March 17, 2009

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Five favorite Firefox add-ons for virtual assistants

I like helping people become more productive, particularly if that means they’ll get my work done faster or more effectively. ;) With that in mind, here’s a set of five awesome Firefox add-ons to help virtual assistants and other people who do lots of Web research for other people:

  • Google Search Keys – open Google search results with numbered keys (1 for the first result, etc). Saves you from having to move the mouse to it.
  • CoLT – copy link text and location as an HTML link, plain text, BB Code, FuseTalk, or Wikipedia markup. Great for when you need to report your results.
  • All-in-one Sidebar – open webpages or search results in the sidebar so that you can refer to them easily.
  • Scribefire – use this not only to create blog posts and manage blogs, but also to take your notes. You can paste the content into e-mail afterwards.
  • Ubiquity – check out the video for some amazing stuff. Requires a bit of geeky setting up, but I think it’s definitely worth it.

This assumes that you already have all the usual good stuff, like Greasemonkey. And if you don’t have Greasemonkey yet, you should get it, and then you should check out for lots of useful time-saving scripts.

What are your favorite tools?

Monthly review: February 2009

The key thing I learned in February 2009 is that delegation is something I can learn and something I can benefit from. I hired a number of virtual assistants through oDesk, including a couple of computer teachers and an assistant who’s my age. In the process of delegating tasks, I learned more about the processes I use and how to make them better. I look forward to continuing to explore this.

Related posts:

I also spent some time thinking about presentations. I gave a lecture on Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management at the Schulich School of Business:

and I spent some time thinking about the use of a backchannel, what could help me become a better presenter, and how to get better at meetings.

I learned a little bit about events, too: Lessons from LifeCamp and plans for the next one. I also volunteered to help organize DrupalCampToronto.

At work, I developed custom code for the Drupal-based Transition2 system, improving its content management and community features.

In March, I plan to:

  • Sort out my paperwork
  • Finish this phase of Transition2
  • Further integrate virtual assistance into my processes

Weekly review: Week ending March 15, 2009

From last week:

  • Finish phase of Transition2 project. Now doing testing and documentation.
  • Prepare and deliver career talk on “Making a Name for Yourself”. Talked to approximately 30 people.
  • Print out all the paperwork I need. Sigh, paperwork…


  • Experimented with TimeSvr
  • Talked to my mom
  • Ran into usability problems with Tungle, switching back to Timebridge
  • Nursed a cold
  • Picked up a scanner/printer that works with Linux

This week:

  • Set up Dragon NaturallySpeaking on our desktop
  • Fix defects detected during Transition2 testing
  • Update all the user documentation for Transition2
  • Saturday: Deliver short talk to Drupal Peru on Totally Rocking Your Development Environment
  • Chat with Jeff Widman regarding outsourcing
  • Explore Batchbook for contact management
  • Look for a web-based GTD-compatible task management system that integrates well with e-mail; RTM? Batchbook?

Still looking for an awesome calendar management system

One of the things I do very badly is manage appointments. I can manage tasks.  I can manage time. But every so often, I write down the wrong times for a meeting, get frustrated by scheduling, or double-book myself. This is all the more embarrassing because people are involved. This should be something I can fix.

That’s why I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to manage my calendar and how to do it better. Web-based systems like Tungle, TimeBridge, and AgreeADate make it easy to find available times for meetings, although I still haven’t found the perfect tool.

  • I love AgreeADate‘s interface for handling appointments with multiple attendees and multiple timeslots, but it lacks integration with my Google calendar, and it cannot detect conflicts.
  • I love TimeBridge‘s integration with my calendar and tracking of tentative slots, but it displays too many pop-ups and pushes the social networking feature too strongly.
  • I love Tungle‘s interface for selecting slots and its integration with my Google contacts, but there’s no way to add slots to a meeting after an attendee says that none of the slots are convenient.

Every service is just a little bit off. My ideal calendar management system would make it easy for me to propose meeting times, and reschedule them to a something else comes up. I’d also love to be able to give people a link to my schedule, so that they can sign themselves up. Maybe someday. I can outsource the fiddly things to a virtual assistant, but it makes sense that this stuff should be mostly automated. For the peace of mind of knowing my calendar’s correct, I’d pay maybe $5-10 a month…

UPDATE: TimeBridge handles most of my cases, so I guess I’ll go with that.