Season 1 Episode 4: SaaS Productivity Tools

In this episode we discuss what SaaS productivity tools we use to manage our projects.

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Ricardo: Welcome to Season 1 Episode 4 of Developer Hustle the podcast about tech side projects and the people who make them. We’re your hosts Ricardo Feliciano and Will Blew. How was your past week Will?

Will: Well, I didn’t do too much. One side of it was probably laziness and the other side was my wife got sick over the weekend and you know this really didn’t help anything.

Ricardo: Was it her laziness? She didn’t wash her hands?

Will: No, but I wanted to you know make sure that I was extra helpful to eliminate some of the stress of the household. I did write some of the API code that I wanted to finish. But I expanded the scope a bit which wasn’t helpful and I didn’t ship it out because I think I need to do a lot more than expected. How ‘bout you?

Ricardo: Well, it’s been an extremely busy week for me. Last episode I was in Seattle this episode I am in San Francisco. Last week I was sent to Seattle to work with Canonical on their tool called Snapcraft so we did a summit kind of like a little hackathon kinda thing. And this week CircleCI flew me out to San Francisco to work out of the office since I haven’t been here in quite awhile. So you know talked to my boss in person talked to the team get some synergy going on it’s been nice. So, my goals I guess you can say from the last episode was about Hugo newsletter. I’m happy to say that I got it up in a sense so what I did was I created a MailChimp account to be what collects all the emails for the newsletter itself and then I created a launch page for it which is basically in Hugo obviously, I have the domain name so it’s HugoNewsletter.com and basically it’s just one page right now, where you go there and it’s a little logo that I made and you can fill out your email address and join the newsletter. That’s pretty much all I did I didn’t actually “ship” the email itself like the first issue. Which I’m actually hoping to do after we record today so hopefully that goes out tonight. I launched on Product Hunt just like I did with Developer Hustle and just like with Developer Hustle that failed. Last I checked I only got four votes but to be honest I didn’t try too hard it was just another channel for me this time around. But I also put it on social media and the Hugo forum and that got shared around a lot. On day one of me having that page up I got fifty sign-ups which isn’t crazy high but compared to my other projects that’s a lot to get for one day. [Will: Yeah] Some of my other projects got maybe 120 sign-ups but that was over the course of months. So, fifty sign-ups for the first day seems pretty good to me and like I said tonight I’m hoping to get that first February email out.

Will: Nice. Yeah, I saw you Facebook I think asking about logos which you do often [Ricardo: Yeah] it looks like you got some good feedback.

Ricardo: Yea yeah I basically took the Hugo logo smashed it altogether and stuck it inside an envelope but in a slightly different way then I’ve seen others do to kind of give it a unique touch this is not like a business or anything that’s going to be making any sort of money it’s just a fun little project just to help share my curated news with others who are interested.

Will: Nice. Did more than me.

Ricardo: Yeah, this week we’ll see.

Will: So, what are we talking about?

Ricardo: This week we’re going to be talking about tools for productivity and at least for me I’m going to focus more on the SaaS side of things and what kind of SaaS products tools whatever you want to call them I use to help me manage all my projects. Would you like to kick us off?

Will: Yeah. You said you were unfamiliar with three of my four? I’m gonna start with the most simplistic which I think is at the bottom of my list. Which is timer on Google if you go to Google and you search timer it will put a timer at the top of the search results and that’s how I time tasks and I think there’s another way to do like time like countdown type timers or that one might be the one or that one but there’s definitely a count up and a countdown version of that command. I use the countdown one and one other service I forget the name but it does a similar thing to time box the tasks like I talked about in the last episode and it’s really simple and useful.

Ricardo: You use Google search itself like the website [Will: Yeah] as a timer?

Will: Yeah. So, you put timer. Yeah it looks like it does both right with timer that’s right. [Ricardo: Oh] So you set the minutes you set the seconds click start and then it will start counting down or you go to stopwatch and you can count up in seconds and then it’ll go to minutes and hours it’s pretty sweet.

Ricardo: I know like twenty different things that Google search does and I didn’t know that one that’s cool.

Will: Yeah, they have a lot of good little tools built in but that’s like the smallest most straightforward one and I think the rest of these ones that we’re gonna talk about have like a multifaceted use so they’re not necessarily just for productivity but they are a part of that they do many other things. And I think the first one that I had on my list is like that a lot it’s called TeamGantt. So, it’s for Gantt charts where you can path out an entire project you can split it into tasks or milestones you can set milestones and tasks and show the date range. I think you can do estimations on there as well. But basically it gives you like this linearlayout of all this stuff and the order it’s going to happen with the milestones in line and the dates that the tasks themselves will span until hitting those milestones you can actually like path them together with lines and have dependant milestones so you can’t complete one without the other. It’s really neat. It’s a good tool for tracking your progress on larger projects I’d say. It’s more of like a waterfall approach type tool.

Ricardo: Cool. Didn’t you go to agile training?

Will: Yeah. I’m a certified scrum master for like ten more days.

Ricardo: Yet, you’re using a waterfall approach. But, I guess best tool for the job right?

Will: I mean it’s just like a visual thing for me most of the times but it definitely has a ton of features that you can use beyond that. I kinda just use it like a visual map to completion and tasks live within those larger tasks. So you have like a big task and a bunch of user stories a bunch of smaller tasks as subtasks under that.

Ricardo: Okay. So what else do you use?

Will: Crowdfire is a pretty awesome resource for social media I really like doing all of the things. So, what Crowdfire does is it has like a little interface it’s like a bot that talks to you but it’s not. It’s just like this JavaScript application and it learns about you and you connect your Twitter account or your Instagram or your Facebook and it asks you for like competitors, keywords to look for and a couple of other things but essentially you give it this data and then it says ‘okay well you should probably follow these people or reply to these tweets with these topics that you’ve mentioned.’ And it lets you just see what you want to see you can real quickly reply to things that are on topic or like all of those things if you wanted to which I think is what most people do is they do this like brute force smash like on all the things really these topics as much as I can. So, you can get involved in the conversation with that and it will automatically give you those suggestions on a daily basis as well as tracking, follows and unfollows so you can follow those people if you would like or you can unfollow the people that you were following that unfollowed you which is a tactic that a lot of people use for social media. And also suggests other people you should follow within those topics that it already knows about. It’s a really good tool and it does actually work but I’m thinking you can probably argue the value of those people within that scheme because they may not have a lot of value content wise but if you’re trying to reach out to them and give them value like you should be it’s a useful tool to be involved in that conversation.

Ricardo: So have you ever used I think it’s still around it’s called Klout, Klout.com I think.

Will: Yeah, I have used it. Not recently.

Ricardo: How would you say they compare? ‘Cause I think not all of it but some of what you described reminds me of Klout. But I feel like what Crowdfire is more advanced or just has more features than Klout.

Will: Yeah I haven’t used all the features of Klout I kinda use it for like the face value tool of see your impact or whatever it’s saying when it gives you your score or whatever. I don’t know if they necessarily have the same purpose maybe they have some of the same purpose but the focus is different but Crowdfire is super refined like the interface is really good. It’s very minimalistic while still giving you the content you need to whereas when I use Klout it was like a full very common looking website structure. Crowdfire is very specific about how it presents itself and how you use it.

Ricardo: Yeah, well I mean that sounds better.

Will: I don’t know, I haven’t used Klout enough to say for sure. What do you got? What do you use?

Ricardo: I use a couple different tools for different reasons. I’m actually missing one from my list considering that you commented on my logos earlier. But anyway, I’ll start with Google Calendar which I’ve mentioned on a previous episode. For today I’m going to talk about something different here. I run a lot of different side projects and for some reason or another a lot of them tend to have blogs or a news section. What I does is for example, I run a project called ‘Linodians’ which is a fan community based off of Linode the cloud hosting company that you work for and that I used to work for. I loved working at Linode so much and I loved the space and the customers so much that I wanted a way to kind of stay close to that space and still be involved. So I created Linodians to talk about Linode services itself and also about server Linux so the different distros you can install on servers the differences between them any new things that are happening, security updates, all of that. For many of my projects like Linodians news is important. News, important dates all of that. What I do is in Google Calendar I actually have a special calendar aside called ‘special events’ and I put in events there that might be relevant to any one of my side projects like for example, in there I have the birthday of Linux itself the kernel, in there I have upcoming release dates for Fedora, upcoming release dates for Ubuntu and this way at the beginning of the week when I look at my week I can see that calendar, see what’s coming up and then start planning if I’m going to write a blog post about it for a new Ubuntu release for example. If I can start getting together all the notes on what’s changing, what’s going to be better, what’s going to be worse, how that affects Linode customers if at all like with networking for example. So, I use this calendar to have all these upcoming things this way I remember what I need to write about, what I need to post about.

Will: Yeah, I mean it makes sense it’s pretty straightforward.

Ricardo: A lot of the tools I use kinda tie together. With that calendar I use Trello. Trello, a lot of people use Trello. Trello can be used in various different ways. So I’m going to go over how I set-up my board. I have one board for ideas and I just shove ideas in there. I have a list per idea type. So, I have a list for software ideas, I have a list for hardware ideas and all that kind of stuff but then I have one board called ‘my general task board’ and this is where I keep all the tasks I need to do for everything. So what I do is all the way on the left I have my backlog the next list after that I have is ‘priority’ the next list after that is ‘doing’ and the last list is ‘done’. And for the done list I always have in the list title I have the month so it’ll say ‘done-January’ or ‘done-February’ and then basically at the end of that month I just archive that whole list and create a new done list. Where I kind of get into things here when it comes to using Trello for my projects is I take full advantage of the labels that Trello offers. Trello has only a set number of colored labels so what I do is I have each project has its own color as a label so Linodians is that light green Trello color that they have that’s the label for that. Every card that I make is a task and I label it based on the project it’s for and on rare occasions it might be two projects like I have a label for my personal site which I have a blog on and then I have a label for Linodians. So, if I’m doing something on Linodians that I also wanna share on my personal site that card would get both labels. Trello also has labels that you can have without any color at all. Which in the UI shows up light grey but on cards they don’t really show up at all until you expand the card so what I do is I use those labels to filter what kind of task it is so if the task is a blog post, I have a label called ‘blog’. If the task is software that I need to write or if it’s a meetup I have a label for that basically I have labels that tell me what project it’s for and then I have a set of labels that tells me what type of task for that project. And together I’m able to use all of that to kind of keep track of things and you know I slide cards along from backlog into priority when I’m ready to do it and then from priority to doing when it’s active and then doing to done when it’s finished. And I use that as a way to keep track of things and going back to Google Calendar whenever an event’s coming up like Linux’s birthday and maybe I wanna write about it, once it gets close enough that I see that it’s close enough for my calendar then I make a card for it put it in priority and then Trello kind of takes it over from there.

Will: That’s very intricate. I don’t have that intricate of a system.

Ricardo: ‘Cause I’m doing a lot of things at once. Once again managing my regular job and then as I get into it later I’m doing much more meetups. Meetups are very time sensitive because if I don’t have a talk ready for the meetup or if I’m not physically present for the meetup I kind of screwed everything up. I kind of need this little process here for myself. Which like I said my tools are kinda connected together so which leads me to the third thing I wanted to talk about which is social media tools in particular I typically use Buffer and Tweetdeck. It ties into that whole Trello board and Google Calendar like I said a lot of what I do are blog posts or announcements so once those are ready I actually publish them on whatever site they belong to. And then I schedule them on Buffer. Buffer is absolutely great one of the few tools that I actually pay for. I was on their free plan for maybe six, seven months and then I bumped up to their $10 a month plan. And I actually hit my account limit for that plan unfortunately and so now I’m on their $100 a month plan. Which is way more money than I want to be spending for Buffer. Unfortunately, they don’t have a plan in the middle for where I would like to be so I kinda don’t have a choice. For Buffer for their $100 a month plan I get up to twenty-five social media accounts and you might cry when you hear this but I have I think twenty-two of them filled out so far that’s how many projects. Yeah, Linodians itself there’s the Google Plus account, Twitter and Facebook so that’s three. So a lot of the projects have three some of them only have Twitter and Facebook which is two and some are just Twitter alone. So I kind of have all my projects I need to have any social media presence as an account on Buffer and I schedule them and this is why calendars important this is why Trello’s important and why Buffer’s important is because the whole idea of Buffer is that you can schedule things for later in the day, for the week, for the month or even past that. And those tweets those Facebook posts whatever will go out during your scheduled times. So it’s easy for me on a day of the week. Where I have a little more time to be able to sit down see what’s coming up finish some tasks and then be able to go into Buffer and just schedule all of those things for like the next three to four days and then not have to touch it. It has all of my accounts on there so I don’t have to login to the Twitter account for Linodians, write a tweet, logout, login to the Twitter account for Write the Docs NYC, write a tweet, logout. For Buffer I could just click the icons write the message, schedule it and it’s good to go. Buffer has been absolutely amazing and I really appreciate their tools. It’s great for businesses and startups. It’s also great for people like me if you have twenty-plus social media accounts and you want to use all of them somewhat actively. Buffer’s a great tool to kind of do all of that without going crazy.

Will: Yeah. I use Buffer as well. It’s really good and I think it definitely helps I don’t use it enough I tend to do this thing where I’ll use it I’m like “yeah I’m gonna start Buffer and all this stuff.” And then I’ll Buffer like five days worth of stuff for all my accounts and then all that stuff will go great it’ll all go out and it’ll be like two months before I do it again. It pains me. I need to get better at it.

Ricardo: Yeah. Buffer’s not perfect. One of my biggest issues with Buffer and this is not really for my side projects well, one of my side projects but more for my personal stuff that Buffer doesn’t have real integration with Instagram it’s not really Buffer’s fault it’s Instagram’s fault because of the way they do their API’s.

Will: They don’t do their API’s.

Ricardo: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah they don’t really want to open that up. So, Buffer says they have Instagram support but really what it is is if you schedule a message it’s more of like an alarm or a notification it’ll say ‘hey, now is when your suppose to go send out that Instagram message’ and you have to still go into Instagram and do it. So, that kinda sucks but most of my projects don’t have an Instagram presence because they’re just not those kind of projects but I do have a paint and sip company which is like a paint party company called Night of Acrylics and Night of Acrylics is very much a visual company like we paint that is perfect for Instagram. So, we do have an Instagram account for that and all of those messages have to be done manually which kind of sucks but what are you gonna do?

Will: Yeah, I was disappointed when they removed the suggested content as well so.

Ricardo: From Buffer?

Will: Yeah, it would like suggest really good topical stuff and then they just got rid of it.

Ricardo: Yeah. One day I was on there and I felt like something was missing and I thought it was that but I didn’t use it enough to really pinpoint it. They’re changing they bought I think the company was called Respondly I think and Buffer bought them and they’re slowly trying to merge the products and just recently actually I was on Buffer’s website a couple days ago and they’re now rebranding the like the UI you see when you login to actually say publish on top instead of just Buffer so I think the traditional Buffer is going to become the published product and then the company they bought Respondly is going to become the responding product which is the side of social media where you can actually see people who have messaged you and respond to them or if you have a team if you’re at a company, you can actually assign people to respond to certain messages.

Will: That would be good.

Ricardo: It’s kinda out of the scope of side projects ‘cause at least in my experience most side projects you’re kind of doing on your own or maybe with just one or two other people but that’s what Buffer’s doing on their end.

Will: Yeah. It’s a great tool it’s really straightforward. I like the fact that you like tie the calendar and the Trello tasks and then the social stuff to Buffer altogether like so if I have these tasks the things I’m going to do they should have social posts so I’m going to write these social posts and have them schedule to go out on these dates and then put them on the calendar. I think that’s a really good way to stay organized when you have so many things. I think my approach with Trello is a little bit different because I make it a habit to keep as few of things as possible as I can so what I do in my approach with side projects is usually like either doing it regularly or it’s totally discarded for a period of time rather than like constantly have them come to like milestones or break points and then that thing is active and out in the wild for a while and I keep track of it but I don’t like change it or modify it for a period of time and I eventually cycle back to it. I think with my Trello it’s straightforward and only three columns because I’ve done that and limited myself to that amount of things so it’s just backlog, active, done and there’s one for each project and it just stays that way and if I’m working on it the stuff just moves around, I make comments, set the correct labels for the type of thing and if I’m not working on it it’s still in the last state it was and I can go back when I cycle it back in and see exactly where I left off from what the tasks requirements were, all the ideas and thoughts that I had and that’s it. I think that’s where the difference comes from but I definitely get why you are doing what you do because you have way more things that are recycled like you schedule those things come back, schedule them again you’re constantly keeping them in motion to whereas I don’t have as many of those things.

Ricardo: Yeah and I think that’s a good point. So I don’t know if you consider meetups side projects but I’m starting to and so one of the things I do is for Write the Docs which is the big tech documentation conference they have meetups all around the world and I organize the NYC meetup. That’s something that’s repetitive you know every month I need to clear it with the venue to make sure I have a venue. Make sure the timings good, the dates good with them. Then I have to either find a speaker or figure out what topic we’re going to talk about and then at least two weeks before the date I usually have to announce the meetup which involves putting it on meetup.com and all of that and then you know every couple of days after that I kind of remind people about it just so we can kind of get more people ‘cause if I don’t put this up on social media and I don’t message about it every couple of days almost no one’s going to show up. You know so there’s a lot of repetitive tasks which is why I have this process but also for me I think you said you have separate boards per project correct?

Will: Yeah.

Ricardo: Yeah, I tried that. That’s how I first started and only my bigger project which is Night of Acrylics like I said which is pretty much a business that’s already made money. That has its own dedicated board where my partner and I we work on stuff there but that’s because it’s reached a certain level. For all of my other projects. All the small stuff. I tried having separate boards and it didn’t work for me ‘cause it was that whole out of mind out of sight, out of sight out of mind kind of things where I wouldn’t switch to those other boards and I’d just forget about that project and forget what the tasks are and forget to do it. Having one what I call my general task board that has all of my tasks in one board reminds me of all the other work that I have. Which can be stressful sometimes but it helps keep it in my mind and I don’t forget. I’ve noticed at least for me this has worked better. Having one board with all of my projects and just using those labels ‘cause with Trello you can easily search for one or more labels and it’ll filter the whole board for you. So if you really want to like zone in on one project like Hugo Newsletter for example, I can search for Hugo Newsletter click the label like result and all the other cards will disappear except for the cards that have that label. So if I really need to drill down I can do that. Just having that one board helps me not drop the ball on other projects that I have.

Will: Makes sense to me. I think it’s a good strategy.

Ricardo: Yeah well, works for me so far. Last I just wanted to add Buffer does the majority of my social media for all my projects. There are certain cases where I have to use other sites and other apps for example, I mentioned Instagram because I have no choice. I have to use the Instagram app so I also have Tweetdeck which is obviously Twitter specific have multiple Twitter accounts or only Twitter accounts it’s a really good way to manage your accounts and also I just love that big display board you get so I actually have search terms for all of my projects. I have search terms for my own name. I have search terms for CircleCI for example. So I get this one big tab in Google Chrome where I can see everything happening on Twitter for those search terms I can see when people are mentioning my projects or if they’re having a problem with one of my projects or for work purposes with CircleCI. So, Tweetdeck’s a really good tool and then Facebook itself has the Facebook pages manager for Android which is a dedicated app just to manage your pages. So that’s been really helpful for me too aside from to be more specific on a certain network for whatever reason like with Facebook pages you can actually pay for sponsored posts and sponsored events using that app. Which obviously you can’t do on Buffer. Cool, so how’d you like our whole stating our goals for the week thing that we did last episode?

Will: I liked it a lot. That’s why I made sure that we would do it again.

Ricardo: Exactly. What are your goals for this coming week Will?

Will: I definitely just wanna go general to start and just ship more stuff out and by that I don’t necessarily really mean writing code because I’ve started streaming again on Twitch under my name that I don’t give out.

Ricardo: Is this another research project for me?

Will: No, no not at all. It’s on purpose it’s a disconnected thing [Ricardo: Yeah] I have friends I’ve known forever we play games together it’s kind of funny though I’m just streaming to put content out there and it’s something I enjoy doing while also being able to like craft marketing approaches and make sweet intro videos and other stuff I like to do. So I consider that shipping things if it’s going out. And I definitely create content for the streaming that’s like the general one just get more stuff out next week and also I just want to write a blog post about the podcast ‘cause I haven’t done that yet. So, I just wanna write one up real quick. I did write a blog post a couple of weeks ago but I want to make one specifically about the podcast and some of the stuff we talk about.

Ricardo: Yeah good point. I’ve been wanting to do that too. So let me know when you write yours and then I’ll just copy yours.

Will: Yeah I think we mentioned it at some point but I forgot but yeah you can copy mine it’s fine I’ll just tweet it and say ‘hey I wrote this one too.’

Ricardo: Yeah life’s difficult but that might be a topic we can talk about in a future episode. I think that’s a really good concept of the idea that shipping isn’t just for code because like you said streaming is a form of shipping which I never thought about and I’ve been getting myself more involved into meetups and in my opinion you know doing the meetup is a form of shipping for me at least just going out there and hosting the event and meeting with people that’s kinda like getting that meetup that specific meetup day shipped.

Will: Yeah.

Ricardo: Like I mentioned earlier Hugo Newsletter is now a thing. We have I think sign-ups kind of slowed so it’s now maybe around sixty sign-ups but we are over a week or about a week exactly into February and this first post I basically want to cover everything that’s happened in January. So all the blog posts, the news all of that. And then what I know that’s upcoming for February so one of my goals is to actually tonight right after recording to write up that first newsletter and send it out to all the people we already have. So that’s one goal. Oh so, during that past week that I was in Seattle with Canonical I’ve kinda got reinvigorated with that whole Linux community, Ubuntu thing that I’ve been very excited about in the past for many many years and I started two new meetups so I started the Ubuntu Loco San Francisco meetup and the Ubuntu Loco NYC meetup. Now, in the Ubuntu community what Loco means is it’s short for local community for Python it would just be the Python NYC meetup but for Ubuntu we use the term Loco just ‘cause we’re cool like that. For the San Francisco meetup our first meetup is actually on Friday. This episode may or may not be published before that meetup happens but that first meetups gonna be this Friday in San Francisco. So, my goal is to make sure that still happens so make sure everything works out well we have food we have drinks everybody can find the place and “ship” that meetup. And get that whole group started this way when I go back to NY next week I can post the NYC meetup as well. Those are my main goals and then my nice to have at the end is improve the Hugo Newsletter website it’s really crappy. It’s a single page like I said surprisingly when I announced it. I ended up getting 4 PRs from the same person doing a lot of fixes on his own. Which is why I love open-source so much because that was amazing of this person. I don’t remember his Git handle but I’ll put it in the show notes. This person thank you. I’ve already approved one of those PRs and I’ll do the others so already the Hugo newsletter website is becoming a community project which makes me so so happy. So hopefully for next week I can do a few more improvements on it and get what I emailed for the first issue on the website for anyone who missed the sign-up date. And that’s pretty much all I’m hoping to get done for the next week.

Will: Cool, sounds like quite a bit. I hope you make it all the way to the finish line.

Ricardo: Thanks. Like I said, that generous person who submitted those PRs his handle his GitHub handle will be in our show notes any of these projects that we mentioned today such as Buffer, Trello, Crowdfire, I don’t know about timer that’s just Google.com people could find that. That’ll all be in our show notes which is on DeveloperHustle.io if you would like to find our show notes. If you have any questions or feedback for us, if you would like to be a guest on the show please reach out to us. You can find us on Twitter at twitter.com/DeveloperHustle on facebook.com/DeveloperHustle and of course our website. If they’re on iTunes Will what should they do?

Will: They should first listen, then give their review and give us feedback because we wanna improve. You can say whatever you want if it’s honest that’s fine and I think there’s like a rating thing but definitely give us feedback. We wanna make this better wanna talk about topics that people care about so we’ll definitely be reading them.

Ricardo: Yes please please feedback and ratings we really appreciate it. Thanks. Thank you for listening.

Will: Thanks.

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