[Design] [Proposal] [Desktop] [Cosmo] Addressing 'How do I get started?' issues

Mimi Yin mimi at osafoundation.org
Fri Nov 30 14:05:36 PST 2007

Proposal for addressing 'How do I get started' moment when setting up  
Chandler Hub *and* Desktop. We've already discussed the FLOSS  
feedback and 'basic standalone usage' scenarios in detail on the  
list, so I'm going to focus this email on getting people up the ram  
for 'Task/Project Management'.

(This proposal does not include ideas about how we might improve sign- 
up / start-up experience, demos, marketing language, landing page, etc.)

Problem: People often ask: Where do I put my projects? As a  
collection in the sidebar?

The sidebar isn't really a scalable solution for storing and tracking  
projects, nor does it have the right affordances for managing  
projects (ie. Managing focus with triage status, assigning alarms, etc).

Instead, we really want to encourage users to enter and manage  
projects as items in a collection and collections are really  
persistent 'areas of responsibility'.

So, why not call these things what they are?
1. Rename collections to be something like 'Work Spaces' (I've seen  
this in other Task Management tools.)
2. Add a label at the top of the sidebar that says: 'Work Spaces'
3. Change the Tasks application area and Task stamp to 'Projects' and  
'Add to Project list' ('Mark as a Project' on Hub) respectively.

Problem: People often ask about how to 'assign' items to people,  
either as a way of keeping track of 'waiting fors' or as a way of  
tracking ownership: Who's responsible for this thing anyway?

This is a more complicated issue to address, but I think

1. Add an 'Owner' attribute to the base Note kind. That means, all  
items: Notes, Messages, Tasks and Events have an 'Owner'. The default  
'Owner' is the user who creates the item. But the creator can change  
who the 'Owner' is.

2. In the Triable Table View, the Who column 'defaults' to displaying  
the 'Owner' attribute. However, when an item is 'Unread' *and*:
+ Created
+ Edited
+ Sent/Received
+ Updated,

The Who column should 'temporarily' display cr/ed/fr/to/up, until the  
user clicks on the item and views the details of the item.

This would be an extension of bug#, which we just implemented.

Nice to haves
1. Integrate 'Owner' with the Addressing fields so there aren't so  
many people fields.
+ If the Owner = me, then Owner = From: field
+ If the Owner != me, then Owner = To: field

Problem: People often ask about how to make task dependencies and/or

I think this is mostly because we are all used to outliners and/or  
jotting down hierarchical task lists in word documents, emails and  
text files. The process of dumping what's on your mind in an outline  
form is very useful, it's our best technique for 'wrapping our heads'  
around all the random bits and pieces we need to manage and track.

The problem is that for most people, these hierarchies are short- 
lived. It takes an immense amount of discipline coupled with insight  
into our personal productivity patterns to come up with a hierarchy  
that we can keep up-to-date as we make progress on projects. Few  
people have accomplished this feat.

The Chandler we have today mostly addresses the 'keep up-to-date'  
problem. The problem is, we all want to *get started* by jotting down  
a hierarchical list. It's also extremely useful to 'review' projects  
in a hierarchical list. How do we give users the best of both worlds?  
A hierarchical way to brain-dump, organize and review projects *as  
well as* a sustainable way to process, iterate on and manage them?

What to do?

This is simply a very hard problem to solve...completely.

I'm wondering if we can flip this dilemma on its head. Email, doesn't  
support any of this, yet people use it to manage everything. Email  
has the 'universal inbox' thing going for it. But Chandler has  
something else going for it and it's just a matter of making what  
*that* is clear to users so they give Chandler a try *in spite* of  
the fact that it doesn't do some of the basic things they've come to  
expect of Task managers. (I imagine, part of the solution would be  
better messaging and better demos.)

We *can* however try to provide immediate balm to those of us already  
bought in to the idea that Chandler is useful, but are still feeling  
a very real pain point around not being able to group / cluster items  

What's the lowest cost way of doing this? Context menus? How easy/ 
hard would it be to implement something like:

1. User selects the items they want to link together.
2. User right-clicks and selects: Link items together.
3. When an item is selected, all the items linked to it are  
highlighted in a lighter blue. (a la Apple Mail - see screenshot below)

Nice to haves:
1. Auto-linking of recurring events and email threads.
2. Context menu for: Add linked item

This would be a first phase towards the dream of having 'Clusters'  
and providing an 'Outliner-like' experience to users without falling  
into the 'hard to update' trap.


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