4 tips on managing remotely from the founder of Treehouse

Apparently, ProofHQ isn’t the only successful British startup with a remote team across the pond. Ryan Carson, the founder of Treehouse, recently took to his blog to explain how he manages his widely dispersed team of 40 from his home in the UK.

Tales from the Trenches: GitHub

Why make a team distributed? For some companies it’s about hiring the best talent, while other founders look at it as a lifestyle decision, but at GitHub, letting the team work from anywhere and at any time is all about producing excellent products.

Holla, An Open-source Group Chat App

Holla is a simple group chat application. Developer Alex MacCraw describes it as an open-source version of Campfire. Holla doesn’t have all of the advanced features that Campfire has, but it does support file sharing, it’s free and runs on your own server.

3 Clever Little Mac Apps for Web Workers

Sometimes doing things via web apps is great. Everything is in one place: your browser. Even so, sometimes having everything in one place isn’t ideal. A browser crash could kill all of your work, not just one component, and it can be harder to keep your focus appropriately segmented if your tools are all mashed together. Here are a few great Mac (s aapl) applications that give you access to your web apps, but do so in nice, native software packages.

Picture 5Propane

It’s a fine way to power a BBQ, but it’s also more than that. Propane is a new piece of beta software that does what I previously did using a Fluid browser instance. Specifically, it runs Campfire-based chatrooms, which are a popular tool for people who need to collaborate in real-time with a distributed team. I use Campfire rooms to coordinate with other writers at various blog sites where time and scheduling is a primary concern, but that’s just one possible use.

Like with a Fluid instance, Propane provides Campfire with the bare minimum of browser chrome, so that it does in fact look like a native OS X app. It also provides some nice bells and whistles that allow you to customize the how and why of notification sounds and messages, including Growl notifications. There’s also great tools for better file sharing, including automatic source detection when you drag content (text and images) from a Safari window into your active chatroom in Propane.

Picture 1Mailplane

I’m not actively trying to rhyme these app names, it’s just working out that way. Gmail (s goog) is great, and Mail.app is nice enough, but I’d rather not use the two together if possible. I love Gmail’s web interface, but I’m not crazy about trying to manage my email activities in a browser window. Maybe that makes me old school, but I grew up on Outlook (s msft), and old habits die hard.

Mailplane delivers all the Gmail interface goodness with a nice, native app wrapper. Basically it, like Propane, is just a browser instance with some additional features specific to the web app in question that makes it easier to use. It’s those features that make the app worthwhile, though. Mailplane takes advantage of Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts to allow you to view and create new messages, reply, attach media, and more using convenient buttons located along the top of the app window. It also badges the app icon in your dock with the number of unread emails, and can notify you of new mail using sound and Growl.

Those with Google Apps and multiple accounts are also in luck, because it supports easy account switching and storage. There’s also an option to display an icon in the menu bar, including new mail count. You can try it out for free for a month, but it is a paid program, and will set you back $24.95 if you do decide to purchase.

Picture 7Gdocsuploader

This is less an app and more of a handy little applet, but the single, focused service it provides is incredibly useful: a simple drag-and-drop interface for uploading documents to Google Docs. It may not seem like much, but it saves a lot of steps vs. the traditional method, which can quickly add up if you do most of your document editing in Google Docs, like I do.

All you have to do to use it is keep the app icon in your dock, and then drag any document onto the icon to upload it. It’ll prompt you once for your Google name and password, and afterward it’ll just work. If you prefer, opening the app will automatically take you to a file browser for selecting a file to upload manually.

None of the above apps does anything that you can’t do using the web, but they do offer time-saving and usability enhancements that you won’t necessarily get using only the corresponding app for each in a normal browser window. Just because web apps are often convenient and user-friendly doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be more so with a more solid connection to your desktop.

Have any tips on how to make web apps more native? Share them in the comments.

4 Hints for Managing Online Conversation

As a web worker, I find myself involved in a lot of online conversations – I mean, a lot. As I write this, for example, I have four instant messenger windows open to people on various services, I’m hanging out in 3 Campfire rooms and 3 IRC rooms, and have several private IRC conversations going on as well. Sometimes Skype chats come into the picture for me as well. Fortunately, such conversation tends to be asynchronous, and can be fit in between other things – but managing it all is still a challenge. Here are 4 tips that have helped me keep the situation from getting out of control:
1. Get a Unified Client. Assuming that you have contacts spread across multiple services (as most of us do), the first thing to do is to get a unified client to cut down on the number of applications that you have to run at one time. This also gets rid of time spent flipping through interfaces, trying to remember whether Jane was on MSN or GTalk. I’m using Adium (OS X only) at the moment; in the past, I’ve had success with Trillian or Miranda on Windows as well. These solutions aren’t ideal – I’d love to find something that aggregates all the chats I’m in – but they help.
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YouTube Admits to Autoplay Count Problem

Just a quick check in to let everyone know that we’re still trying to find out what’s up with YouTube apparently still not counting views of videos that are set up to autoplay on other web pages. This is a phenomenon we happened upon after top users complained their view counts had dropped drastically despite new videos being distributed widely around the web.

So far YouTube has let us know it’s looking into the missing view issue, but it hasn’t confirmed or denied any aspect of it. However, in a post in a YouTube forum this week, a YouTube employee named Jeff Fisher both acknowledged the issue and called it “a problem.” “We are looking into it,” he wrote.

That wording would seem to imply that YouTube did not knowingly crack down on autoplay abusers like Avril Lavigne fans, who had set up a page that autoplayed and auto-refreshed her Girlfriend video in an attempt to make it the most popular YouTube video of all time (it remains in second, but not by much, to Evolution of Dance, with both videos accelerating to 92 million-some total views as competition has intensified over the last month).

(Some background on “autoplay”: While YouTube videos automatically start playing on its own pages, when they are embedded on other web pages they are set by default to wait for a user to click the play button. However, it’s possible to tweak the embed code so a video plays automatically each time someone visits a page. People do this in order to make it easier for visitors to watch videos and/or to increase their play counts.)

VoIP: is Windows Mobile second fiddle to Symbian?

FringAfter reading this post by Matt Miller, I’m starting to think maybe so! Since I’ve used Pocket PC / Windows Mobile devices almost exclusively for seven years, I realize my perceptions might be jaded. It’s all too easy to get your perspective locked into a hardware or software platform, which is why I recently ordered my Mac Book Pro. Now Matt has me seriously thinking of borrowing a Series 60 device just to broaden my horizons!

From a VoIP standpoint, I’ve used Skype on Windows Mobile every now and then. There aren’t too many other options for me. Matt, however, has a bunch of choices on his Series 60 devices: Fring, Gizmo Project and TruPhone. Each has its own pros and cons; after reading up on Matt’s experiences, TruPhone looks appealing due to its feature set and recent support addition for Google Talk.

Matt says "While web surfing via WiFi on a mobile phone is enjoyable because it is faster than the EDGE speeds I get with my carrier, the "killer" application for WiFi on a mobile phone is VoIP". Some of you might say, "why is VoIP a killer feature on a phone when you can just make phone calls" but I see Matt’s point if you travel a bunch and want to keep that cellular bill down. Is anyone using mobile VoIP software on a regular basis? What are you using and how is the experience for you?

Update: on a related note, GigaOm reports that Gizmo Project just added voice support for Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Jabber and Google Talk! VoiP + IM = productivity!