A pleasant walk through computing


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Shortest User Story Intro Ever


The template: As a [who/role], I want [what] so that [why]

The "why" is optional, but often useful.

As a Manager, I want to create employee schedules

As an Employee, I want to see everyone's schedules so I can arrange shift swaps

As an Analyst, I need to be able to view people's timesheet data in various ways so that I can better understand where work bottlenecks come from

Why They Work

  • They're written by stakeholders, typically users.
  • They quickly capture what users want, in their own words.
  • They aren't a feature specification. They are the beginning of a discussion.
  • If it's important enough for you (the user) to want, it's important enough for you to add a story

What If It's a Big Idea?

User stories often start as big ideas (epics). After discussion, they'll get split into smaller stories that can be better estimated and worked on.

Three Steps in a User Story

  1. Write the initial story (the value)
  2. Discuss the story and capture the discussion
  3. Determine acceptance criteria as needed

A user story is done when its acceptance criteria is met.


Value As a Manager, I want to create employee schedules


  • What's involved in this?
  • How would it be done on paper?
  • How is it being done today?

A schedule includes employee name, id, date, from time, and to time.

[mm] I've found that the handwritten schedules end up being changed a lot due to employees swapping shifts, or being sick. All those changes make the schedule hard to read. So, it'd be great to easily reprint the schedule.

[hg] It sounds like how to print or display schedules should be a new story. What if we used kiosks instead of paper? Or maybe an app employees could view on their phones.

[ss] There needs to be control over who can change my schedules.

Acceptance Criteria
Initially, the scheduler system should:

  • Show an entire week
  • Add employee to a day and shift
  • Show employee total hours
  • Allow easy changing of who's working a shift
  • Allow easy swapping of employee shifts
  • Print a schedule

More Reading

A Simple, Effective Meeting Agenda System

I encountered this meeting agenda approach about fifteen years ago in a Microsoft certification study book. I've used it ever since, and it works great.


1.  Agenda Building
2.  Item 1
3.  Item 2, etc.
4.  Q&A
5.  Path Forward

The Simple System

  1. Send out the agenda a day in advance. Keep it brief and clear, so that attendees will understand what to expect.
  2. There are three items on every agenda. See below.
  3. Set a deadline and meet it. Defer items (except the last two!) if you have to, but don't run over time.
  4. Update the agenda document during the meeting. Immediately after the meeting, send the document with its notes and Path Forward to all participants.
  5. If you have Path Forward assignments, transfer them immediately to your task list.

Agenda Building

The first item is always Agenda Building. This is the chance for everyone to modify the agenda, either adding or removing items. You may be running the meeting, but it's not "yours." This helps everyone know they have a voice.


This is the last chance for people to make sure they understand what was discussed. If they don't ask, it's assumed they get it. The time to ask questions is in the meeting, not after the meeting. You'll be surprised how frequently someone will ask at this time, and be grateful the question got cleared up.

Path Forward

This is the most important item on the agenda. I hate meeting where, after it's over and everyone's walking back to their desks, people are asking, "So...what are we doing?"

The meeting's not done until you've captured who is doing what when.

Sample Finished Agenda Document

1.  Agenda Building
2.  Review plans for October Gala
	1.  Venue, food
3.  Results from Baker Makers promotion
	1.  Sophie stats
	2.  Candace P&L
4.  Are absences up? Concerns from staff.
5.  Q&A
6.  Path Forward
    -  Michael calling three venues for quotes by 7/31
    -  Misty finalizing catering by 8/12. Will email Naomi
    -  Andal reviewing BM promo stats, should be finished in three days
There's a general feeling that more people have been absent. Bad year for flu? Morale problems? Not sure how to approach this.


  • When the meeting is virtual or using a computer/projector, I like keeping the agenda on on the screen so people see notes being added.
  • I'll stress again: send out the agenda in advance. Ask if people have read it. If not, make them read it before you start the meeting. This will encourage them to read it in advance next time.

    Why is this important? Because it shows that you're prepared, and people like that in meetings. Don't let people come in asking "what are we talking about?"

Have great meetings!

Highly Opinionated Android To Do and Note Apps Comparison


I've been using Google Keep for both notes and tasks for a few years, now. I've been codifying my productivity methods, and decided it was a good time to look at what apps were out there. Maybe I'd find a better all-around solution.

The short answer is a tentative maybe. Surprisingly, Microsoft To Do has an important (to me) feature no one else does: a Today view ("My Day") that isn't due-date driven. Keep doesn't have task links at all, and the ability to link to other tasks in a master Today list is something I'd love. But I shouldn't have to assign a due date to have that.

However, I may end up staying with Keep because of its flexibility. I love that with CTRL-Shift-8 I can switch back and forth to checkboxes. It makes it easy to copy/paste lists into a text editor for more sophisticated editing.

"OK, Dude, why don't you write your own?"

The list below isn't exhaustive...it's just the results from several "best of" sites. If it helps you out, great.


Needs and Wants

These are notes I jotted down about what I'd like in a "perfect" application.

To Do

  • Keep, but better.
  • Desktop UI.
  • List(s) that can include items from other lists.
  • List/task export. Ideally quickly select a bunch.
  • Easily move from list to list.
  • Per-list: completed in place, moves to bottom, or hidden. If restored, returns to previous location.
  • Tasks from other lists show the list name.
  • Good widget
  • Would love storing/sorting-by effort/estimates


  • Easy long-form writing
  • Ideally uses or imports/exports MD
  • Not sure...

General reactions

  • Most To Do apps follow the same format:
    • Inbox
    • Today/Tomorrow/Next Week
    • Lists
  • My consistent interests:
    • Price
    • Allows Google Account?
    • Today aggregate list
    • Completion
    • Subtasks
    • Grocery List usage
    • Widget
    • Browser/desktop version
    • Sharing


Microsoft To Do

  • Microsoft To-Do: List, task & reminder - Apps on Google Play
  • Free
  • Uses MS Account
  • My Day feature that's easy to pull from other lists, or add to from list
    • Not due-date driven. This is the only app where that's true
  • In-place completion, but can hide (setting per list). Reshowing completed puts in original location
    • Wish you could clear completed tasks
    • Wish you could put completed tasks to bottom (setting per list)
  • No subtasks
  • Groceries - No leading space for headings, but otherwise good
  • OK widget
  • Nice browser app
  • List Sharing via link, full edit.



  • Any.do: To-do list, Calendar, Reminders & Planner - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/$3 per month
  • Google account
  • All list aggregates other lists.
    • Lists have three views: Today/Tomorrow/Upcoming/Someday, simple List, High/Regular priority.
  • Regular completed tasks move to bottom, restore moves to top.
    • Subtasks have In-place completion, manual clear completed.
  • Yes, subtasks, but no indication on task that they've been added.
  • This app made no sense when it came to a grocery list.
  • Good widget
  • Good browser version
  • Task-level sharing
  • I liked the GTD organization per list, but it works against flexibility (for my taste).


  • Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks - Apps on Google Play
  • Free
  • Google account
  • Today is due-date driven.
  • Completion hides. Restore moves to bottom.
    • Subtask completion is in-place.
  • Substasks. Task indicates them via icon labeled "Attachments".
  • Groceries - No leading space for headings, but otherwise good
  • Good widget
  • Nice browser interface
  • List sharing
  • Eventually being replaced by Microsoft To Do

EveryDay ToDo List

  • EveryDay ToDo List Task List - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/$3 per month
  • No account required (no sync without it), Google available
  • Today is due-date driven
  • In-place completion
  • Best app for grocery list. Subtasks show as indented, can be expanded or collapsed.
  • Widget only with subscription
  • Browser version with sign up
  • Shared lists
  • Task entry is nice. A pleasant app to use.

Tick Tick

  • TickTick: To Do List with Reminder, Day Planner - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/Premium $28 per eyear
  • No account required (no sync without it), Google available
  • Today is due-date driven
  • Completed moves to bottom, but unchecking restores to previous location. True for regular and checklists.
  • Subtasks are called "checklists"
  • Nice widget
  • Browser version
  • List sharing via Collaborate
  • Has a Pomodoro timer
  • Lots of features for premium.

Remember the Milk

  • Remember The Milk - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/Pro $40 per year
  • Custom account
  • Today is due-date driven
  • Completion removes task. Restore goes to original position.
    • Looks like in-place completion, but the checkbox is a selector. Confusing!
  • Subtasks are Pro
  • Grocery list hard to tell. Hiding/restoring completed might be nice.
  • Widgets are Pro
  • Browser version
  • Sort order is Pro, and default is by date, not drag/drop
  • Way too many features I'd consider standard require Pro account.


  • Ike - To-Do List, Task List - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/Pro $2 one-time fee
  • No account
  • No sharing, no "linked" tasks or aggregate views.
  • No browser version
  • Uses the four quadrant priority system (I didn't know it was "invented" by Eisenhower)
  • Great if that's how you want to live, but not if you want a grocery list.
  • Otherwise, a really nice-looking app. Lots of people will like this, but doesn't work for me.


  • GTasks: Todo List & Task List - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/Premium $5 one-time fee
  • Google account (syncs with Google Tasks or Tick Tick)
  • Today is due-date driven
  • In-place completion
  • Indent for subtasks
  • Good for grocery list
  • Nice widget
  • No desktop version (I guess use Google Tasks, but no extra features)
  • No sharing, but can send list via email, etc.
  • Task short name is the first line, but a task can be a full note. I like this.

Tasks: Astrid Clone

  • Tasks: Astrid To-Do List Clone - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/Pro $5 one-time fee
  • Today is due-date driven
  • In-place completion
  • Subtasks through indent
  • Grocery list OK
  • OK widget
  • No browser/desktop version
  • No sharing
  • It's an odd app. There's only one list, but you can use tags to effectively create multiple lists.
  • Open source


  • Trello - Apps on Google Play
  • Free
  • Custom account
  • No aggregate board (so, no "today")
  • Completion is via moving cards to Done
    • Checklist completion is in-place
  • Subtasks are called Checklist
  • Excellent browser version
  • Uses kanban board approach
  • Good for basic project work
  • Connects to new GMail sidebar
  • Trello is one of the most well-known board-style apps out there.


I know, I know. "Where's Evernote? Where's One Note?" I've tried both of those more than once over the last fifteen years and never enjoyed them. Sorry, fans.


  • FiiNote, note everything - Apps on Google Play
  • Free/various levels starting at 0.50 per month
  • Custom account
  • All tasks can be viewed in the virtual ToDo notebook, but no explicit linking that I found.
  • Desktop and browser versions
  • Very interesting. OneNote-like. Full-featured.

Omni Notes

  • Omni Notes - Apps on Google Play
  • Free
  • No account
  • Not happy seeing this in the reviews:

    Beware, the last update deleted all of my notes. All of my backups were gone as well!

  • Checklist notes are just like Keep, ability to enable/disable checkboxes.
  • In-place completion
  • Weird, seems like there's a folders intent, but I don't see a way to make them.
  • Merge notes
  • No way to link tasks.
  • No desktop or browser app
  • This would be a good Keep replacement, except for no browser app
  • Open source


  • Simplenote - Apps on Google Play
  • Free
  • Custom account
  • Ability to "publish" a note via a link.
  • Just text-based notes, which will be fine for many people but not me
  • Desktop apps
  • Open source