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Bug traccking for personal notes to self?

Some threads on this forum lately have got me thinking about saved email.  I've got over a gigabyte of old emails that I've saved "because they have useful information, tips, tricks, etc, about X or Y.  I'll search through this someday".  And indeed I do occasionally search through them all for said info.

But, this format is cumbersome for a number of reasons, and lately I've been thinking of writing a little relational database-based app to store all this information instead.  When I want to enter a new "note to self" about something, I'll make a new row in some table somewhere with the information.  Querying gets a lot more powerful than a simple "search", etc, etc...

That got me to thinking: Isn't this just what a bug tracking app does?  So does anyone use bug tracking software for little notes to self, and/or places to store random information that you might need some day?  If so, what are the benefits/detriments to the practice?

(Nevermind that in reality I'd probably be too lazy to use something like this anyway and just keep saving emails.  It's nice to dream about a better process though ;-)

Michael Kale
Thursday, January 8, 2004

When I'm solving a bug, or even a configuration issue, I put only the exact problem in the first long description, then I go through and probably put too much information inbetween, code, emails, notes, etc, once I have sorted the problem my second last entry is the fix, and what happened, maybe an email to a customer or fix or whatever, then my VERY last entry is a more formal description of the fix.

The point is, lets say you work at a small place, and you want to setup a knowledge base, or you already have one, you take the first and last entry based on a trigger when you close the bug, and it's copied to the knowledge base.

So now you have all your notes, what happened, etc... and you have a formal version in the knowledge base.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Check out the ToDo list app on CodeProject.

It's free, the source can be downloaded, and the author is constantly improving it.

A simple, but very effective tool in helping you organize your bugs, feature requests, notes to self, etc.

Jim Jones
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Thanks for the reply, and bug tracking certainly is useful for larger issues, especially regarding our own software, contact with customers, etc. 

I'm also talking about storing little notes like "when you're trying to do X with some random (not our) app Y, it really helps if you choose this seemingly-arbitrary menu option Z first".  So that a year from now when I'm trying to do X again but have completely forgotten that Z exists, I can search through the archive of notes and find that tip, thus saving myself the time it took to find Z in the first place.  Such a database would definitely never be customer-facing, but it might be nice if others on the team could use it too...

Does anyone do this?  Is it too tedious to fill out an entire "bug" entry just to remember to choose Z in the future?  Is there a better way of doing this?

Michael Kale
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Hmm, that ToDo list app is interesting, I'll check it out.  It looks like it might be overkill, but it's a good idea...  Thanks.

Michael Kale
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Reminds me of Daniel Berlinger's LifeBUGZ concept$750

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Where I worked we tried to do this with bugzilla. It was just too much overhead for short howto etc. We just moved to a wiki and that looks much more promising.

The big problem we had with bugzilla was the edit capabilities of a post, there were none. So a howto would become this large list of notes added on and it became very confusing to follow.

I am currently working on how to easily store small notes to myself about what I do during a day etc. Right now I use a paper journal and I like that since I can add to it at any given time, in a boring meeting, when an idea needs to be captured while coding, in bed, while waiting for the barber etc. The problem I have with this paper journal is in trying to search it... it seems after 6 months I start to forget the time frame of a note I took and I wind up having to read way to much to get to the note.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

I don't think it's overkill at all.  I do mine in Access.  I created the form and fields I needed in about 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

For my personal how-tos and tips I keep a small Wiki going.  It's a relatively recent move for me, but it seems to be better than my previous attempt at keeping it in a database (it was in my bug tracking system).

And being able to link to it is a real benefit and keeps me from writing the same thing over and over.  "When you're doing X, do A, B and make sure you do <link>Y</link>." 

Thursday, January 8, 2004

With Wiki's, (I assume) it's not easy to do semi-complicated searches?  ie, there's no way to do something like a SELECT statement where I can search over the product, task, type of tip, etc.

Though the benefits and easy of use of a wiki are nice and I don't know how much more useful SELECT statements like the above really would be over something like simple "find".  Setting up a wiki sounds like a good weekend project.

That LifeBUGZ guy is hardcore!  But he's doing something similar to what I'm envisioning...

Michael Kale
Thursday, January 8, 2004

In a blatant plug for Joel, I use CityDesk to do this. I publish to an internal web server, and I have a Favourites.html page that I've set as the default page for my browser, which has tons of links to all the resources (internal and external) that I use regularly.

The nice thing about CityDesk is that if you want to add something to a note that you're reading, you just click on Edit With CityDesk and the page opens for editing.

The only hassle is when you know you've documented something, but can't remember where on the web site you filed it. I must get some sort of search engine set up one day...

Darren Collins
Thursday, January 8, 2004

I use a wiki. It versions and index searches.

Tom Vu
Thursday, January 8, 2004

Michael: You might want to took for a simple web-based app, so as to be able to manage those notes from any host. Otherwise, if you use a dedicated app like ToDoList, you'll have to remember to keep a copy of the file somewhere... and every so often, forget to sync when leaving the office or home :-)

Frederic Faure
Thursday, January 8, 2004

This is a specific instance of a more general problem:

How to organize information.

This is a non trivial problem. (I.e., that's mathematician-speak for :really F**king hard to solve).

I recommend a book mentioned on JoS, which I'm reading:

Getting Things done.

1. you need ONE PLACE where all of yoru tasks, notes, to-dos, bugs, etc. enter your informatiohn system.

2. You then need to regularly clean out that in box and have  place for everything else.

I've found it too cumbersome to write a note "here are some great websites on XYZ software" AND try to file it right then.

It works better to file it later.  Also, if you end up with 5 hours of filing, you realize hmmm... maybe I should be spending less time gather information and more time writing software <g>.  Ok, back to work.

The real Entrepreneur
Friday, January 9, 2004

I use MyInfo ( to organize both my projects and my personal notes. I store there my e-mails, to-do lists (about the web site I am developing) and random information.

Jerry Davis
Friday, January 9, 2004

Yeah, "How to organize information" is really the core of all this.

It needs to be accessible from anywhere, so a web-based app (wiki or otherwise) is nice.  But it needs to be "cacheable" somehow and accessed offline when you're not connected.  Then the offline cache needs to stay in sync with the main datastore.  It needs to be accessible from a multitude of devices (I've only got my cell phone with me now but I want to enter this data.)  It needs to be secure (so no one can get at my private data), and the access would ideally be fine-grained like what the LifeBUGZ guy was mentioning.  It needs to be (as much as I hate that word) "richly" searchable from all of those devices.  It needs to be fault-tolerant and backed up regularly.  It needs to not be in control of Big Brother or locked away in proprietary formats.

MyInfo seems like a start.  Apple's .mac is also a start.  Exchange and Outlook is a start.  I'm sure there are countless others...


Michael Kale
Friday, January 9, 2004

KnowledgeBase by Ozmosys is another database along the lines of MyBase:

Not quite finished but already very useable! (And the current version is much newer than what's stated on the front page.)

Chris Nahr
Saturday, January 10, 2004

Take a look at OneNote (new MS Office product), its a very simple, elegant product for loosely structured notes.

Barry Glenn
Saturday, January 10, 2004

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