Last spring, a member of our book club who seemed a bit more techno-savvy than anyone else
in the group described a Web site she found that
she swore could do almost everything. "Sure," we
said. "We believe you...maybe it can make coffee too
and remind me when it's time to eat...maybe it can
even make me laugh." She said, "yes, maybe it can find
a way" and promised to show us how her magical
Internet site could make things easier for everyone
in the club. She claimed that in no time, we would
be hooked on Visto (www.visto.com). All our lives would be changed. Suddenly we'd all be more
organized thanks to just that one special site.
Fueled by our disbelief, this efficient person
went to work trying to persuade us how great the site
could be. She was sure that we would see things her
way. She uploaded files, created a book club online
scrapbook, and set up two forums for us to share
information on line. For a time, the Visto site was the
rage for all of us. We were logging on to the site at
lunch break and swapping electronic notes to each other
every day. Sometimes the notes were about the book we were supposed to be reading, but most of the
time they were about other stuff going on in our lives.
The Be-all and End-all?
Our fearless moderator then did things like post
a picture of the book cover and a short description
of the book. Members took the initiative and
started their own forums as well. It seemed like she was
going to be right about this site.
Unfortunately the site, much like the book club
itself, soon suffered from a lack of interest.
People stopped coming to meetings or reading the
assigned texts. Postings to our book club site became less
literary and less frequent.
Even our moderator who had encouraged us to go the site in the first place couldn't hold up the
banner of technology. She received more duties at work
and had less time to manage the forums or update
the welcome message. To make matters worse, she
never showed anyone else how to run the forums or
post pictures. (Well, not that we asked.) So the
lesson learned, I suppose, is that wonderful sites exist
to manage your life, daily schedule, hobbies,
finances, and so on, but you have to use them to make
it worthwhile. You must participate in the whole
organizational process; the site can't do it for you.
Visto, for instance offers everything for those
on the goa new e-mail address,
password-controlled access, a daily calendar and reminder service,
and about 40MB of space to park files during the day,
so you can pull them off later. You can also use Visto
to store your Visto e-mail or any other e-mail
accounts you may have elsewhere.
Visto has another pretty keen feature. Anything new that is posted automatically causes an e-mail
to be sent to every forum member announcing the
new information. You also get a monthly e-newsletter
telling you about new features. Lately, most
newsletters talk about the new wireless options.
Visto isn't the only kid on the block, however. There are a number of online organizers out there
in cyberspace, so it's worth checking to find out
out which one has the features you need. The
Magical Desk (www.magicaldesk.com) calls itself a
Global Virtual Desktop and has features for people on
the go. Similarly, Zkey (www.zkey.com) lets you store
information, share information, and view your
information on any web-enabled computer or device.
Other sites meet more specific needs, such as
Storage Point (www.storagepoint.com), which focuses
on on-line storage. WebEx (www.webex.com)
focuses on meetings, while Palm Pilot users may find
the Palm site (www.palm.net) especially handy with
its tools to share calendars and update your date
Jump on the Bandwagon
Of course, now that word is out that these free
services are catching on and people are using
them, other companies are beginning to duplicate aspects
of them. Most mainstream Internet Service
Providers throw more extras into each upgrade. For
example, AOL recently purchased an online calendar and
My AOL version 6 now includes a calendar, paging,
and access to all sorts of forums. Microsoft bought
another calendar and includes it in MSN now. These days, add-on features are requirements for big
and small ISPs as people want more than just an FTP
site or a small chunk of Web space.
So if you're a "mobile professional," or a
person that is constantly on-the-go, you're probably
already drooling and anxious to try out that new
technology. The new features can make life easier for
everyone but again, you have to be willing to put in the
effort. It's just like the difference between people who
build a Web page and then leave it alone forever and
those who make a page and remember to add content, tweak, and update it at least once a week or more.
Are They for You?
I'm still feeling torn about whether or not to
feel guilty about not embracing the full spectrum of
organizational offerings out there in cyberspace. Am I
a bad person, since others are obviously
benefiting from managing their lives with these systems?
But then I remember I'm also the one who wasn't able to fully embrace the full spectrum of features
offered by the Trapper Keeper in grade school. I boldly
preferred to stuff all my junk in one big
notebook. Still more proof that organizational
toolswhether offline or onlineonly work if you use them.
Sites to Get You (and Others) Organized