Qortex Blog

News, insights, opinion and fun from the Qortex team.

  • What Open Communication Can Do for You

    Kilian Muster

    Feb. 19, 2015 at 05:21

    Open communication

    Lately we have been posting many links on our twitter feed to articles about open communication. I’d like to summarise some of the main points here.

    Give Away My Secrets?

    Some people think that the knowledge they hoard is what gives them power. True, but does it justify diminishing the knowledge of the team as a whole? Exercising that kind of “power” is detrimental to the entire team.

    Per Aspera Ad Astra*

    By communicating and sharing your work openly with all your peers, you are putting it under much more scrutiny, which can be intimidating initially, but you will find that getting more feedback about your own work will ultimately help to improve its quality. And here’s a sobering discovery you might make: people are not as interested in your every move as you think.

    In an organisation where open communication is pervasive, people who don’t contribute and don’t do their job well will quickly be recognised as such. Scary for underachievers, good for CEOs you might think, but this is not about punishment and shame: learning about your shortcomings is the first step to improving your own work quality and performance.

    What’s more, you can spot idle time more easily and make sure people can work to their full potential (one important reason for people quitting is that they don’t feel challenged or appreciated). Likewise if they are over capacity, you can help to alleviate the workload by involving others.

    *Through hardship to the stars

    Humanity’s Oldest Recipe for Success

    The information that isn’t shared in a team, is essentially being taken away from everyone else. Through sharing everyone benefits from your knowledge. Knowledge sharing is how the human race went from caves to skyscrapers, it’s what made us the dominant species on this planet.

    This means a departure from valuing people by the knowledge they’re hoarding, to valuing them by the knowledge they’re sharing with others (which provides more value to any company or even community). Open communication itself can greatly increase your opportunities to share knowledge, because you can contribute even to topics your co-workers wouldn’t normally consult you on – topics to which you might have valuable input to offer.

    The more you communicate openly the more you will get proper credit and recognition for your work (it also makes it harder for managers to get away with selling subordinates’ ideas as their own). With open communication you finally get a chance to be heard in the company – this will do wonders for your motivation.

    When you know what is going on in the company (beyond the confines of your daily scope of work) you will feel much more part of a greater whole. Being part of the process that forms your company will make you take more ownership of your work – it’ll be “your baby” and not just something you’re asked to do.

    Another way to supercharge open communication is having a flat(ter) hierarchy. Positive group dynamics work better if you are part of a team of equals. Being stuck in a rigid hierarchical bureaucratic structure tends to hinder the free flow of exchange and on-the-fly decision making, which is crucial for agile development. Open communication is a good way to even out the hierarchy and lead to a cooperative more productive working style.

  • Qortex 2 – Our Biggest Upgrade So Far

    Kilian Muster

    Oct. 17, 2014 at 01:48

    Qortex 2 is out now with a slew of improvements to keep it the most efficient way for teams to communicate, manage tasks, and collaborate with external vendors.

    New Look & Feel

    We gave Qortex 2 a fresh, modern look based on Google’s Material Design guidelines. This allowed us to streamline the user interface to make it even more efficient and easier to read.

    new-look-feel

    Qortex new ‘Smart Feed’ combines the notification menu and new relevant content into one unified stream, so you don’t need to look in two locations anymore to get all information.

    Integrate with 300+ Web Apps

    Our new integration with Zapier allows you to automate the interaction between Qortex and over 300 different web apps, easily integrating with tools like Sales Force, Evernote, and Zendesk.

    Qortex Enterprise – The Next Generation

    Qortex Enterprise has been vastly improved and simplified, so you can now easily upgrade Qortex within the corporate network yourself, without help from outside engineers.

    QE screenshot

    Mobile now Full Featured

    Native iOS and Android clients are now full-featured for communication and task management, making your mobile app a 1st class citizen within Qortex.

    mobile-apps

  • Qortex Principles

    Anatole Varin

    Oct. 6, 2014 at 13:40

    These are the very basic principles we have found to help us create better products and which we try to apply to all parts of Qortex:

    Write once, read once, manage nothing, no dead ends, no thresholds

    Write Once

    Data you have entered into the system once should be reusable in any form you wish. It should be easy to turn one type of information into another, without copy & paste or retyping

    Example: Easily convert a chat → entry → wiki → task.

    Read Once

    Don’t show the user things he or she has already seen or read.

    Example: If I have read an entry I don’t want to see the content of that entry again until I personally decide to do so. If I get a new comment to that entry, I should not have to look at the full entry again, all I want to read is the new comment. If I get updates sent as email and read new entries there, I don’t want to have to mark them as read once again later in the browser when I log in to the system.

    Manage Nothing

    Most people don’t want to use a system, but they want to use a system in order to do or achieve something else. People don’t want to spend time managing the system and should usually not need to.

    Example: Start with sensible and well working defaults, make the system smart and forgiving, and in most cases you’ll be able to keep the effort to configuring a system at the minimum possible.

    No Dead Ends

    “Oh, I didn’t think of that” is not a solution. Think of it. Try always to provide for alternatives and “a way out”, so there’s always a next step the user can take to achieve their goal or some alternative that is close enough.

    Example: Think of what happens if the user e.g. wants to chat with someone and finds out he or she is offline. Can you provide them with other means of contacting the person right there right at that point? Don’t only think of your perfect workflow, but what if a cricital part is missing or not in the state it should be.

    No Thresholds

    Reduce thresholds to the minimum and more will be done.

    Yes, before Qortex you could have copied and pasted text out of a chat client and into an email, but because it is cumbersome people won’t bother. Yes, before the multilingual features, one could have opened up Google Translate and got a machine translation, but again due to laziness people rarely trouble themselves.

  • Qortex Redesign: Inspired by Google’s Material Guidelines

    Kilian Muster

    Oct. 15, 2014 at 03:05

    Qortex has been in development for over two years, advancing with new features at a staggering pace.

    With all this added functionality, “cruft” has been accumulating that was tainting the originally clean and functional interface, so we needed to take a good look at what whe had and where we could improve things.

    Press Reset

    Just in time for our redesign, Google happened to release their Materials design guidelines and we really loved what Google did.

    We agreed right away to make this the starting point for our reworked Qortex UI, allowing us to focus on the layout improvements at large without having to worry about font metrics, spacing, padding, etc. – most of which was dealt with in Google’s guidelines (we still made a few adjustments, so Qortex new design is inspired by Google Materials rather than an exact implementation).

    Things we Tried to Solve

    Unified Updates & Notifications

    To get a complete overview of all the things going on in Qortex that are relevant to you, you had to look in two places: the timeline in My Feed and the notifications menu.

    Previously: 2 Places to Keep Track

    two-places

    New: Unified Updates & Notifications

    With the redesign we have unified all of the information into the My Feed timeline.
    If you only want to see updates and messages directly for you, just click on the tab NOTIFICATIONS. Now general updates to groups you are following will be filtered out, leaving only the content directed at you.

    notifications-tab

    My To-Dos Expanded

    Since My To-Dos is the first place to check on the status of things to do, we have extended it so you can display To-Do information about others as well. With a new set of filters on top of the list, you can now e.g. show only To-Dos you have assigned to a specific colleague, or get a list of all To-Dos assigned to you as “pending review”.

    2014-09-18-172751

    Cleaner Layout, More “Air” to Breathe

    Entry content and other elements now span over the full entry width, this allowed us to reduce the number of lines/separators within an entry, and thus a lot of visual “noise” caused by too many “boxes within boxes” is now gone and Qortex makes it even easier to see what’s going on at a glance.

    entry-new


    There’s an incredible number of other improvements in the Qortex UI, too many to name them all here. Let us know what you think!

  • Mapping Your Existing Tools to Qortex

    Kilian Muster

    Jan. 16, 2014 at 09:38

    Qortex works best when you use it to consolidate several or all of your existing communication tools. If your current mix of tools doesn’t work for you, don’t keep adding tools, but rather try to replace them with Qortex.

    With this article we try to give you an idea about how you could replace several of your existing tools with Qortex, and how some of the functions of these tools can be remapped to the functions Qortex has to offer.

    Replacing (Internal) Email

    Let’s face it, email is here to stay, but you can greatly reduce email traffic and improve your communication by using Qortex to replace your internal emails and emails with companies you have frequent exchange with. Let’s first look at replacing email with Qortex for internal purposes:

    • Instead of sending around emails, on Qortex you are posting entries or post comments on existing entries. This way conversations always stay together, nobody is ever forgotten (no missing to add people to your CCs) and nobody will get unneeded mails (users can decide which group to follow and which not).
    • Folders & Rules
      On Qortex topics and projects are organized into groups you can follow with one mouse click to get steady updates on the topic. No need to setup your own rules for sorting, content is neatly organized from the outset.
    • Attachments
      You can attach files to your entries and comments, or even insert images into your text intuitively via drag & drop on Qortex. Attachments are only downloaded if you decide to do so, and you can preview most of them before getting the whole file. To add a YouTube or Vimeo video (with player) to your entry, just paste the URL of the video into your text, Qortex will figure out the rest.
    • Flags
      On Qortex you can use the watchlist to simulate marking emails as flagged. To put an entry into your watchlist, simply click on the star icon in the right sidebar. Another goodie: Qortex will remind you of items that are in your watchlist, so you don’t forget to get back to them.
    • Message Priority
      In some mail clients you can set a message priority. This is not really a standardized feature for email, so not all mail clients can even necessarily display this, but if you need the undivided attention of your recipient, in Qortex you can do so by alerting him or her, requesting an acknowledgement or even setting up a To-Do for that person.
    • Private Mails
      Sometimes you want to send a message to someone that nobody else is supposed to read. For one-off communications like this you can use the built-in chat feature of Qortex, which also works when the other user is not online. You can chat via the browser or your own chat client. 1-on-1 chats are always private per default.
      If you need to communicate with a certain group of people privately on a regular basis you can simply create a private group, which is only visible to people you add to that group.

    Replacing (External) Email

    For any kind of first contact situation you will probably have to default back to email, but for clients and vendors you are working with frequently, you can set up Qortex shared groups with them.

    A Qortex account for shared groups is completely free, as long as it is only used to join other shared groups. For these Shared Group Accounts there is also no limit on number of users, files or disk space used. You can use shared groups for things such as:

    • Frequent collaboration/communication with a client/vendor on a larger or ongoing project
    • Project management for the above
    • Support requests from clients
    • Frequent and secure file sharing with clients & vendors
      (proposals, spec sheets, mockups, internal data)
    • Bug tracking, bug reports

    This also makes it quite clear that Qortex is also an excellent replacement for Basecamp, adding full project management and other extras to the mix.

    Getting Mails into Qortex

    When receiving an email from a client or vendor you can easily share and discuss it on Qortex. Just forward the mail to the address of the group you want to post it to (in the group in Qortex click on the Post via Mail link to create a new email with the address pre-filled).

    Replacing Wikis

    Wikis can easily replaced by using the Anyone Can Edit function and the Knowledge Base in Qortex.

    Mark any entry as Anyone Can Edit from within the Editor and work collaboratively on a document, just as you would with a Wiki. To give your wiki entries a more permanent and easy to find place, also mark you entries as Knowledge Base and they will show up in the knowledge base tab for that group. There you go – instant Wiki.

    The Knowledge Base tab for each group will functions as the “Wiki” for that group. You can easily move new content into it by simply marking entries as Knowledge Base. Adding links and images is very intuitive via the styled editor, no need to learn any cryptic Wiki codes to style your content neatly.

    You can even discuss the content of entries via comments to the entries. So you could discuss changes to a Wiki entry, find consensus and then do the edit to the actual main text.

    Replacing Forum & Bulletin Board systems

    This seems somewhat obvious, but you can of course replace bulletin board systems (such as Lotus Notes, phpBB, JavaBB) and forum software (e.g. SimpleMachinesForum, JForum, vBulletin) easily with Qortex.

    Create groups for topics, have discussions in the timeline in these groups, and create Knowledge Base entries for fixed content like official documentation, rules, files to be shared with explanations, etc. (you can uncheck Anyone Can Edit for individual entries to restrict editing to just the original author).

    Replacing Dropbox

    File sharing can be accomplished by attaching files to entries. The advantage here is that with Qortex you can add an explanation or complete documentation on the purpose of the attached documents and how to use them.

    Also the organisation of entries into groups helps people to find the files they are searching for by topic, client or project. Proposed changes to files can then be discussed in comments. Everything relevant to the shared files stays in one place.

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