Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘March, 2005’

I’ve put an additional anti-spam measure in – comment preview is now forced. I’m having probems with the preview comment template right now (it looks very rough and ready) but I’ll put it right soon.

Once again comments seemed to be missfiring, which I only found out thanks to a helpful soul out there (thanks Shane!). This stumped me a bit, as I’d assumed the problems I was having was down to MT-Blacklist not working with my ISP’s Perl install. The other odd thing was that I was still recieving comment spam (which thanks to MT Moderate was not reaching the actual site). A quick poke around showed that I’d fooloshly left mt-comments.cgi in place, which was obviously how the spammers were getting in.

That left the blame at the door of sub-to-com.cgi, the subscribe to comments plguin I’ve been using for a while now. Backing that out seems to of fixed the problem. Now I need to find some time to see if both MT Blacklist and sub-to-comments was to blame, or if MT Blacklist was blamless after all…

So here is the problem – I’m forgetful. This means if I think of something that I should put on my Basecamp to-do lists when I’m not actually at a computer, I have to rememeber it, which I can’t do. Or write it down on a piece of paper, which I’ll loose. Today is a case in point – I know I had three things to add to my list, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, unless Basecamp has a Blackberry front end (and for that matter someone wants to buy me a Blackberry) I guess I’m going to have to solve that little problem by myself…
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Milestones, Projects and To-do lists

Basecamp has the concepts of projects containing milestones, with milestones containing to-do lists. Due dates can be set on milestones, but not on the multiple to-do lists they can contain. For my general life-fixing projects (like “Cleaning Up My Finances” or “Create New Blog”, although the later might be better categorised as a making-my-life-more sad activity than a life fixing one) milestones work quite well. These tasks typically consist of a series of phases, each with their own tasks.


With using Basecamp as a general Getting Things Done tool in addition to a Getting My Life Fixed tool, I find myself wishing for something less “heavy” than a milestone but with the ablity to specify a due date in the same way as a milestone – a to-do list with a due-date would be good enough. The additional benifit of to-do lists with due dates is that you can then better organise milestones themselves. The alternate approach of course is to create more milestones – I’m tempted to create one milestone for each days tasks, but I’m not sure what benifit that would bring beyond taking advantage of Basecamp’s excellent calendar display.

iCalendar support


Striking one item of my now many lists, I checked out the iCalendar support in Basecamp. Simply put you can subscribe a tool which supports the webcal protocol to synchornise events with a changing feed. In OSX’s iCal this creates a new read-only calendar named after the Basecamp project (in addition to the default “Home” and “Work”) with the milestone’s appearing as events. From iCal you can then complete a milestone via a hyperlink, however disapointingly despite iCal’s support for to-do lists these are not imported. This may be a problem with the webcal protocol, althought I’d have to check what I believe to be the defining specification in the form of RFC 2445 to see.

The secret of becoming organised seems to be that those activities that make you organised have to become habit – they have to become second nature. Basecamp is working well for me right now because it’s new enough that it not being a habit is not a problem. In the next week or so it’s use will enter that odd phase where it no longer has the sheen of the new, but nor is it ingrained habit.

Disorganised though I am, I have developed a daily routine. When I get to work, I sit down, check the email on my current client’s system, then check my company email, then my gmail account, followed by a quick scan of Bloglines. For Basecamp to help me achieve the stated project aim of “Fix My Life”, it needs to become part of this routine – today and every day. Slotting it in-between my email and bloglines scan was easy today – tomorrow will be harder. Like I said before, based on experience (of me), I give this a week – but I think if it lasts a couple of months and becomes second nature, it might just work.

I’ve been living by Basecamp for around 5 hours now (see my previous post on the subject), and it’s gone OK. I’ve the following milestones:

  1. Jobs for this week
  2. Jobs for the weekend
  3. Streamline finances (involves shutting down old accounts)
  4. Organise Scrum training (this is a company thing I’ve let slip)
  1. Organise company away day (see above!)

    Creating to-do lists for the above milestones is as slick as ta-da lists, although it was a little confusing that when you click on “edit” for a specific list, you can’t then add items – you have to do that in the default view. To-do lists can be assigned to a single milestone which is fine, however when viewing by milestone (which is very pretty) you don’t get any idea what makes up that milestone – it would be nice to know that I have X tasks to complete, or even a percentage completion. Likewise when you view to-do lists you can’t group them by milestone.

    As for the actual “fixing Sam’s life” aspect of this whoe experiement, well I have managed to complete today’s assignments. After dinner I want to have a play around the iCal integration – in fact I think I’ll add that to tonight’s to-do list…

I am not the most organised person in the world. I have a poor short-term memory, so I write things down. But because I have a poor short-term memory, I loose the paper. I tried to become more organised – I brought Getting Things Done. Then I lost it. I feel I might be more organised if I stop loosing my organisational aids. With that in mind, I have decided to run my life using Basecamp – I might loose a piece of paper, but I’m less likely to loose the Internet.

My company name – Sam Newman’s life. My Project – Fix my life.

I give it 1 week.