You can smell when crunch time is coming.
Engineering is saying the features are done. QA is pulling their hair out trying to get these working features actually working. Meanwhile, there is a steady flow of bugs trickling in and no one is looking at them. These are the side-effect bugs introduced by landing these Cool New features… no one is actually looking at these bugs because their focus is squarely on the Cool and the New. Problem is, these side-effect bugs are the unplanned work that will take the most time between now and the end. Call them integration bugs… call them unplanned consequences… but these are the bugs that will have you working the weekend… these are the bugs of the crunch.
Crunch time rules.
The first wiff of crunch time has the same affect on me as the first smell of spring. I think, “Shit, I better get ready.” I start cleaning.
This time around, I began with a complete rebuild of my bookmarks. I just won’t shut up about disappointed I am with the usefulness of bookmarks. They lack any sort of time-based or change information and they don’t scale even with all that help from tabbed browsing. Yet, I still have my fifteen or so standard bookmarks/tab groups that allow me to quickly grok forty or so websites. I tidy these up by reorganizing and prioritizing these bookmarks from left to right where left means “more important” or “often clicked”.
In this round of bookmark triage, del.icio.us has finally made it to the bookmark bar. After many months of casual usage, I’ve begun to actively use del.icio.us’s as a means of a organizing bookmarks outside of my browser. You can see them here. Couple of things: Del.icio.us scales. It’s brain dead interface is so simple that you immediate understand that it’s trivial to create, edit tag hierarchies as well as add new entries to that hierarchy. The service also reports and aggregates all new user additions and reports them via the front page as well as a popular page. Del.icio.us’s decidely geeky community finds some of the hottest pipin’est content on the web.
Of course, why do I need de.icio.us when I’ve got my favorite RSS reader? RSS was supposed to be the answer to my bookmark angst, but after a year and a half of steady RSS reader usage, I’m still jumping between different readers wondering when something will actually stick to my desktop. I’m still evaluating NewsFire, but I’m also still wondering out loud if building RSS straight into the browser is the right move. Sure, it’s convenient from a workflow perspective, but stateless nature of browsers means I’ve gotta click RELOAD in order to see if new feeds and I’m fond of news readers taking the time to do that for me. As part of my crunch time cleaning, I made sure I had my favorite feeds sitting in NewsFire… and… wait! New version of NetNewsWire! Dammit. Here we go again…
My last crunch time cleaning task is also the most time consuming. It’s home directory reconciliation.
First, I’d like to point out something sneaky which has happened in the past two years. Storage has become free. Google proudly flaunted this fact when they announced their GMail service, but they were only confirming something I’d know for some time… I am never going to run out of space again.
In the past, I’ve managed my ever growing pile of info_crap in two ways. First, whenever I switched jobs, I’d spend my last days gathering together a list of email contacts, packing my boxes, and then leaving every single damned bit I’d every typed or received AT the old company. RANDS ARE YOU INSANE? Maybe. Sure, there are probably some killer MRD templates in my past I should’ve kept. Maybe there is some email correspondence I should’ve held onto, but my thinking is simple: The majority of the stuff on my hard drive is similar to the stuff in my garage… it’s stuff I think I should keep, but never ever use. Plus, the time it takes me to find the one gem of a document is longer than it takes me to recreate the spirit of that idea in a new, more innovative way.
My other info_crap management tool comes into play whenever my hard drive grows dangerously full I grab my favorite disk usage utility which tells me, “Hey, you’ve got THIS much space consumed by THESE folders… go clean up your bloat, buddy.” During this crunch clean time, I realized that I have not used these disk usage reporting programs in years because the rate at which I accumulate crap is officially slower than the rate by which I accumulate additional hard drive storage. You’re thinking, “Duh Rands, throwing another 70GB at your home directory will ALWAYS solve the space problem.” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I never buy new hard drives, I just exist on the machines which pass by my desk and those standard machines now have storage which consistently exceeds my crap accumulation quotient.
Again, it appears I never have to throw anything away again.
This is a big deal and it has put a kink in my current crunch cleaning. With unlimited storage, I need a new home directory approach. It’s starts with reconciling my various home directories (main work machine, home machine, misc_firewire) into one home directory so I can stare it and figure out an organizational hierarchy that scales like crazy. Mac OS X is handy with it’s home directory template, but HELLO EVERYTHING I DO IS A DOCUMENT… a single Document folder doesn’t really help me. If you have any suggestions here, I’d like to hear them because I’m still chewing on this. Oh yeah, Spotlight better rock, too… because I’m about to have some serious search issues.
When I’m done with my cleaning, I feel relaxed, calm. This is exactly where I need to be because the hint of impending crunch time is a cue… a warning. Soon, I will have no time to think deeply… I’ll be asked to make quick decisions and I’ll be running on instinct. A clean desktop is a clean palette… ready for ideas, color, and velocity.