Processes and tools

The folks who gave us the Agile Manifesto wrote “We have come to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Agile in 3 Minutes, my micropodcast about doing business effectively, reflects the same valuation. What I’m offering each week is the best of myself I can give. What I’m hoping for each week are more and better interactions between you and the folks you work with.

There are, unavoidably, some processes involved. You may already know how Agile in 3 Minutes began, how it became playable directly within Tweets, and how it gets written and published each week. Now that I can mostly focus on one new episode at a time, I’m trying to maximize the amount of work not done.

And in those processes, I rely on tools. If I didn’t have them, there probably wouldn’t be a show. It’s Thanksgiving in the USA and I’m very thankful to have these tools to hand. I’d like to tell you a bit about them.

Tools I’ve paid for

Writing is hard for me, so I arrange my writing environment carefully. It’s easier for me to stay focused when there’s no way to have lots of open windows and the screen isn’t too big. Current preference: iPad Air with the Anker Bluetooth keyboard.

Episode scripts are plain-text essays with a title, an emphasized word here and there, and the occasional bulleted list. As far as my brain’s concerned, that’s just Markdown. Textastic is a general-purpose text editor for iOS that highlights syntax, counts words, displays rendered Markdown, and syncs with Dropbox. (That’s how I update the book every week with the latest essay.) Lately I’ve been experimenting with Drafts for the unconstrained “writing” phase, reserving Textastic for the highly constrained “editing, editing, editing” phase. I’m liking it.

When it’s time to record, I read into a Blue Yeti USB microphone connected to a MacBook Air. I have a cheap pop filter, but it doesn’t fasten very well to the Yeti and is mildly annoying to travel with, so I haven’t been using it. Instead I’m speaking into the Yeti at a slight angle and trying not to pop my P’s too hard. Know something else I could try? Please comment on this post and let me know.

The Yeti isn’t great to travel with either — it’s large, somewhat heavy, and periodically attracts the attention of TSA inspectors — but the couple episodes I recorded into a Samson GoMic were of noticeably lesser audio quality. The GoMic is very small and will doubtless come in handy, but for Agile in 3 Minutes I quickly returned to the Yeti.

To monitor what’s going into the microphone as I record, I use Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones. The noise-canceling feature is a nice touch in other contexts (such as travel), but while recording, I want to hear any and all hotel noise that might sneak in. I count on the Yeti’s cardioid pattern to filter most of it out.

(My Yeti has a finicky hardware mute button, so I invested $5 in Shush. This doesn’t help with Agile in 3 Minutes, but it makes me a more polite guest on Agile for Humans.)

The domain and a few related domains are registered at Hover. The SSL certificate is from NameCheap. The site is hosted on a Virtual Private Server at Panix.

Open-source tools I use

On the VPS, I run NetBSD, along with hundreds of third-party tools I keep updated with pkgsrc. Audio and text content is stored in Git, from which the website and RSS feed are generated by Ikiwiki. Apache is way overkill for serving up static content, but several other sites on the same VPS were already using it.

I also use pkgsrc on my OS X laptop to install and maintain Git, Ikiwiki, LAME, and many other Unix tools. I do my (very basic) audio editing with Audacity.

I’ve contributed to NetBSD, pkgsrc, and Ikiwiki.

Ways you can contribute to my work

Thanks to the generosity of others, producing Agile in 3 Minutes doesn’t cost me as much as it might. But it does require (aside from the time I willingly put into it) some one-time and running costs I wouldn’t otherwise be carrying. The microphone, I definitely wouldn’t be carrying. ;-)

Is Agile in 3 Minutes helping you have more and better interactions at work? I’d love to hear about it. That’s all the gratification I need.

Would you like to share the show with others, give me topic ideas, read the essays at your own pace, or drip-fund the production of new episodes? Then I’ll have even more to be grateful for. Here’s how you can help.