A couple of years ago I read Masters of Doom, which tells the story of id Software (of Doom and Quake fame). Programmer John Carmack had an interesting approach to keeping track of his daily work. From the book:
As life in the war room pressed on, Carmack took it upon himself to let gamers know that, yes, id really was moving along with its work on Quake. So he decided to upload his daily work log, or, as it was known, a .plan file, to the Internet. Plan files were often used by programmers to keep each other informed of their efforts but had yet to be exploited as means of communicating with the masses. But id’s fans had suffered months, years, of Romero’s unsubstantiated hyperbole, Carmack felt and it was time that they saw some hard data.
To access Carmack's
.plan you would use the finger protocol. Here's what you would have seen when you viewed his
.plan file, again from Masters of Doom:
[idsoftware.com] Login name: johnc In real life: John Carmack Directory: /raid/nardo/johnc Shell: /bin/csh Never logged in. Plan: This is my daily work ... When I accomplish something, I write a * line that day. Whenever a bug / missing feature is mentioned during the day and I don’t fix it, I make a note of it. Some things get noted many times before they get fixed. Occasionally I go back through the old notes and mark with a + the things I have since fixed. --- John Carmack = feb 18 =================================== * page flip crap * stretch console * faster swimming speed * damage direction protocol * armor color flash * gib death * grenade tweaking * brightened alias models * nail gun lag * dedicated server quit at game end + scoreboard + optional full size + view centering key + vid mode 15 crap + change ammo box on sbar + allow “restart” after a program error + respawn blood trail? + -1 ammo value on rockets + light up characters
Many more examples of
.plan entries can be found online. Here's one from August 12 1997:
* qe4 project on command line * qe4 rshcmd replacement * qe4 select face * qe4 avoid multiple autosaves * qe4 region selected brushes * bindlist command * imagelist command in ref_soft + leaktest + load game.dll from gamedir pendulum motion no jump on lava floor? -game 16 bit wall textures
.plan entries contain lists of tasks - Some
.plan entries are opinion pieces and some also include code snippets. I love the system he used for keeping track of work:
|No prefix||mentioned but not fixed or implemented on that day|
|*||completed on that day|
|+||completed on a later day|
|-||decided against on a later day|
What I love about it is the simplicity and that everything in easily
grep-able plain text. Here are some examples I ran on just the August 12 1997 entry.
Find all open tasks:
$ grep '^[^*+-]' .plan pendulum motion no jump on lava floor? 16 bit wall textures
Find the last 5 completed tasks:
$ grep '^\*' .plan | head -5 * qe4 project on command line * qe4 rshcmd replacement * qe4 select face * qe4 avoid multiple autosaves * qe4 region selected brushes
Alternatively, assuming you keep everything in one file, you can simply open the file in your favourite editor and perform a search there.
Here's what I'm taking away from this:
- Keep track of things in a way that works for you (or your team).
- Have your data in a format that is easy to process.
Something to consider before you install enterprise grade work tracking software. John M. Culkin said it best:
We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us.