Launching a Web App with Teamwork Project and Desk

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m crazy about well-written software and, in particular, software that helps me work smarter, not harder. And when it comes to project management software, it’s the suite of products from Teamwork.com that I turn to all day long.

Teamwork Projects

teamwork project logo

Teamwork Projects is what I’ve been using for years, from the moment I outgrew Basecamp. I use Teamwork Projects with dozens of clients across the globe to get my teams communicating and delivering. Its strength is its simplicity and power. I assign and track tasks, keep a sharp eye on deliverables, and stay on top of every step in the process of pushing out product.

Teamwork Desk

teamwork desk logo

Fairly new to the suite is Teamwork Desk, a ticket system. Though not wholly unlike other ticket systems I’ve worked with, what sets it far above the competition is its tight integration with the Task system implemented in Teamwork Projects. This serves two purposes:

  1. It creates a closed loop of information from the client to the developers, and back again. All the while, Teamwork Desk uses its unique privacy settings, so conversations that happen with the client are sheltered from the developers. Meanwhile, developers or in my case, video editors, can have conversations with each other or others on the development team, without involving the client.
  2. It’s all managed by the Project Manager, who keeps clients constantly engaged with a real-time ticket thread system, allowing the production team to remain focused on the jobs at-hand.

BlushDrop: DIY Wedding Videos

So, when it came for me to launch my own startup web app, I decided to be my own best client and try to use the Teamwork.com suite in an unusual way: by providing real customers not involved with tech with an interface to communicate with remotely located video editors through a moderated system.

I’ve owned a wedding videography company for many years. I hire several shooters and editors to create some of the best wedding films in the business. But there’s been a problem that’s become an epidemic of late, there are dozens of people shooting video with smartphones and tablets, and though the quality will be excellent based on what I’ve seen from the latest iPhones and Galaxy’s, there has been no way to capture this footage.

Until now! We spent a summer building our first web app, BlushDrop. Using a private anonymous file transfer gateway, we’re able to provide wedding couples and their families and friends one unique URL. They can upload as much video footage as they want. If there’s fewer than 10 minutes of video, they don’t pay any more than their base account. If they’re over their allotted time, they just pay a few dollars per minute. Once they’re happy with the raw video, they use a system to alert us that the videos are ready to be edited.

We needed a system to track all of this video arriving from a huge number of sources and be able to assign projects to editors while not losing track of who said what and what was assigned to whom. It was imperative to create the impression that the customer was dealing with just one point of contact. They don’t need to think about how we’re processing multiple BlushDrops at various stages of completion at the same time.

Using Teamwork Desk features such as Triggers and automated replies, we streamline customer support and appear far more professional and organized than we would if we were just using web-based contact forms, Excel, and Gmail. In fact, I don’t know how we would have done this any other way.

Teamwork.com Workflow

 

When a customer creates an order and processes their payment, an email is sent to our orders@ email. Using the related Help Doc provided by Teamwork.com, we set up email forwarding from that address straight to our Teamwork Desk Inbox. Managing orders just became the easiest part of our jobs.

We created a Trigger in Teamwork Desk to send an email to the assigned agent responsible for triaging the tickets. It is that agent’s responsibility to make sure the names and emails are correct, initiate the BlushDrop account, and initialize the conversation thread in Teamwork Desk. We then send off a few canned yet personalized responses. The responses basically take the customer through the process of accepting our terms of service, while also providing them with their custom BlushDrop link.

What’s amazing is that all of this conversation happens through the Teamwork Desk interface. Using this streamlined interface, we’re able to contain any special requests or deal with any questions the client may have. No emails get lost. Ever. Everything is in one place and accessible by the agents and support team.

Engaging the Editors (pardon the pun)

This is especially important when a couple decides they’ve done enough pre-editing and want BlushDrop to finish the job. When we get the go ahead through Teamwork Desk, the supervisor creates a Task from within Teamwork Desk which feeds into Teamwork Projects. The job is assigned to an editor, and any relevant notes from the conversation thread are copied into the Task as a comment within Teamwork Projects. By enabling “email notification”, the editor now knows everything they need to cut the wedding montage. The music, any comments, and all of the video are either in Desk or linked from Desk, while the Task is a super-condensed, need-to-know document designed for speed.

The editors are all working remotely, so it’s important to have one central place to discuss one video – and Teamwork Projects provides that focused, sheltered conversation thread, even if the system may be processing hundreds of BlushDrops at the same time.

Knowledgebase

An incredible bonus with Teamwork Desk is the ability to log, track, and record frequently asked questions. Teamwork Desk provides a Help Docs Knowledge Base that seamlessly integrates into the BlushDrop website. We can add a logo, a link back to the main site, topics arranged in whatever order you like, and finally the ability to submit a unique customer request. The best part of the question submission process? It becomes a new Ticket in Desk, ready to be assigned to a subject matter expert, answered, and maybe immortalized on the FAQ page itself.

Finishing the Job

When the video is complete, the editor leaves a comment for his or her supervisor, who sends along a watermarked video to the client via the Teamwork Desk interface. Using simple @ notifications, I’m looped in on each and every video without having to deal with email or attachments, or knowing which editor did which video. This is very nice to have this luxury of knowing which of my video editors is associated with an edit. By the way, this is exactly the method of Quality Assurance (QA) I use as Project Manager for my software development teams.

If the client has any feedback, they reply via Teamwork Desk as a regular reply to the email they received. No login or passwords required. As the owner, I can see everything going on. Everyone on the team is on the same page or is on a need-to-know basis with regards to not worrying about what the other editors are working on.

Once the video is approved, the editor is alerted to this via Teamwork Projects, the Task is marked as complete, which is reflected in real time in Teamwork Desk. The client is delivered their edited video via Desk, and the thread is marked as “closed”. The client receives notification of the project’s status.

Using automation, it’s possible to handle hundreds of new job request via Teamwork Desk and Teamwork Projects every day, and know with 100% confidence which editor has been assigned to which client, and that editors and customers are communicating so everything is in sync.

This is no short order for a cloud-based video editing solution like BlushDrop, and Teamwork Project and Teamwork Desk are perfect for keeping everything moving forward and delivering quality and delight for customers worldwide.

 

 

Knowing that we’ve made people’s lives better by capturing and polishing everyone’s wedding smartphone videos into a genuine keepsake, makes it all worthwhile.

Shannon Larratt 1973-2013

“As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.”

Toronto based artist and activist Shannon Larratt passed away last month. The word of his death was quickly passed on among the BME (Body Manipulation Ezine) community, a culture I don’t participate in but I respect for a number of reasons.

You can read his touching End Of Life document here.

On the topic of body manipulation, perhaps Shannon said it best.

“The fundamental question in becoming publicly modified is a question of finding a balance between how free you want to be and how hard you want to work. The more free you are, the more responsibility you have to take for yourself. The more you blend back into the crowd, the less freedom you have, but the ‘easier’ your life gets. But is it really your life if you’re not controlling it?”

You can read more about the community with a Google search for Shannon Larratt and BME. Warning: often NSFW with images I find disturbing.

So why the tribute?

monstersquirrel
Monster Squirrel. 24×36 Acrylic on canvas. April 2006.

Shannon was also a father, programmer, artist and entrepreneur.

And he was good at all of it, so I admire him.

As the founding publisher of BME he created a community of acceptance and hygenic practices and built his ezine to create a safe haven for people interested in extreme body piercing and tatoos and other manipulation. Many online tributes have recently come in with the headline, “Shannon saved my life”. With memories of my awkward teen years still in my mind as a father of teenagers myself, I know how important it can be to have a mentor who understands what it’s like to be different. Shannon was that voice of reason for people who were conflicted about their bodies. The comments on his blog, tumblr and BME speak for themselves.

Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.
Copyright 2009 Shannon Larratt.

I came across the programming of Shannon the same time I was on sabbatical to re-learn programming myself, and in particular JavaScript. A consummate professional blogger, he was kind enough to tag the programming ‘tests’ separate from his BME logs. He was very careful to use open source HTML and JavaScript (as opposed to Flash) and pushed the limits of what a modern browser could effectively render. These days with Chrome and mobile apps, it’s common to see a web browser render text and images dynamically responsively, but he was doing it many years ago. And with considerable artistic panache. His Space Invaders / Missile Command Chrome Experiment game ‘Apophis 2009’ needs to be played to be believed (desktop only). And true to the spirit of mentorship and sharing, he posted the source code for everyone like myself to parse and learn from. I had no idea JavaScript was capable of doing this kind of animation!

uilen
Uilenspiegel. Acrylic on wood. 12 x 16 October 2008

His playfulness was infectious. For example, check out the header on his blog, “The best thing about censorship is … “. Once you figure out the solution, you’ll smile with the little Easter egg you’ve uncovered.

But above all for me was his bold use of colour and line and shape as evidenced in his paintings, some of which he shared credit with his young daughter. I’m still amazed at how inclusive he was with her, and how much he loved her. In fact in his blog he credits ‘Nefarious’ for keeping him alive as long as he was.

As his eyesight and ability to read diminished, he turned to jewelry as his creative outlet, and opened an etsy store. Also, he finished a large book on body manipulation that he and his fiance hand-bound in their studio in Toronto. I can’t find the exact quote, but he said in the preface to his book, “you’re holding art that was actually made by hand by the artist”. I love hand-made.

We had a few exchange via email around the Chrome Experiment time, but I never met Shannon and doubt I ever would have. For me, he was one of those personalities that are larger than life that sometimes are best left online. I definitely didn’t agree with his opinions all of the time. I found his recent appearance challenging and not at all pleasant. His exercise in tattooing his actual eyeball is as cringe-worthy as it sounds. But it’s not for me to judge. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize the work Shannon did.

A quote from his EOL message that spoke to me as a father, husband, son, brother, volunteer, world traveler, business owner, mentor and friend:

…seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013
Flying Spaghetti Monster, February 2013

May he rest in peace.