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Review: Etelos Projects Offers Good Ideas, Poor Execution

Review: Etelos Projects Offers Good Ideas, Poor Execution
Etelos Projects Main Screen

    Etelos Projects for Google Apps is a new online project management application that is distinguished from other project managers like Basecamp by its integration with Google Apps. Etelos uses the Google Calendar for scheduling, Google Spreadsheet for task management, and a set of iGoogle homepage widgets to add to and review your projects. It also offers limited upload space for files related to the project. The service is free for users managing a single project, with 10 MB of file storage; for more, you have to upgrade to paid accounts at rates roughly equivalent to other online project managers.

    I have been in the market for an online project manager I could integrate that would allow me to access and work on Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and Etelos’ integration with Google Apps (the all-in-one package that integrates with your domain) seemed promising. Unfortunately, Etelos Projects does not live up to my expectations, offering an overall poor user experience that seems less like growing pains and more like the result of a wrong-headed approach to the problems project management systems are meant to solve.

    Setting Up Your Account

    Signing up for Etelos Projects is a little burdensome and somewhat non-intuitive. As far as I can tell, the only place you can sign up from is the “features” page, by clicking on the “Free Trial” button at the bottom. That gets you a standard account setup page, after which you are sent a confirmation email with your username and password, and a link to login. You need to use that link, since a cursory look at the website revealed no clear place to log in to your account.

    The link in your email, however, does not lead to a login page either; instead, you are taken to shopping cart populated by your free account. Clicking “checkout” takes you to another license agreement (you are asked to accept the terms of service when you sign up, too), which after accepting takes you to a new page saying your instance of the software is being installed and to check your email for another login link, username, and password.

    Neither the link, username, more password are memorable, but bear with them; once you use the crazy login, you are given a chance to change both username and password to whatever suits your fancy. You are asked to “update your profile”, mostly with information you’ve already entered when signing up, and then offered the choice to finish or to add more users. Once you finish, you are taken to your Projects homepage, which looks very Google Apps-y, which is promising — if you use Google Apps, you should have no difficulty navigating between the main sections of the site. The URL is crazy, though, so you’ll probably want to click the link at the bottom to add widgets to your iGoogle homepage if you want to find your projects again. There are three separate widgets, one for tasks, one for projects, and one for time logs; I went ahead and installed all three (which is a simple matter of clicking a link and confirming the add on iGoogle).

    Using Etelos Projects

    Etelos Projects Project Screen

      Now click “Start a new project.” Because Etelos is apparently taking cues from Windows 95, it will pop up a confirmation, asking if you really want to start a new project. Click “yes.” The new project screen asks you for some details about the project – name, status, notes, due dates, and who you want to share or collaborate with. Etelos Projects offers three user roles — the project owner, who can do anything with the project, collaborators, who can make modifications to files, and sharers, who can view the project only. I am working on an article titled “Sexuality, Gender, and Taboo” for a book being published next year, so I thought I would use that as a test case to try the system out. I entered my title and added a due date, which apparently has to be done using the drop-down calendar, as typed-in slashes are immediately deleted.

      Etelos Projects Tasks Screen

        Clicking “Quick Add” above the project title allows you to add tasks one after the other. You enter a title for the task, a description, an estimated time, and a due date if relevant. After each task is entered in this mode, a “Create Another Task” button comes up that you have to click to add another task; unfortunately, your tasks do not appear on the page to review what you’ve entered so far or to check for errors. Clicking “tasks” takes you to the task page, where your tasks appear in reverse from the order you entered the (blog-style, with most recent additions at the top). Next to each task is an icon for editing the task, and another to log the time you spend working on it.

        Editing a task opens a new page, where you can update the status, add notes, share the task with collaborators or sharers, change the priority, and mark it as “business”, “development”, or “personal”. You have to manually save your tasks using the “save” link at the top right. Doing so refreshes the page but does not close the task.

        The timeline feature creates a pretty nice Gantt chart of your project. However, it moves completed tasks into a new chart at the bottom, based on how much time you logged using the time log function. You can also get a list of any emails you’ve sent to sharers or collaborators. There is an export function, but you have to enter your Google Apps information under “settings” first. Once set up, you get a decent enough spreadsheet of your tasks, timeline, etc. As I mentioned, you can attach files to your projects, but can only upload them and not import them from Google Apps.

        Conclusion

        I was excited about the prospect of integrating a project manager with Google Apps (which I’ve never been able to get to integrate into my domain, but whatever) so I could access, modify, and review files from within the project management framework. Alas, Etelos Projects did not, to this untrained eye, live up to the excitement. The Google integration amounts to exporting project details only — as opposed to offering a workspace where Google Apps can be used to work on your project. The iGoogle widgets offer access to your project data without logging in, which is good since I’m still not sure what URL to enter to access my projects, but they are easily the slowest widgets on my iGoogle page (and I have a lot of widgets). Where Basecamp and other project managers use AJAX to make things like adding tasks easy and attractive, Etelos adds far too many steps to each action and wraps it all in an ugly and non-intuitive interface. I would like to say the difficult sign-up was worth it, but it’s not; it is completely in keeping with the overall aesthetic and usability philosophy of the web app as a whole. The time tracking seems to work well, and I appreciate the sharing aspects (though not having anyone to share with, didn’t test them out much), but overall there’s nothing here worth recommending. If Etelos wraps the whole service in a new, simplified interface, it might rate consideration; until then, stick with Basecamp or join me as I keep waiting.

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        Last Updated on November 5, 2019

        How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

        How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

        Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

        “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

        But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

        Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

        1. Always Have a Book

        It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

        Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

        2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

        We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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        Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

        3. Get More Intellectual Friends

        Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

        Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

        4. Guided Thinking

        Albert Einstein once said,

        “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

        Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

        5. Put it Into Practice

        Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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        If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

        In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

        6. Teach Others

        You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

        Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

        7. Clean Your Input

        Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

        I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

        Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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        8. Learn in Groups

        Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

        Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

        9. Unlearn Assumptions

        You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

        Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

        Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

        10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

        Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

        Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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        11. Start a Project

        Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

        If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

        12. Follow Your Intuition

        Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

        Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

        13. The Morning Fifteen

        Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

        If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

        14. Reap the Rewards

        Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

        15. Make Learning a Priority

        Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

        More About Continuous Learning

        Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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