Getting organized to organize

It’s my first day on the new job, and I’m trying to figure out a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I want to set up a way to track and share my own to-do list, text notes, and maybe calendar, but preferably in a way that will be forward-compatible with a more comprehensive, organization-wide system that I will figure out and implement later. I’ve stored some running lists of groupware and self-organization tools, but I don’t know which ones (if any) support open standards or some other way to get data out.

One interesting tool is http://Grou.ps which seems to be a collector/aggregator for other services. Anyone used it? Should I just give up my resistance to the Borg and use Google?

8 thoughts on “Getting organized to organize

  1. I think I remember you saying that you didn’t work with their workflow, but basecamp has full xml output.

    they have made some tweaks to their UI recently that have made me pretty happy.

    and you get trendy points. 🙂

  2. Have you ever actually looked at the results of a Basecamp export? As far as I know it’s not usable or importable by any other application, including Basecamp!

  3. The Basecamp output is just XML, and given the lack of a common data format for project management data, that’s about all one could expect I guess. I’ve yet to see a project management/todo list app that allows you to import data. In theory you could hack the Basecamp XML into SQL and import it into any database driven project management app.

    Basecamp is probably the best collaboration app I’ve seen, though if you need to host it yourself than ActiveCollab is passable (caveat: I’ve only used the demo).

    Calendaring is hard because (again) there’s a lack of open standards. Recently the CalDAV standard has emerged, but isn’t widely implemented.

    At Lulu we’re using Zimbra for email and calendar, and I’ve found it to be fairly easy to use. I’m also intrigued by Joyent, especially since they announced plans to open source it. Both Zimbra and Joyent work on top of standard mail services so they’re as portable as it gets. No idea what either one uses for managing calendar data, but I know Zimbra sends out invites as standard iCalendar files that work with iCal, Outlook, Sunbird, etc.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions, Jackson! I’m still annoyed that Basecamp won’t even import data exported from itself, but it’s definitely a strong contender. Its simplicity is both a strength and a weakness. And we definitely need a hosted solution, so it’s on the list.

  5. Yes, for many web-based apps, you’d have to write a script to import the data. I am surprised there is not an automated import! But they do have an API.

    You can import well-structured XML into database apps like MSAccess, and there is an imported for ActiveCollab, the “open source Basecamp.”

    Another option for calendaring might be to wait a bit for the new iCal server in Leopard.

  6. Thomas says:

    I just sent this to you on del.icio.us, but Chandler bears watching, I think. Though not suitable for current use as your primary organizational tool.

  7. Ruby, Congratulations on the new job.

    Recently we reviewed a few project management tools and picked Central Desktop, primarily because it seems to be quite powerful and does not ask the users to learn new markup, etc.

    BaseCamp is really good and gets a lot of buzz, but there are some larger needs that are left unfulfilled like the import/export you mentioned and the inability to add comments/notes to a task.

    So, the search continues…

  8. OK, so I’m coming back to this unanswered question. I’m sort of surprised that no-one mentioned http://Zoho.com. From what I can tell they pretty much kick Google Apps’ butt and are pretty affordable. Anyone have experience with this, especially their CRM, Planner, or Projects tools?

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