[:en]Work platforms: Remote Presentations, Data Collection and Analysis[:]


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This is the third publication of the series “From work desks to work platforms” in which we share the strategies and tools that have helped us doing remote-work even before the Coronavirus Pandemic. Here we present two out of nine tools, remote presentations, data collection and data analysis.

3. Showing Off: Presentations

Presentations on Site and Remotely: Slides / Powerpoint / Keynote

 What we needed

As opposed to the previous chapter, that dealt with internal presentation, here we talk about external presentations — be it to a client or a lecture at a conference. We searched for a tool that lets develop presentations quickly, intuitively and work simultaneously with external collaborators. Another essential demands are easily grant access editing rights and offline working mode.

What we picked, and why

We are still choosing between Google slides and Keynotes.
As for the other Google Drive suite tools, the strength of Google Slides is the accessibility – no need of a Google account to access documents – and the possibility to work offline. While for Google Docs and Sheets these might be minor advantages, they really make Google Slides a suitable tool for presenters travelling before the presentation.

With Apple’s iCloud keynote online editing is possible from within the native keynote app, working locally, or from within the browser, and superior functionality to google slides (e.g. master pages). Editing from the app is extremly useful while being without access to the internet.

How we use it

Google Slides let us work simultaneously regardless of the type of operating system. That’s how we collaborate within the office and with partners, commenting content and editing. It also helpful when you need to make changes remotely right before public event. Sine the recent integration of the Google docs/sheets/slides with dropbox we store presentations in Dropbox with all other project files.

The Virtual Presentation for the Conceptual Plan for the Blankenburger Süden Neighbourhood in Berlin (TSPA, 2020)

 

What we don’t like

Google Slides interface is similar to the one of MS Powerpoint but with less functionalities. The most relevant deficits are image placeholders. Like MS Powerpoint, snapping is not really efficient  and pdfs attachments are not accepted. Another weakness of Google slides is the speed issues of presentations with many slides (>50) and high graphic content.
As for the Keynote the desktop app runs only on MacOs, and the browser version does not offer offline editing. Simultaneous editing is possible only after creating an iCloud account and presentations can only be stored on the iCloud Drive storage. While we strive to organize unified storage for all files in Dropbox.

What we’re also looking at

Dropbox Microsoft integration also provides opportunity to create presentatons. However, this option is usefull only for those users who have permanent access to high-speed internet.

4. Data Collection and Analysis

 Data Collection and Structuring: Airtable

What we needed

Our projects often require to assess information derived from documents of various types (reports, tables, working papers, plans, row technical files) shared by multiple editors through several batches. We needed a tool to sort and filter all kinds of data in a collaborative way, that is less fragile than a spreadsheet.

We also looked for a simple instrument, able to share the results quickly, without IT skills, and interactively, to enable external contributions such as: engagement forms, on site surveys and tables to fill collaboratively with our partners.

What we picked, and why

Our solution is Airtable a database with a very friendly online interface.

Traditional spreadsheets (Google Sheets and Excel) can be manually turned into databases by relating various tables to each other. However spreadsheets are prone to mistakes (shifted rows, broken formulas, etc) and their fragility grows exponentially in collaborative editing.

Common databases (mysql, MS access) do not have this problem but usually require complex management system to organise them.

 Airtable combines the advantages of both: it allows for various data formats ( images, numbers, text) and views (tables, cards, reports) in a single workspace.

How we use it

We use Airtable  to organise online workshops and digital working groups with the audience we want engage with and we ask them interactively take decisions with us. We share them in the form of singular tables, presentations and forms. Once the information is gathered, it flows directly into the general project database that is available only to us and our partners. Because of the simplified and intuitive interface it is easily accessible by any kind of user.

We deployed it to collect relevant information on the public restrooms in the city of Düsseldorf. The concept was presented during online conference and participants provided feedbacks via an online Airtable form, filling the database with comments on the proposed location of each device (status, model, cost, etc).

Overview over data collected during site visits in Düsseldorf (TSPA, 2020)

Another way we used Airtable was to classify and correlate the information of twelve city reports on Makkah city. Items of each report have been listed on a table within the database; similarly, a series of sectors (mobility, environment, policy, etc) formed another table within the same database. By relating the tables each other, the sectors became containers of items and the items containers of sectors. The result is a very dynamic database where any change on a table is reflected automatically on the others. To achieve the same effect in a traditional spreadsheet we would use the formula concatenate to import the content of a sheet to another. However it would provide a fragile and univocal connection between the sheets where any cell formula could easily be broken.

A beginner’s guide to many-to-many relationships

https://support.airtable.com/hc/en-us/articles/218734758-A-beginner-s-guide-to-many-to-many-relationships 

Overview table “Items” shows data distilled from the reports and tagged by sectors of “Sectors” table

 

Similarly the “Sectors” table shows all the items of “Items” tagged with a sector

What we don’t like

  • Airtable is a young tool and the community of users is still relatively small
  • A few functionalities like generating vector graphs or conditional formatting of correlated tables are still missing in the current version

What we’re also looking at

In our daily life we use another database: Notion.

However we use Notion as a place to store office knowledge including processes, technical knowledge, but also culture. A manual, that our new teammates can use to get familiar with spirit and workflows. Basically, any page can be live edited in web browser, yet it is much easier to create an interlinked system of Notion pages.

This is the third publication of the series “From work desks to work platforms” in which we share the strategies and tools that have helped us doing remote-work even before the Coronavirus Pandemic. Follow us for more! 

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