The lies of the land

In a previous post I attempted to trace some of the Roman roads around Ilkley using the definitive source by Ivan D. Margary. Whilst the catalogue is exhaustive, there were lots of speculative points in the route where the description was lacking, or there was just not enough archaeological evidence to say where the route went.  In other areas, there are doubts about whether certain roads were planned and built by the Romans, or merely laid over existing Celtic pathways.

I was still thinking about this when I returned to the library, and was very pleased to find John Poulter’s “The Planning of Roman Road and Walls in Northern Britain“, and Charlotte Higgins’ “Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain“.  Higgin’s book appears to be more of a travelogue, walking the pathways, and describing the landscape and subsequent history around the route.  I will write more of that when I’ve finished Poulter’s book.

Poulter is a retired engineer and archaeologist, and takes a systems engineering approach to tracing the road layout.  He notes that often there is a very accurate long distance alignment setting out from point A in the direction of point B, which then diverts off for landmarks and other sites.  His theory was that adjustments to the route would come at certain points because the planners climbed to the top of a hill, then spotted a new landmark.  Or river crossing points.  When you start to look at this on the ground you can see that roads were often planned long before they were built, were planned and constructed at different times and from different directions, hence we get odd deviations at times.

He’s used this principle to good effect, using the long distance planning lines to identify promising archeological sites, as well as explaining why some previous claims for Roman roads don’t always stand up to scrutiny.

Personal Kanban – Day 5

If you’ve been following my progress of personal kanban this week, you have noticed that there was no day four. That was neither a trick nor a mistake; I went on a school trip to the zoo with my daughter.

I was slightly apprehensive that I would come back on Friday morning and lose the momentum of this productivity binge, but thankfully I was able to sort a few things out by email on the bus to the zoo, simple queries that kept there waiting for items moving along nicely.

That’s one thing I might have to consider, as for these items there was lots of back and forth before an item moved on. If anything, having these tasks in a production line might help to give an overview of how those kinds of tasks progress, when it might be better to call someone to clarify details. On the other hand creating specialist streams for each category of request would complicate the board, especially if well-defined processes will be tracked within the request system.

Synchronising with Trello was easy again, just a quick glance over the board, and a couple of school ideas from yesterday talking with Parents and Teachers added to the physical board. I have a little routine now of going through the Waiting For items, checking emails and making calls, then looking for new items. In fact I’m able to add items to Trello quickly as they come in via email, hence I got some work done yesterday.

I’m not one of those people who insists work ends at 5pm so I can’t respond or initiate emails. It’s part of work-life balance, what allows you to spend some time during the day on personal or family projects. I don’t *expect* anyone to reply outside of these hours, and neither to I feel obliged to reply myself, but it can help move things on ready for the next day in the office.

Once again, a busy morning with one pressing item that kept getting pushed back I responded to immediate requests, but I got there in the end, the board allowing me to move the task on and out-of my brain, and the post-it reminding me of my main target for the day.

I guess the only problem I had was the small tasks that kept coming in as I was trying to get out, which I was determined to jot down ready for Monday.

In summary:
1) Kanban has been easy and quick to implement, and to tweak the board to my way of working.

2) Setting up an electronic copy in Trello didn’t take long and required little overhead to synchronise each day. Having a portable version allowed me to keep up with email actions whilst away from the office.

3) It’s made it easier to resist the usual distractions and chronic procrastination as moving things to done has been rewarding and satisfying. On a similar note I’ve felt comfortable and in control when I have spent a few minutes doing something else like visiting the library or catching up on Facebook. Maybe the visibility of all those items in Next Up or Backlog has been a subconscious motivator!

See also:

Getting Started
Day 2
Day 3

Personal Kanban – Day 3

My aim yesterday was to synchronise the Trello app, which allows you to create virtual kanban boards on desktop and mobile.  It’s a fairly simply app, allows for colour coding, adding other members, attachments, checklists, text filters, links between items and more.  You can have a number of boards, and each one has one or more “list”, which in turn contains individual “cards”.

With other things going on, this got left on the doing board, but I took a photo of yesterday’s board at the end of the day.  The mobile app was simple enough that I was able to flick between the photo and Trello and add several whilst on the bus to work.

Only downside is that it needs to be online to edit (though it seems to be text based and therefore bandwidth light), even for a card you’ve just created.  And it would be great to be able to format the boards like the whiteboard space, to match the value streams and lanes, or whatever you call the spaces you take “todo” items and move them to “done”.  The desktop app is much easier, and has some keyboard shortcuts allowing for quick navigation, entry and categorisation.

Over the course of the day, I added all the untracked post-its, and finally ended up with this.  Note that to show the whole set of cards I’ve zoomed out.  Actual card widths are manageable, like a twitter stream, perhaps.
Trello after Day 3

The columns I have are slightly different than the physical board in that  there’s a reading list, and for ease of finding posts I have created a “to do” list for cards from each work area.  Not much difference from grouping them, as I eventually did on the physical board.


I made a slight tweak to the layout, to allow a bit more space for the backlog, and for the waiting for area.  But it’s been satisfying to see the post-its in “Done” build up again.  Trello was also great for quickly capturing ideas and requests whilst out and about, putting them straight into a category an appropriate place.  Previously I would take notes in Google Keep or ToodleDo, or take a photo, creating an action from that later on.  Now I can take a photo and throw it straight into something for the backlog, *and* add a “Due By” date if needed.

Tomorrow will be an interesting challenge as I’m out of the office for the day, and any items the are actioned via email will have to be tracked through the mobile app.  But given that even this mass synchronisation between paper and electronic versions didn’t take long, I don’t see that being a problem.

See also:

Getting Started
Day 2
Day 5 and the end of the first week.



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