Monday, 5 October 2009

A new life...

Graduating from college, throwing away the shite I collected over 22 years of my live, moving to another country, finding a place to live, getting my first job and where do I find myself? Back in the throes of Open Source.

I've always found it a struggle to find where my life, work and my passion for open source can all live together without stepping on each other's toes. Just now that I'm starting to try and get used to the norms of office life and working for a living ( sigh ) I'm finding myself trying to define where my time should be spent. We are all familiar with working 9 -5 , so that one is simple enough. Most of us know about "time well wasted" as I like to call it, where you come home from work and spend way too long making a cuppa tea to ever be considered an efficient tea maker or you sit in a chair looking out the window at that cat that has made it onto your car and seems to be making some kind of nest. Time well wasted is always time well spent, it helps to keep us sane! Some of the really lucky ones know about "Hobby Time" and are little known Ultimate Frisbee champions or have an almost complete collection of sea shells that resemble pop stars. But in all this mishmash of social norms where does the term "Open Source Development" come in?

I do not have the good fortune of having a 9-5 that satisfies my Open Source itch. I am certain that I have too few brain cells working during any of my "Time well wasted" sessions to even know what a computer is! So then is my Open Source Time doomed to share a room with random collectables and fringe sports? Do I have to class my Open Source Development as a hobby and stop refering to it as "my calling"? And more importantly how do I fit Open Source into my busy schedule of TV, Drinks with the guys, dancing in sweaty nightclubs and counting the amount of peas I have left in my freezer!? These are very pressing questions that hopefully I will soon have an answer to.

A Long time ago I was crap at time management. I'm still crap now but I like to think I'm getting better ;) One of the things that I found on my journey of self enlightenment was David Allen's Getting Things Done® and I found it FANTASTIC! I was a mess of lists and to-do items and forgetting stuff before David Allen and decided to follow his teaching like they were gospel! .... that lasted about two weeks, maybe 3 if you count having the lists right and not following them. I think the problem was that it didn't fit into my lifestyle, I was a student who was interested in a whole load of things and needed to balance research for 8 college modules with what a wanted to know in the world of open source! If I were a high flying banker or an office goer then I'm sure the system would have worked perfectly but it was lacking something that I needed. It took me a fair deal of time to figure out what that something was.

And now to the point of this long post. The Getting Things Done® method was wrong for me because the "Things" that I wanted to do were not defined. These "things" that David was trying to sort in such a fantastic way were things that lived in 9-5 time. The "things" that I wanted to sort out were usually crazy Ideas that began their life while I was counting peas: "Wouldn't it be great to have an Open Source Project that counted all the peas in my freezer and geolocated all the farms that the peas came from". These crazy thoughts were not definable, could not be put into lists and could not be thought of as "things". Instead they are stuff. Stuff is more fuzzy, less defined and does not conform to to-do lists and schedules, until now!

This long winded blog post is a way for me to announce a new project. "Getting Stuff Done". This name may spark some lawsuits but for now I'm going to leave it as a codename, so that it gets across the idea behind this project. Its a simple tool that aims to organise lists in a non-standard way, so that they are more human and much more malleable. I have the first screenshot here:

The more well read of you will recognise this as the simple Kontact "Hello World" example. This does mean that the project is in its most infant stage, but each long journey begins with only a single step.

Comments are very welcome ;)


Socceroos said...

dude, I need your program.

I have much the same problem with time. I spend so much time in front of a screen during the day that I find it hard to keep it up after work has finished. Especially when I don't have and defined 'stuff' to do.

Also, if you could get it to write the codes for my projects then that would be great. =)

Andrew said...

I'm very interested in time management too. I've played around with integrating RTM (Remember The Milk) into KDE, as well as coming up with my own solutions. But I would possibly be interested in helping with this app. feel free to contact me (you can see my email as a blog admin, yes?)

Dion Moult said...

Looking good, Getting Things Done can be solved pretty easily once you assign a deadline to every single project, but Getting Stuff Done - well, that huge mess of "I want to do" in my head deserves a better place.

Tom said...

a small improvement to make it better: add "world" after "hello"!

ingwa said...

You should definitely talk with Kevin Ottens, ervin at IRC, about his program zanshin...

real_ate said...

Thanks to all the great comments! I'm very interested in the fact that there seems to be a greater need out there than just myself ;) If any of you are interested in helping me I'll probably sort out a project somewhere and get some of the design and "all the crazy features" docs together. Just watch this space!

@ingwa i'm interested in talking to people about integrations to other to-do lists but this project is not a to-do list per say, it is instead a way to visualise and *use* your to-do list!

If anyone wants to contact me ( that includes you Andrew ) you can reache me on g [dot] real [dot] ate [at] gmail [dot] com ... unfortunatly I cannot see your emails from here.

Anonymous said...

Are you planning something like chandler but based on akonadi?

if the answer is yes i love it.

real_ate said...

@crabman the simple answer to your question is no! I like the look of the chandler project as a really sweet to-do list maintainer but, as the as my post tried to explain, Getting Stuff Done is not a to-do list! The whole point is to help people who are not able to say "I know that I have these 8 things to do and they all have to be done by [xyz]", I would like to instead help the people who are more like "I've said that I would help out with these 100 projects but I can't remember what half of them are and definitely can't decide which ones to dedicate any time to". This describes my state of mind for most of the day ;)

do you understand my point? or should I do another blog post soon to set out why my tool is not a to-do list maintainer?

Thomas Thym said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Thym said...

I love that idea!
As you mentioned the classical time-management methods work well for several kinds of humans (in most cases for those who wrote it an the classical successful company manager) but for many other people they work not as well. So I really would appreciate new methods for creative, chaotic, nonlinear thinking people like me.
And once again you are right. Lists might not be the best method to organize things for creative humans. Perhaps the key is linking those ideas.

Are you creating a wikipage at techbase so we could follow your thoughts?

real_ate said...

@Thomas I really like your idea about "linking ideas", it kindof resonates with one of the ideas i was having on this whole thing that was to link people and have a web view/profile that automatically informs people what it is your working on.

on the mention of techbase... i don't think that its an overall solution for managing this project. One thing that i did learn from GTD was that if the system you use to make to-do lists takes longer than actually doing the stuff then its not worth the effort. In my opinion if i start documenting my ideas in techbase then i would get lost in the syntax of documentation and wouldn't be able to get down to business. I have been contemplating getting a project set up in launchpad, its a nice platform for discussion and what not and i really want to test out a project managment system here that is the "Right" solution! ... Any other suggestions?

Christian said...

I was lately thinking about a similar project (while trying several apps like chandler,, basket, kjots...), to get the mess in my head focused on some tasks which can be solved.

I need a place to dump all my ideas, and information which i collect occasionaly (and while i cannot really relate it to anything).

Later i want to be able to associate this data with dates(todos for kcalendar), other notes, websites, contacts, etc.
This should make it possible to not force me to specify what i want to write down to much (because then i'm too lazy to do anything),
but still make it possible to make the neccessary links later on.

It should also more or less allow me to extract finally a todo list from all that data, but of course the application is much more than that.

It should also have a very easy to use interface, which allows me to do all standard actions from within the primary interface.
To find all the crazy stuff again, good searching features are mandatory.

Further i need to be able to sync this with various PC's and maybe finally also with my cellphone.

I think we have some rather interesting technologies available now with akonadi and nepomuk, which are probably more or less what would be needed.

If you think we have some common ideas, i'd be quite interested to start such a project, so feel free to drop me a line (