Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kitchen sink modeling

The more I work with user stories and scenarios for PIMs the more it is becoming clear that there is simply a sea of information that only the user has any sense of. Most of the things that we are modeling have specific meanings to the individual (i.e. must a promise have a due date?). For some people the answer is yes for others the answer is no.

It is clear that for most people there are clear distinctions between the different types of data they have. In other words most people have a consistent way they mentally model meetings versus tasks versus holidays. And the way they model it is quite closely tied to the way they work. So people work and live in a world of pieces of data that have clear types and clear behaviors.

The collections (i.e. projects, agendas, to do lists, checklists, etc..) people use to manage those different types of data ( i.e. to do list items, tasks, promises, calls, errands, chores, etc..) are just as individualized as the data items themselves.

For example: For some people a task may be committed to to the extent that somebody has said "I will do that sometime next week". And they put a sticky note in their calendar so that when they are looking at that week they know what things they promised to do that they haven't put into "space and time" yet.

Other people maintain tasks on lists that don't count them as real until they are scheduled on a calendar. Until that point they are on the "Not Doing Now" or "Unscheduled" list.

So clearly, the majority of everything to be modeled needs to be customizable. so, after walking through user story after user story this is what I see:

1) Every thing to be tracked in a PIM has one or more behaviors.

The behaviors are

  • Locatable in time (LIT)
  • Can Occupy time (0T)
  • Locatable in space (LIS)
  • Has a lifespan (SPN)
  • Has trackable progress (TRK)
  • Has a due date (DUE)
  • Requires resources (RR)

The different types of items can have the behavior or not have the behavior. If they do have the behavior then they can either have the state of having a fixed value or not having a fixed value.

For example, a promise can have the behavior of being locatable in time, but it may not yet have been fixed in time.

2) Everything is versionable.

There are many areas where tracking the changes to a scheduled item (who generated them and when) is critical to fixing something. This is specially true when you're dealing with synchronizing schedules with multiple calendars.

3) All items tracked in the PIM are associated with a specific type and that type has associated properties and each type has default values for those properties and behaviors.

For example, an event can have the behavior of being locatable in time and may have the behavior of occupying time and the default time it occupies is 15 minutes.
4) Context is decisive: context such as home -- online or home -- off-line or work -- online etc. have resources available such as (phone, computer, Internet, e-mail, etc.)

Many methodologies such as GTD take into account the context in which you were working. For example there are some things that should only be done from home, there are some things that should only be done from work, and there are some things that can only be done when you have a phone available. The user's context governs both what they should be doing as well as what they are capable of doing given the resources available.

5) Taxonomies (hierarchies) go from wider towards narrower ( i.e. Extended Family => Immediate Family)

In looking at all the different ways people navigate through hierarchies and the way they create their own private taxonomies (using file folders, categories, tags, etc.) it is clear that most people navigate from wider and narrower.

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