On walkabout in life and technology

Project Specific Data

One of my personal workflow bugbears has always been managing project specific data. Data like project specific contacts (who to call for what for a given project); IP’s, logins and passwords (for servers, VPN’s, specific applications, client LAN’s); and account information (hosting, third party vendors and project specific subscriptions).

I have finally nailed a way to do this that works just great for me and my markdown flow (See The Markdown Mindset). I create project specific wikis using VoodooPad 5 from Flying Meat Inc written by the great Gus Mueller (Blog: The Shape of Everything, Twitter: @ccgus).

The Old Way

One of the things I am religious about in a client engagement is documenting what I spend my time on. Each week, I open a new markdown document for each engagement in BBEdit, which is always running. As I perform tasks, I jot down what I did in these files.

This process is great as I can always tell what I did, why I did it and how I did it. I also record all the key information I needed or used, IP addresses, logins, passwords, etc. That way, whenever I need it again, I can search these logs to find this project specific data.

Notes, meeting notes, agendas, document drafts, etc are all recorded and managed in nvAlt using my file naming convention of file type, client, subject and date (See Distributed Note Taking). I regularly archive these to keep nvAlt clean, but again, the data is findable.

Any contacts or people I deal with, I add to my address book. Once every few weeks, I clean my inbox and drag all project specific emails into a project folder. These too are searchable.

Tasks, todo’s and reminders are all managed in OmniFocus. I balance my time and client engagements using my own variant of GTD this way.

Why the old way sucks

The main issue with the old way is that project specific data is stored in one of these many places, the log files in BBEdit, notes in nvAlt, address book, emails and OmniFocus. Now it’s easy to search for it, but I want this data in one place. A place I know where to go and find it. Without searching.

The second issue is that I don’t like to mix my project data with other project’s data or my personal data. Yet my address book, emails and notes all get mixed up. If I search for a server address, I get server addresses for all projects.

The other issue is that these documents are not secure. Markdown is conveniently plain text, but plain text containing passwords is not a good thing to leave lying around your hard drive or DropBox.

What I need is a place for project specific data while I continue the disciplines of OmniFocus, project logs and notes in nvAlt.

The Way that Works

I’ve been following the VoodooPad project for years. I’ve downloaded the light version and the trial many times but never had I found a reason to actually continue to use it and always deleted it.

It’s this need to collect and secure project specific data that triggered a search for a file-based, markdown based, password protected solution. And then I remembered seeing an article on VoodooPad 5 announcing the new Markdown page type.

So I downloaded the trial and created a document in my current project’s home folder. I created markdown pages for contacts and for logins and passwords, and then searched all logs, notes and emails for this data, consolidating it in the VoodooPad wiki. Then password protected the document. This solved the problem. Elegantly.

So I created another VoodooPad wiki in the previous project, and the one before that. And of course, I purchased the product.

I now have a project specific place for project specific data. I still get to use my preferred markdown format, but no longer are the project secrets and passwords strewn about in multiple locations. One place, one password, one data wiki per project. Perfect for project specific data.