Journaling

by Steven Douglas Olson

Do you remember a time when a log book was left by a server and you wrote down everything significant that happened?

I know, that is what the electronic logs were for and this technique is "obsolete". Yet I remember doing this on our test servers when I worked at Novell. The log file on the machine can't write down things like: "Replaced the NIC card with an NE2000 after repeated system lockup".

Now, years later, I find myself journalling the day's activities. Things like: "Wrote a test for the new caching system. The test fails, and part of the system is implemented, need to finish."

I know it sounds hokey, but it is a tool that helps me drop back into the programming context faster. Most of us have a life outside of programming and the context switch can be easier if we can resurrect the stack. I am only trying to persist my state in my programming context.

Yeah, I know that many would say, just look at the last files you touched, or checked into the source control. But I like the Lewis and Clark feel of having my personal guidebook. I am charting the unexplored territory of new code and I can get lost with all the twists and turns.

So I keep a log book, journal or diary. Whatever you want to call it, a map of where I've been in the code and what I want to do next. I do write it with a modern word processor, Open Office Writer to be exact, but the comments are terse and unpretentious like the comments in the old log book kept by the server.

I don't know if this is a best practice, but I feel that it is a good practice. If you are feeling like it takes you too long to get context on a Monday morning, consider journalling. I hope you find it as useful as I do.


3 Comments

thomassinclair
2005-10-19 08:19:30
I do something like this
When I work on a programming project, I add a text file called 'DesignNotes.txt' to the project and use it to track my thought process and sketch out solutions.


I don't always refer to it after the code is done, but it's a great help in organizing my thoughts while working.


happygiraffe
2005-10-25 06:30:26
Blog
I've found that a personal blog where I record what I'm doing makes an awful lot of sense. Not only that, but it's searchable. It's like having your own personal "knowledgebase".


Also, it's something I can point out to colleagues when they ask questions. :-)


-Dom

jtobler
2005-10-25 10:16:05
Journaling Tool
Check out EverNote as a journalling tool:


http://www.evernote.com/en/


A friend turned me on to it recently and I am finding it quite useful.


John Tobler
http://weblogs.asp.net/jtobler/