November 8, 2006

LearningFlow Feedback from Dave Lee

This is a cross posting from the LearningFlow blog concerning an email exchange between Dave Lee and myself. Dave was kind enough to go through our service and provide detailed feedback and he is our exchange.

DL: Congratulations on your first launch of LearningFlow. It looks very

You asked for suggestions, so here's a pile of them in no particular

* I found Learning Flow through Learning Flow Blog from a blog
reference (Lee Kraus' Learning and Technology blog) but once I got to Learning Flow Blog it
took me forever to find a link that got me to Learning Flow
itself. You should have a link, if not a button, at the top of
the Sidebar saying "this was to Learning Flow."

LK: I added a link. This was kind of a bonehead move on my part. Sorry.

DL:I'd say more doing a million things every day is to blame than

DL: * rethink linking to basecamp. I fell for the hype on basecamp,
convinced a team in my Masters program to use it and was nearly
lynched by mid-semester. Some key things missing from basecamp

LK: We have used Basecamp for some time now and the experience has been

o the inability to assign multiple people to a given task

LK: I have on occasion wanted to do this, but not often and having a
"lead" might actually be the way to go.

DL: o there is no means of tracking dependencies between tasks
(ie, task b can't be started until task a is done)

LK: We don't really have a need for this type of complexity. My team
knows when tasks depend on other tasks. When I have used this in MS
Project it often turns complicated fast.

DL: I agree with the complicated aspect of dependencies, but with a team
like the one I was working on when we used basecamp, and many teams
I've worked on in the past, as much as you might want to communicate
more, time and other commitments often down let you stay in constant
contact. That's when a tool that tracks them helps by being a central,
authoritative source.

DL: o you can't order or re-order the tasks.

LK: Yes you can...

DL: If you can't track dependencies, then how can you say task a must now
happen before task b?

DL: o tasks are not time related in basecamp

LK: If you associate your todo list with a Milestone they become time related.

DL: Do all the subtasks of a milestone then carry the milestone's date, or
do they get assigned intermediate dates building to the milestone? I'm
not sure I get the use of all tasks carrying the same date as the
milestone, if that's what happens.

DL: o milestones have dates associated with them, but if you move
a milestone (I know, it never happens) you have to manually
update all the other milestones.

LK: This is true... but again, the dependency thing adds so much
complexity that it can take as much time to understand the
consequences of moving one milestone. I think this is really a
preference thing.

DL: Agreed, and likely has a lot to do with collocation or previous work
experience amongst a team. if I've worked with you on 5 projects and
our cubes are next to each other, I can probably predict your steps as
well, if not better than you can. But if this is the first time we've
worked together and we work in different offices across the country from
each other the complexity of dependencies becomes vitally important.

DL: o tasks are not tied to milestones

LK: They can be...

DL:I take that back, but isn't it sort of like tying a blog post to a

DL: o there is no way to understand where you are in a project
(ie, 12 of 50 tasks completed or 24% done)

LK: I guess this is true, but not a really critical number for us so far.
Maybe I would like it if we had it.

DL: It sounds like you have an awesome team there!

DL: o the messaging system is a blog with categories. There is no
RSS so you have to go into basecamp, into the message blog,
guess which category there might be a message for you and
then comment back to you colleague.

LK: If you subscribe to the Project RSS feed you can monitor the messages.
I think maybe they have made some of these changes since you last used
Basecamp? We like it and use it to monitor over 12 projects.

DL: they probably have changed it. The RSS didn't work when I was using
basecamp. you got the title of the message, but had no idea of who it
was written by or to whom it was addressed. You basically had to read
every message. Most of us abandoned it and went to email.

--------- End of Basecamp ----------- (almost got whiplash there!)
DL: * add a cancel button to the add entry section - I had added an
entry to one of my goals, got thinking about a different goal, hit
add an entry thinking I was in the second goal, but I was still in
the first. Escape didn't work so I tried backspacing. it backed
up to a point before I made my first entry on the first goal.

LK:I agree this is needed. You can click the Add Entry button again to
toggle the form, but this isn't obvious.

DL:I would have never guessed that.

DL: * similarly, a "back to goals" button would be helpful when you are
in the detail for one goal. (I know the goals tab at the top of
the page worked, but that wasn't the first place I looked)

LK: I'm not sure if adding another link on the page is the best way to
handle it. We'll have to test that out. I'd rather not put another
link on the page unless it is absolutely necessary.

DL:I'm with you there on the few buttons the better. I figured it out,
but it took a bit of time. Maybe have the goals tab change color or form?

DL:* what does "I'm no longer learning this mean" - I gave up? I
completed it? both? I'd argue against it serving both
purposes. I'd suggest that you have two buttons here -
"completed" and "delete". Clicking complete would leave the
goal on the list but marked complete somehow (a big green check
mark, crossed out, a discrete icon saying "completed" or
"accomplished" with any of these, you could include the completion
date). Leaving completed goals on my goal list is a positive
motivator for me and those who may have helped me in the
process. The delete button would be for goals that for one
reason or another are being abandoned - bad idea, time has made
the goal obsolete, project or I have been reassigned, etc. There
is no reason for the goal to hang on my list like an albatross.

LK:For right now it means, take this off my list. We have plans to add
"status" to your goals. We are thinking "Completed" and "I give up".
The completed goals would become visible on the right side of the page.
cool on the completed.

DL: I'd argue against the "I give up" because there
are other reasons someone might take a goal of their list then giving
up. For instance, what if I decided that my goal of getting to 200
posts on my blog just didn't fit because it's really not a learning
goal? I probably would still have the goal in my personal list of
goals, but not the subset of learning goals. In that case, I'd just
want to discretely remove it rather than admitting failure.

DL:* I like that you have comments on the entries, and not the goals.
this is where people can really help each other - at the task level.

LK:Thanks. I noticed that sometimes that's not obvious, but I like it as

DL: * why call them entries and not tasks?

LK:We call them Entries because they are for comment and collaboration.
I think of tasks as a list of thinks to do to complete the goal. That
wasn't our intention.

DL:I guess I'm too schooled in the process of breaking down goals into
tasks that I just went there. So you see them more as a group of ideas
regarding the goal to then get feedback on? interesting.

DL:* why do you insert the "and" in the tag list before the last tag?
(I know, good grammar. but nobody has worried about good grammar
on the web so far!)

LK: Very funny. We did it to try and make the site a little more
humanistic. I think that this helps people be more social on the web?
but it goes against the very dominant paradigm of tagging that
de.lic.ious an the others have created for better or worse.

DL:* I assumed that because you add commas between tags, that commas
were necessary when adding multiple tags. so the second time I
was entering tags I entered
# work, money, jobs and my tag list now reads
work,, money,, and jobs

LK: Actually, I'll have to check with my team on this one. We discussed
comma delineated versus spaces. I can't remember where we landed...
I'll let you know.

DL: * why do I have to enter my de.lic.ious user name and password for
every goal?

LK:You don't have to. Once we have it we should probably remove the
option. Thanks.

DL: * when I go to my goals list, there is a link that says I have "2
notifications" I'm not sure what a notification is, and when i
click on the link it doesn't go anywhere. Don't tell me I have 2
whatevers, if i can't go look at them!

LK:This is a non-functioning component of our site that we didn't get
removed before we launched. There will be an internal notification
system for learners that allows for collaboration without email. I
know... shouldn't be there. It will get fixed soon.

DL:lol...I warned ya, straight up and honest.

DL: * it's not clear that company groups are going to be private or
public or if that's a choice the owner will make. you just need
to state what it's going to be.

LK: That's because this is still an internal discussion. We are
considering both. I am leaning toward allowing the owner to make that
choice, but we are also considering having private groups be a premium
service? It will be January before we get to implement the
functionality, so we are looking for input. Would you pay for a
private group on LearningFlow?

DL: Well, today? No. Hypothetically in the future, possibly. A lot of
that decision will be determined by whether or not you have any
competition and what they do. The success or failure of other web
based applications in penetrating the enterprise market will also be a
bellwether for you. There are some indicators that "free" may be a bad
thing to corporate IT groups and a nominal fee legitimizes an application.

You'll also likely be asked to sell an Intranet hosted version. Which
of course can carry a nice price tag, but will raise versioning issues
due to both access and customization. It's not a bad idea to think
about this issue early and often.

DL: * I notice that the one resource I added to one of my goals is now
at the top of the recent resources list. I didn't know it was
going into a big public bucket. You should warn folks of this
fact and or give them the chance to make it private. De.lic.ious
finally learned that they needed to offer a private setting.

LK: Good point. We have the private setting, but a warning would probably
help a lot. We have had others think the same thing.

DL: I didn't see the private setting or do you mean it's in the program, but
not in the interface?

DL: * I also noticed that my goals were not added to the recent goals.
Seems odd.

LK: The idea was that you are only seeing others, you know what your goals
are, but I'm thinking that we might change that so that users can get
that feedback.

DL: Yeah, it just feels weird. Plus, we all like to see our names (or our
goals) at the top of the list. Blogger has had to deal with this issue
constantly it seems when it comes to there "recently updated" list of
blogs. From what gather from their various posts and messages about
it, people will update their blogs and then go out to the entry page to
see if they can see it scroll through the list. People are the silliest
creatures on Earth at times!

DL: * How can I view all the resources or all the goals on the site?
We are planning to implement a page that allows a high level view of
Goals and Tags.

LK:Currently, you have to click the "View the Existing
Goals" link just above the Add Goal form.

DL:Ah, I missed that link. I like the high level view page concept.
43Things/People/Places does this and I've found it a great way to get
the juices flowing about my things/people/places. There's nothing wrong
with "borrowing" and existing goal either.

DL: * what about tag clouds?

LK: Coming soon... as we like to say.

DL:I figured.

DL: Well, I hope this is all helpful.

LK: Tremendously!

DL: I really think you have the start of
something very good here.

LK: Thank you!

DL: I'll be a regular visitor and
user. Awesome. If you need anyone to help with user testing along the way, I'd be happy to
help out in that arena as well. Oh, one last thing. this is Web 2.0,
attach "beta" to your name. You have lots of work to do and people
don't mind ongoing betas when they know it's going on.

LK: It's a
perpetual Beta, I'm not sure about this.

DL: Actually I like flickr's
approach the best. Aren't they in Gamma now? LOL.

Best of Luck,
Dave Lee

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