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Feb 26, 2010 posted by Matt
Twitter Powered Self-Improvement
Complaining to /dev/null
Complaining is the cornerstone of good programming. I mean, can you believe the features that are missing from this plugin? Or your crappy environment problems? Or how little you knew 6 months ago? I mean, come on. Seriously.
Come to think of it, you’ve seen these problems before. You should really write a plugin/submit a patch/start a project/write a snarky blog post, but you don’t have time for that. Deadlines loom threateningly on the horizon, like a hydrogen-filled blimp powered by static electricity. Later. Yes! Later! Once doomsday is over, there’ll be saw-sharpening like the world has never seen.
But let’s be serious. That week never comes. You are forever stuck flying the Hindenburg while rubbing balloons together and you probably feel guilty about it. In Real Life(tm), you get chances to sharpen the saw sporadically: an hour here, two hours there. By the time you actually do have a chance to fix one of those problems, you can’t even remember what most of them were. You’d keep a list, but you don’t want to clutter up the bug tracker, you don’t know where they go, etc. Never fear, Twitter is here!
Twitter To The Rescue
No, seriously, Twitter can help you. It’s the perfect random, quick, shared idea notepad. Here’s how we use it:
1) Make a twitter account (and protect the tweets, if you want)
2) Share credentials with the people on your team (or use birdherd.com) and follow the new account
3) Setup the global shortcut in Tweetie (or some other super easy way of tweeting)
4) Complain about everything
The global shortcut means that no matter what you’re doing, you can slap a keystroke and pound out a thought without interrupting what you’re doing for more than a few seconds. When you have some time to make an improvement, go look at the tweets and pick the thing that bothers you the most.
Twitter works really well for this because
- You’re used to it – You already use Twitter all the time anyway. Slapping one more account on there won’t change your workflow much at all.
- Cathartic sharing – Twitter exists for the purpose of sharing quick ideas with people. Why not have an account specifically for technical frustrations among your team? It’ll make you feel better.
- 140 character limit – No need to worry about babbling on; it’s short-and-sweet or nothing.
- API access – Twitter’s API is super easy. If you need to do something with the list later, a quick script will do it. In our case, we made a script that turns the tweets into tasks in Project Burndown for later scheduling.
Alternatives To Twitter
Maybe Etherpad with a text file? A wiki? Even if you don’t like the Twitter implementation, the idea is sound. Keeping a list of all the things that bother you and slowly chipping away at them can give you confidence that things are getting better.