On-Demand Digital Fabric Printing

I’ve been meaning to put together a post of on-demand manufacturers for some time now, but it seems that True Up already took care of the fabric section.  She’s got a terrific chart comparing four of the most popular digital fabric printers on the web: Spoonflower, Karma Kraft, Fabric on Demand and Eye Candey.  The only problem is that this chart was created over a year ago.  Surely things have changed since then?  Anyone know of any new printers?  I wish it came in an updated annual version….

Productivity Tools: To-Do List Managers

**Note: this is a kind of update/extension of the post “Worth Its Weight: Things” from 2008.

There are literally thousands of different to-do list applications out there, but most of them don’t save me any time over using a pen and paper.  There are, however, a few programs that really are time and sanity-savers, because they employ the use of tags.

Whats so great about tags?  It means you can sort your to-dos by any category that is meaningful to you.  In most regular programs, you can sort items by priority, due date, person responsible, etc.  All the usual office categories.  But by creating your own tags, you can sort items by where they occur, how long they take, even how fun they are!  For example, maybe you run most of your errands in three places: your local main street, the street near your work, and the big strip mall two towns over.  You can tag the errands you need to run with “local errand,” “work errand” or “mall errand.”  Then, the next time you are headed to any of those three places, you can click on the corresponding tag and all of the errands you run there pop up.  Print out your list and you’ll never again kick yourself for forgetting something while you were out.

But maybe you don’t have time to “Buy a new dishwasher,” even though it’s on your “mall errand” list. If you’ve also tagged your items with the time they take, you’re good to go!  Just select both the “mall errand” tag and the “5 min” tag, and you’ll get only those items you can do at the mall in five minutes or less.  Sweet!  By using tags, you can create and sort a list based on how you already live and work, rather than trying to force everything into a set of arbitrary categories.

If this sounds good to you, I recommend taking five minutes today and test-driving one of the following programs:

For Mac OSX and iPhone: Things by Cultured Code.

Pros: What I like most about Things is “quick entry”: you can enter a to-do item without actually having to be in the Things application.  If I’m working in Photoshop, for example, and I suddenly think of some product pictures I forgot to take, I can hit ctrl-alt-space and a little black box pops up.  I can type, “Take product photos” in the box, hit the Return key and my item will end up in my Things inbox, where I can sort it into projects and/or areas later on.  At no point do I have to switch out of Photoshop to do this, so there’s no delay in being able to get right back to work.  I also like the automatically generated “Today” list, that updates based on your due dates, reminders and recurring tasks.

Cons: Things costs $49.95, which seems expensive for such a simple little app.  If you’re a student or a teacher, you can get it for $34.95, and you can get volume discounts for businesses or a family pack of 5 licenses for $74.95.  There is no ability to nest projects.

For Windows: Tudumo by Richard Watson

Pros: Tudumo has a clean, non-fussy interface, and the ability to integrate hotkeys.  In my opinion, it’s the only native Windows to-do app that’s worth using.

Cons: No quick entry from within other apps, no syncing between computers (yet).  No organization into “projects” or “areas” but you can use “headings” and tags to get around this most of the time.  $29.95 for a single license.

For Web: Remember the Milk

Pros: since Remember the Milk is a web-based app, you can access it from any computer or mobile device.  No syncing necessary (unless you work offline).  It also interfaces nicely with a ton of other popular sites like Twitter and Google (including Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Maps).  A basic account is free, and a Pro account is $25 a year.

Cons: RTM is dependent on your web browsing speeds, and the web site (or the offline app “Gears”) must be open in your browser to function.  There is no quick entry, and a separate set-up is required for each new device or companion site you want to interface with.  There are also no “projects” or “areas” here, but you can customize your own lists and even create “smart lists.”

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive way to organize your life, borrow David Allen’s book Getting Things Done from your local library.

Do you have a productivity tool you’d like to share?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Best Grant Application Ever: Kickstarter

Today I finished a proposal for the CCE to get funding through Kickstarter.  Cross your fingers that they put it up!

For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is one of those ingenious ideas that makes you love the Internet.  Here’s how it works: people post creative project ideas that they need funding for, and Kickstarter members pledge to provide that funding, a few dollars at a time.  Creators provide a full proposal for their project, detailing their plans, expenses and current efforts towards reaching their goal, much like any other grant proposal.  They also include descriptions of various pledge levels, explaining what donors will receive for their contributions — for example, $5 might get you a thank-you postcard and $150 might get you an original song.

Each project has a certain amount of time to reach its pledge goal.  If it does, the pledges are collected and the project goes forward.  If time runs out, the project receives no money at all.  This ensures that applicants are not on the hook to finish projects that are only half-funded, and donors are not on the hook to fund projects that are not fully supported.

Even if you don’t propose a project or pledge to fund one, there are more than a few inspiring ideas to browse at Kickstarter.  One project I found particularly compelling is “1024 bits of you and me,” in which the artist crowdsources ideas for 1024 individual paintings that will be displayed as one giant work in the Artprize competition in Grand Rapids, MI.  It’s like a Thing-A-Day project on steroids.

Right now Kickstarter is still in Beta mode, so you can’t just post a project and start collecting pledges.  Your proposal needs to be sent to the Kickstarter team for approval first.  I’m not sure how I feel about this current set-up.  On the one hand, it means that I don’t have to wade through a bunch of idiotic vanity projects to find the ones that make meaningful contributions.  On the other hand, it means that a very small panel of profit-conscious judges decides which projects are worthy of presenting to the larger community.  What do you think?