Helpful web applications for remote teams and telecommuters
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Remote teams, whether made up entirely or only partially of telecommuters, face challenges of communicating efficiently and effectively. The challenges are not any greater than teams that sit together; simply different. Technology has provided us with the opportunity to work remotely, and also with many great solutions to the challenges that arise. I have compiled a list of some online applications that you may find helpful in keeping a remote team working and communicating together. Other suggestions are welcome!

Protonotes
“Protonotes are notes that you add to your prototype that allow project team members to discuss system functionality, design, and requirements directly on the prototype. You can think of it like a discussion board/wiki in direct context of your prototype.”

Loopt
“Loopt transforms your mobile phone into a social compass; connect with friends and get alerted when they are nearby; share your location, status and photos with friends and AIM buddies; explore places and events recommended by friends.”

Facebook
“Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.”

LinkedIn
“Over 23 million professionals use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas and opportunities. Stay informed about your contacts and industry. Find the people & knowledge you need to achieve your goals. Control your professional identity online.”

Basecamp
“Project management and collaboration. Collaborate with your team and clients. Schedules, tasks, files, messages, and more.”

Highrise
“Online contact manager and simple CRM. Keep track of who your business talks to, what was said, and what to do next.”

Backpack
“Intranet, group calendar, organizer. Share info, schedules, documents, and to-dos across your company, group, or organization.”

Campfire
“Real-time group chat for business. It’s like instant messaging, but optimized for groups. Especially great for remote teams.”

Gliffy
“With Gliffy online diagramming software, you can easily create professional-looking flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings,
and more!”

MindMeister
“MindMeister supports all the standard features of a classic mind mapping tool – only online, and with as many simultaneous users as you like!”

Helipad
“Write notes and organise them with tags; Create and maintain to-do lists; Draft documents on any device with Internet access; Quickly navigate with tags; Share your documents with friends [or co-workers]”

TrackMyPeople
TrackMyPeople allows you to easily track your time, as well as your employees time. Afterwards the online timesheet offers you and your employees flexible management and reporting options.

Paybackable
“Simple Online Expense Reports. Track out of pocket expenses; Calculate mileage expenses; Submit expense reports easily.”

BigContacts
“Web Based Contact Manager. Full featured: group calendar, tasks, email, files, photos, sales opporuntities. For organizations from 2 to 2,000 people.”

DeskAway
“Web Based Project Collaboration. Whether you are an individual or a small business, DeskAway helps you organize, manage and track your projects from a central location.”

88Miles
“88 Miles is all about making time tracking simple and quick. If you have ever spent the better part of your Friday afternoon trying to work out what you have been doing all week, you will love 88 Miles.”

myHours
“myHours.com is a time management, timesheet, time tracking solution. It enables you to track your work time, projects you work on and tasks you perform.”

WhoDoes
“WhoDoes 2.0 is the new version of the web-based application for the collaborative management of projects and coordination of the team.”

OnStage Project Portal
“OnStage is an online workspace, collaboration, and project management tool. It is a simple tool for complex needs.”

ProjectOffice.net
“Manage your project flow; Manage your time and expenses; Need to track issues? Share your knowledge through wikis!”

Joint Contact
“Joint Contact is a state-of-the art project collaboration tool for sharing and managing information that is used by business owners, project managers, freelancers and independent professionals. ”

Taskado
“Our Goal at Taskado is to make all projects easy to manage, and make your life easier in the process – because life is a project. Our philosophy is simple: project management is not about control, it’s about delegating and communicating.”

Help Firefox set a Guinness World Record
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Download Day 2008Firefox 3 will be released today, in about an hour from this post, and they are hoping to set the Guinness World Record for most downloads in 24 hours. So if you are a Firefox fan, head over now to pledge to do it, and be sure to download it within the next day.

 
The Email Printing Mailbox
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The HP A10 Printing Mailbox for Presto Service is really a great idea. I had a similar one about 10 years ago. The concept is for those, like the WW2 generation, who might never have gotten into computers, or at least not very deeply, and yet you might want to be able to email your grandparents.

This device plugins into the phone line and dials into the Presto service a few times a day, and prints out any received email. It uses a whitelist for screening email so you won’t get printouts from any spam or junk mail. Though it is a great idea, I have to wonder how long the Presto service has been around. The target audience for this device must be shrinking every day. Still, I applaud the concept.

Date Validator for Rails
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This week on a project I had the need to signal the user when they had entered an invalid date for a date field that wasn’t required. But I needed to show the error even if they entered a bunch of garbage into the field. Unfortunately in Rails, if you attempt to set a string into a Date field it doesn’t set at all, and so when the validator fires there is nothing to validate and since the field isn’t a required field, no error is displayed.

After searching the net extensively, I found this ruby class for adding a validates_dates function. It is very helpful and not only solved my problem, but also gives the users a few shortcuts for entering the date, such as the following examples.

+6days, +6d, +6, +2w, -6m, +1y

It also allows you to define, in the validation usage, a from and to range that the date should be within. For example, a person’s renewal date should not be before their created_at date, or limiting a date field to be beyond today.

validates_dates :birthday, :from => '1 Jan 1920', :to => Date.today, :allow_nil => true

The snippet is here.

YellowPages.com on Rails
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RailsonWave.com summarizes the recent talk at RailsConf 2008 regarding YellowPages.com’s move from Java to Rails. They serve up 23 million visitors a month. The conversion resulted in 20,000 lines of Ruby code instead of 125,000 lines of Java code, and most importantly eased the difficulty they had in maintaining it. Once complete, and optimized their site is now faster than before. They also completed the rewrite in three months with four developers. You can read the entire write up at railsonwave.com.

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