Checking out Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox has sent us all a Valentine. If you have the app installed, you probably got an email or two from them about their new collaboration product, Dropbox Paper.

So, either Paper is a “low-end disruptor” that will transform the way people collaborate online, or maybe it’ll be a hammer searching for a nail, and nobody will really use it. If it can make things easier or better for non-traditional, distributed teams like our own, or for those of us with clients in many cities, that would be a welcome addition to our arsenal of tools.

Scott Rosenberg says, “At its launch state it looks like a simplified browser-based document editor with comments — as if Microsoft Office or Google Docs got reincarnated as the love-child of Medium and Slack. “

But it looks like there’s great potential here. In his article about it on Backchannel, Rosenberg concludes:

“[One] thing…stood out for me: Although the half-dozen managers and execs I spoke to there were all straining a bit to bring the elusive vision of the new Dropbox into sharper relief, they presented a remarkably united front and consistent picture…The secret? Kavitha Radhakrishnan, Paper’s product manager, told me that Dropbox used eight Paper documents, total, to plan the whole product launch. In the middle of the last-lap scramble before the event, everyone was noticeably — as promised! — in sync.”

Can’t wait to test it out on a real-world project. What do you think about Paper and online collaboration?

Gratitude. Gratefulness.

Environmental designer (and old friend) Joe Terrell sent me this. My reaction was “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it when I have time.”  Today, I had time.

As my wise guru/coach Peleg Top says, “Slow down.”

You’ve got 6 minutes. Take a look around you. Get present. Watch. Enjoy. Be grateful.

Serving clients with Fierce Love

Flaming HeartMichael Bungay Stanier is a business coach who puts out a tiny daily email that you can read in 30 seconds. It’s called Great Work Provocations. The e-blast starts my day with a challenge or a bit of encouragement, and I really enjoy it when it pops up in my In Box.

Today’s provocation was:

My goal is to serve people with Fierce Love.

Love, in that I want them to succeed thoroughly and utterly.

Fierce in that I won’t let my own fears and cowardice stop me in doing what it takes to help them get there.

How about you?

This concept of “Fierce Love” has been coming up a lot for me lately. As a marketer, as a designer, as a consultant, what do you do when  you see a stubborn client heading down a path that you know will undermine their goal? Do you fight, and risk being thought of as a prima donna? Do you comply, and risk the final product not working? Where’s that balance? Should it be balanced at all?

Work is a partnership, and hopefully it’s a loving one, full of shared goals and good intentions. But fear — of internal political pressures, detached decision makers who purposely stay apart from the process, frayed budgets, frayed nerves and looming deadlines — can undermine months of hard work and thoughtful problem-solving.

Bringing Fierce Love to the relationship seems to me to be the very best thing you can do for both your business partner and yourself. If the love provides direction, and the fierceness helps you get there, then Great Work is often the result.

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.

Working remotely — pros, cons and choices

Our upcoming office move got me thinking (again) about the way we’re structured. Since we opened in 1993, FreeAssociates has been a distributed company: a group of colleagues who enjoy working from their home offices, but who function as teams to get some pretty amazing things done. We’ve designed 10,000 s.f. exhibits, created complex interrelated programs of marketing materials and advertising, and generally had a great time doing it. We’re not rigid about the whole thing: the locals in and around L.A. get together in clusters to brainstorm whenever we need to, or just to have lunch and catch up. But a lot of our work takes place in our individual brains, or by phone or via the internet. And the flexibility and uninterrupted work time trump the benefits of water cooler conversations.

This intense solo time and concentration seem to be inherent in what we do. Back when I had a traditional company structure with everyone in a single office, we had a temp who was struck by how quiet it always was. Everyone was concentrating, working “in their zone,” and there just wasn’t a lot of chatter. In the small administrative office we have now, Amy and I often go for hours just focusing on what we’re doing without talking to each other. We even communicate by email about some things, although our desks are just a few paces apart. Not by design. It just works that way.

No question that there are advantages and disadvantages, and that traditional offices work better for some people, remote ones for others. But, overall, we’ve enjoyed it. Getting to work at home while my children were young was a wonderful experience. Knowing that our designers and writers are free to work when they’re at their best, even if that’s in their pajamas early in the morning, or when they get a brilliant idea in the middle of the night, is gratifying. Sure, you have to be reasonably disciplined to make it work, but none of us seem to have a problem in that regard. When you love what you do, you find time to do it.

37Signals, the developer of Basecamp, Highrise and Campfire, was built along the same lines. One of their employees blogged about his experience, and lots of other people commented — both in favor of, and adamantly against, the structure. I found it an interesting read. Maybe you will, too. Let me know what you’re thinking.

(For another thoughtful essay with lots of links to sources, take a look at this post from Andrew Monelanti, co-founder and CTO of

Turn any website into an app on your Mac

Fluid App logoAt FreeAssociates, we manage our projects with Basecamp, a wonderful, simple online system from 37Signals. I’m constantly closing the window — accidentally or through force of habit — then having to re-open it in my browser. I really just want it to act like an app on my Mac and function independently from my other web browsing.

Guess what? It can!

With Fluid, which was named a Macworld “Gem” for good reason, you can turn any website into a real application, running independently in its own separate window, with its own custom icon in your Dock. That’s how Basecamp now runs on my system. I’ve made one for Google Calendar, too, which is just like having it on my hard drive.

Such a simple, smart solution to an annoying problem — one I didn’t entirely realize I had!

(For you Windows users, you can try Google Chrome’s Application Shortcuts feature or Prism, which uses Firefox and is also available for Mac and Linux)

MsgFiler for Apple Mail

The productivity geek in me has surfaced again. I’m a guy who really doesn’t like using a mouse any more than I have to when I’m reading emails or navigating around my computer. I’m a long-time Quicksilver user, who switched to Launchbar about a year ago and never looked back. I just love the speed with which I can find things, open applications, email files to clients or move a file to another location on my computer. But the one thing Launchbar can’t deal with is Mail folders.

I have my email pretty organized — folders for each client, and a bunch of other folders as well. And dragging emails around with a mouse to file them is a pain. If you agree, then meet MsgFiler, a slick little plug-in for Mail.

With a single keystroke, you get a little pop-up window. Start typing the name of a folder — just a few letters — and it gives you a list of all the matches. Select one and bam! your email is moved right where you want it.

Adam Tow is the developer. Eight bucks is the price. Go get yourself a copy.