Chandler and the Internets

I always have my eyes open for new and better ways to do things, get things done, and share information. I chronicled some of this over a year ago in Web 2.0 and More web apps, and things have changed a bit since then! I'm still using Delicious to manage my bookmarks and Amazon added the ability to add anything to your wishlist from other websites, but those items aren't piped out via their API so thats no fun for my wantlist (which I've been updating for Christmas!). Plaxo never really became useful to me, nor did 30 Boxes or Basecamp. In the last year, I've been trying to build a more cohesive online presence that doesn't depend so much on Facebook. Enter FriendFeed! All my things from all over the internet pipe into my friendfeed which then gets piped into sites that consume this information like the "other sites" bar here on the left, and my Facebook wall thing. I also signed up for twitter finally and got that tied in to everything. However, the biggest change in the last few months has been moving from Remember The Milk and Google Calendar to Chandler. Not only is Chandler amazing, it allows me to own my data by running Chandler Server on my own servers so I get simple backups, no unexpected downtime, and the peace of mind that I own the whole stack that contains my information. Several years ago, I was looking for a good to-do list manager and found out about Chandler but it was in it's infancy and definitely not ready for prime time. I moved around between iCal, sticky notes, paper, text files, and a few other things but none really fit quite right. On August 8, Chandler 1.0 was announced and I decided to give it a shot. First I just used it for my personal tasks related to Gallery, which I stored in Chandler Hub, but in less than a week I realized how powerful of a tool Chandler really was. Next, setting up my own Chandler Server was a breeze. In perhaps an hour I got Chandler Server up and running listening on a local port, set up MySQL as the backend so my existing backup scripts would automatically take care of it, and set up my webserver to do the logging and SSL magic. I stopped using my paid Remember The Milk account and Google Calendar, and over the next few days moved everything into Chandler. Now, every day after my morning bike ride, I filter through my email (I use the Inbox:0 strategy) either deleting things, responding to quick things, or putting actionable things that take some time into Chandler's desktop client. Once that's empty, I head into Chandler and start down the task list for the day. I have a separate collection for each of the kinds of projects I'm working on (Hosting, House, etc) but usually I hang out in the "Dashboard" view which combines most of my collections. Collections like "Recipies" and ones that don't have actionable items are hidden from my dashboard. This has significantly cut down the amount of time I spend managing myself, and once a week I do a "weekly review" to scan through items marked as "Later" and see if any of them need to be changed. (Right now I have 12 "Now" items, 109 "later" items, and 93 "done" items in my personal collections.) Also, all of my collections synchronize between my desktop and laptop, feed into iCal which syncs to my iPhone, etc, so my information is where I need it when I need it, and I can use Chandler's web interface to get at things if I'm on someone else's computer. Just using this for my personal things was nice, but my two biggest projects are working on the operations team at SugarCRM and acting as a project manager for Gallery. I set up a Chandler Server at work and we have 5 people sharing a collection called "Sugar Operations" which includes:
  • Tasks for people which get assigned by adding something like @chris in the title
  • Tnternal HOWTOs (like our machine bootstrapping process) that are still in flux. These get moved to a wiki once they stabilize
  • Changing system configuration information
  • Meetings and company events that multiple people are attending
It takes a little while to get new people using the shared collection, but once they're in it's an amazingly effective way to work together as a team. We no longer need weekly "On Tap" emails to figure out what is going on because it's all in Chandler, and we can make changes to information without having to log into a wiki each time or email changes around. Several weeks ago at the Gallery Sprint, everyone else told me to do what I thought was best for managing project overhead so we're now using a shared collection hosted on Chandler Hub to manage the project and the development of Gallery 3. You can see that collection in your web browser here: Again, it's taken a little bit of effort to get everyone using it the same way but the results have been an even bigger deal here. Developers working on open source projects don't really like doing things other than making decisions and developing, and Chandler is a very low overhead way for developers to keep track of what they are doing in such a way that anyone can easily get the big picture in one place. Chandler has gotten rid of the need for weekly status reports to our mailing list, going through lists of action items in weekly meetings, and figuring out who committed to doing what. Everyone knows who is responsible for things and I can finally spend a lot less time harassing people to do things that they committed to doing already. This frees up a lot of time so that developers can get back to developing and our meetings are back to lively discussion and decision making instead of boring project overhead. Gallery is still using SourceForge to manage feature requests, bugs, and our code repository, as these aren't really things that Chandler is up to at this point. We wish there was a way to report on things in Chandler and associate them with releases, but it would be a lot of work to make this happen. Trac does a great job of this so theres a possibility of switching to Trac in the future which could replace both Chandler and the SourceForge, but I get the feeling that the developer overhead is a lot higher which might cut down on how useful it is. I can't express how great it is to have everything that I need in one application on my desktop, and I'm looking forward to the day that I can ditch my e-mail client as well!

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