SCRUM Planning - User Stories

Scrum is an iterative incremental framework for managing complex work (such as new product development) commonly used with agile software development.

In Scrum, work is expressed as user stories. A team may write its user stories in a number of ways as long as they are written from the perspective of the end user. Put another way, team members are encouraged to think of their work from the perspective of who will use it (hence “user” story).

In summary, user stories document requirements with particular attention to the end user’s point of view.

Paper size: Letter and A5

Usage advice: 

This template is a little more structured than the traditional way of stating user stories ("As a [end user role], I want [the desire] so that [the rationale]").

Using this template, the team will have to think about a title, a mission to accomplish, the success conditions, and the expected (tangible) deliverables.

The template can also be used to break down the story in smaller steps during the sprint planning.

Paper size: 
Multiple Sizes
Creative Commons
Applications required:, Adobe PDF Reader

A Peek in the Pack

Day Runner + D*I*Y Planner

So, a few people have emailed me about my current productivity tools. They want to know if I'm using Circa, if I've given up on fountain pens, if I ever use software, and so on. One even deduced that the reason for my absence from DIYPlanner was because I had crossed from analog completely into the digital world. The latter is certainly not the case, and my forays into the land o' ones and zeroes have typically resulted in my throwing up my hands in frustration, wondering how some people live without paper. (Keep in mind I'm an IT professional and gadget freak, so I don't say this lightly.)

So, read on for a little summary of my daily gear at the moment....

A Digital Diatribe

iPod TouchThere's a corner of hell reserved for time management gadgets, and I've visited it often these past few months. Conceptually, the ability to manage appointments and to-do lists is so simplistic that 40 years of programming should have made this a no-brainer by now.

The scenario: I want the ability to keep my calendars and tasks in sync between my home, work and mobile gadget. Adding an item to one should propagate it to the others. I should be able to add simple notes, get access to info almost anywhere, and take advantage of the domain to copy and paste data from multiple digital sources. Now, don't get me wrong: I love me my paper planner, but there's only so much you can stuff in it at a time.

Did someone mention

My new goal in life is to S.I.M.P.L.I.F.Y! I have too much stuff in a pretty small house and cannot find anything when I need it. I figure that anything I can do to help simplify my life may also benefit you – my D*I*Y friends. So, my stories and posts are hopefully going to be filled with simple yet effective tools for you to use in your everyday life (if you so choose!).

I figured since someone had mentioned in my last post, I would begin here. A FREE service that converts your voice into emails, text messages, reminders, lists and appointments. Their Tag Line: “Get Simple Back.” Love it!

Review: Ubuntu on the Eee PC

Eee PC 701 BlackIf what we're hearing in the trade sites is correct, the brand new ultra-mobile Eee PC 901 will be released in the next few days. However, the price point is supposed to be close to the $650 mark, which is a far cry from the sub-$400 sweet spot of the 701. Still, I'm eying that one carefully for my road kit, given how well my own 701 has performed. This is a little follow-up to my original mini-review.

Well, it didn't take me long to realise that I wasn't very fond of the Xandros Linux distribution that comes stock with the Eee PC 701. Don't get me wrong: it's great for newbies to Linux or for those users who want a static system that "just works" without feeling the foolish desire to tinker or to be on the bleeding edge. But, for better or worse, that's not me.

Most of my frustration was the result of a significant portion of the file system where the operating system and installed programs are stored -- to protect newbies from "messing up" the operating system, it's read-only. Yup, can't screw up what you can't change. But I didn't realise my inability to write to it at first, and was wondering why all my free space was rapidly disappearing whenever I upgraded the built-in applications. It seems that the old versions remained hidden and inactive, while the upgrades started taking up huge chunks of the valuable two gigabytes of storage space. For example, an upgrade of didn't take up a dozen more megabytes, as it would seem: instead, it took up a few hundred megabytes. Lesson learned: don't bother with any significant upgrades.

Review: First Impressions of the Eee PC 701

Eee PC 701 BlackOkay, I can be a little obsessive. (For example, see my recent posts about fountain pens, fountain pens, fountain pens, and ...erm... fountain pens.) Unfortunately, combined with my persistent belief that my next productivity tool could be the non plus ultra, this can translate into drawers filled with unused gadgets, bookcases jammed with partially used planners and notebooks, and a selection of writing utensils that would shame any office supply store. And, although I am embarrassed to admit it, while I tend towards the intimacy of pen and paper, the tinker in me is certainly inclined towards items demonstrating an almost awkward complexity. But do those help me be more productive? Rarely.

I've mentioned not only my Macs in these pages, but my Palms, my Newtons, and various other attempts to find a perfect portable writing machine that also allows for efficient time management. The Newton eMate 300 (or alternatively, the Newton MessagePad 2100 with keyboard) was the closest thing thus far, as it offered me the ability to write without being tempted by the distractions of the web, use the amazing MoreInfo to structure my days, and have a smallish and rugged package that lasted up to 20 hours. But, as attractive as the Newtons were, I started yearning for the ability to look up online resources, draw small diagrams, send email, sync easily with my other computers, and so on, all of which are possible on the Newtons, but not easy nor intuitive. The thought of typing several dozen pages on a cramped smartphone thumb-board while the battery ticks down didn't seem to offer any respite. What I needed was a very small laptop... a subnotebook, and one that wouldn't cost a fortune. And then, I unexpectedly received one: an Asus Eee PC 701 4G Surf, currently going for an average retail value of roughly $350 USD ($400 for the non-Surf model, which means it has a webcam).

I eyed it suspiciously. Small, clunky, inexpensive, tiny-screened, Linuxy, and therefore decidedly un-Mac-like. Could it fit the bill?

Machine Profile Classic 2-up

This is a Two Up version of the Machine Profile template by Eric Farris

A form for keeping track of computers: IP addresses, inventory information, Make/Model, etc.

Usage advice: 

Useful if you are in charge of a number of networked machines, installed software, and the like.

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
Acrobat Professional, Acrobat reader, or OpenOffice 2.

Retro-Tech: the Newton eMate 300 for Writers Today

eMate 300I'm constantly looking for new ways to write. Sometimes, of course, paper is my first and most effective resource, but there are other times when I just want to pound away at a keyboard with a digital end in mind. I do have a nice shiny MacBook Pro, but between its bottom searing the flesh of my lap, its bevy of powerful applications, and the network access chiming the arrival of my email and luring me into the world wide abyss, well... focus becomes an issue. I've thought for years about getting an Alphasmart Neo or Dana, but I'm not sure the usage will warrant the cost.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my new(-to-me) Apple Newton, and how I've recently become smitten by this ten-year-old technology. Since then, I've received a near-mint Apple eMate 300 Newton for roughly $10, and have decided to use it as a writing platform. In fact, this post is entirely written with its built-in word processor. Consider it a little experiment.

Retro-Tech Planning with the Newton

Apple NewtonI have a little confession to make. Now, most people that know me well have no doubt that I'm a gadget freak and a tinkerer, although I do try at every moment to curb those tendencies. For example, after all those years of using several generations of Palms, I gave them up to use a paper planner, and have been quite happy about that decision. To this day, I refuse to carry a cell phone unless I'm travelling in the middle of nowhere or have to be on call for an urgent project. I eschew a workshop of testosterone-fueled power tools if I can use my Leatherman instead. And, although I've read a few shelves' worth of books about automotive mechanics, I resist the urge to prop open the hood, lest something explodes or some sharp bits leave me digitally impaired. I know my weaknesses and limitations.

But I've harboured an urge for twelve years that's never been satisfied. Every now and then, a product comes along that changes the face of the computing industry, like the Altair or the Apple II, and my coming-of-age as an IT professional was marked --from afar-- by the emergence of another one. It was a brick-shaped thing, barely able to fit into a trenchcoat pocket, and which emitted a gorgeous green glow. It was a thing initially of ridicule, but that quickly set a precedent for portable computing before being unceremoniously axed by Steve Jobs upon his return to Apple, leaving legions of fans supporting the device for a decade after its last production run. I'm speaking, of course, about the Apple MessagePad, also known as the Newton.