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Posts from 5 January 2015

  • Week 7 Day 5 - Trello, ello, ello, ayy, ayy

    Today: solo day

    I think it's just me, and not the time off. Backbone is… opaque.

    Today was our solo project day with javascript/Backbone, and let me tell you, I was struggling. I've been looking forward to having another solo day, but I consistently fail to gain traction on these days. So, I don't know, I'm kind of torn about solo work. All I know is that I'll have to figure it out eventually: how not to struggle the first hour or two after I sit down at the computer, since that's the time I should be "making my money."

    Our project today was to work on a clone of Trello. This is an app that I (thought I) had installed on my phone once upon a time, but I didn't quite realize what it did. Basically, you have boards, lists, and cards. Boards have a name/topic ("trello project"), lists have a topic ("features to add"), and cards have short bits of content that can be rearranged and reordered as needed to describe the list they contain. Additionally, there are collaboration features and a bunch of different varieties of actions that can be done to cards… all pretty cool until you realize that it's topologically equivalent to a tree/outline, and that there are literally a million variations on this theme out there.

    As an aside, how many ways can you have to make an outline? Maybe I'm missing something here, but the main differentiation between say, Trello and workflowy is simply presentation. All these things are supposed to help make you more productive, but if the stuff you need to get out doesn't outline readily, or is topologically distinct from a tree, you'll spend all your time trying to shoehorn it into a broken topology.

    That isn't to say there's no value in the presentation layer. Structurally, there's little difference between OmniFocus, WorkFlowy, any of a number of GTD apps, and a MS Word outline… but functionally, presentation matters. The biggest thing that any of these programs do is to hide junk that's not "in scope" at the present moment, as well as allowing you to manipulate objects and their sublists as a coherent object. I've told people countless times about the power of the MS Word Outline for structuring a document, but where it really shines is when you have a good idea where you want to end up and just need to flesh out concrete topics. It, and others, are not so good at just letting you dump a mess of thoughts and then bucket them as needed—there often is no general purpose "inbox" that can collect detritus that you can in turn process later, despite this requiring little more than a database field and a view. I wonder what all these app developers' workflows look like that this is desirable behavior.

    Anyway, I started today really slowly, and gradually picked up steam as the day progressed. Toward 3 pm, though, I felt my momentum fail as I struggled with some stuff that I can't quite quantify about Backbone. I couldn't think of what I needed to do or what I even would need to do to figure out what needed to happen, and I can't decide whether it was because of Backbone, javascript, the instructions, or what. I still largely prefer ruby and rails, but I understand that JS is the bread and butter of webdev, so it'll pay to overcome my issues, and yet I can't properly decide … much of anything. Guh.

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