How Udacity uses Asana to empower people through education

Kelsey Aroian and Joey Dello Russo

Udacity was born out of a Stanford University experiment in which Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered their "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" course online to anyone, for free. Now Udacity is a growing team of educators and engineers on a mission to change the future of education by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment.

A new way of delivering education
Jennie Kim is a Program Manager at Udacity and runs their partnership with Georgia Tech.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
I joined Udacity because I believe in empowering people through education, and so does Udacity. At Udacity, we’re focused on providing high quality education at scale to students anywhere in the world.
Stuart Frye leads Business Development at Udacity.
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
There’s a white space in accessible and relevant education. Udacity aims to close that skills gap by offering free classes and affordable support for a fraction of what it costs to receive a traditional education.
Jennie Kim - Udacity Program Manager
In the beginning, our team had an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how online courses were put together. A web browser can now be a very engaging and interactive classroom.
Stuart Frye - Udacity Business Development
Creating a new way of delivering education was a big undertaking. While creating the first courses, spreadsheets and documents got unwieldy and inboxes overflowed. As we grew our courses, our system at Udacity was like a shaky house—you knew it wasn’t going to last much longer. To help us achieve our mission, we needed something we could depend on, a system and process that would allow us to deliver these classes in a greater capacity. We realized Asana could be the solution we were looking for.
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Asana joins LOT Patent Network along with Google, Dropbox, Canon, and more

Dustin Moskovitz

Bringing a new company into the world means manifesting a great idea while simultaneously persevering through a number of risks and struggles. You have to recruit a team of people who want to work together, convince outside investors to support you, defend against competitors, and more. In most cases, these hurdles serve as a Darwinian funnel that makes the ecosystem better and optimizes the allocation of resources.

Defending against frivolous patent litigation, however, is not one of those hurdles and instead functions as a punitive and unfair tax on the ecosystem.

In the worst cases, a damaging suit can stop your company before it even gets started. Most of the time, companies settle out of court to avoid facing that risk, even when they believe they are on the right side of the law. They pay the toll to pass the troll. Even if your company is lucky enough to avoid being on the receiving end of a suit, you still must spend time mitigating the possibility by assembling a defensive patent portfolio.

Today, we’re joining the LOT Network — along with leaders like Google, Dropbox, NewEgg, Canon and SAP — to fight back against patent abuse.

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Yesterday’s downtime

Prashant Pandey, Dustin Moskovitz, and S. Alex Smith

Asana had a service interruption for approximately 90 minutes on Wednesday. We want to apologize, as we know your team relies on Asana and lengthy outages can majorly disrupt your workflow. It is our top priority to ensure Asana is up and running securely for you and your team, and we take these issues very seriously.

Whenever Asana is down or experiencing performance issues, we immediately dedicate engineers to fix the problem. We also aim to keep you as informed as possible–you can always check our status page and Twitter for up-to-date information. We also work to identify the root cause, so we can prevent the same issue from happening again.

We’re still investigating this outage, but we believe the root cause is related to transient connectivity issues between our app servers and database/cache servers. The most important complications we experienced yesterday have been resolved, so we don’t expect another serious interruption. However, the underlying network connectivity issue remains, and we are working closely with AWS to address the issue. This will be our top priority until it is fully resolved. Looking ahead, we do agree that offline access to Asana would be helpful, and this is on our long-term roadmap.

We apologize for the downtime yesterday. Thanks for your patience.

 

Task descriptions & comments just got rich

S. Alex Smith

When tasks have context, teams have clarity. When teams have clarity, they can move efficiently and effectively. Task descriptions and comments give teammates context and keep all necessary information and conversations side by side with your work. We just gave these features some polish: you can now add rich text and formatting to any task description or comment!

At Asana, we use task descriptions to take notes during meetings, add guidelines or goals to tasks we’ve assigned teammates, and create brief text “documents,” without needing another app. We use comments to discuss tasks with teammates, and keep the conversation with the work that needs to get done. Rich text makes it easier to structure ideas, highlight important items, and keep teammates up to speed with a quick scan of the task.

rich text shortcuts

Currently, you can add rich text and formatting using keyboard shortcuts, but we will be adding formatting buttons to the task pane in the near future.

To add rich text, use common keyboard shortcuts (replace cmd with ctrl on Windows):

  • cmd+b for bold
  • cmd+u for underline
  • cmd+i for italics

To add formatting, use these keyboard shortcuts (replace cmd with ctrl on Windows):

  • Numbered lists, cmd+shift+7
  • Indented and outdented numbered lists, cmd+] and  cmd+[
  • Bulleted lists, cmd+shift+8
  • Monospace font, cmd+shift+m

Rich text keyboard shortcuts are a new and useful addition to our lineup of keyboard shortcuts that help you work more efficiently in Asana. Our favorite shortcuts include tab+q to quickly add a task, tab+y to mark a task for today, and tab+x to enter focus mode (especially useful for taking notes in a task description during a meeting or when writing long-form notes).

Let us know what other “polish” features you’d like to see in the comments — our Episode 11 polish week is coming up this summer.

Stop wasting time: 4 steps to take back your day

Jackie Bavaro

We all have more work to do than we can actually get done. It takes some practice to master the art of spending your time productively on the right things, in a satisfying way.

As a product manager, I learned early on how important it is to purposefully choose how I spend my hours and days. I work closely with engineers and designers who depend on me for prompt feedback. If I’m not responsive, the team slows down or stops asking my advice on decisions. On the other hand, it’s easy to get caught up in reactive work and forget to put aside time for more strategic planning.

Stop wasting time: 4 steps to take back your day

I recently gave a talk to my teammates about the steps they can take to manage their time better, and thought I’d share the highlights here.

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Episode 10 Summary: Feb 2014 – May 2014

Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein

At the end of every “Episode” of work at Asana, each team writes a summary of the work they’ve accomplished to share with the company. We’ve synthesized the highlights from the episode into this post to help you follow along with our progress.

Asana TeamAsana is steadily becoming an essential piece of infrastructure for the best teams around the world, across the most innovative industries including tech, healthcare, and education. In Episode 10, customer growth accelerated, and today, thousands of companies across every continent but one are running their business on Asana.

We want Asana to be a product that you rely on every day. In Episode 10, we moved closer to that goal: we made major investments in our application infrastructure, ran more growth and user experiments than ever, expanded our team in critical areas, including mobile, and began working on some major new features you’ll be hearing about soon.

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Asana's User Operations Team

How we work: Asana + Desk.com to keep you running

Josh Torres

If you’ve ever written to Asana with a question, or asked for help using a new feature, it’s likely one of our friendly UO (User Operations) team members personally responded to you. Our User Operations team (often referred to at other companies as ‘customer operations’ or ‘support’) prides itself on a thoughtful, timely, and user-first approach to work. We keep up with thousands of tickets, while maintaining a consistent feedback loop between customers and engineers, to enhance the product you use every day.

We recently shared some insights with Desk.com about ways a small team can provide support to a large customer base. Here’s a closer look at how we support you, using Asana.

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A new way to search your tasks: by Section

Josh Smith and Cliff Chang

Asana allows you to capture your team’s tasks and conversations in one place and then view this information in a variety of ways to help you save time, prioritize, and ultimately achieve your team’s goals. Features like Sections, Search Views, and Calendars let you to zoom in and out on projects and tasks, giving you more visibility into your team and helping you make better decisions with less effort. Last year, we launched Search Views, which allow you and your teammates to view tasks based on search criteria. Then, we introduced Sections, making it easier to group tasks into stages, priorities, and milestones within a single project. Now, you can connect these two features to improve your workflow: Search by Section to see a list of tasks within certain Sections of a specific project, or across multiple projects.

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Building Asana’s foundation

Kasey Fleisher Hickey and Prashant Pandey

When software just works, it’s largely thanks to solid infrastructure. For Asana, a top priority is ensuring that our service is built on a foundation that is reliable.

Our infrastructure team operates behind-the-scenes to ensure that your team runs on Asana, every day. The infrastructure team’s efforts enable Asana to be secure, allow us to add new functionality without breaking things in the process, and pave the road for millions of intricate connections between people, tasks, teams, and projects. We’re focused on making a product that you can trust and we want to make sure the most talented people are working on its framework.

We recently welcomed the newest member of our team, Prashant Pandey, to help us take our infrastructure efforts to the next level and in turn, support growth across our product, team, and user base.
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Do great things: A talk at TechCrunch Disrupt

Justin Rosenstein

On May 5, I will be speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt NY on using technology to help humanity thrive. I hope some of you will be able to attend, either in person or via livestream. After the conference, we’ll share the full video in this post.

As technologists, we have greater capacity to change the world today than the kings and presidents of just 100 years ago.

Incredibly, we can now design the world we want to live in, and have the engineering skill to make even global-scale designs a reality. As designers, engineers, and technology leaders, we are a tiny portion of humanity, yet we hold an astoundingly leveraged ability to affect all of it.

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