Using the Sticky-Note Method for Creative & Engineering Work

A while back, I was tasked with writing a full design specification for a product. While I already had much of the design in my head from previous brainstorming sessions and discussion with others, I needed a way to make sure I got everything important into the design spec.

I quickly realized that what I needed was a method of capturing ideas and features as they flowed through my brain, in a manner that allowed me to quickly jot them down and stop thinking about them. This revelation is certainly in line with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, which strongly enforces the idea of ubiquitous capture.

David Allen talks about using this for organizing your life, but says nothing about using this as part of a formal process for product design. After all GTD is focused on self-organization, not for a group or product. Does it mean parts of GTD won’t work for these purposes? Absolutely not.

In fact, it was the most valuable revelation in terms of product design and planning that I had in a long time. Arguably, it is the most valuable planning lesson that I’ve learned ever. Once I realized this, I quickly sought out a method for implementing this.

Sticky-Note Method

This is where the Sticky-Note Method comes into play. The Sticky Note method is a way of formalizing the use of ubiquitous capture for the purpose of product design. Here’s how it works:

  1. Set a fixed window of time when you’ll only capture ideas onto sticky notes or cards. This can be as short as a few hours or as long as a week or so. This allows you to let ideas flow, while not feeling the pressue to act upon them immediately.

  2. Begin adding sticky notes or cards to your public space. Be sure to place these sticky notes in a place where everybody involved can see them. I highly recommend having sticky notes on you at all times, because you never know when a good idea will come to you. Do not wait to get to the public space to write down the idea; only wait to post them.

  3. After the fixed window, formally review the sticky notes or cards. If you’re working with a team, be sure to involve them in this process. Your review process should yield one of three outcomes for each card:

- Approved. This status means that the card is ready to be acted upon.
Denied. This status means that the card will not be accepted at the current time. You may want to keep it for future brainstorming purposes, however.
Future. This status is similar to denied, except this card has been approved for future applications.

While this process is quite simple, it’s also very effective at transforming ideas in your brain to actionable items that are public to stakeholders. Importantly, this doesn’t require you to specifically use sticky notes or cards to do this in person. Trello is a service that allows you to attain the same effect without the need for sticky notes. There are several others that allow you to create virtual “cards” that can be shared with your team in an easy, unobtrusive manner.

Did this work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

VMware Workstation 11 on Arch Linux (December 2014)

I recently spent time and effort wrangling with getting VMware Workstation 11 on Arch Linux. While it has certainly gotten easier since Workstation 11 was launched (you don’t need to worry about kernel patches if you’re running a modern Linux kernel), it’s still a minor hassle, especially compared to Virtualbox.

######Installing VMware Workstation on Arch (Step-by-Step)

  1. Make sure you have all of the dependencies prior to installing VMware:
    sudo pacman -Sy fuse gtkmm linux-headers

  2. Download the installer from VMware’s website, then navigate to the directory where you saved it and run:
    chmod +x VMware-Workstation-Full-11.0.0-*.x86_64.bundle

  3. Create an init scripts folder (don’t worry, this isn’t actually useful for anything. It just satisfies the requirements of the installer. Arch Linux uses systemd instead of init scripts).
    sudo mkdir /etc/init.d/

  4. Launch the installer.
    ./VMware-Workstation-Full-11.0.0-*.bundle

  5. Accept the default values when asked where your init scripts are stored. Complete the installation.

  6. Open your favorite editor and copy the following into /etc/systemd/system/vmware.service:

[Unit]
Description=VMware daemon

[Service]
ExecStart=/etc/init.d/vmware start
ExecStop=/etc/init.d/vmware stop
PIDFile=/var/lock/subsys/vmware
TimeoutSec=0
RemainAfterExit=yes

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target


Post-installation steps:
  1. Enable the VMware service that you created in the last step.
    sudo systemctl enable vmware

  2. Run VMware and enter your license key when requested.
    vmware


Having issues?

Hopefully these instructions were able to help you install VMware on Arch Linux. If not, I would suggest checking out the Arch Wiki page on the topic before doing anything else.

If you end up making the mistake of not using /etc/init.d as the path for the init scripts when VMware asks during installation, there’s a few steps that are helpful in solving this issue:

  1. Uninstall VMware entirely:
    vmware-installer -u vmware-workstation --required

  2. Remove all remnents of the previous installation:
    sudo rm -Rf /etc/vmware*

  3. Re-run the installation.
    ./VMware-Workstation-Full-11.0.0-*.x86_64.bundle

Hope this helps you get VMware working on your Arch system.

How to Install HP Printers on Arch Linux (2014 December)

Installing your HP printer on Arch Linux is surprisingly easy to do. Here’s how:

  1. Make sure you update your package list:
    sudo pacman -Sy

  2. Install essential packages, such as CUPS:
    sudo pacman -S hplip cups cups-filters ghostscript gsfonts

  3. Install proprietary HP drivers from the AUR (this is needed to get most printers to function correctly):
    sudo yaourt hplip-plugin

  4. Enable CUPS and start it (this has changed recently; the following works correctly as of December 2014):
    sudo systemctl enable org.cups.cupsd.service
    sudo systemctl start org.cups.cupsd.service

  5. Launch Firefox / Chrome and navigate to the following address:
    http://127.0.0.1:631/

  6. Add the printer and follow the on-screen dialogue menus for CUPS.

  7. Test your printer by printing.

Hope this is helpful. For the record, I tested this using an HP LaserJet P2035, which worked with thie method out-of-the-box. If you have any issues with this method of getting the printer working, please let me know!