Twitter is a mine of information and data. It is sometimes difficult to keep up-to-date with the constant stream of blog posts, articles, videos and images posted by people I follow (my Twitter “favourites” list is growing all the time as I tag tweets for viewing at a later date!). Every now and then though, I will see a piece of information that I will read, save and try to apply in my work at DMU Library. This tends to centre on viewing a new online service or tool for the first time, or some kind of emerging technology related to the higher education sector I work within.

I gave a talk just over a year ago at a DMU Library Mashup session about using the online service Wallwisher as a potentially effective way to capture user feedback or comments. Wallwisher has subsequently been used by other DMU Library staff/groups to obtain views after library traning sessions and events. I used Wallwisher myself to gather attendee and exhibitor comments after organising the 2011 eResources Roadshow. This is an exercise that is planned to run again for this year’s show in November 2012.

Last week I saw a tweet promoting the use of an interesting online tool called Workflowy. Workflow’s slogan on its homepage is “Organize Your Brain” (it is a US site, hence the spelling variation!). The service is an online organisational tool, allowing users to manage information by building online lists or notes. These could be project outlines, a brainstorm of ideas or a simple shopping list. As I have been undertaking some project management work recently, I decided to take a closer look myself. So one day last week, I set up my own Workflowy account and began to play…

I decided to use the eResources Roadshow working group planning as a starting point on Workflowy. The site was meant to be fairly intuitive and simple to use (you are presented with a blank screen to build whatever content you wish to complete), but I decided to first look at the “How To” videos available on the site. The tutorials provide you with an overview of Workflowy and the individual components available within the online service (e.g. import and export features).

I then began building my first Workflowy “list”. The tool allows you to create headings and sub-headings, depending on the size of your workflow and how you wish to construct the content. Under the main title of the 2012 roadshow, I created four sub-headings which were discussed by the roadshow working group in its first meeting – location, theme/exhibitors, promtion/publicity and feedback. For each of these sub-headings I then added individual action points.

I think the great thing about Workflowy is that you can add name tags and filters to whatever lists you create. For example, if you assign a task to a person in a project working group, Workflowy allows you to add a name tag (using the @ followed by the person’s name, @mitchell for instance) to the individual workflow. You may also want to add a time element for tasks that may need, for example, processing urgently. For this time component to operate on Workflowy, you need to use the # with the timeframe description you want to add – #urgent, #soon, or #later. Simpler the better it seems! Once you have added this information to a larger number of individual workflows, Workflowy allows you to filter the data within your managed lists. So, if you want to just view the tasks set aside only for @mitchell, clicking on this name tag filters those parts of the list attached with an @mitchell tag, highlighting snapshots of the workflows you have assigned for that named person. This process works in the same manner for the timeframe element too – clicking on #soon tags will filter only those lists with the #soon identifier attached.

At the moment, my experience with Workflowy is at an early stage. In fact I have only had time to create one list for the eResources Roadshow. I definitely think there is value in using this online tool though, even if it’s only for brainstorming library work I am involved in. I can also see myself using this to improve organisation in my personal life. The site is simple, easy to grasp, and has a range of ‘groovy’ little tricks (like the name tags and time filters) which adds value to creating the lists, enhancing the exercise above the traditional “pen and paper” method!

Workflowy is recommended. I gave a brief demo of it during the latest DMU Library Mashup session which took place on Mon 13th Aug 2012, and it will be interesting to see if other colleagues create an account and test it for themselves.

You can keep up-to-date with Workflowy via the Workflowy Blog.

Please do let me know what you think :)

About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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