Blame it on my decade in I.T. but I just can’t muster the hatred most people have for spreadsheets. They have saved my butt too many times.
Take my current project as an example. I’m deep into a video project for a major client. They originally contracted with me to produce some animated videos to help explain their information security policies, after the first two videos were completed they asked … can you add sub-titles for a few languages? Most designers would have groaned and said sure but hated every single moment of it. When the total number of translations ballooned to 15 and the total video count escalated to 90 (presented in 6 different formats!) some designers might have actually preferred to just call it quits.
But I didn’t. Why? – A spreadsheet. Nothing special, just a small document I started to keep track of each video and it’s status. Without this simple document I would be confused and the client would be frustrated. Not bad for a document most people hate!
(details are blurred to protect client confidentiality)
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?
My co-workers are often shocked (SHOCKED!) to hear I’m an introvert. My canned response is usually “I’m really good at pretending”.
Ok, I admit it. I’m a control freak. Everyone that knows me are rolling their eyes right now. “Duh, we knew this about 10 sec. after we first met”. I seem to have been avoiding this admission though. No longer.
I’ve decided there’s nothing wrong with wanting things “just so” or trying to find the optimal tea making accessories. It’s what drives me to spend hours perfecting my work, and convinces me that dedicating my entire fall to one night of spooky fun for my neighborhood.
If you work with me, I apologize … if you benefit from my work, you’re welcome. I’m a control freak, and that’s OK.
Someday I’ll write a post about why you should be using Dropbox, but this is not that post. You may find portions of this post convincing or ridiculous, either way this is simply a description of my Dropbox journey. As with most things, your milage may vary. Of course, if you want to sign up, use this promo-link and we’ll each get a little extra space.
I started out hearing loads about Dropbox on twitter and in blogs. Before I tried it I was skeptical. Why would this be so cool? How was it any better than any other online backup tool? See, that was my first mistake; others bragged about having files backed-up in Dropbox but that wasn’t the coolest part. It’s the syncing service that makes it indispensable.
I started out signing up for Dropbox’s free 2 GB account. At the time I only had one computer, a 17″ Macbook Pro. It was nice to have some of my files backed up to the cloud but what good was it? It wasn’t big-enough for all my music and it definitely wasn’t big-enough for my photos. I wasn’t really sure how to use it so I let it be for a while until …
The first big use for Dropbox I found was Halloween planning. I had passed my old laptop down to my Mom and bought a new one (a shiny new 15″ Macbook Pro) and my mom was using my old one. We wanted to collaborate on our lists for halloween planning (what? you don’t make project plans for your Halloween decorations? what’s wrong with you?) Back in my PC days I had a file-server setup so we could use network drives but in my new Apple centric world we didn’t have that. Enter Dropbox. I installed it on her computer and *poof!* all the files were there too. Dropbox did the magic of making sure we were always in sync and even if someone took their laptop away from the network all the files were still there – too cool.
I buy a house
The next big use was when I started looking to buy a house. If you’ve not bought a house you don’t know how much paperwork there is. The closest I could explain would be imagine all the paperwork for applying to college, but that’s just for each offer you make. You’ll make lots of offers and then if they accept one of them, yikes, you’ll have a paperwork-tsunami. I had accurately predicted this would be a problem so I started a folder in dropbox and each address I investigated got a folder, “1234 South St” for example. This wasn’t the best part; by this time I had also installed Dropbox at work (yes, I was extremely lucky that the firewall allowed it … ) Having dropbox everywhere, on my computer, on my mom’s computer and at work meant that I always had all the paperwork for my home search handy. I could save PDFs of my offer letters and financial paperwork. I could e-mail any of these files to my real-estate people and could reference them when comparing details of each house I was looking at. Later when I finally bought my house, I kept the folder for that address and just moved all the purchase files into a sub-folder. This means that I have digital copies of every document involved in my home purchase.
Once I discovered the joy of having my files everywhere I started creating project folders for my freelance work. It allowed me to do some work over lunch at work and allowed me to have my work computer process large projects over the weekend. While I was working on one of these projects I started discovering how cool the collaboration features in Dropbox really are. I was confronted with a short-deadline project where I needed help to finish it on-time. I shared the folder with my friend Cindy and it was like an instant network drive. She could work on the files and they synced back to my computer almost instantly, it was like magic. Dropbox has continued to improve the collaboration features until it works well for sharing preview links for graphics files and even video.
Bottom line? I’ve fully bought into the Dropbox ecosystem. It has quickly become the first app I install on any computer or device (did I mention they have a great app for iPhones and iPads). I fully welcome my new Dropbox overlords.