Things I Use: Asana

Other 31 May 2012 | 0 Comments

One of the most important events in my life as a productive adult was reading an earlier version of this article on Lifehacker about how to create effective to-do lists. I had always kept to-do lists, either scribbling out a list of things I had to finish on a notepad, or keeping them in a text file on my desktop. The ugly truth of those lists is that I seldom had the pleasure of crossing out any of the tasks I listed, or when I did, it had taken far too long for me to do so.

A good to-do list, the author said, consisted of actionable micro-tasks described in clear, unambiguous language. A great to-do task can be completed in under 30 minutes and should be linked to a specific verb. So today, a to-do list of mine might look like this:

  • CALL dentist to confirm appointment
  • GO TO dentist for 3.30 appointment
  • DRAFT product spec for invisibility app
  • EMAIL spec to Daniel
  • CONFIRM that Sharon is working on quiz designs

Simple verbs are great, because they’re like switches. You either carry them out or you don’t. On the other hand, something like “FINISH super secret project” is unlikely to be crossed off my list any time soon because “finishing” represents an undefined number of complex tasks, many of which may be out of my hands.

The Lifehacked To-Do List has been a part of my life for many years now, and until recently I haven’t had much need to change it.

Then I became a product manager. Now, my life is a series of unfinished (or worse: buggy) interactive features that need constant attention. Since my natural hardware (and even my beloved to do-paradigm) isn’t so good at making sense of different groups of tasks, never mind the sheer number of tasks that come with this line of work, it was time for me to enlist the help of some project management software.

I ended up with Asana, a lightweight web app from the brain of Dustin Moskovitz, former Facebook CTO and recent IPO billionaire (even after Facebook’s share price began tanking). Asana lets you break out your to-do list into separate projects or folders, which not only makes sense for the workplace but also for personal use (“Book Club” gets its own folder, as does “Taxes”). Inside the project folder, you can add new tasks by typing directly into it, like a bespoke text editor. Once you’ve added something to the list, you can prioritize, labeling it as “Today”, “Upcoming” or “Later”.

Of course it would be cumbersome to have to switch between your different projects just to see what needs to be done first. Luckily, there’s a handy aggregate view which shows you all of your outstanding tasks, separated into “Today”, “Upcoming” and “Later” categories, which you can re-order by dragging and dropping as necessary. Once you’re done with something, you just check the box next to a task and it will grey out, vacating that annoying “to-do” nook in the back of your mind.

I’m not here to cheer for a specific piece of software as much as I am to say that organizing your workflow can make the office a much saner, more zen place to be. Crises and mistakes still happen and that’s okay, but they’re so much less likely if that “thing” that you were supposed to do was written down at some point and a lovely bit of software prods you in the ribs daily to say: “hey, how about we get this done today?”

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SxSW wrap-up

Media 16 March 2012 | 3 Comments

The web people are better dressed than the music people this year, futurist Bruce Sterling said in his SxSW closing remarks.

Not just better dressed but wealthier, hungrier, more optimistic, I thought.

Austin, Texas is where thousands of representatives & enthusiasts of technology, film and music gather every year to talk about their craft and make a dent in the global tequila supply. I attended in 2012 for my second time and these are the trends that I think are worth reporting on. […]

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Winning with Newsgames

Gaming,Media 16 December 2011 | 4 Comments

I have been researching newsgames for the last 8 months with a view to making my own newsgame project, a multiplayer wordgame I’m working on with an online media partner, the best it can possibly be.

The first thing I discovered is that there is a fundamental mismatch in the way news and games are produced. Newsrooms are set up to turn out stories within minutes if necessary. Game studios require weeks, months or even years (a lá Duke Nukem Forever) to be brought to market. So if news is fast, and games are slow, how do you produce a newsgame that can “win” in the online news environment? […]

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What to do with your odd socks

Other 26 September 2011 | 1 Comment

Meet Socktopus.

Socktopus is where all your odd socks go when you can’t find their matching twin. […]

The Fracking Song

Media,Music 23 May 2011 | 0 Comments

One of my professor, Jay Rosen‘s, greatest preoccupations is the gap between breaking news and our understanding of its larger context. Our Studio 20 journalism group at NYU has been addressing that problem by creating original works of explanatory journalism (explainers) and prototyping new explanatory techniques for our media partner, the non-profit investigative news site ProPublica.

“The Fracking Song” is an explainer I worked on with David Holmes, a colleague in the Studio 20 class. Based on ProPublica’s investigative series on hydraulic fracturing, “Buried Secrets”, the song attempts to explain some of the facts and also the controversies surrounding the fracking process, so that users are better equipped to understand the news they receive about the subject. […]

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Result of my first Hackathon: Headline 2 Headline

Media 25 April 2011 | 1 Comment

The Headline 2 Headline team.

This weekend, I attended a “News + Gaming”-themed hackathon run by Hacks & Hackers New York.

Thanks to my team of Juan C. Muller, Joe Cullen, Blair Hickman, Chelsea Stark, David HolmesWicky Mendoza and Julian Burgess, we managed to getting a working prototype up and running in no less than 10 hours. […]

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Thinking through Gamification 2.0

Media 13 April 2011 | 0 Comments

Scvngr CEO Seth Priebatsch

“The game layer is coming,” he said, and everyone in the room believed him.

At SxSW 2011, the young CEO of SCVNGR, Seth Priebatsch, expressed what was arguably the most important prediction of the illustrious tech conference: that the experience of real-life would more and more be organised around game-like structures and technologies.

Full article on

Interview with Bobby Schweizer, newsgaming researcher

Gaming,Media 1 April 2011 | 0 Comments

Bobby Schweizer

Bobby Schweizer

Bobby Schweizer is a researcher for Georgia Tech’s Newsgames Project, which is currently developing a newsgame authoring tool for local newsrooms, codenamed The Cartoonist, in conjunction with the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Knight Foundation. Schweizer is also the co-author of  Newsgames: Journalism at Play with Dr. Ian Bogost and Simon Ferrari. I chatted to Bobby about the challenge of making newsgames an accessible medium for regular journalists.

Full post on Explainer.Net