Tool-up NGO-style – 20 web-based tools for daily working

My fiancee, Gemma, is a very adventurous woman. She works in countries like Afghanistan, Chad and Nepal for a development communications NGO called Equal Access.

In 2009, Equal Access opened up a new office to run radio projects in Yemen, and in November Gemma went over train the Yemeni team. Unfortunately, Gem got sick and I had to go to Yemen to bring her home. Always looking for the positives, I at least got to visit an amazing country and had a chance to see Gemma’s organisation at work.

Amidst all the excitement in setting up the new office, there were also problems, not least in the areas of IT and communications. Although there was a decent web connection, the team was very dependent on desktop software for basic office functions, organising themselves, keeping in touch with Equal Access HQ in San Francisco and with partners and funders around the world. Problem was that this software cost a lot, needed expertise to install and sync, and that is if it ever gets through customs with visitors.

It got me thinking about the web and how the tools it holds could help. Might these support everyday tasks? Could they save money? Improve communications? Perhaps encourage innovation? It seems that in some sectors knowledge of these tools is well-established, whereas in others their use is unfamiliar and the choice can be bewildering.

Out of that thinking came the list below. The inclusions do basic things, at a low cost or for free, are easy to set up and manage, and work well on low bandwidth. I’ve written it up with Equal Access in mind, but it may also be useful for other small to medium-sized NGOs thinking about how to take advantage of the web. Continue reading “Tool-up NGO-style – 20 web-based tools for daily working”

On my desktop this week… ‘Hidden Forms’ by Hans Hansen

Hidden Design, Hidden Forms by Hans Hansen
'Hidden Forms' by Hans Hansen

This photo is going to catch the eye of a blogger who calls his site ‘BasicCraft’.

It was taken by Hans Hansen for a book, Hidden Forms, by Franco Clivio.

I don’t know Clivio but his book is about anonymous designed objects: simple, functional, yet elegant and astoundingly. For Clivio the complexity of the design process is best demonstrated, not by design objects, but on the basis of things from everyday life.

My sentiments exactly.

Found via Creative and Live.

Much Use Tools… Screengrab, Screenr and dotSUB

Spanners by Ross Ferguson
'Spanners' by Ross Ferguson

Recommendations for some highly-rated free tools I have been coming in handy at work recently:


No Photoshop to edit a ‘Print Screen’ capture? Screengrab is a Firefox add-on that captures what you can see in the bowser, either the entire page, just a selection, or a particular frame. It saves the capture as a decent sized JPG that can then be dropped in a doc to go up to the boss or over to the client.


Got wind of this on Mashable the other day. I’ve used a number of screen-recording tools before, but Screenr is really slick and the files are a decent size. Perfect for recording an instructional video to walk a colleague or client through an unfamiliar set-up.


Need to add subtitles to a video? With nothing to buy or download, dotSUB is a browser-based tool enabling subtitling of videos on the web into and from any language. Highly recommended for an all-too-familiar tricky requirement. They even have ‘Scots’ language on there, though nothing has been uploaded yet. Race you!

Tweet As Tools

Here are some Twitter publishing and tracking tools that I’ve been using a lot recently…

TweetDeck – installs on your desktop and is a useful program from publishing and monitoring Twitter activity –

TweetStats – provides statistics about your Twitter activity, and if you put others’ names in you can get data about their activity –

TwitGraph – more or less the same as above, not as nice an interface but you can save the graphs as JPGs to drop into reports –

TwitterFall – initially quite confusing, this is useful for tracking activity on Twitter –

TweetBurner – shortens and allows you to track use of your URLs –

Trendrr – compare Twitter trend activity –

What are you using?