Hi, my name is Ben and I'll be working with Updatey's founder Ben and Head of Strategy Management, Robert to create and curate some great content for the Updatey blog. I'd like to use this post to introduce myself, and also to share with you how Ben, Robert and I use Updatey to choose post topics, hone the focus of the post, and comment on what's working and what is not before arriving at a final draft that we all agree is ready to publish.
First, a bit about me. I'm a freelance writer dividing my time between my hometown of Chicago and the beaches of Thailand. I've dabbled in my own startups and use my writing to support myself as a digital nomad – a catchphrase I'm not crazy about but a lifestyle I love. Yesterday I received an Updatey email notification regarding this post on my iPhone while on a scuba diving boat! As with most of the collaborative work I take on, I came to this work through a mutual friend and colleague, not some freelancing site.
Collaborative writing without project management software
For most of my client work, we just use email to communicate and share. This works fine when it's a one-off post, or a longer list of topics that are very straightforward and likely to be accepted without further editing. On projects however that have more of a backlog and more articles or posts in-progress, and also require a lot of back-and-forth, email gets frustrating very quickly.
I had a client once who started a new email thread for each separate post, which was useful in that you didn't have to constantly preface everything with which task you were talking about. The problem was having to always dig through the inbox and deep into old threads trying to find something. I like to work in chunks, so I might submit a few different pieces to a client at the same time. In email this meant having to search for two or three different emails and reply separately to each. It was an added hassle for me and for the client, and an unnecessary one.
For work on a startup of my own in the past, my partner and I used a web app called Springpad, which got the job done, but that shut down last year. I must admit I'd since forgotten how helpful project management software can be. On collaborative projects with multiple tasks – aka just about everything you work on – they are essential
Staying on task and on topic with Updatey
Ben, Robert and I work under one project in Updatey, with three eloquently-named sub-projects within that. The first we call 'blog article ideas', the second is 'blog articles (working on)' and the last is 'blog articles (to be published)' – like I said, eloquent. Essentially, the first is our proposal, idea and brainstorm place, the second is our work in progress and the last helps us keep track of completed work, and lets Ben and Robert see what's already published or in the queue. A blog post begins as an idea that any of us can add as a task under 'blog article ideas'. If it's something I propose, Robert or Ben can leave a comment approving the idea, adding a twist, changing the scope, or anything else. Regardless of who proposes it, any clarifications I need, I can just ask. The important thing is that it's all there right in the comment thread for that specific task.
When we've got the details of the topic hammered out, we move that task down to the 'blog articles (working on)' project. If there's a specific deadline, we can add that in and I'll know that post is a top priority. If there's not a deadline, then the tasks in this project are just my work in progress list.
When I've finished writing the post, rather than copy and paste in a long block of text as a comment, I simply upload the document straight into the thread.
From there, Ben or Robert can give me any feedback, suggest edits and changes or nominate my writing for a Booker Prize. ;) When a post is finished, it gets moved into the 'blog articles (to be published)' project. I've yet to do so, but for a bigger task where I wanted to write myself a to-do list, I could add each item as a subtask, then tick off each one as it's completed.
There are two types of people – those who cross items off of their to-do list, and those who erase them. I'm a dues-paying member of the strike-through club. To me, there's a satisfaction in looking up at a whiteboard full of crossed off items. In other words, I like being able to look back and see what I've accomplished, not just my work in progress and project backlog.
The Updatey Project Timeline is a feature I haven't seen in any other project management program,and I think it's fantastic. Our blog tasks are fairly straightforward but I still find it useful; on more complex projects that stretch over months and involve whole teams, it would be indispensable. It's also a great way to simply look back over completed posts in one easy view.
It's that simple. Updatey helps us organise each task from inception to publication, and the comment threads ensure we always stay on topic, whether we're discussing an individual post or the overall project. And of course, it allows the whole team to collaborate on each task, so don't only blame me for this post not having a witty closing line.