Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dream Software Giveaway

I have a piece of imaginary software in my head. I have a suspicion that someone may have made it already, but frankly, it's really hard sifting through freshmeat and all of these places to find what I'm after.


This piece of software is simple. It doesn't have a thousand bells and whistles on it, it feels like using a wiki, but not so much that someone who hyperventilates when taken outside Outlook would start panicing. It's intuitive. And it replaces the need to make insane numbers of charts with dates in excel.

It's like a cross between spreadsheets-used-as-reporting and scheduling, outlook calendar, a wiki, issue tracking software, upcoming.org and some kind of database.

The thing that it does, though, that I've never seen any software do, is allow you to work in fuzzy time.

So, say you had a project that you knew was coming up, but the best you could say was 'I think this is happening in the second half of next year, and it's probably a three month project, and it belongs to this category, and this is a quick summary, and I will need to think about this again in a month'. You could put in exactly that information, and it would appear in the long term view.

But the thing is, as projects got nearer, you'd get more precise information about them. So your long term view is... well, sort of logarythmic. For the first week from the current date you have daily tasks shown, which you'd derive from the database-come-wiki of issues and actions against each project-blob in the system. After that short term bit you'd maybe get four weeks with headline tasks. Then you get a quarters worth of monthly view, then it would go into quarters for maybe a year, then it would be maybe yearly until 3 years out, then just 'in the future'.

So it lets you see what's coming up in a timely way, and doesn't drown you in detail beyond what you immediately need to do.

Of course, it should produce nice reports - a quarterly plan, a plan by month, a risks-and-issues sheet, a daily to-do list for each person involved in one of the sub projects. The thing is, different people need to track different kinds of information, for different reasons. As these 'future fuzzy blobs' move towards the present, you can start adding streams within them, breaking them up and firming them up as they approach and your plans get clearer. The whole thing is about bringing just enough timely clarity to everyone involved, when they need it. So your management of the stuff gets more detailed as it needs to; and the system is bright enough to realise when facets of your blob are getting neglected, and reminds you to pay more attention to them.

The ability to zoom in and out of detail levels means you can use it to see that your year is shaping up with no peaks and troughs, and also to get right in to the nitty-gritty of stuff that really needs to be done this week or else...

And it should track changes to dates as they happen; so that project you pencilled in for July gets brought forward, but remembers that it was orignally planned for then. Thus, when you look at the way things have happened over a year, you can see what changes happened, rather than having to wrack your memory.

When stuff gets done, it gets remembered. And if you have information about how well that stuff did - say, some kind of stats, in the case of a web project, it lets you hold that data against the 'things that actually happened' - so you can see that thing X went out, and changed your figures in way Y, thanks to person Z who did the tasks.

If you really, really put some thought into how this could become useful - how it would help people keep track of stuff on a personal basis, and how those little personal to-do lists then aggregated up to give you an overview of progress - it could be utterly utterly amazing.

Basically, it's the web 2.0 of project management. But it's bubble up in a way that MS Project isn't - its about slowly taming the chaos one little bit at a time, not about making that tiny resource reassignment that suddenly means your project ends in 2015.

It's project management for the way that the disorganised work.

Now, if only I could be bothered to kick of a project to get it built...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur - Dip!

BBc Micro Start Up Sounds

How good is that? Eh? Eh?

Cyril Isenberg

I had a strange but lovely aspect to my childhood; I grew up on the campus at the University of Kent, where my father worked in the Chemistry labs. My friends and I - all offspring of university connected peolpe - used to have the run of the campus, and whilst most kids were doing kid stuff like hanging out down the rec, we'd be hanging out next to the Foulcault's pendulum in the physics building. Explains a lot, really.

Anyway - ages ago I was talking to someone about Cyril Isenberg, (Eisenberg?) an academic who has the singular talent of being able to deliver a captivating lecture to an audience of children. He specialised in fluid dynamics, I think; as a kid this translates into bubbles and smoke rings, two things he demonstrated with great enthusiasm.

I want to say that he must be getting on in years now; he seemed old to ten-year-old me. Maybe he was only in his thirties, and hence I'm maligning him. But, it turns out he's written a book, and furthermore is STILL GIVING HIS LECTURES.

If you're in the Oxford area, I thoroughly reccomend you go and see this. He's ace.

Oxford University Scientific Society presents:

The Magic of Soap Bubbles
Dr Cyril Isenberg
Department of Physics, University of Kent at Canterbury
6th Week, Wednesday 16th November

Young people are always fascinated by the perfect spheres produced every
time a bubble is blown. These bubbles are surprisingly stable which has led
scientists to study their properties closely.

In this demonstration lecture, Dr Isenberg will illustrate some of the
properties on a grand scale, forming bubbles with spectacular shapes and
colours. Principles such as thermodynamics mean that the bubbles created
must obey certain geometric constraints, and so can be studied and applied to
solve mathematical problems, such as the construction of networks of roads,
pipelines and cables, and so on.

The bubbles also have a molecular structure similar to cell membranes, so
detailed studies of soap films can give an insight into more complex
biological membranes.

Date: Wednesday 16th November (6th week)
Time: 8.15 pm
Location: Inorganic Chemistry Lecture Theatre, South Parks Road
£2 for non-members. Light refreshment will be served.

**The Oxford University Scientific Society, founded in 1882, holds weekly
lectures by prominent speakers in all fields of science. For our current
termcard, check out:

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Monday, November 14, 2005

AOL to Have Reruns on Demand

AOL to Have Reruns on Demand:

The preliminary talks between Time Warner and Google appear to be the most promising, sources said, in part because Google is already the search engine on the AOL service, they have partnered for years, and they have figured out a basic structure that would benefit both companies in a joint venture. One possible scenario is that Google would find ways to send more Internet users to AOL's network of Web sites, and the parties would share the increased ad revenue. Google is working on devising the best way to do that without compromising its search results. The focus is on increasing the number of users on AOL's network of sites by giving America Online a new way of bidding on keywords that trigger ads on Google.


WipEout Pure Burgertown Races

Aw, it's nice to see people doing well.

Ages ago, when I was in an editorial / creative kind of a job, I tried to comission web talent - illustrators and so on - to create little cartoons for the BBC comedy site. It never really took off, sadly, as I left the role, and it never became a regular enough feature to build an archive and an audience. Shame. Never mind.

Anyway - Jon Burgerman did some ACE illustrations for us. They were very cool. And now those wise folks at Sony Europe have got him in to design a level for WipEout Pure on the PSP.

AND he's got a book out.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Very definately NSFW, but in a good way - pages from a seventies pornographic colouring book.

This came up on boing boing, and I just had to investigate. You know, for research. The pages are somehow better for not being coloured in - whoever did them - by hand, remember, there was no Adobe IllustratorTM in those days - had an amazing eye for a line.

They're like Alphonse Mucha on hardcore and acid.

And would make *fabulous* stained glass windows.