Category Archives: planner

Upgrade yourself! =)

Creating Passionate Users
is a great blog just full of insights. The latest gem is about upgrading users.

Right, that’s you. (If you don’t use Planner, read on; maybe I can
convince you to try it out.)

Planner probably isn’t interesting in itself. _You_ make Planner way
cool. You aren’t just an anonymous person who uses Planner. You are a
bundle of unique ways of doing things and maybe I can come up with
things that fit you better. I want to know how you think. What makes
you tick. How you keep yourself from going crazy even though you have
to keep track of so many things.

(If this is starting to freak you out, don’t worry; you can pretend
I’m just like any other maintainer out there. ;) Ignore that large
BBDB in the corner.)

I don’t think of myself as hacking just Emacs Lisp. I’m hacking your
process. Your way of doing things. _Real_ planner development happens
inside _your_ head when you come up with a nifty idea or something
you’d like improved. Real planner development happens when you take a
look at the way you do things and wonder if you can do them better. My
job is to keep track of all these little things people want to do and
see if someone else has already done it, I can help you do it, or I
can hack it in myself. The Japanese have a word for continuous
improvement—kaizen. Process optimization.

We make a lot of progress in small steps. Take that +tue feature. It’s
not a big thing, but it brings Planner _juuust_ a little closer to the
way a lot of people think. Who knows what kind of hacks it just made
easier? John Sullivan has plans for that feature, mainly for his
template hacks.

The end result is that Planner is this strange, almost bewildering
personal information manager that just keeps growing and growing.
Sure, the quickstart introduces the essential parts of the system, but
there’s much more to it. I’m here to guide you through it. I’d love to
ask questions to help you figure out how you plan. I’d love to suggest
ways of doing things. =) Whether you’re a Franklin/Covey or GTD geek
or you’re using a funky home-brew kind of planning method that changes
all the time (I’m like that!), I’d like to think we can get Planner or
some other Emacs-based PIM to dance to your tune.

(Of course, there’s the danger of spending too much time hacking your
process and too little time actually doing things, but I think we can
keep ourselves from going overboard.)

So there. Sure, the mailing list is usually where software updates are
announced, but think of it as meant for user upgrading.

Keep the suggestions coming. Share your thoughts!

Creating Passionate Users: Upgrade your users, not just your product

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Yet another cool little Planner hack: really smart tab expansion

One of the greatest things Planner has done for me has been to make it
easy to keep track of little tasks. Having lots of things on the shelf
makes it far easier for me to take advantage of moments of inspiration
and turn them into real code. I do my best thinking on the train,
walking home, in the bath: wherever I can squeeze some reflection into
a couple of minutes of waiting. Then I mentally run through whatever
little tasks I have lying around, and if inspiration hits, I run with it.

Today was pll’s lucky day. He asked for ways to easily hyperlink to
people’s records and to days like “tomorrow”, “yesterday”, and
“today”. I remember thinking, “Hey, that would be cute.” The feature
was really close to something I hacked together over a year ago, so I
pulled up my old configuration, tweaked it a bit, and ended up
creating this nifty tab expansion module that used hippie-expand to
expand planner names in an intelligent way.

I _love_ hacks like that. I love making small and nearly insignificant
tweaks to help people fit Planner to the way they want to work. People
may or may not use that little tab completion thing. Browsing
through my ../emacs/planner-config.el and
../emacs/emacs-wiki-config.el reveals a lot of cruft I wrote long
ago but have since then forgotten. The point is, at least we
experiment with these things. Planner makes it easy to experiment.
Planner makes it easy to try things out.

A major part of my role as the maintainer of Planner is really just to
keep track of people’s wishes and see if we can kludge together some
kind of attempt. While other software projects have awe-inspiring
grand plans, we stumble along in the directions people want to go
in—sometimes contradictory—and somehow or another, we manage to make
an environment that fits us. Planner is not a one-size-fits-all
personal information manager. Planner is crafted, tailored for each
person. Planner grows just as much as you want it to.

Of course, this constant experimentation leads to rough spots if you
track the development branch and try all the new features. There are
bugs we still haven’t tracked down, particularly the new code that’s
out there so that people can bang on it and experiment with it and
hammer it into something that makes sense.

I think this development model works. That’s why the mailing list is
essential. That’s why #emacs on is essential. That’s
why a constant stream of suggestions really really helps.

Perhaps one day Planner will get buried under features. It already
seems to be overly complex at first glance; newbies who take one look
at it run away screaming. ;) I think that is something that cannot
quite be addressed by documentation or simplification or even
reasonable defaults. I will not hide the complexity of Planner. I will
not hide Lisp programming from Planner users. In fact, you are very
much encouraged to try it out, and if this is your first introduction
to Emacs Lisp programming, I think that it is quite good that your
first hack is something you will use and benefit from daily.

How, then, are we to manage the complexity as Planner grows more and
more features? How are hapless newbies supposed to get into this
extremely wonderful thing? ;)

I think the answer lies with people. I learn most by asking people how
they use their Planner. I learn by asking people what they want to be
able to do with their Planner. I think it’s silly to ask people to use
all of Planner right away—_I_ don’t use all of Planner. Even if you
go through the manual, there’s just so much information. There are
just so many ways of doing things.

The trick, really, is to evolve from something small and comfortable
to something slightly larger and perhaps just a little uncomfortable,
but something that is still easy to get used to. Show people the bare
minimum that they need in order to do their job (or to at least feel
they’re keeping track of the things they need to do their job), give
them a glimpse of what’s possible, and encourage them to think of
other things they’d like to do.

That’s where little hacks like pll’s tab completion fit in. Planner
encourages people to think about that next little hack as a “nice to
have”: not something to waste a lot of time thinking about, perhaps,
but something to keep on a todo list somewhere just in case
inspiration strikes.

On Technorati:

Modification of johnsu01’s scoring

The following code allows you to sort tasks based on regexp matches
against the line. It’s fairly simple, but may give people ideas about
fancier task sorting.

(setq planner-sort-tasks-key-function 'planner-sort-tasks-by-score)

(defvar planner-score-rules '(("read" . 50))
  "Alist of planner scoring rules of the form (regexp . score-value).
Tasks with higher scores are listed first.")

(defun planner-sort-tasks-by-score ()
  "Sort tasks by the rule in the table."
  (let ((score 0)
        (case-fold-search t)
        (line (buffer-substring-no-properties (line-beginning-position)
     (lambda (item)
       (when (string-match (car item) line)
         (setq score (- score (cdr item)))))

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FreeBSD ports for planner

From Dryice:

I’ve got emacs-wiki, planner, and remember in the FreeBSD ports
tree. Now FreeBSD users can install these all by

cd /usr/ports/deskutils/remember.el
make install clean

And turn on the “planner support” in the menu.

Thank you all for making this great software!

E-Mail from Dryice Dong Liu

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Paul Lussier on possible Planner Linux Journal article

I just started getting you blog via rss yesterday, and just read the
discussion you had over writing an article on planner. I just wanted
to say that I think that is an AWESOME idea.

As Travis mentioned in the discussion, I too, have become totally
adicted to using planner (which, ironically, helps me procrasinate
from doing the stuff I need to, but “planning” it :)

There were a couple of points you mentioned that I’d like to touch on,
and share my experiences with emacs-wiki, planner, the community, etc.
Perhaps it’s something you can use in your articles, perhaps not, but
I’d like to share it with you nonetheless :)

   We're sitting on something cool here. We're sitting on a
           software project crazy enough to interest people who
           ordinarily wouldn't consider Emacs.

I think this is a fantastic observation. My own experience isn’t too
far off. I started using emacs over 10 years ago. But it was “just a
powerful editor”. I used it for the obvious things writing perl/shell
code because I just liked the font-lock colors. And I used it for
somewhat less obvious things like the column/rectangle manipulation
which comes in *real* handy for dealing with things like large
/etc/hosts or DNS zone tables which are all column oriented data. I
had hacked a few functions of things I found useful, but maintained a
rather small .emacs file.

About a year ago, my manager was gone for 6 weeks (boy was that nice
:) She and I didnt’ get along overly well, but the guy who stood in
for her I got along with quite well. He happened to be a project
manager, who has had MS Project surgically implanted :) I needed
something I could keep track of things with. I found etask, but then
saw emacs-wiki and planner. This seemed a more natural way of planning.

As I started in using planner and emacs-wiki, I very quickly became
addicted. This was almost literally, an overnight conversion of my
life. I no sooner started using emacs-wiki/planner, than I found
myself using erc. Reading johnw’s README for planner led me to his
site, where I discovered ledger (John’s unbelievably powerful
financial app.) and eshell. Then came (in no specific order) w3m,
muse, remember, bbdb, and last, but not least, gnus. The last three
are significant. I had been mostly happy with my prior e-mail
environment of an mh-backend based e-mail solution for the better part
of a decade. But there was no way I could hook that in to planner,
and after a several months of resistance, I attempted the switch to
mh-e which, as you may remember, didn’t go so well :) So, now I’m on
gnus, and almost every facet of my life is now hooked into emacs.
I’ve learned more about emacs and lisp in the past year than I have in
the past 10 years.

A more profound observation is this:

   Heck, we're even getting non-programmers into Lisp.

I wouldn’t consider myself a non-programmer, but I’m not a programmer
either. I’ve got a degree in CS, and know my way around C a little
bit, but my strengths, as a sysadmin, are really in perl. I love
perl, think in perl, and can solve almost all my problems in perl.
All except the hacks I want added into planner :) As a result of
planner though, I’ve felt very much at a loss. The ability to
contribute is so obviously there and within my reach, but the
capability not so much. I can plainly see that if I could think in
lisp, I could contribute to planner, but the stumbling block is my
thought process, which is wired to think in perl. As a result,
planner has inspired me to begin learning lisp, merely to be able to
help myself, and others through what contributions to planner I may
someday come up with. I learned perl out of necessity because it was
better for the job I needed to do at the time. I’m learning lisp out
of love of an application written in it, and a desire to help make it
better :)

Then there’s this:

   - We don't hide the Lisp code. It's there. Newbies get
           exposed to it. The way we deal with it, though, is by asking
           people to describe--in English--what they want to do--their
           dream PIM--and more experienced people would give them
           snippets of code and tips for making it happen.

This has been instrumental for me. To be able say “when I do X, I
want Y to happen”, and have that feature within minutes (or seconds!)
available to me is astounding. The hack you presented for getting
remember to know when it was on a task and create a related note,
while I don’t understand it yet, works superbly! That I could ask for
that feature, and you could provide it is both a testament to how easy
it is to extend planner and to how welcoming the community is of
requests and features that may not be immediately useful to anyne else
but the requestor (err, have I mentioned how much hippie-expand ROCKS
lately ;)

   Yes.  But was this growth conscious?

This is a great question. And I think the answer is twofold. Did
johnw intend to create such a vibrant community around planner? No, I
don’t think so. He was scratching a personal itch. Did you
intend/expect this to explode the way it has, or did you plan it? I
don’t think so. In retrospect though, I think we could say that it
was inevitable given your personality, love of people, and desire to
help/teach others. Those who actively reach out, soon find themselves
surrounded by others of like quality. Once you realized there was a
community growing though, I think it became very much a conscious
thought as to how to grow the community, and how to get planner to fit
as many people’s habits as possible. The open acceptance of hacking
the code to custom fit anyone who happened to be interested is the
obvious way to do that. Planner’s design which allows people to
choose from a menu of features, and to start out extremely simple and
build up slowly is also very much a factor in why the community has
evolved the way it has.

Planner seems to have created friendships and acquaintances across a
diverse set of individuals. Some of us are #emacs, some are on the
mailing list, and some are on both. A few of us see each other in
other IRC channels as well (of course, the common link is johnw, which
is why I think we should really create #johnw :) Regardless, planner
has definitely had quite an impact on a lot of people, and I don’t see
that ending any time soon!

I guess that’s it. I’m beginning to ramble now :) I just wanted to
share that with you, and wish you luck on the forthcoming articles for
LJ. I’ll certainly be eagerly awaiting those issues!

Oh, and if there’s any help I can provide for the articles, I’d be
happy to assist.

E-Mail from Paul Lussier

隣人は4人姉妹と猫1匹です。 My neighbors are four sisters and a cat.

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On organization

joroxx said:

oh man, how do you keep a life so organized? ya know i
love emacs and lisp but i’m bogging down on planner. :-(

i guess i like spontainity and surprises! :-)

Some people look at my website and think I’m organized. I have no idea
what gives them that impression. Maybe it’s the color-coded task list.
Yes, yes, that must be it.

Regular readers will notice, however, that I procrastinate as much as
anyone else. Just check my website tomorrow and see which tasks still
aren’t done. ;) In fact, if you look at the linked pages, you’ll find
lots of tasks I haven’t even scheduled.

I guess I procrastinate in an organized manner. ;) Planner lets me do
that. It doesn’t guilt-trip me into productivity or nag me to do
things. Rather, it helps me keep track of the things I’d like to
eventually get around to doing, and it occasionally reminds me that I
should do some of those things soon.

Planner makes working fun. I love seeing crossed-off tasks on my
Planner. When I break things down into tiny little pieces and cross
them off my list, it feels good. On the other hand, if I don’t manage
to cross off anything on my list, that means I had either made
progress on at least one task or had fun doing something unexpected. <grin>

I love surprises, too. Today I had lunch with Clair and Madj at
Greenbelt. Totally unplanned—actually, I was just planning to sleep
in—but totally, totally fun. Then my mom and I went to a wedding in
Alabang, and that was surprisingly wonderful and sweet… =)

E-Mail from Richi’s server

秘密はもうすっかり知れ渡っているよ。 The cat is well out of the bag.

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