The Freelancers’ Show 060 – Project Management

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Panel Ashe Dryden (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up) Discussion 00:58 - Project Management 02:46 - Project Management Software Pivotal Tracker Redmine Asana 05:26 - Communication and Clarification Discovery and Estimation 09:59 - Agile Methodology Workflow 15:28 - Billing Project Management Time Harvest 18:57 - Managing Internal Projects To-Do Lists Outsourcing Board of Advisors 25:46 - Managing Future Projects and Ideas Getting Things Done by David Allen 28:47 - Book Writing Workflows Picks National Geographic Found (Ashe) Will You Sponsor Me? - Elise Worthy (Ashe) MediaElement.js (Chuck) Hover (Chuck) Next Week Travel Transcript ASHE: Life's a little weird sometimes... [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 60 of the Freelancers Show! This week on our panel we have, Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hello! CHUCK: And I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. We have a few people out at, I think it's MicroConf...I should just look it up so I know the name of the conference. Anyway, they are in Vegas and I think we might have one or two people at RailsConf, or it may just have stuff going on today. So, it's just the two of us! ASHE: Sounds good! [laughs] CHUCK: It feels like you're filling in for Eric! ASHE: Eric can never be replaced... CHUCK: [laughs] Only temporarily, huh? ASHE: Only temporarily. I'm just standing up for you, buddy! CHUCK: [laughs] Awesome. Alright, so this week, I was thinking that we could talk about "Managing Projects", both projects, kind of internal projects I guess, and for clients - client projects. I have to say this is something that I'm really not good at, so I'm hoping that you can impart some wisdom. ASHE: Oh, I'll do my best. I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with. I don't think that many of us come from a Project Management or like any kind of Management background, really. So, it's something that's very new that we don't necessarily have the skills for right off the bat. CHUCK: Yeah. But at the same time, if you've worked for a company on a team, using somebody managing the project, whether they were aware of it or not… ASHE: Yeah. I think that working at a couple of places is definitely given me an idea of what Project Management isn't, which might help to kind of stir in the direction of what Project Management should be. CHUCK: So, you're going to give us an 'anti-definition' then? ASHE: Yeah...I don't know. I've struggled a lot. I think that a lot of people have similar complaints about project management styles or like the kind of stereotype of what a Project Manager is; promising things too soon or promising things without actually running it by the developers. Or, trying to figure out what actual problems are in the project management process instead of just the tools that are involved, because I've seen that one a lot. Where, "Oh, something's not working! Let's just change the project management software that we're using because that must be the problem." [laughter] CHUCK: That's right. It's always the tools. ASHE: Yeah! So, that's definitely not the way that I would go. I'm kind of interested, what are you doing for project management right now for software? CHUCK: I've used, in software projects anyway, I've used Pivotal Tracker; really really like Pivotal Tracker. I've looked at Redmine, and I want to get to know it better mainly because I have people coming to me and asking me to customize it. And so, I wanted to get to know it a little bit better. But for the most part, that's what I'm using. And then for other projects, I've been using Asana lately, which was mentioned on the show by Farnoosh Brock, if you want to go back and look at that. So yeah, that's kind of what I've been doing.

Transcript

ASHE: Life's a little weird sometimes... [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 60 of the Freelancers Show! This week on our panel we have, Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hello! CHUCK: And I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. We have a few people out at, I think it's MicroConf...I should just look it up so I know the name of the conference. Anyway, they are in Vegas and I think we might have one or two people at RailsConf, or it may just have stuff going on today. So, it's just the two of us! ASHE: Sounds good! [laughs] CHUCK: It feels like you're filling in for Eric! ASHE: Eric can never be replaced... CHUCK: [laughs] Only temporarily, huh? ASHE: Only temporarily. I'm just standing up for you, buddy! CHUCK: [laughs] Awesome. Alright, so this week, I was thinking that we could talk about "Managing Projects", both projects, kind of internal projects I guess, and for clients - client projects. I have to say this is something that I'm really not good at, so I'm hoping that you can impart some wisdom. ASHE: Oh, I'll do my best. I think this is something that a lot of people struggle with. I don't think that many of us come from a Project Management or like any kind of Management background, really. So, it's something that's very new that we don't necessarily have the skills for right off the bat. CHUCK: Yeah. But at the same time, if you've worked for a company on a team, using somebody managing the project, whether they were aware of it or not… ASHE: Yeah. I think that working at a couple of places is definitely given me an idea of what Project Management isn't, which might help to kind of stir in the direction of what Project Management should be. CHUCK: So, you're going to give us an 'anti-definition' then? ASHE: Yeah...I don't know. I've struggled a lot. I think that a lot of people have similar complaints about project management styles or like the kind of stereotype of what a Project Manager is; promising things too soon or promising things without actually running it by the developers. Or, trying to figure out what actual problems are in the project management process instead of just the tools that are involved, because I've seen that one a lot. Where, "Oh, something's not working! Let's just change the project management software that we're using because that must be the problem." [laughter] CHUCK: That's right. It's always the tools. ASHE: Yeah! So, that's definitely not the way that I would go. I'm kind of interested, what are you doing for project management right now for software? CHUCK: I've used, in software projects anyway, I've used Pivotal Tracker; really really like Pivotal Tracker. I've looked at Redmine, and I want to get to know it better mainly because I have people coming to me and asking me to customize it. And so, I wanted to get to know it a little bit better. But for the most part, that's what I'm using. And then for other projects, I've been using Asana lately, which was mentioned on the show by Farnoosh Brock, if you want to go back and look at that. So yeah, that's kind of what I've been doing. I've kind of got two different systems depending on whether it's a software project or not. And the reason that I like one over the other is that, Asana is a little more user-friendly, it lets me break things up into conceptual chunks, where Pivotal Tracker is more focused on user-stories, so it allows me to interact with them a little bit differently and manage things that way. The problem that I have is that I tend to go days or more at a time before I go back to Asana and look at it again. Pivotal Tracker, I can't get away from if I'm working on a software project that's using it because that's where I go to get the definition for the next thing that I have to add in. And so, since I'm in it all the time, I just deal with it that way. But I found that it doesn't work super well for, for example, 'products'; it just doesn't work well for that kind of thing, for me. ASHE: Do you use whatever your client is then using? Like, are you in their project management software? Or, are you telling them to be in new orders? CHUCK: I usually use whatever they've got, but sometimes, they don't know what they want. ASHE: Sure. CHUCK: A lot of times, they don't know what they want. If I'm subcontracting for another development firm, then usually, they've got a good rhythm going with whatever system they're using. So unless it's totally painful, I'm usually fine with using whatever it is that they've got. ASHE: Yeah. I tend to end up using whatever my client is using. And if not, I try to use Pivotal; not all clients to kind of depending on the kind of client they are, get Pivotal Tracker. And I find that the best project management software is the one that they'll actually use. Because if they are going to just email me everything anyway or call me every 20 minutes anyway, then it doesn't really matter. CHUCK: Yeah, I agree; if you can get them to use the tool and interact well with the tool, then absolutely, because it's a device for communication. And if they're not using it, then they're not communicating. ASHE: Right. And I think that's a big part of project management, too. It's making sure that you're on the same page and can use the same tools and can speak the same language so you're conveying the same message. CHUCK: Yeah. But the other thing is a lot of these systems, they give you a way of adding comments, or asking questions, and so you can get clarification through the tool as well. ASHE: Yup! CHUCK: But, the tool is just a facilitator. The problems that I usually run into with managing projects is, I tend to get enough information to kind of get a gut feel for what's going on, and then I can tell them lies. In other words, I can estimate about how long it's going to take. Usually, I'm pretty close over all, even though I'm not necessarily always close on all of the estimates for each feature. But, what winds up happening is I move along through the project; I run into stuff that I need more clarification on. And so, that's where my project management skills kind of fall apart because I don't get enough information upfront. ASHE: What do you think could help that? Do you do much discovery now? CHUCK: Discovery, like upfront when I get a new client? ASHE: Yeah. CHUCK: Not as much that I probably should. I just get enough information to understand what the product should do, understand what the basic feature set is, but I don't go into like the 'needy-greedy' details of each feature. ASHE: Gotcha. I think that I can speak for most people when I say that I really don't like estimating, and it kind of makes me anxious about making sure that I have at least as much time as I think that I will need on the max side without all the numbers being so huge if the client's eyes kind of get all lovely. So, doing the discovery upfront kind of helps me rein that into reality a little bit more. I think that helps me feel as anxious, and it also helps the client have a better understanding of exactly where their application is before our things get started. CHUCK: So, how far down the hole do you go before you kind of gone too far? Because some of my clients, you could do discovery for months before you actually start in code. ASHE: I think it depends. There are some that I can do a day's worth of the discovery, and that's enough; others need far more than that. I think it really depends on how much stuff I'm going to be touching. So, I try and get an idea of what they actually want me to accomplish with whatever project I'm working on before I go on to do the discovery. So, I can kind of map out what I think I'll have to do and then go in and look and see what the code actually looks like to see if that is anywhere near where my expectations were. But yeah, it's hard. It's hard to figure out how long discovery will take. CHUCK: Yeah. It's not a terrible thing to not have all that information because usually, I just send them an email "Hey, I started working on this, and I realized that we need to clarify this point. Here's what I think, here are the tradeoffs", let them make the decision. I usually also hand them a default decision that's just kind of like "Well, if I don't hear from you in a couple of days, this is the direction I'm going to go", and then I'll just move on to another user-story if it's available. So, I don't actually get downtime out of it, where I'm like "Uh! I just wish I could move ahead with this project". I just pick another feature and start working on that in another branch and git. But, sometimes I feel like I'm emailing them all the time trying to get that kind of clarification. So then I wonder, well, is there something I could have done better to get this information upfront. ASHE: Yeah. I think part of it is setting the expectation for how quickly you expect them to respond to you, especially if they have an idea of how long it should take you to respond to them if they send an email with concerns. I have written in my contract that, like to keep things moving, I expect there to be a 24-hour or 48-hour, depending on the client, turnaround time because otherwise, it hinders my ability to be able to work on their stuff. And I don't have time for the downtime because a lot of times I have a client to spoke right after them. So if we don't keep things moving, then they'll end up suffering. CHUCK: Now, do you try and implement any ideas out of Agile Methodologies? Or, do you just kind of go with the flow? ASHE: It depends. Some of my clients, I'm kind of the lone developer on the project; other times, I'm working with another team, like an internal team. So, it depends on kind of what they have set up. If it's just me, I definitely do. Other times, because I'm working with 5 or 6 other developers, I really have to kind of work within whatever system they have already established. CHUCK: Okay. So, what elements of agile do you pull-in in your workflow or as you manage a project? ASHE: I definitely try to break things down into like discrete sprints. All of my like work orders, I guess you would describe them as, are broken down into logical sprints that one flows in to the next one. So in almost all cases, things have to be done in a certain order just for things to kind of keep moving. And, I definitely go back; every couple of weeks, I meet with a client to make sure that this is where we expected to be, that this is what they actually wanted because that's a big thing, too. Because I'm remote, I don't have the ability to have as much context as, I think, in-person developers get. I don't have all the meetings; I don't have the walking-by-the-cubicle and somebody giving me another requirement in the middle of the day. So, I don't get as much context as the other developers do so it's important to go back and actually verify that "Okay, we're on the right track" before we move on to the next sprint. CHUCK: Yeah. I think I really need to be doing that. Though, depending on the client, sometimes they don't care; they just march down the path until you're done. But, I do like having that idea of like a discrete set of "I'm going to get this done, and then I'm going to get this done", and being able to just work through it. ASHE: I think it, too, it gives them a good idea that -- I let them know that I would really prefer the requirements not change once work is started on whenever like sprint. So, they know that the sprint is set to get started 3 weeks from now so any information that I need on that, they need to get me by that time. So, it kind of gives them a deadline, too, to make sure that they're getting me all of the information that I need. Or, that they make sure that a developer that's supposed to be working with me on that will be free during that time, that if there's going to be any emergencies, they have somebody else that will be working on those. How do you work right now, if you're not doing sprints and stuff? CHUCK: I just pick a story and work on it, and then pick up the next story and work on it, and I email and let them know when I push new stuff out to wherever we're staging things at. And if I get feedback, then I incorporate that; if I don't then, sometimes, I press for it if I'm really worried about the feature. Otherwise, I'll basically say "If I don't hear from you within a week, then I'm going to assume everything's okay", and I'll just keep moving ahead the way I am. What I found is that most of my clients are busy people and they don't respond. And that's kind of unfortunate because I really want to make sure that they have a look at it and that I'm giving them what they want. But, I'm not really sure how to press them for that. I think if they were like an actual sprint structure and I said "Hey, we're going to sit down every week or every two weeks (however long the sprint is or whenever I get this chunk of work done), then we're going to walk through it. I'm going to show you what I've done, and then you can move ahead from there", as far as "Okay, these are the next steps now, not this", then yeah, I could get better results. ASHE: Maybe it would help them, too, if you knew that a sprint was going to last you a week or two weeks, and you could plan that far in advance for a meeting. That could kind of alleviate some of the 'dealing with their busy schedule' and to just kind of waiting for them to get to the bottom of their email pile. CHUCK: Yeah. And the thing is that, I've never had any client that was upset about the work I did or they felt like I just went ahead and get what I wanted; I haven't encountered any of that. But at the same time, I really want to make sure I'm giving them what they asked for and giving them the value that they expect, and more. That's why I'm concerned about the communication. I've never had it come back around and bite me, but I'm concerned about it. ASHE: Yeah. I think my biggest concern and the reason I do things this way is, I have just kind of went off and done a ton of work and then going back to them, and realized that I probably could have done 10 hours of last work than I actually did because I was assuming something that wasn't true, or they kind of changed their minds, and would have been fine with like the minimum delivery of whatever the feature was. CHUCK: Yeah, exactly. And that's where it boils down for me, too. I mean 10 hours is a bit of money. And, if I can spend that 10 hours doing something else that's more valuable, then that's where I want to spend my time. ASHE: Yup! How do you bill for project management time? Do you bill that into each feature? Or, is that a separate thing that you keep track of? CHUCK: I use Harvest; and Harvest, by default, adds in project management and admin as tasks, so you can just bill time against it. Most of my project management time, if I'm billing it, is usually meetings more than anything else; you can kind of count that as admin time, too, if we're just talking about how we're going to manage the contract, it's self-moving forward. But most of the time, we're talking about features and we're doing project management stuff, and so I just use that task on my timer and time it that way - I just bill for it hourly. Sometimes though, if I'm doing like subcontracting and stuff and I'm spending time doing project management and I feel like this is time that wouldn't have to spend if I were just doing the work, then sometimes I'll just come with the time. But most of the time, I bill them for it, and it's because it's time that I would had to spend anyway. But if I'm doing project management stuff aimed at the subcontractor and not at the client, then that's the time that sometimes gets count. ASHE: Gotcha. Do you estimate - give an estimate for project management time? CHUCK: Not usually, and I don't usually work it into overall estimates either, which is something that I need to consider. ASHE: Gotcha. I've been, over the past like 5 years, trying to find the perfect formula for what I should estimate for project management because every client is different, like some clients need more contact or some clients send a lot more emails than other ones. And, it's hard to know what that amount of time is going to be until you're actually working with the client. CHUCK: Yeah. I was going to say basically the same thing when you were saying you were looking for that magic formula. It’s that some clients, they come, they give me a list of features, I don't really talk to them for a while, and then they come back when I say I'm done, they have a look "Yeah, looks great!" and that's it. So my project management there is almost nothing. And then, I have other clients where I'm talking to them like every day. And so in that case, there's a huge overhead for project management. Sometimes, during the discovery process where I'm actually like getting the details and making the sale and doing the estimates and stuff, I kind of get an idea for how much I need to keep in touch with them and how much I need to manage things to keep the project on task, and things like that. And so then, if I feel like it's a lot, then I might make a judgment call and say "Hey, we'll probably going to spend a little bit of time clarifying some of this stuff". And the other thing is, I also work some of them in the sense that when I'm estimating a feature, if I'm not confident in my kind of initial estimate, then a lot of times I'll add stuff in. And technically, I'm not thinking "Gee! This is project management time", but usually it is because I'm going to be clarifying the story as I move ahead. ASHE: Yeah. CHUCK: And so, I add it in for uncertainty as what I'm thinking, but ultimately, it just boils down to "There's some overhead here because I need clarification and that's part of managing the project". The other one I wanted to get into, and I know you have a several kind of extra-curricular activities, I guess I'd call them, and I do, too; things that I'm working on that are not client facing. So, I have courses, I have products that I'm working on, I'm probably going to be writing a book or two over the next year. I know you're working on a book, and you've got several other things where you're peeking, and things like that, how do you manage your internal projects? ASHE: I don't really keep track of anything with my internal projects; I know that a lot of people do, and I guess I'm not entirely sure why I would. Do you keep track of stuff for internal projects? CHUCK: I know that Eric, for example, he actually tracks his time for his internal stuff. I don't. I'm kind of on the fences to whether or not I really care enough to do it. And I think that's really, for me, when it boils down to whether or not you should. For example, Eric, he sits down and he kind of audits that and pays attention to it and it means something to him and helps him have balance. For me, I'd probably track it and never look at it again. So if I'm doing that, then I'm not sure I care. So for the most part, I don't track the time. However, I do use a to-do list, like I said before, and so I'll just put tasks in there of things that I need to get done. And then as I get them done, then I check them off; I get this sense of fulfillment, I pat myself on the back, and then I go after something else. ASHE: [laughs] Yeah. I definitely keep track of -- I have different to-do list for each of my little internal projects, but I don't keep track of time. I think part of that is that they're more passion projects, so I don't know that I want to like see the amount of time just because I think that somewhere in my brain, it will kind of chip in the worth that I feel it has. It's something that I really enjoy doing like I don't keep track of the amount of hours that I ride my bike because it would either make me feel sad that I'm not riding my bike enough, or I would look at the number of hours and be like "Man! I should really ride my bike less so I can do other things". So, I think there was certain things that makes sense, not to keep track of time specifically, but yeah, definitely being able to make sure that you're still meeting any goals that you set up for yourself. Like I try and write at least a chapter of a book every week or every two weeks. So, that's kind of a milestone that I set for myself. But outside of that, I really don't track anything. CHUCK: Yeah, I'm kind of in the same boat. I don't keep track of it; I just have my to-do list. I mentioned Asana, what I did, (was it this morning) I think it was last night, I actually wrote up on my white board -- I remember doing that, I don't remember when it was -- but, I wrote up on my white board all the projects I have and all the kind of next steps for those just to kind of get it out of my head and kind of free up some of that mental energy that I'm spending worrying about it. So now, I'm looking at it and going "Okay, which of these can I just knock out?" So, it's been kind of nice to just say "Okay, I'm going to zap that one today." Hopefully, I can get the one that I want to get done today. I'm probably going to actually just focus on one each week and see if I can get it done, get it gone. If I could do that, then I'll be in pretty good shape by the end of the month, I think, as far as some of these other projects and products go. And really, it also helps me kind of get my head into the space of where do I want to go next. How much of my income do I need to have coming in from the consulting versus how much time do I want to spend on things like the podcasting and some of these other things that I'm really passionate about, some of the training products. I'm not doing them because they make money, well I am doing them because they make money, but I'm doing them because I really like interacting with people that way, as kind of a mentor. And so, figuring all that out is I think is really good for me and I really enjoy it. So, just finding that balance and looking at some of the stuff, I'm thinking "Okay, how do I make this work? How do I make it so I can spend more time doing this stuff I really enjoy and less time doing this stuff that I really don't enjoy or enjoy less?" ASHE: Yeah, that makes sense; minimizing the pain points. CHUCK: Yeah. Well, I minimize a lot of them away by outsourcing them... ASHE: Right. CHUCK: So like anything audio, you would think as a podcaster I enjoy doing that, I really don't. So, I've outsourced that; Mandy takes care of that for me. Bookkeeping and stuff like that, same kind of thing. But now, it's down to "Okay, this is kind of the skilled work that people want me to do. How do I balance that? What kind of projects am I taking on? Do I really enjoy them? Are they really worth pursuing? What about these other projects that are not the client projects? How important are they? How much time do I own or commit to them?", that kind of thing. ASHE: Yeah. CHUCK: And they're not easy questions to answer. In fact, I've actually started kind of forming an informal (I don't know what to call them), it's almost like a board of advisers, and it's just a collection of people that I kind of go "Hey, this is what I'm thinking", and I get feedback. I mean we talk for half hour before the show about some of the stuff, and I got a lot of good feedback from you. Sometimes I bounce some of the stuff off of Eric or Evan, and then I have a few other people out there that I participate in some of the stuff with, including an actual mastermind group that I meet with 2x a month. So, it's not just a matter of, I guess we're kind of getting into the mid of project management because this is actually managing your projects, your list of projects as opposed to managing the tasks inside of a project, but just figuring out what your priorities are. And, it's nice to have a few people look at me and go "You can't do all six of those at once, so which one are you going to focus on? Which one is most important?" then helping give me ideas on how I can get that focus, how I can get stuff done, and things like that. It really does payoff in a big way, and it really helps me get where I want to go. ASHE: Yeah, that's something that I really struggle with. I actually have a marked down file that is on my desktop that is just a list of all the projects that I want to one day do because I feel like if I don't get them out in like exquisite detail that they sprout in my brain, then I have to do them right then; I have to drop everything that I'm doing and actually do it. And it's really hard for me to kind of keep that focus on one or two projects at a time to get on whatever those projects are because I start getting impatient that they're not being completed, or I completely lose focus and stop caring about them. So knowing that about myself, that's why I try to keep so few projects going at once. CHUCK: Yeah. And I like the idea of having a place where you can go and kind of take your idea and kind of completely dump it all there so that it's somewhere where you know you can come back to it, and then you don't have to worry about it; it's just kind of out there for when you want to come back around to it or when you're ready to work on it. ASHE: Yup! CHUCK: I'm trying to remember what they called that... ASHE: Getting Things Done? CHUCK: Yeah, Getting Things Done talks about it, but it's your [inaudible] something...I don't remember. Anyway, there's a term for that where it's basically a place for you to get this stuff out of your head. ASHE: Yeah. That's a really hard thing for me to not do especially, like yesterday I had lunch with somebody, and it was an amazing meeting; I happen to have left my phone at home, and that's usually where I take notes. He said a couple of things that really struck me as really deep like amazingly philosophical, and I try to think of them walking like the mile and a half back to my office. And by the time I got back to the office, they were gone. [laughter] ASHE: So, like the entire day was rocking my brain trying to remember what he said and I feel like it was such a lost opportunity to get that information and to get it down so I could use it for something in the future. But yeah, I know that -- because I flip from things to other things so quickly -- that I need to get that stuff down and out of my head as soon as possible. CHUCK: Yeah, I'm in the same way. I mean go look at my GitHub account; I have like 80 projects on there that are public, but I think one or two might actually be usable. [laughter] CHUCK: So yeah, I do the same thing. And I really do need to do more of that work so like "Okay, this is my grand idea and I'm going to write it down" because they always sound like terrific ideas at the time. And then, I spend the day or two working on them and then it's like "Oh! I need to get back to these other things because they're more important". And if I would just write them down and say "Okay, I'll come back to it when I'm done with this other important thing", I could save myself a day or two, and then when those things do come up to the top of the list, or it's like "Okay, this is the next most important or interesting thing that I want to work on", then I can take the opportunity. So, I'm a little curious because I keep thinking I want to write a book, well, The Ruby Rogues are going to be writing a book, but what's kind of your workflow for writing a book? ASHE: Oh, I'm totally the wrong person to ask. I'm actually working on 2 books; one is a lot more visible right now. But what I've been doing is just gathering a bunch of information, both anecdotal and like actual research, and categorizing it into basically different chapters. And then, I totally have ADD; I just kind of bounce around and write a paragraph or two as I think of them for each section. And, I'm trying to force myself to focus on writing one chapter at a time just because I can kind of focus a lot more with my thoughts and I'm a lot more aware like when I see related information come across Twitter or somebody emails me something that it's something that I can pull data out of. But, I kind of use it as long form blog post. So I write blog post a lot, really long blog post, unfortunately. And I kind of just look at it as a collection of blog post that I'm writing. So, I kind of do the same thing right; I have kind of a mental outline of the things that I want to cover, and then just fill in as I think of things. CHUCK: Hah! ASHE: It doesn't seem very organized to the outside viewer, I can tell you that. [laughter] ASHE: It's very haphazard, but it really works for me because I feel like, for the books that I'm writing, the information is so scattered and it's so diverse in so many different places that it sometimes hard to see a thread that pull through them until everything is pulled together. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. And my video projects tend to be the same way; you would think that they would all tie together real nicely. But like the Rails Ramp Up course, I'm getting rave reviews from the people who are in it, but each video is very different from the other ones even though a lot of the stuff builds upon itself in order to build a Rails app. So, it's like this in-depth study of whatever the topic is, and then if you watched all 8 videos, you'd be like "So each video is just kind of off on its own, doing its own thing and I can see how they all tied together" but yeah -- ASHE: I think part of the problem, for me, is that I never write linearly just because there are some sections that I maybe know a lot more about right away, and I don't necessarily needs to do its kind of research or need to think a lot on. So some sections, maybe closer to the end, will be really well flashed out, and then I'll end up like working my way backwards and jumping back and forth, and reading it and then rewriting it. So, I think that for people who write or record or whatever they're doing in a linear fashion, it maybe makes it easier to make things tie together a little bit better. And that's something that I definitely need to work on in the coming months; it's to be more focused about doing things in a certain order. But I don't know, certain categories are just really shiny and I have to go and write about them right away before I get to other ones. CHUCK: Yeah, I totally get it. And then, I have to say that my brain doesn't work linearly all the time, either. So, it really does kind of move from one thing to the next, and not necessarily in a progression that anyone else would be able to follow. And so, when you kind of hit that place for whatever it is you're thinking about or working on, then you can kind of expand that one area, and then come back and fill in the gaps. ASHE: Yup! And I think just as long as you make sure that you're heading on all of the areas, it's okay; it's definitely easy. I definitely written things before, where I divided it into categories that made sense and put them in the right order. And then, kind of wrote in my out-of-order style that I write, and then read through it and realize that there is nothing that transitions easily from one section to the next. Or, I have something that's completely missing; some perspective that's completely missing that I hadn't thought about before actually reading it in a linear fashion. CHUCK: Yup, makes sense. So, are there any other kinds of projects that you managed in the client side or not that we haven't talked about? Or, any aspects of managing this that you want to share your deep wisdom on? ASHE: I don't know...Project Management, I would say, isn't my forte and it's not my favorite thing, you're kind of talking about this pre-show. It's probably next to estimating as my least favorite thing to do, especially if that comes down to managing other people, because you have to hold so much stuff in your brain at once and because I'm so much less linear as far as my work goes; in most people, it's kind of difficult to deal with that. So I don't know, I kind of prefer when a client has a project manager and I'm working with them and they're organizing all of the big picture stuff, and I can focus on the super tiny stuff. CHUCK: You say that, but I've worked with some clients whose project manager has made things harder and not easier. ASHE: Oh, sure! I'm in that position, too. [laughs] CHUCK: But yeah, for the most part, if they're good, then they make your job really easy because all you really have to do is look at something and you immediately know what you're supposed to do. ASHE: Right. And if you think that it's a kind of like a project guide like somebody is walking you from place to place and like "Okay, this is what you're doing right now", I kind of like that because it helps me to not have to think about the big picture. I'm not in the like nothing came about the entire project, but I don't have to be thinking about what every other developer's working on or how that's fitting in specifically into what I'm working on. So if they're worrying about that instead of me, that means that I can focus on what I'm supposed to be doing and making my section of it as good as it can be versus kind of worrying and having to like jump over and make sure that everything over there is doing okay. CHUCK: Yup. Alright well, I don't know if I have anything else to add or talk about. So, let's go ahead and do the picks! ASHE: Sounds good! CHUCK: You got some picks? ASHE: Yeah, I've got 2. One of them is a National Geographic Tumblr; it's all views, neat pictures, and stories from tons of different National Geographic Magazines over the course of however many years they've been around. That's really neat. The one that kind of pulled me in was, there's this boy who's (I don't know) 8, and he's sitting between 2 lobsters that are as large as he is [laughs]. CHUCK: Oh, wow! ASHE: So, I thought that was pretty interesting. So, that's my first one; that one's a "NatGeo Found" on Tumblr. And then my second one is, a friend of mine, Elise Worthy, is raising money to people to travel to Scottish RubyConf and Nordic RubyConf; she got accepted to speak at both. She's kind of on a sabbatical from programming in general, for her health for the next 6 months. So, she's looking for help to fund going over to speak at these conferences. So, I'll put the link in the notes for that. But, she's looking for about $1500 to be able to afford the flights and eating and staying somewhere. CHUCK: Cool! Yeah, I like Elise. She actually host at the Ruby Nuby Episode of Ruby Rogues. ASHE: Yeah, that's how I actually first heard of her and had been a big fan of hers ever since. CHUCK: Yup. She's smart and funny and awesome! So yeah, if we can help her out, I'm off for it. Alright well, my picks; so my first pick is, I was looking around for an audio player because I've been working on devchat.tv, which is the podcast network that I'm putting together for the 4 shows that I currently do, and I've had some interest from some other shows as far as joining the network and adding their terrific content to what we already do here. And I found this one, it's called "MediaElement", and I'll put a link to it in the show notes. It's an HTML5 JavaScript player and it falls back to Flash or Silverlight, depending on which browser you're in. That's important because what you run into is that not all browsers support MP3s, and so my options would have been to basically support MP3s and OGG formats and WebM and there was one other that different browsers support  in different ways, and I really don't want to create this workflow so that its 6 different audio formats. And so for one, I want to just be able to play it on the website and the other is that I want to just be able to put it out in MP3 and have everybody okay with it. So far, I haven't had any complaints so that's what I'm doing. I tried jPlayer, and it was just acting really weird. It didn't show, for example, if I had a show that was longer than an hour, it wouldn't show the hours so it would say it was like 15 minutes long or whatever, or 3 minutes long. Other than that, it seemed to work okay, but MediaElement just looks a whole lot cleaner and seems to work really really nicely. So, that's one pick. And then, I'm pretty sure I've picked it before, but my other pick is “Hover”, hover.com. It's my domain registrar of choice. I've been moving away from GoDaddy for a while; there just a lot of things that I don't like about them, and I'm not going to enumerate them here. But anyway, I'm just really really sick of GoDaddy. And so, I started looking for other domain registrars, I looked at domain.com, I looked at Namecheap, and a few of the others, and Hover is just really really awesome. Their interface is really simple, it's really clean; it's generally pretty easy to do whatever it is you need to do managing your DNS. I just can't say enough good things about them. Anyway, those are my picks. And hopefully, we have a few more people back from conferences and stuff next week, and we can tackle some of these other topics. ASHE: Excellent! CHUCK: Alright well, I guess we're done! [laughs] ASHE: Sweet!

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