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Archive for May, 2005

The Musical Baton

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

I was sent the musical baton from two friends (Ben & Livia). I’m not a big music listener, so don’t expect anything particularly interesting:

1. Total volume of music files on my computer?

None

2. The last CD I bought

Ben Harper: Fight for your mind
REM: The best of REM

3. Song playing right now
Eels: Mighty Fine Blues
(now Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the dark – haven’t heard this for a long, long time)

4. Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
Whatever happens to be playing on DIG(I don’t think I have 5 best songs – I could manage 5 best artists, but not individual songs)

5. Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

OK, I’m going to break the chain. Sorry, I’m just a spoil sport ;)

Do your IT projects fail?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Alex has written a very clear guide to the way IT projects should be run to create more usable products and reduce failures and blowouts. If you are stuck in a cycle of IT project failures, go read it – he’s a smart fellow who knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t hesitate to do what needs to be done:

Usable methods : a convoluted practitioners haphazard narrative for usability good-enough practice

Backpack – one week in

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

The value of a product isn’t how well everyone reacts to it initially, or the nice initial reviews it gets, but what happens as time passes. It is easy to think that you’ll use a groovy new tool but just don’t.

I’ve been using Backpack for just over a week now. I’m over the groovy hump and into really thinking about how I can use it to help me. And I’m still liking it and still using it every day that I’m at my computer (which is part of its downfall – there have been a number of times I’ve wanted to jot something when I’m not at a computer).

There are a couple of things that I’m finding particularly useful:

  • the ability to quickly and easily jot an idea before it flies away
  • I can add alerts in Backpack and then synchronise them into my Sunbird calendars at work and home (I was previously emailing or carrying around my calendar file to keep them in step). Improved calendaring will make this even more useful.
  • the ability to break all of my ideas into projects, rather than having everything muddled together

But I really, really wish my mobile phone carrier were supported. With that facility, backpack would be totally indispensible.

The flow of writing

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

I’m currently reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and I just a complete flow moment. I sat down to jot down some notes about a new project (which is a secret for the moment) and 10 minutes/1000 words later I actually felt the flow stop. All of a sudden the words weren’t falling out of my fingers and I had to think of what I was writing. And now I have a headache.

Man, I hope the flow comes on next time I sit down to write. That was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced. I just had to tell you.

I’ll know it when I see it

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

Amber and I were talking about shopping today – she was telling me that she hopes there will be some kids shops where we are going this weekend. I asked her “what makes a good kids shop”, and she said:

“I don’t know, but I’ll know it when I see it”

This was so interesting to hear. It goes to the core of why a lot of our time is spent discussing (and arguing) about designs. People don’t really know what they want, and generally can’t articulate it. But they sure do know when something isn’t right for them, and when it just is.

I got a golden ticket (for backpack)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

I got a golden ticket to have a look at a new 37 Signals product called Backpack.

Backpack is a simple, personal organiser. With it I can create pages for projects and add to-do lists, notes (plus images and files in the paid version). I can share lists and projects with other people over the web.

It has a neat reminder feature, which sends reminders via mobile or email. This would be truly, truly fabulous if my mobile phone provider was supported (but this not a criticism – I’m with a smaller provider in Australia).

One of the most important things, and I have found this with everything I have seen come out of 37 Signals, is that it is very, very easy to use. I jumped right in and made 2 projects and added lists and notes for both of them. There is a good set of examples, which was particularly useful when I was staring at a blank screen wondering what this thing was for.

I have an idea for a real project that I think Backpack will be useful for. Without it I’d probably store to-dos in Sunbird or my tadalist and make notes on paper as I go. I often have good ideas when I’m at work and email myself reminders at home. I can see that it will be useful to be able to access my project information from work and home and make notes as I think about them. I’ll let you know how it goes.