I used Trello for my daughter’s school admission

In India, we have lots of good schools. The problem is getting to the right one in the right location. Ask any parent and they will tell you their adventurous stories of how they navigated through the chaotic processes of getting their kid admitted to the school of their choice.

Like any other established institutions in India, the Schools follow a rather bureaucratic and pain-in-the-rear approach to new admissions. Admission time is also the time, when everyone involved with the schools are at their bossy-best, willing to dust off all their ranks and files to show-off “who they are and what they can do.”

Anyway, without going into the details of the discrepancies in the schools in India, let me tell you the story of how I used technology to streamline my daughter’s admission. I wanted to involved relatives, friends and family without overwhelming them, so I needed a solution that is easy, simple and no-learning-needed approach to keep track of the progress.

Laaija

Let’s get my daughter admitted to a decent school in Bangalore, India.

Yes, I went to lots of ‘Education Fair’, stood in lines for hours in the hot Indian Summer, visited a hell lot of schools to check them out, met with teachers, roam around the campus, even talked to few students. Besides that, I tracked, labeled and measured my actions and outcomes with Trello and mapped the locations with Google Maps. The mobile version of Trello (iOS and Android) is an awesome app and everyone involved really liked it.

My daughter outgrew her playgroup.

My daughter, Laaija, celebrated her 4th birthday on Dec 11, 2012. She is now ready for a ‘real’ school. She has already outlined the kind of school she would like to go to. It is a list of strange, funny and cute (at-least to us) criteria and we know what she meant. No, you won’t want to know that list.

Last October, I had initialized the quest for her school. We wanted a good established one and not necessarily some fancy ‘international’ school (without explicitly excluding them), should not be very far from our residence. I should be able to get there within 30 minutes in the typical Bangalore Traffic. It should also not be next-door so she can learn to be independent, travel and enjoy her school.

Trello, Trello & Trello

I treated it like a Project – steps, processes, labels, issues – a flow borrowed from the Kanban Method, which Trello is very good at.

I created 6 core boards:

  1. Inbox – Everything is dropped here first – school names, location on Google maps, notes on people’s review, facilites and amenities available etc.
  2. Considered – All schools which we considered applying were dragged into the “Considered” Board. We try to add as many details as possible here.
  3. Applied – This is the board for all schools where we applied for our daughter’s admission.
  4. Accepted – Schools which have accepted us. It’s now our decision to pick the school, to get admitted or not.
  5. Rejected by Us – The schools rejected by us irrespective of the selection of the schools. The Cards in this List can come from “Inbox”, “Applied” or “Accepted”. It’s not surprising that this List holds the most number of Cards.
  6. Rejected by School – Of course, quite a few of the schools rejected our application. This List holds all those cards.

Labels

I used few simple labels to help with the choices. A card can have one or many of these labels. The labels were

  1. Transport (yes)
  2. CBSE
  3. ICSE
  4. IGCSE
  5. Girls
  6. Co-Ed

Collaboration

I invited few of our relatives, friends and family members to this Board. They were told to install the Trello Smartphone apps, so they can do it easily on their phones and not worry about being totally involved.

The idea is to take notes and just write-down details while visiting a School or just seeing one while I travel around Bangalore, made it easy to sort them, work on them later. Writing down help me free up my brain to concentrate on my work and not worry about my daughter’s admission all the time. Same goes for my wife, relatives, friends and other family members to help us, without the need to indulge in useless talks, gossips and lousy phone calls.

Yes, I finally got my daughter admitted few days back and she is excited about her new school. We hope she will like it and have fun with her new school.

I created a Public Template of the Trello Board if you wish to use it – Picking a School (India). You should change the List Names, Labels to cater to your requirements.

Besides the activities that I cannot ignore, Trello really helped me get our daughter admitted and freed up quite a bit of my effort, time and I was able to continue my work while I stay engaged with the Admission Process.

Update:

It will be incomplete for this article if I do not include the story of the ‘interview’ which got my daughter selected. We were invited to meet the Head of Department (HOD) aka Principal of the School. She talked and got my daughter comfortable, after which she asked her questions including the likes of the Apple’s color, the monkey’s favorite fruit. She was a bit concerned about my daughters inability to count numbers. The last question she asked my daughter was to use the crayons and draw a circle. That’s easy as Laaija is very good at drawing. She drew a circle. The Principal told her, it was awesome and finally asked her if she can draw a Balloon.

At that moment, I thought my daughter was doing pretty well and we’re pretty close to finishing this event. My wife told me later that, Laaija will now draw a balloon easily. The cool part was, instead of drawing a separate balloon, she just added the thread to the previously drawn circle and made it into a balloon. Me and wife were surprised and I’m pretty sure, if anything, that was the one that sealed the deal. :-)

Olacabs, a bad User Experience

Olacabs
Olacabs (source : Olacabs)

India is on a 48 hour stand-still with the ‘India Bandh’ called by the All Trade Union. They are protesting against privatization, outsourcing, violation of labour laws, price rise and several other burning issues of the country, trade unions of banking, insurance, public sector undertakings, transporters and unorganized sectors.

Nope, I’m going to write about the India Bandh (general strike) but more of a personal experience with Olacabs – an Indian Startup with over $8M in Series A fund.

Olacabs Lied

With our new office setup in Indiranagar, Bangalore, everyday is an excitement being in the office – working, playing and being with the team. Yesterday, with the Bandh announced, I was looking for alternatives to my usual travel medium, the Auto rickshaw aka the Tuk-Tuk.

As luck would have it, Twitter was abuzz with tweets that Olacabs will take special measure to have their cabs available to help the general public, with an added advantage of slashing their fares to that of the auto-rickshaw. All the problem solved! Moreover, I’ve been looking forward to trying their iOS app, use it and write a nice review about them (what an irony). I was hoping that Olacabs will be the Uber of India.

Today Morning, with all hopes and enthusiasm, I got up and was ready for office. I even confirmed a candidate for an Interview for one of our job openings. I fired up the Ola App, and ‘booked’ a cab. Olacabs confirmed by Booking and was assigned a ‘CRN’ Number – 1765782 and the cab will pick me at 10am.

Got dressed, bags shouldered but by 10:10am, with no sign of Olacabs, I called up their Customer Support. The voice on the other end wailed “Ola” multiple times and I even got to know that Ola means ‘Hello’ in Spanish. A ‘Subhalakshmi’ picked up the phone after about 3 minutes and she was pretty blunt, wasn’t really listening to me or she could not understand what I was asking. I had to ask her if she really speaks English. I asked for something and she blurted out something else. Of course, I got the fact that my cab was cancelled and they were ‘no longer servicing in my area.’

Well, looks like Olacabs did something without proper planning and their PR Stunt is just that – a PR Stunt. Yes, I’ll try them again, give them another chance but today was such a bad User Experience that I won’t expect much from them. They are just another service company with a Spanish name and like every other taxi company, will not try to provide a good user experience and differentiate from the lot.

UPDATE

  • Aug 30, 2013: Uber launches in India. Sign-up and get Rs. 600 off your first ride.

Create that ‘OneBucketList’ for your life and act on it

OneBucketList

Not a To-Do list. Not an agenda for your life’s routine.

Something, which you usually have in your mind, the list of things you would love to do in your life. Be it – learning to sky-dive, go on that dream vacation, visit that exotic island, spend few undisturbed weeks in a less-trodden place – would it not be nice to be able do them before you kick the bucket.

Go ahead, start your OneBucketList and list what you want to do in your life. OneBucketList will help you maintain that list and get out of the way for you to act on them.

Startup Baba

Startup Baba is simple newsletter where we highlight some of the interesting, crazy and fun stories from the world of startup and entrepreneurship. Every newsletter consists of about five curated links and a short excerpt about the stories. We also try to include links to tools and utilities which will be useful for design and development of your product.

We totally understand about the annoyances of spam emails and newsletters. We will not send more than two newsletters in a week. You can unsubscribe very promptly and instantly. We will not send you anything not related to building a startup, a business and being an entrepreneur.

So, if you think it’s OK for another addition to your Startup resources, go ahead and sign-up for the newsletter from Startup Baba.

A quick chat about “In50Hrs” with Vijay Anand

Many in the Indian Startup scene knows Vijay Anand or have heard of him. Vijay Anand run The Startup Centre and is very involved with Startups and Entrepreneurs in India.

I recently had the opportunity to meet him in person when he brought In50Hrs to Bangalore for the first time. In50hrs is The Idea-To-Prototype Event. Entrepreneurs, Developers, and Product Designers come together to work on audacious ideas and build working prototypes (MVP) over a Weekend.

Vijay’s been organizing In50Hrs in Chennai for quite a while and he is taking his idea to other cities in India – Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. I asked him few quick questions and he have some thoughtful answers, which I’m sure will be useful to budding entrepreneurs and startups in India.

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Adobe & HTML

Honestly, I’m not really impressed with many things Adobe’s been doing lately. Actually, I believe that Adobe is going through some sort of an Identity Crisis. Nonetheless, you cannot really ignore some of the innovative and good things they’re spearheading, specially with open standards like HTML.

Recently, few of us were hurriedly called to the Adobe Bangalore office and we met with Paul Burnett (@pburnett), Adobe APAC Evangelist. I was unable to agree with few things that he showed us but was genuinely impressed with many other initiatives from Adobe.

What I don’t like.

Adobe fought back in many ways when the world was abandoning Flash, they even went ahead to say they love the company that fired the first lethal bullet to the Flash’s Kingdom. When Adobe realized that it was not winning the battle, they went ahead and try to re-create the reign they had with Flash in forms that does not necessarily pronounced “Flash” but doing very similar things that Flash did.

Flash is a good solution for the right purpose and still is. Actually, HTML5 is way behind when it comes to lots of capabilities what Flash can do. But that’s it, let Flash shine where it can and leave alone where it’s not its job anymore.

Edge Animate – really? This brings back unpleasant memories of the Skip Intro days. Do the web need to recreate what Flash did but with CSS? Adobe’s Edge Animate can help you create Flash-esque Animation and spit out CSS and Javascript. The very idea of spitting our machine written CSS and Javascript sounds scary to me – a web full of ‘blings, bells and whistles’ but done in ‘html5’?

I’m of the opinion that you don’t really need that bad to animate elements on a website. In case of websites that needs so many moving parts, they’d rather be doing it with specialized tools or Javascript Experts doing the job, not by a tool that spits out JS codes for you!

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Interesting, strange, weird way to ‘save our forests’

Greenpeace India has released an interesting Facebook App where you can add a picture to a video, portraying you as a ‘hero’ saving the forests in Central India from coal mining.

The whole idea looks interesting and you should try it out. Unfortunately, for me, I’m a little confused as none of the menus seem to work. They seem to be just message links. I wasn’t really able to take up the “Challenging Goal” neither could I “Make a Difference”. Let’s hope there is more to it than meets the eye.

Of course, the site reeks of ‘innovative technology’ such as keyframe manipulation and color correction in the Flash Player to embed a static object (picture/image) alongside the video and they have even thrown in a parallax scrolling web design.

Coal mining in Central Indian forests is destroying the habitat of the endangered tiger, other wildlife and displacing lakhs of forests dwellers. Greenpeace urges individuals from all across the country to join the movement to save our last remaining forests, tigers and livelihoods of forest dependent communities.

Personally, I’d like to do something but I’m not really sure all that jazz on the website is the solution! What do you think?

Nonetheless, play with the app, enjoy the video, watch the parallax scrolling – it should entertain you.

Adobe Acrobat XI

Adobe Acrobat XI

Adobe Acrobat XI, besides being the leading PDF converter, is packed with smart tools that give you even more power to communicate – easily, seamlessly, brilliantly.

Until recently, I had the notion that Adobe Acrobat is just a glorified PDF Converter, of course, with a very powerful document management system. However, after attending a special screening of the new Adobe Acrobat XI, here in Bangalore, India, I am impressed with what it can do.

With Acrobat, it becomes so easy to edit text, graphics and the ability to combine multiple PDFs into a single PDF is outstanding. The export capability and online web-creation are pretty nice additions. Of course, the ability to sign documents is brilliant.

The only rant I’ve against it is that it’s rather overwhelming and can scare most first timers. This is a big, well-grown and developed tool.

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