Thanks to the ever-awesome Idle Thumbs podcast, I heard about the tool Trello. You’ll have to forgive me if that’s old news, but even old news takes time to reach me here in Japan. (In music, for example, I’m still catching up with the mid-2000s)
I’ve seen some projects using Trello in interesting ways and thought it would be perfect for the season 1 project, which I’ve tentatively titled Project Spaghetti (for reasons which will become clearer as the show goes on). Because of the nature of what we’re trying to do here at Blue Tengu, I was planning on using an Agile/Scrum* approach to game development for several reasons:
- I’m used to Agile and like it. A lot.
(Enough to go and get Scrum Master certification)
- It’d be nice to familiarize the people we’re trying to inspire with Agile as another potential tool to help out.
- It’s perfect for a project without a clear scope or deadline.
And by default, Trello is all ready to go with Agile, but a Trello plugin called Scrum for Trello makes it even more the digital version of the giant Post-it Note boards I’m used to dealing with by adding a quick time estimate function, although you have to jump to a separate site to get the burndown chart (=the how fast you’re going and how long you have left to go chart) unless you pay for pro.
To be honest, I was wondering how I was going to simulate the Post-It board on the broadcast, but with Trello, I should be able to just pop over to our Project Spaghetti Trello Board (fully public) and do it all there during the show, leaving the notes up for you out there to read whenever you feel like taking a look. It’ll also help me jog my mind and pick a task to take down every episode.
Even if you don’t know what Agile or Scrum are, don’t worry, Trello’s worth checking out if you have a lot of little things you need to manage. Think of it as a convenient To-Do list that you can share or keep private as you like.
* Who’s Agile and what’s a Scrum!? :
This is a topic worthy of its own episode, but to boil it down to the bare minimum: Agile is a development philosophy that tries to help make creators more realistic. An alternative method is something called “Waterfall”, or traditional development, where everyone gets together, scratches their heads, estimates when things will get done, puts all of the milestones and deadlines on a big chart, nods and smiles, then begin to fight and want to throw each other over a waterfall a week later when nothing is moving the way they expected.
With Agile, the goal is to get the bare minimum working as fast as possible and then add value to the project as you go. When you hit a deadline, you just stop adding value (unless someone holding the purse strings decides it’s worth extending the deadline to add more value).
Scrum is one of the tools that helps carry out the Agile philosophy. Although Trello & Scrum for Trello use a digital method, Scrum typically involves a physical board with a variety of notes attached to it: primarily “Stories” and “Tasks”. Stories are the things that, when done, add value to a project. Tasks are the bits and pieces that come together to make a Story. Most Scrum boards have a “To-Do”, an “In-Progress”, and a “Done” spot, with some opting to add extras like “Blocked” for when a task can’t be done until some impediment is cleared.
So far, that’s nothing more magical than a well-oiled, good old-fashioned To-Do list, but the magic starts to happen when Stories and Tasks are estimated, time marches on, and you begin to see how long it actually takes to do things. You can then apply that knowledge to the rest of the To-Do list and get a much, much more realistic picture of how things are going and what kind of value will be added and when. There’s certainly a lot more to it than I described, but don’t worry, if we do our jobs right, you’ll pick it up as we go along.