Backpack Adds Movable List Items

I implement my personal organization system in 37 Signals Backpack. I’ve had a subscription now for about 15 months and its been the best way I can find to maintain David Allen’s GTD method. After a lot of experimentation including trying out other tools such as just tracking everything on index cards, or using Kinkless GTD with Omni Outliner, I kept coming back to Backpack as the best available solution for me. The major bonuses are:

  • It’s an online service so I can access it from home on my Macs and from work on my PC, and even on my Treo.
  • The core feature for me is a very simple way of adding lists. Just click, type, and return any time you want to add a todo on a page.
  • When you need something that has a few steps, ie a project, you just add a new page.
  • You can add just about anything to a page including images, files, and notes. I have 115 or so pages now and some of them are just things like notes on how to upgrade cruisecontrol or a list of potential future projects in our pipeline. A nice personal wiki.
  • They keep adding features which make it more valuable. This is the real glory of online hosted applications. You keep picking up features with no install/upgrade hassle, it’s why I liked the ASP model all along even when it became associated with the dotcom bust.
  • There’s even a client app so you can have a local offline backup using Packrat.

The new feature utilizing movable list items is going to really help out with something that drove me crazy. Today in backpack you can move around items in a list, but you can’t effectively move items between multiple lists unless they are right next to each other. My main context page that lists most of my todos by context area has:

  • Inbox
  • @Computer
  • @Office
  • @Agenda
  • @Home
  • @Home Computer

The idea was dump things in my inbox, then drag them into the appropriate context when I have time to process things. The problem was I generally had to cut and paste the item to move it negating any ease of use. This new feature really solves that problem.

Now I just need the ability to move list items between pages, or the ability to tag individual list items.

(Apologies if this was to GTD geeky.)

Dangerous Information Radiators

I learned a few days ago that a simple information radiator such as a task board can be extremely threatening. Our PM/Scrum Master on a project announced a recent unilateral decision to switch meeting rooms simply to escape the dangerous distractions of a task board. Apparently the team found the task board a more useful way to keeping tabs on progress, but the PM preferred a spreadsheet and didn’t want to allow for any other options on visualizing progress.

The bigger picture is that we’re still fighting a lot of problems with understanding that Scrum is built around the idea of self-organizing teams not command and control PMs. If the team decides on an approach that’s working for them it isn’t up to the Scrum Master to overrule them and then attempt to enforce it via dictating.

Who knew a yellow sticky note was dangerous.

FacesTrace for JSF

I finally got around to looking at FacesTrace, a JSF debugger. Looks like it might be helpful especially with the nasty conversion errors and other joys of JSFs six phase lifecycle.

Agile with Legacy Systems

After googling around tonight I’m beginning to think our experiments trying to do Agile with mainframe development are extremely rare. That’s right we actually have at least one pure Agile mainframe project. Apparently it’s fallen into more on an iterative waterfall approach, but we are almost off the bleeding edge on this one.

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s experiments around this, but I fear we may be almost alone on it.

Are 4 PMs Enough?

At the end of a recent Sprint planning meeting, I realized we had the services of four separate PMs. Considering that’s over 50% of our available PMs I’m not sure why one project needed that level of help. I do know this particular project seems to be gathering up new documentation that needs to be done every Sprint. Time to start asking the “Does this add any value?” question.