by accelerating the adoption of collaborative techniques.

One of my favorite NoteShare applications is the group or team inbox.  By using NoteShare as a multimedia message center, the team can gather all the working parts of a project in one place just like a shared inbox only richer.  The process of creating the shared notebook can be highly structured (pre-built with templates) or it can be facile and fluid while allowing each team member to add their own pages and sections as the need develops.  And most importantly, the group doesn't have to change or replace an existing tool set to benefit from using NoteShare in this way.

In fact, NoteShare fits right in by allowing team members to leverage what they already know.  As the project develops, the shared notebook becomes both an active tool while also capturing the team's operational knowledge along the way.  The archival feature is built-in since notebook pages can contain virtually any type of information including outlines, voice memos, QuickTime media, web pages, components (Java and Flash), Word documents, PDFs and any other kind of application file (attached or linked).  In this way, NoteShare captures and records the team's progress in chronological order while serving as a searchable storehouse of operational knowledge and expertise.

Using NoteShare to aggregate team information quickly becomes second nature, easy and very productive.  And, it encourages creativity and information exchange as well as discussion while remaining flexible enough to handle almost any kind of organizational structure.  It's truly like an inbox for your imagination.

March 10, 2006

Work globally, save locally

Do you know where your documents are and who is protecting them? Are they on your desktop or somewhere in the cloud?  In recent weeks, there has been a lively discussion about the merits as well as the risks of having one giant disk drive accessible from the Internet (aka in the cloud).  It's not a new idea either.  Many companies as well as industry visionaries have long talked about the notion of a very thin client device that would go everywhere you go while your data was served up from a central data center (remember the Grid Compass?).  All of YOUR data would be universally accessible but kept in one place on the Internet by a third party, not you.

Far-fetched?  It's happening now and has been happening. Google is, in theory, working on their Google Planet system; most likely a globally-scaled operating system with a disk drive called GDrive designed to store every last bit of information known to humankind (mirroring your local drive's data as well).  No, this is not an April Fool's Day joke either.  It's the end result of billions of dollars of confidence and abundant hubris focused on a semi-interesting problem; how to create a worldwide, seamless grid of information at your fingertips.  The problem is that I don't want Google or Yahoo! to manage all of MY data.  Or Microsoft.  Or even Apple for that matter.  Look, these sites and services have enough of our data already but at some point,  we want control (and some security/privacy with subpoena-free protection).  Why can't I have my own personal cloud running from my own hardware that is accessible 24x7?  Really, what's the big deal?  Isn't the whole point of personal computing to maintain freedom from Big Brother?

Writely or wrongly (pun absolutely intended), I am sticking to the power and elegance of the desktop application to give me the best of all worlds.  When I use desktop applications, I have the freedom to create and roll my own information, online or off-line.  NoteShare allows me to share globally while enabling notebook collaboration, aggregation, synchronization and communication on demand.  And, I can mix both desktop and webtop (Web 2.0 services) together in one place.  So, if your ideal future vision is living inside the browser then we already do that too.  But at the end of the day, I will always sleep better knowing that some of MY data is still under my control on my local disk drive.

March 09, 2006

One house, different rooms and many notebooks

Sharing notebooks is not just for users in schools and businesses.  In fact, NoteShare works great in a family network or a home office network.  In our house, we have multiple laptops running NoteShare.    As a result, we have different kinds of notebooks that can be shared including homework assignments, family information, phone numbers and to do lists (think kiosk or bulletin board), travel and vacation planner notebooks, recipe lists, scrapbook albums, and our journal notes.  Let's face it, many of us think we're going to organize everything in a nice and neat place like a database server but never quite get around to it. As a result, various personal notebooks are on many different machines.  But creating notebooks, adding pages, jotting down a list or a reminder; that's something we do all the time.  The big difference though is that we can work and share the same notebooks throughout the house even though they're on different machines.  Bonjour makes it a snap and there is no trick to sharing between our personal systems.

One of the most valued applications in our family is the daily management of homework and study review.  It's much easier to review work, make suggestions and then re-work any changes using two or more systems running NoteShare.  We might be in a different part of the house while one is working on his or her various assignments.  They can easily share their work, ask for review and feedback while at the same time reflecting upon their changes with us.  The overall experience of helping with homework has become more enjoyable as we spend less time on making corrections while gaining back time for reflection.  And the side benefits include improvements in our communications and the art of working together. 

The dining room table has become a collaborative study room where everything is at our fingertips even if the student or the tutor happens to be in a different room.  Sharing notebooks has become an important part of education and discovery in our home.  If you're already a NoteTaker family, you will quickly appreciate NoteShare's seamless notebook sharing especially if your dining room has become homework central.

Posted by Scott Love on March 9, 2006 05:32 PM | |

March 07, 2006

Into the future today: NoteShare Pre-Release Now Shipping

We opened up the NoteShare Early Access Program this week to the rest of our NoteTaker user community.  The development team has worked very hard to reach this important milestone.  One of the interesting by-line stories of the NoteShare development effort so far has been our own use of shared notebooks for coordinating technical sessions, documentation development and the constant polling/gathering of beta site feedback.  Normally, we would use the Email Page Folio or Email Notebook commands to send around encapsulated information about the project but it was neither efficient nor convenient to manage our workflow in this manner.  NoteShare is versatile enough to handle many small tasks including the tracking of To Do lists which is another gem of an application for use by a project team but it's also capable of more complex tasks as well such as collecting key documents in one place.

Whether you're a small business managing new opportunities or a project team coordinating complex tasks within an enterprise, NoteShare provides a flexible starting point for aggregating, accessing and sharing vital information.  There's no better time to start exploring what NoteShare can do for you and your team today.  Share your notebooks --  anytime, anywhere.

Posted by Scott Love on March 7, 2006 04:45 PM | |

March 06, 2006

In the classroom or in the office; sharing made simple

As we begin to open up our "Early Access" program this week,  we will be highlighting various NoteShare features and applications of interest.  Sharing takes on a whole new meaning when it becomes much easier, more convenient and virtually transparent.  As with any software product, the technology itself may not be new but the context of using personal notebooks in different collaborative settings is most definitely new.  NoteShare opens up new ways to share information because it can operate in multiple modes that best supports the pervasive nature of personal computing today.  This means we can use NoteShare in the same room with another user or we can be in different locations to coordinate, communicate and collaborate with each other.

When we say share your notebooks everywhere, we truly mean this whenever connectivity is possible between two or more NoteShare users.  In the NoteShare model, you can both share and view notebooks from your computer.  And what notebook sharing enables is an opportunity to enhance our own productivity as well as the productivity of those we work with.  It bears repeating again that NoteShare is not a replacement for other tools like e-mail or blogs/wikis but a new tool for augmenting how we use and share our knowledge.

Shared knowledge can be as simple as an outline of instructions or it can be as complex as a researcher's lab notebook but in each of these cases, NoteShare merely reflects the information in a notebook without limiting its scope or use.  And this brings us back to an essential point about sharing notebooks, that it provides an opportunity for collaboration without limiting the potential to integrate with other tools and information sources.  Sharing made simple is the best of all social computing worlds.  Share your notebooks anytime, anywhere.

Posted by Scott Love on March 6, 2006 09:40 AM | |

March 03, 2006

Dynamic idea processing: instant notebook sharing has arrived

Information aggregation. Information access. Information sharing.  All three are necessary if not essential to the productive management of a project.  In my experience, these three information-driven activities, in most cases, form the management and process foundation of every successful team.

Aggregation, access and sharing have all contributed to the active use of key knowledge assets (operational expertise) in any project I've ever worked on.  One of the earliest projects I had the privilege of working on was the launch of the Apple Family System.  The introduction itself was managed in a very innovative way.  In my opinion, it was both obvious and absolutely necessary if we were to succeed.  Our senior project lead created a "war room" or central gathering place where we could come and go to see all the various component parts of the introduction as they emerged.  We plastered the walls of the little meeting room with rows and columns of "3M Post-it" notes that were dynamically added, changed and removed whenever project meetings were called.  The scope of the project required that we work with literally every department and group within Apple along with our key vendors.

What struck me as being most innovative about this approach was that we had one central place from which to capture the essence and totality of the project.  It gave you a very powerful sense of progress while also providing a bird's eye view of every minute detail of the introduction down to the last FCC certification test for RFI device compliance.  And ironically, we had no dedicated project management software at the time to rigorously archive and keep a record of our war room notes except for a word processor.  E-mail was helpful but limited in helping us coordinate hundreds of tasks and actions items that we were responsible for tracking.  Apple was obviously surrounded by technology and personal computers but we had no way to use it to collaborate, coordinate or even communicate the daily flow and progress of the project.

Today, using NoteShare, our team at AquaMinds can manage multiple projects by collaborating, coordinating and communicating bits and pieces of information from a single shared notebook.  Notebook sharing also solves the need to capture and then synchronize information especially when it become time-sensitive and vital to the completion of a task.  The organization of the project's details can now be both fluid and transparent given NoteShare's compelling metaphor of the spiral notebook document model. 

It cannot be emphasized enough that notebook sharing by default provides an automatic archival function of the project's task history.  From my early days of stickies on the walls of Apple to the digital pages of a shared notebook today;  dynamic idea processing has always been an essential part of any successful project management process.  Instant notebook sharing can now be a part of every project team's toolbox.

Posted by Scott Love on March 3, 2006 11:06 PM | |