Deadlines as a productivity tool? Why not, a lot can be achieved when time is at a premium.
Dickens’s writing is always spontaneous, majestic and intrinsically comic, apparently without a care in the world, even when addressing momentous themes of life and death. But it is also urgent and driven, with a relentless momentum inspired by those looming deadlines. Dickens, then, is a novelist who benefits, creatively, from the restrictions placed on his art by the prevailing publishing conditions.
FullCodePress is an annual challenge to build a fully functional website for charity within 24 hours. Last week, three teams representing New Zealand, Australia – and for the first time since the competition commenced in 2007 – the United States, assembled in Wellington for this year’s event.
After each team had been introduced to, and briefed by, their non-profit client, work, and the race against the clock, commenced in earnest.
While the members of each team had been able to do a certain amount of preparatory work in advance, and were able to use an “out of the box” Content Management System (CMS) if they wished, there was just 24 hours to complete the great bulk of the required design and development.
Needless to say this is not web development in its ordinary context, but that doesn’t mean designers working to (slightly) less hurried schedules can’t learn a thing or two from the experience of building a website, from the ground up, inside of 24 hours.
Liz Danzico of Team USA found that paper sketches made a fine substitute for wireframing, given the time constraints.
There wasn’t time to wireframe, so our initial plan had been to go from thought to paper sketches to design. You can hear Jason and I talk about our approach a bit here. As it turned out, we were able to turn around some quick sketches – we all mapped out six sketches and wallpapered our room with them – then I translated the best ideas using OmniGraffle while Karen masterfully organized and crafted the content for the site (not to mention left time to write a 20-page user manual).
Daniel Mall, also of Team USA, knew they had to dispatch with the usual development models, and very quickly assign specific roles and tasks to team members.
Because of the aggressive timeframe, we knew we had to eliminate as much time where any of us were sitting around waiting on someone else. This meant the typical waterfall model of software development went out the window. The prototyping stage helped to centralize an idea, and each of us split up to immediately work on our individual pieces.
Amanda Wood, of the Code Blacks, the NZ team, found that establishing milestones and then re-prioritising them to suit changing requirements and accommodate the ever looming deadline was essential.
Apart from the computers and the internet connection, our critical tools were simple: talking with each other and our clients, headphones for focussed work, large sheets of paper, markers and a whiteboard. I wrote up the high level milestones we’d agreed, knowing that these would move and change as the night wore on (as they did). During the competition, we magnified each phase and dropped down to any detail required. This flexible approach was updated on the whiteboard consistently and sometimes as we went between meetings – we didn’t want to invest time into systems which weren’t directly related to the outcomes.
Just in case you find yourself in the situation whereby you have a month to write a 50,000 word novel, here is a guide to writing a 50,000 word novel in a month…
Set a 2000 word a day goal. In order to finish the project on time, you technically have to average 1667 words a day. Setting a 2000 word a day goal allows you to build up some cushion in case you have days in which you arenâ€™t able to write or aren’t able to produce as many words.
To be honest I’d probably aim for a bit more than 2000 words a day, such as 2100 or 2200, that would produce a slightly better “buffer” without requiring too much extra effort.
In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
Concerns have been raised about the health risks associated with… blogging, following the recent sudden deaths of two prominent bloggers in the US.
The pressure to be constantly ahead of the game, while writing for an information hungry global audience that never sleeps, can take its toll according to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”