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February 26, 2005

New Roadmap Friday

Well, this has been a fun week. Not. The long and short is custom software development for my clients has been colliding daily with a stream of MLP bugs, a few large, most small. All I need are 40 hour days and everything will be rosy.

So, where are we? When the going gets tough, the tough make a new Roadmap:

1. MasterList Professional will be updated by the end of Monday, Feb. 28th. That will be version 1.04. Not every single issue will be addressed, but all of the big nasty bugs will have garlic tied to their necks and dropped down a hole in the ice.

2. I'm in the process of switching from tracking defects/suggestions via email to my PC with FogBugz 3.0 to being fully transparent on the web with FogBugz 4.0. This means to you when you report a bug or ask a question, you will be able to see exactly when it's fixed, what it's status is, and what and where the fix is. More soon.

3. I'm switching out of Installshield Developer and into another installer program which will automatically check for you for updates, and handle the process for you without being a pain. However, to get there, you will need to download a new installer and do the uninstall/reinstall dance. I hate large, unnecessary, downloads and have tried to minimize it, but Installshield Developer leaves me no choice.

4. safariforums.com will die, replaced with another forum system via FogBugz 4.0. Why? Invision does a nice job doing what they do, but it "costs" too many clicks and too much time to stay on top of the current forum. Look for news in the 1.04 announcement, and look at this page to see how the new forum will work: http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/?biz

5. Our double opt-in mailing list is your friend. I'm very aware that some of you have been getting emails from me in spurts and starts, as I try to make sure everyone gets the info they need re MLP, even if that means too many emails. Too many emails is way too close to spam, so I've signed up with mailermailer.com to manage the process of making sure you are on one mailing list from us, not 3. If you have not subscribed to our mailing list via our site in the past few weeks, I STRONGLY suggest now is an excellent time to do so: http://safarisoftware.com/mlp.htm has the form you need.

That's it for today - look for an email by the end of Feb 28 re version 1.04.


February 23, 2005

Taking Back Time

Task management is in many ways managing focus. People can only focus on one threat, one moving object, one task at a time. People, unlike computers, lose a lot of capacity for work when they constantly switch between tasks. So, one facet of task management with MasterList Professional or any other system is trying to manage your focus as well as time. Something to keep in mind when you next order what tasks will get done in which order.

Two other "Focus" things to mention: I'm trading in my standard SOHO voicemail system for a new system which will send me an email each time I get a voicemail, and this has made me estatic. Why, because then I can deal with all my "focus distractors" in one place, several times a day. Before, even with Caller ID, finding out who called and why would cause a 10-15 minute "focus penalty". Now, that will be paid for whith the time I already spend on email.

And finally, Fog Creek has just released FogBugz 4.0 and it nothing less than a beautiful piece of software! If you do software/web development, either as part of a large company or as a micro ISV, two words: get it.

February 21, 2005

The Small Projects/Rebates from Hell Project

Here’s a simple Best Practice that will probably pay you back the cost of your MasterList Professional ($24.95 USD) a few times over in the next few months.

Get some new folders, like the folders you currently use in your file drawer. Label them 1 to 30. Put them in the front of you file drawer. These are your Small Projects Rebates from Hell paper folders. In MasterList Professional, create a new Project called Small Projects/Rebates from Hell.

Now, each time you buy something that has a rebate form, that will get you back 10, 20, 30 dollars, stick the receipt, the form, the UPC and whatever else you need into one of those folders. In MasterList Professional, enter a new task, with the deadline you have to mail the rebate out, and how much it’s for in the Description and how long it will take to jump through the hoops to get the rebate. 

Death to Rebates Now!

Finally, in MasterList Professional pick a few hours you know are going to less than quality time, like the time after your next dentist appointment. In Scheduling, auto schedule out your Rebates. When that fateful day arrives, pour yourself a glass a wine or pop a beer and slog through your Small Projects/Rebates folders.

While I can’t promise you your rebate, I can promise you’ll beat the average of 6% - that’s the rebate return rate most retailers expect.

February 19, 2005

Pre-Roadmap Friday

Version 1.04 of MasterList Professional is almost ready, and will go out both as a Hotfix and as a new type of installer. The Hotfix will be relatively small -3MB. The installer will include an Auto-Update feature which should make it far easier for you to know and keep your MasterList Professional installs up to date.

But, since I will no longer be using Installshield Developer, you will either now or down the road need to do what I hope will be the last full reinstall of MasterList Professional.

A Fair Question

I got yesterday an email that I thought raised an important question:

…”The concept of the product seems to be worth it for me to purchase, however, I am worried about the time investment that it will take for me to get up to speed and deal with some of the nuances.

“How often do you plan to release fixes?  I really like the product and am willing to invest some time in using this tool if I can be assured that bugs and user interface issues will be addressed in a reasonable amount of time.”

A fair question, or several actually. Before I released the first beta of MasterList Professional, I had decided the one thing I absolutely have to put first is technical support. So, here is my answer/policy if you will:

  1. I did a “soft launch” Jan. 31st: posted version 1.02, enabled 2 payment processors, made over the web site, but no publicity, and no formal announcement. Since then, I’ve released 1.03, and will release 1.04 in a day or two. After a day or two (just in case I broke something I’m not aware of), we will formally announce, let the [large] number of people who have asked me to notify them when MasterList Professional is ready for      them.
  2. My support plan as (I wish when, but I know better) bugs surface is as they are logged (via either a technical support request or when the code breaks and it sends me a bug report) into my defect tracker is to fix them, send those who got that bug a Hotfix available email and then do an all user email update about every 3 weeks. We will also alert users via a neat unobtrusive Auto Update feature built into the new installer I will be henceforth using.
  3. My enhancement plan (new features I’ve planned to add to the base, plus some      excellent suggestions by users at http://safariforums.com ) is a new minor version about every 2 months, so I hope to address a couple of interface sharp edges (e.g., can’t pick from the Task Catalog while in the New Task window.) and roll out several well-tested new major features mid-April.
  4. As soon as 1.04 is out, I will be posting an updated Development Roadmap both      at www.safariforums.com, www.safarisoftware.com and www.safarisoftware.typepad.com .
  5. I very much appreciate that the price of MasterList Professional is outweighed by the value of your time you will invest in it.
  6. After developing software and using desktop software for 20 years, I completely agree with you re bad technical support. We are a small company (micro ISV), but I will be strongly supporting MasterList Professional, and as sales grow, scale up tech support.
  7. Micro ISV Commandment #1: You will live or die by your tech support.

February 17, 2005

The Difference between Most and All

Although it's easy to overlook, there is a major difference between most and all when it comes to offloading To Do’s from your mind.

When you've gotten most but not all your To Do's off your chest and into MLP, you feel better, you are more organized and you can better allocate your time, and that's good.

But when you have just finished a "brain dump" of everything you can think of that you are supposed to do into MLP, that little nagging voice in your mind that keeps reminding you to do things shuts up. Most of the time, you ignore it anyway; otherwise you'd never get any one thing done. But when it’s satisfied you are taking it seriously and it’s done its job of reminding you, it can shut up and take a load off.

When that little nagging voice stops, it gets much easier to concentrate. And when that happens, it actually gets easier to get things done because you're not being internally distracted.

Take away for today:

  1. If you aren’t using MasterList Professional, give yourself a boost by just writing down every single thing you can think of that you need to do, large, small, important and trivial. Free up some RAM in your head.
  2. If you are using MasterList Professional, sit down and whip through creating tasks and projects as you need in the New Task Screen. Don’t worry so much about analyzing each task: set everything to 30 minutes, medium  importance, average difficulty and add and check a keyword called “Needs Revision”. You can come back later and tweak the list.

Either way, getting to All is a difference worth making!

February 14, 2005

On Value

Tom Krueger's comment to a past post has gotten me thinking about value and MasterList Professional, so I thought I'd share my prospective both as a software developer and as a "micro-Independent Software Vendor"

In MLP, value identification and quantification is at the core of the application. I assert that one of the keys to success is spending your time on and for high-value tasks. Further, unless you have a instant way of constantly reassessing the value of your proposed actions, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, in post-industrial societies to consistently invest your time in high value tasks.

What MLP sets out to do (and I hope succeeds in large measure) is to give each user a variety of quick ways to assess the value they hope to get from the time they are about to spend.

As for the business side, I assert the best way to get sales is to pay people with value for their time. That's why I created MasterList XL, a free Excel-based "younger brother" to MLP that I plan to continue to enhance and give away. And that's why I've restarted Office Tip of the Week, because just about everyone uses Microsoft Office, and after all the years of working with it, I've learned how to find value in some of its more obscure features.

What is value? For each person, its that which aligns closest to their values and their sense of what the world should be and their spot in it. So, MLP is deliberately designed to leave it up to his or her owner to set what value is. And that's the way it should be.

February 07, 2005

Placeholder Monday!

A very short entry to say that 1.03 is out and available for downloading as a patch, I'll have a roadmap up of enhancements in a few days and thanks for all the emails of support! Oh, and New Office Tip of the Week will be out tomorrow.

February 01, 2005

MasterList Professional Released

After three years of shoehorning development in between paid client projects, MasterList Professional is done and available for download, evaluation and purchase.

It has been a long road to this point, one I could not have walked without the support and love of my partner in life, Tina Marie Rossi, and my many beta testers who have generously shared their time and ideas with me.

As we go forward, this blog will continue, with the emphasis shifting to information and dialog about the direction of MasterList Professional. I strongly encourage you to visit www.safariforums.com where I expect there will be a lot of good information posted in the days and weeks ahead.

-Be Seeing You!


  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    Once or so a workday.
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv.com for information and resources.


  • Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality
    At Amazon.
    Buy as an ebook.
  • (begun Jan. 3, 2006)
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