Vivek Haldar

Collecting Needles

Bugs, wikis, sites, docs, spreadsheets — these are all great and I couldn’t figure out what to do and make it through a day without them. But sometimes the sheer information overload of all these bits destroys their utility. Too much flux, too much data, too much craziness.

Like a perfect storm, this usually coincides with the onset of the vicious circle of entropy: when there are so many unknowns and moving parts in the task before you that you’re afraid making any further investigations will only fork your decision tree further and add to the entropy.

That’s when Saint PostIt comes to my rescue:

When I find myself in times of trouble,
Yellow PostIts come to me,
Speaking words of wisdom,
Let it be.

I write down a small number of items — usually 3, no more than 5 — on individual PostIts. These find a home in the triangular clear space on my desk between me and my keyboard. These are not humongous goals. In fact, quite the opposite. They’re tiny baby steps. “Read Foo Bar design doc.” “Find class to parse HTML.” And then, for the rest of the day, those little yellow stickies are my entire world. That’s it. Unless a fire is burning and I am the only one that can put it out, nothing unseats these cute yellow ones.

What really helps me, though, is their tactility. I can rearrange them. I can stick them up at different spots in my office. When an item is taken care of, I get the satisfaction of crumpling it up and tossing it.

A repository of electronic data feels infinite, even if it is small. This alone makes one begin to feel overwhelmed. Physical objects convey an innate finiteness, even when they are large. This makes them approachable and inviting.

* * *

What could be more tactile than Lego blocks?

Consider using Legos for bug tracking:

Second is a important thing. Developers tend to deal with bug negatively. However, they enjoy to do bug, because Representation of LEGO bricks are creative task, and Destruction of them and Throwing them into the box are pleasure. What’s more, the sound of building, destruction and throwing make people who are in the room awake to the bugs.

Third is that the plate has limitation of space, so developer must fix bugs. BTS is useful, but veil bugs in the unlimited storage.

Of course, we are using BTS (Trac). And tickets are stored as detailed information. But tickets stored in BTS are less visible and noticable than BUG-LEGO.

Once you start mapping intangibles into tangibles, the fun begins. This person has been using Legos to take the drudgery out of time tracking:

Stacking these hourly rows on top of each other builds up the whole day. I use the different colors for the projects I’m involved in (8 are just enough), putting them on the stack whenever I want and have time to do so (but mostly quite instantly).

* * *

The loss of tactility changes the way we access information – and not always for the better. A recently published article in Science, titled “Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship”, demonstrates that as online availability of scholarly work increases, the range of citations in newer work decreases:

As deeper backfiles become available, more recent articles were referenced; as more articles become available, fewer were cited and citations become more concentrated within fewer articles… By enabling scientists to quickly reach and converge with prevailing opinion, electronic journals hasten scientific consensus… Findings and ideas that do no become consensus quickly will be forgotten quickly.

This research ironically intimates that one of the chief values of print library research is poor indexing… By drawing researchers through unrelated articles, print browsing and perusal may have facilitated broader comparisons and led researchers into the past.

Electronic searching turns everything into a needle because it is so good at finding them in haystacks. But maybe the surrounding hay is sometimes valuable as well.