Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of the fun things about a project like - which is largely the creative work of a single person - is the speed and flexibility with which I can work. When I'm working on new features, or bug fixes, App Engine makes it easy to deploy new versions, which I can do multiple times per day.

As I've been working, I've been keeping a personal task list as I think of things I want to do, or bugs I have to fix. Since I'm working alone, this is easiest to just keep as a text file, todo.txt (which I have under source control and viewable by anyone). My son, Chris, has also been helping me with testing - he's been entering bugs in a the more structured Issues List provided by the Google Hosted Projects service.

But even my quick-and-dirty text file has gotten cluttered with out-of-date tasks, and was difficult to scan as I was not careful about organizing it. So I spent this morning cleaning up the list, and thinking about the broad categories to help be organize it. Even with my pruned-down list, I still have over 300 outstanding tasks on this single-person "weekend project"! The categories I came up with could apply to any web development project:

  • BUGS

When I was development manager for the 50-person team that created Microsoft Outlook, I spent much of my time using Microsoft's internal issue tracking system, "Raid". With a list of tasks and bugs many orders of magnitude larger than's, there is no less desire to understand how much work is ahead of us and how we're doing on reaching our goals on time. Even Raid didn't have all the reporting features I needed to understand what was going on in the team. So, we also used some custom Excel spreadsheets for project scheduling, and Excel's pivot table reports to analyze the massive bug list changes over time.

I've been experimenting with some new hosted services that are directed at this same problem - managing a schedule/task list for a team. A new one that I think shows promise is by Seattle startup Liquid Planner. While it's not as fast as a text file for data entry, it does have some really good reporting capability and shines in the project scheduling phase.

I don't know of any tool that combines the best of all worlds - very efficient for single user data entry, yet powerful enough to have all the team reporting features needed to understand and help manage the work of a whole team. Comment here if you have any suggestions for how you do tasks list/issue tracking/bug tracking/scheduling/team management.

1 comment:

PM Hut said...

I've heard of Liquid Planner a lot of times already, and it's certainly an improvement over Excel spreadsheets.

The number of online Project Management tools is growing at an exponential rate (no clue why, and no idea on whether the Project Management market is that big or not).

I did publish an article about the ideal PM tool, the article lists 3 factors that make up an excellent PM tool.