Gear

 

For those not familiar Slack, it is a collaborative working environment that also provides a chat service. It also offers native mobile apps for just about every platform out there.

slack apps mobile

Slack Structureslack screenshot4

 

The basic slack structure is broken down into groups, channels, and private groups. You can be a member of multiple groups and each group can have a different login email yet still be accessible from the apps and web site with a single menu selection.

Inside a group are channels that appear as hashtag channels. These channels are similar to chat rooms, but thanks to integration with Dropbox and Google Drive, channels also house all sorts of data and files related to the discussion. As a result, everyone has direct access to and context of the discussion. This alone will cut down on the back and forth of email.

The group administrator can create private channels that are by invite only. This is a great feature for anyone who invites outside collaboration. In the Heroik Innovation Lab (HIL), we collaborate with different individuals and some business-y topics we keep close to chest. This “Private Groups” feature makes that really easy to do.

Structuring the channels is completely up to you. For example, some teams structure their channels for different aspects of project development (design, biz dev, etc.). We have a watercooler/lobby for random and idle chat, and several channels dedicated to specific long-term projects and Heroik Initiatives.

Chat Messaging

slack instance

Each channel is it’s own message board. Messages are associated with the channel they are posted on, but files can be associated on multiple channels. Starring messages, marks them as favorites and makes them easily accessible in the sidebar. This is helpful when you want to refer back to essential instructions, key statements, etc.

The posts themselves are almost instant. There’s a slight delay in dialog but it’s no different than the delay on a phone call. All of the files and images are displayed chronologically inline as well, making them easy to spot. All files uploaded or referenced also appear in the sidebar for quick location and use. This includes any service that you’ve integrated like Dropbox or Google Drive.

If you’re an emoji fan, you’ll find plenty to choose from built in to slack. I rarely use them and most often see them appear by accident/automated conversion :P.

There are plenty of options to manage notifications and turn off notifications by email if need be. So rejoice if email notifications bother you.

Another cool feature of messages in Slack is the ability to edit and delete previous messages. You can go back in time and refine or remove your comments.

File Handling

slack file handling

The native desktop apps (Mac/Win) and web apps both support drag and drop files into the window to upload it to Slack. Uploaded files are tagged to the current channel for easy browsing but users are also presented with a complete list of available files.

Built for Deep Search

These aren’t just links. The contents of documents and PDFs are indexed for searching. This is a very useful feature. Pasting in a link to a Google Doc renders the document searchable within Slack. You can also filter searches by file type and favorite (starred) status.

Each file has it’s own comment thread which is great for collaboration. Think of this like a folder that contains the document and the comments and stickies you place upon it as it works its way through the process. We also use the commenting and editing system directly in Google Docs, but this is convenient to discussing big picture items, goals and intentions. The comments also make a great reference for reviewing changes.

Search

The search function in Slack is awesome, fast and extensive. Finding files is easy, as you’d expect, but finding specific conversation threads is even easier. Search results include not just the phrase or word match but a few of the messages above and below the match. This ensures you’re given context into what may be stale or forgotten conversations. Even with a file search you are given all the contextually relevant bits.

iOS & Android Apps

We’ve been using Slack for a year on various Android devices, iPhone 4 and 5s, (and now the iPhone 6), Macs and PCs. The apps work tremendously well and reflect the robust features found on the web version.

Business Model

Slack has a freemium model. The FREE account is of course limited and includes, a maximum of 10,000 messages stored in the archive, a maximum of 5GB of file storage and a maximum of 5 integrations.

The standard paid account price is $7 per user per month. This removes most of the limits, offers simple usage statistics and raises the maximum file storage to 10GB. It allows guest access and email forwarding to Slack as well. Check here for their pricing info http://slack.com/pricing

Privacy

Anything you post to Slack is private to your team by default. Viewing the communications and files within any team requires user authentication.

Conclusion

Slack is one of the best services we’ve used in the past year. Not only does this rally the team in a great work environment, it’s an excellent way to build culture with a distributed team full of people who are always on the go.

They have a free plan that is great to start a pilot for your biz. If you signup through this link by November 15th, you’ll get a $100 credit toward the costs.

Visit Slack.com 

It’s amazing to me, how many ambitious upstarts have the passion for new endeavor, yet hate to read and learn to reach their goals. If reading is a barrier to improvement for you, perhaps because you find it slow-paced, difficult or uninteresting, then you’re in luck. With the help of some new technology, you can speed read your way at 2-4x your current speed. This is a real time saver.

How Speed Reading Works

Reading text in the traditional form (in print or on the screen screen from left to right) requires moving your eyes sequentially from word to word. For each word, the eye seeks a certain point within the word, which we call the “Optimal Recognition Point” or ORP. During a reading session, after your eyes find the ORP, your brain begins to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing. With each new word, your eyes kind of wiggle rapidly (or “saccade”) between the words. Your eyes then seek out the ORP for that word. When your eyes run into punctuation, your brain goes back and brings it all together to form a single thought.

80% of the time spent reading, is spent physically moving eyes from word to word, scanning for the next Optimal Recognition Point. By reading in ways that limit eye movement, and making it easier to find the ORP, your brain can process and understand the words faster.

Traditional speed reading tactics involve intense brain training to get your eyes to stretch what they process (enlarging the peripheral vision), avoiding sub-vocalization (talking to yourself while reading) and reading a page at a time by mental snapshot.

I’ve used these methods on and off to increase my reading speed. One thing I can tell you is that it requires time, commitment and continuous training. If you’re like most people, that sounds like more work than reading itself. The good news is, there’s some great technology out there to help you.

Enter Spritz

SamsungGS4Spritz_630

Spritz offers a cool technology called “redicle” that helps you speed read by doing all of that mental math for you. Rather than requiring your eyes to move and scan a page of text, Spritz gathers all of the text and gives it to you one word at a time. It also quickly pinpoints and identifies the optimal recognition point (ORP) (think focus point) your brain looks for to make sense of each word, and it highlights this letter in red. Red of course draws the eyes attention immediately. The technology also uses horizontal lines and hash marks that direct your eyes to the red letter to ensure your eye quickly goes to the right point. Since your eyes don’t need to wander the page, and don’t need to wiggle as you scan for ORP’s, you can read much much faster.

And in case you’re wondering, Comprehension is about the same as regular reading.

spritz study

First time users were able to read up to 40% faster.

spritz study2

 

To see more findings check out the full study here.

SpritzSamsungGalaxyGear_630

Spritz works so well, it’s integrated with many mobile apps and even wearable technology (Samsung Galaxy Gear) and more to come.

  1. If you want to use the pure Spritz on the web, simply add the Spritzlet (click here to get it) to your browser. Additionally, there are other apps taking advantage of the technology including items 2-6 below.
  2. ReadMe! ($1.99) is an E-Pub reader with Spritz. With ReadMe! you can enjoy e-pub format books from Project Gutenberg (45,000 books), Manybooks (29,000 titles), Feedbooks, OpenLibrary (1M+ books) and the Internet Archive (2.5M+ titles). That should keep you busy for awhile!
  3. Quickipedia – Spritz Wikipedia (the whole darn thing!) ($0.99) – A Spritz reader for Wikipedia.
  4. Rapid Reader ($2.99) Read all of your Pocket, Readability and InstaPaper articles that you’ve saved for later with Spritz!
  5. Sparker ($0.99) – SparkNotes (http://www.sparknotes.com) are condensed versions of some of your favorite literature meant to aid you in studying the material after you’ve read it. Now you can spritz all of your SparkNotes on iOS!
  6. BibleGist (Free) – Interested in spritzing the Bible? This is the iOS app for you!
  1. Spreed is a Google Chrome extension and Spritz knock-off with some added features. It allows you to control the number of words shown on the app. This is great for training your brain to speed read with or without an app. It’s great for say, quickly binge reading our book, The Heroik Power of Headlines, and others you’ve been meaning to get through as well.

All of these apps work well. This technology will hopefully bring people back to the wonderful world of reading. Try them out and tell us which one is your favorite.

Bonus: Speed Reading Power Tip

let’s talk about subvocalization – sounding out the words in your head actually causes you to read slower. Most people can only speak at about 180wpm, max. In order to speed this up, you’ll need to stop saying every word to yourself. To do that, try lightly humming to yourself (quietly). Murmor and mumble. If you’re humming, you can’t be talking to yourself, freeing your brain to process the information faster.

Reflecting on the decades we’ve worked in the Heroik Innovation Lab and countless new media projects for clients across many different industries, there are a few tools that stand out and make work and life easier and more enjoyable. And when we think of groups or industries who can benefit the most from these simple and lean tools, nonprofits and startups are at the top of that list. Nonprofits and startups need great tools that are free, cheap, and amazingly effective (don’t we all?). We’ve put together a list that fits the bill. Here it goes:

There are many books out there disguised as how-to’s, prompting you to tell your story through social media, and to use it as a platform to build a more authentic brand. But let’s be real, most of these books are far removed of specifics with watered down recommendations to use social media to tell your story. Some of the better books on the subject show you how to sell-out your brand for mass appeal. These don’t pass the sniff test of building an authentic brand with great content. That’s where this book comes in.

Read Smart Not Hard: 23 Book Summaries a year for $23

aaronFor those of you unfamiliar, Books in Brief is an amazing site full of wonderful non-fiction book summaries. It’s been one of our best kept secret sites and resources  for the past 3 years.  Not only is it one of our favorites and highly recommended summary sites but Books in Brief founder, Aaron Thibeault (seen right) was kind enough to take the time for an interview and provides a great behind the scenes look at his process and life. Read on and enjoy.

The science is in- and if you’re looking to squeeze more horse power from the meat floatin in that noggin of yours listen up. Meditation improves your mental abilities including the ability to focus, problem solve, be creative and so on. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out what Dr. Brower has to say on the scientific discoveries and benefits of meditation.

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In our search for the best way to document our Heroik adventures, we need the toughest gear. Our gear will get dropped, dunked, and brought everywhere and anywhere there is adventure to be had. So we decided to torture test the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 and break it in by dragging it along on the Tough Mudder, in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, 2011. The results were epic. Our only complaint, it doesn’t have a little automatic windshield wiper to wipe the mud off the lens.

You might be amazed how many people deal with this contact conundrum- the years and in some cases, decades build up of contacts. Layer upon layer of stale and duplicate contact data rotting your Outlook database and virtual Rolodex of various flavors. Avoiding the inevitable time consuming, manual, contact reconciliation. After years spent fighting a losing battle, finally there’s a solution out there that doesn’t put your data at risk and minimizes the time, effort and energy required to sort it out. It’s a service called Scrubly.

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