2. Introducing Station to Tame Social Media

Station-600x365.jpg

The Station application bills itself as the “one app to rule them all.” When I first researched it, I thought that this was a bit presumptuous, and I also thought (as I do about most apps in Linux) that they could have chosen a better name. If you say to someone: “I’m using Station now,” they will probably respond with a puzzled look. Name aside, it’s a wonderful app that works on Linux, Windows and MacOS. More importantly, it looks and works the same on all three OSes, so this would help with support.

So what is Station? It brings all the most popular online services and social media together into a single screen. This way, everything from my favorite email applications to Quickbooks, Slack, Facebook, Lastpass, Pinterest, Asana, Wordpress, Github, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc. can all be loaded into a single application and quickly accessed from a list on the left. As a matter of fact, it supports over 600 applications.

My first thought was: why couldn’t I just do this in a web browser? Well, you can, but web browsers are memory hogs. By the end of the day, most people have so many tabs open in their browser that the whole system slows to a crawl. On my network, I even have people who use one browser just for their social media apps, another for their “work” and another for media and video – with enough tabs open in each, the system runs out of memory very fast. Station manages memory better and puts less used apps in sleep mode until they are needed.

How we Decided to use Station

We didn’t want to replace our web browser (after all the work I went through getting everybody on a single web browser, I wasn’t prepared to have them leave it, lol). We decided to use station strictly for accessing social media applications. It can do more, but for us, it was one quick way to keep things organized, and most-importantly to reduce memory-hogging tabs from our browsers.

This was very cool …for me.

The fact is that people didn’t really care so much or rather just accepted that computers run out of memory and needed to be restarted every few hours. Rebooting is a welcome water-cooler break for them, but not something that required fixing. Concerns like extra energy needs, wear & tear on the hardware, and the possibilities for data corruption were only mine. Bottom line, I had to come up with another reason to get people to use Station.

On to Other Features

Another feature that I really liked about Station, one that browsers are not really designed to address, is the ability to take an action that affects all the open apps, or if needed, just a subset of them. For example, Station can turn off notifications of a single app, groups of apps, and all the apps. That is very powerful. When I showed that to the team, there were finally some raised eyebrows. Maybe not yet a sale, but I had my foot in the door.

Screenshot of Station installed on one of our Windows computers. I was in the process of adding apps, with Trello already configured and Linked In in process. Adding apps is very quick and easy - one of our team members has over 25 apps installed.

Screenshot of Station installed on one of our Windows computers. I was in the process of adding apps, with Trello already configured and Linked In in process. Adding apps is very quick and easy - one of our team members has over 25 apps installed.

Another feature I demonstrated was the ability to load multiple instances of the same app, even if they have different passwords. For example, we could have three different instances of Gmail open, switch between them and copy/paste between them. This makes it quick and easy to respond to three different email lists with similar messages.

Of course, this is in conjunction with the other apps that are open. They can all work that way. So switching between multiple accounts on Facebook, Trello, Slack, Google Analytics, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc. was quick & easy. We could now quickly share info across all of these applications. While a web browser can do this too, it is far less convenient and requires more clicks. This was a workflow feature that raised some eyebrows.

However, what really sealed the deal was a very simple feature: Recent Documents. This is probably the most used feature in word processors - it allows you to see what you worked on most recently when you open your word processor. Now our team could use it across the social media applications in Station. This was huge because it allowed them to quickly resume what they had been working on the last time they were on the computer. Again, this was a productivity feature and that’s why it mattered.

Conclusion

When looking for an application to standardize on, it isn’t enough to find one that eases management for the computing staff. Likewise, finding an application that has some cool new features may also not be enough. Those features need to be seen in the context of the workflow of each member of the team. Some questions to ask:

  1. Does it improve efficiency?

  2. If so, does it do that for every member of the team?

  3. And is this enough to convince them to change old habits?

My introduction of Station to the Team serves as a great example of what is involved in standardizing. It cannot be imposed on the team without their input. Larger companies and organizations often make this mistake, and the the change goes awry. Our network is still small, so there are fewer team members to convince, but the process should be the same, no matter how large the team.

Productivity and efficiency are key factors. This is obviously the case for the team members, but it also brings costs down and that also is of interest to management.

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