Making of Zoho Polls

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We launched Zoho Polls last week. Let me share how Zoho Polls happened. It was just started as a fun project and is completely the work of just 1 person, Godwin.

We use an internal web application to rate the daily lunch food served and track the satisfaction levels. So each of us will rate the overall quality and the individual menu items after having our lunch. Comments on the food can also be added. The daily feedback and the overall trend would be monitored by the concerned people. So this is a simple application to track the quality of food based on user feedback. There were some limitations like it is a generic, static menu from the database.

Then we had a requirement for our music band to select songs to perform at our company-wide function. So we just took the codebase of our food application and stripped down some functionality like the daily rating and trend. Added entries directly in the database for the selected songs. Then the band members were asked to rate each song so that they can prioritize and rehearse the top numbers.Then we decided why not have a generic tool for rating where anyone can create a poll and fill out the options and send it across to the team for rating. There were many uses for this service like:

  • Rating the various designs of the Zoho logo
  • Rating different UI prototypes for a specific screen (Sample)
  • Rating the next set of features that should go into a product to help prioritize

We then added the ability to vote too – the normal one where you need to select only one option in the poll. There are a lot more uses for this like:

  • Selecting a name for the product
  • Choosing a restaurant to dine (treat!)
  • Predicting who will win the elections

Thus Zoho Polls was born. If you want to make a decision or get other’s opinion just create a public / private poll and share it with your friends or embed it on your website / blog so that your visitors can participate in the poll.

Thanks Godwin for rolling out Zoho Polls.

http://zohopolls.com

BarCamp Chennai – Day 2 Wrap-up

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Sorry, this is coming two days late …

Day 2 started with Prathul, a Microsoft Student Partner demoing Office 12, 2007 Microsoft Office System being the official name. There was a nice video capturing moments of Microsoft Office history. Prathul then started with his presentation on Office 12’s Word. The presentation didn’t go as well as he would have wanted it to, as much of the time was spent on showing Word’s evolution from Windows 1.0 when Word had just 2 toolbars, 10 features compared to 31 toolbars & more than 1500 features in Office 2003.

He demoed Word 12’s ‘choose the font & the preview changes below’ feature. Moving over to Excel, he showed the data bars with changeable gradient and how easy it was to change the many chart types available. And in Powerpoint, he showed the different IGX Graphic layouts with each having colors/styles. The publish as pdf feature was something real good.


Next, Atul Chitnis talked on mobile & hand-held computing. He says the current PC is still unusable to many & there is a huge market waiting to be exploited by mobile devices like Origami. There was talk on form factor & why the tablet PC failed (trying to port the desktop onto a smaller device as is & being not so portable). He put his case beautifully with many day-to-day examples like wrist watches (as against wall clocks), video iPods (as against TVs/cinemas), home theatres (as against cinemas) & how our fingers on a touchscreen is more superior than using a mouse.

Inbetween, a gentleman brought the issue of spam SMSes in mobile phones. There were no answers available on how to stop them & sure we will be getting more & more of these unsolicited messages in our mobiles as with email.

Sujatha then linked up from California to give a presentation over phone on podcasts for the South Asian audience & her site Podbazaar. She gave some good stats on the growth in sales of iPods/other mp3 players, how podcasts can provide the new content required (other than music of course) & how podcasts compliment blogs in many ways. She explained on how podcasts can be used like corporates using it as a marketing medium (seems Whirlpool’s ‘The Family’ podcast is quite a hit) & how you can have advertisements in podcasts.

Ashwin & Moyeen presented their college project mSync (short form Mail Sync, I suppose). Signing on to their service would get mails from your Google, Yahoo & Hotmail at a single place. They go one step further & say you can view it in your mobiles. Nice seeing the engineering grads doing such projects. There was some surprise too when they told that the Open Source program that they were using for collecting from Yahoo (yahoo doesn’t allow pop get) was YPOPs & we had a member of the YPOPs project sitting right there among us!
It was time for lunch & as I was feeling much better, could move more freely among the fraternity. It was nice meeting up with Amit Agarwal, who I mentioned in my earlier post as a full time blogger. As Web 2.0 is all about people generated content, it was interesting knowing how Amit generates all those content for his blog. His mantra – Have atleast one very good (search engine optimized!) blog post a day.

The afternoon session had another Amit, Amit Ranjan from Uzanto whose presentation was all about the experiences he encountred with usability & design for their mindCanvas product. “Design is a differentiator” & “UI is the software” were the strong messages he sent across. He finished up with ‘Brilliant Idea & Brilliant Execution’ is what matters. Both the Amits promised to look at Zoho’s products & send their feedback.

Narain presented a demo of TracBac, a Web 2.0 application that is to being developed in Chennai other than Zoho. (are there others out there?) It was Zoho Writer for design collaboraton. As a designer, you can have gif/jpg/png/swf images sent across to your clients & have it all reviewed online (instead of the to and fro flowing of mails). The demo looked pretty promising.

There were presentations by Karthikeyan on how to get VC funding, Adel of Trans India on ‘Designing for the Web’, & presentations on Ruby/Ruby on Rails/Ubuntu Linux, all of these which I couldn’t attend fully (shuttling between Track 1 & Track 2 being the main reason).

The open quiz at the end brought a cheery end to the BarCamp activities. Hats off to Prathul, Aswin & Moyeen for that. And the below photo’s from Adel’s site. Overall, it was good fun for all the 2 days & great knowing so much happening in this part of the world.

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View your remote excel sheets online in Zoho Sheet

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We recently added the ability to view remote xls files online using Zoho Sheet. You can now view through your browser, any excel file / openoffice calc files residing on your servers via Zoho Sheet. No need to have MS Excel installed on your machines to just view an excel. Use the following URL / REST APIs for the Online Excel Viewer:

For viewing a remote spreadsheet, use the following URL:

http://zohosheet.com/view.do?url=http://thelinktoyourspreadsheet.xls

For saving a remote spreadsheet to your Zoho Sheet account, use the following URL:

http://zohosheet.com/import.do?url=http://thelinktoyourspreadsheet.xls

For example:
http://zohosheet.com/view.do?url=http://www.exinfm.com/excel%20files/fcashflow.xls

This would be pretty handy when there are many excel files on your website and you want your visitors to view those files online. You can just link the URL of your xls file to Zoho Sheet as above.

We will soon put an user-friendly page for this feature. Keep posting your suggestions and feedback.

http://zohosheet.com

Spreadsheet —TO— Web Application

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To manage your existing data more wisely and collaboratively over the web, make use of the recently launched feature – ‘Create application by Importing Data’.

You can import your data (of .xls .csv or .tsv formats) either by copy and paste or by importing the whole file. Know How

ZohoCreator - Spreadsheet TO Web Application

The great usefulness of this feature is that you can quickly import data from your existing project into a web application and start using it right away.

Come see your spreadsheets transforming into web application, beautifully.

~Roughic

BarCamp Chennai – Day 1 Wrap-up

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Day One of BarCamp Chennai was a cool affair. By the time Ranjith & I were there, Kiruba was making his ‘Unconferencing the Conference: The Making of Barcamp’ speech. After the brief ice-breaking period (where Kit Kats were thrown all around), we started off with the presentations.

    
Ganesh presented Voice Snap, a voice messaging system which basically does asysnchronous voice storage & retrieval. The beauty is they can do it over the net, mobile & landline. Nice concept & seems there is some good adoption in India. Examples included Radha Krishnan, the mercurial Collector who uses it for receiving complaints from his constituency people, IOB (Indian Overseas Bank) using it for receiving customer calls, Indian Airlines using it for coordinating its Haj activities, professionals using it for legal/medical transcriptions etc.

Next up was Vinu who presented his personal/vertical news reader MyToday. Something like a public news aggregator. cool part is he has a Wiki where you can ask for your own vertical area which you would want to see of what the web’s talking about. And another good thing about MyToday is that it has a mobile version.

          

And then there was Vijay who spoke about his Project InfraNET. He has a big aim of giving all the citizens of India a number similar to the SSN. Nice thing is he’s looking for students to code his project. Arjun Ram’s news aggregator Taazza sounded well too. He is betting on his own algorithm that generates similar tags for like-minded news articles. The mshup with Google Maps was excellent. And there was Flickr integration too.
Could meet up with people like Prashanth Rai & J Murali during lunch. Prashanth’s been a regular Zoho Writer user & it was nice hearing how useful he found Zoho Writer for all the collaboration stuff he’s involved with. He promises to use Zoho Creator when he comes up with an application idea that he would really need. Murali who has his biweekly Netspeak column in ‘The Hindu’ (it would be great if ‘The Hindu’ archived all his Netspeak columns under a single page) was interested in Zoho as a whole – both in the technology front & as a company. As I was sick with cold, couldn’t socialize much :(. Hopefully the situation will get better tomorrow.

Track 2 in the afternoon had Amit Agarwal‘s ‘How to make money from blogs’. Think it was the presentation which generated most interest :). Being a full-time blogger himself, Amit had a few good tips to give of how to make blogging your profession. Though the bloggers were a bit apprehensive about making money from blogs (lots of ethical & moral talk), seemed everyone was interested in the concept.

      
Couldn’t be there for much of Rupya.com Ganesh’s ‘SEO & Google Adwords’ as Charles presented Zoho Creator in Track 1. Many had their first taste of Zoho & Zoho Creator did invoke quite an interest with the participants.

      
The above photos along with a few more can be seen at my BubbleShare account. Please pardon me for the poor quality of snaps as I’m new to taking photos.

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Portal 2.0

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The New Updated version of Netvibes supports Tabs (Zoho supports Tabs within a browser tab too) and offers multi-lingual support (German, Croatian and Hindi!). Is Portal 2.0 the next happening thing?

Pageflakes too, seems to be pretty popular choice of a Portal service. It is interesting to note that Google’s Personalized Home Page or Live.com are no where close in terms of their number of users. Not surprising, since the extent to which services like Pageflakes or Netvibes allow customization is much greater than what Web-Giants have to offer. For instance, Netvibes supports readymade modules for Box.net storage, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Del.ico.us, Digg, to name a few popular sources. Pageflakes offers modules for Zoho Writer, Alexa and even an Address Book.

While it is true that any number of feeds can be added by a user, the popularity of Netvibes and Pageflakes is proof that people want the service itself to come packed with a lot of features; proof that people want more.

Zoho Polls

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We are pleased to announce Zoho Polls – 100% free online polls.

http://zohopolls.com

- Are you faced with a lot of options and need opinion from others?
– Are you struggling to make a decision?
– Do you need to choose the right option?

Welcome to Zoho Polls. With Zoho Polls, you can create online polls (public / private) and share with your friends and colleagues to get their opinion. You can create a poll to either vote or to rate a set of options.

Create a voting poll when the user needs to select one option from a set of items. Examples: Who will win the upcoming elections? Do you think Web 2.0 is hyped?

Create a rating poll when a user needs to give a rating for each item in a poll. Examples: Rate the prototypes of our new interface, Rate the menu in today’s lunch, etc.

Features:

  • Public and Private polls
  • Polls to vote / rate.
  • Insert poll into your blog / website
  • Discuss / Comment on each poll
  • Tag your polls and search / discover polls based on tags.

Try it out and send your valuable feedback to support (at) zohopolls (dot) com.