Actually, I should say ”What a year it’s been so far”, as an incredible three months have already lapsed since my last post. After a short Christmas break, we got straight down to work on version 4.2 and our new Express version of Merlin Project – with both being released this week!
Merlin Project 4.2 as well as Server and Go were released on Monday. Version 4.2 is all about Dropbox folder synchronization. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find these kind of Dropbox folders to be very helpful:
This can happen very quickly when, like here, three people are working in a shared folder. Resolving this was both our motivation and aim: To identify all Dropbox conflicts and resolve them automatically. It turns out that we discovered something unique with our synchronization engine. It was designed to answer the issue – and it did precisely this (and no, I’m not going to quote the A-Team here). Download the new version of Merlin Project 4.2 and save your project to a shared Dropbox folder. You can now work on the same project using Merlin Project on a totally different computer or, using Merlin Project Go, on an iPhone or iPad. On iOS devices, you just need to link your Dropbox account once. After that, you’ll then see all the changes automatically in your project. It really is a blast, and it puts the fun into project management!
The 2nd highlight of the week was Merlin Project Express. Since Merlin Project first appeared, Sales & Support – and me too – have been bombarded regularly with questions asking for a cut-down version. We spent ages trying to decide on the right mix of features, and finally come up with a great set.
And with our new app, we’re also taking our first step into new sales channels. I am talking about Setapp – a new service I like to refer to as “the Netflix of Mac apps”, which I mean in a positive sense, of course. The guys’n’gals from MacPaw – also a familiar name on the Mac scene – are behind Setapp. We took a look at this new service when it first launched and were so blown away by it that we didn’t have a second thought about jumping on board. And the best thing: You can give it a go at zero risk as the first month costs nothing. After that, US$9.99 (yes, really: dollars) gets debited from your credit card each month.
And with this, we really have earned ourselves the weekend off ;-)
Just before Christmas I have a last post for this year.
(no) book recommendation
But I have another subject: A few weeks ago, I came into contact with the book "Holacracy, The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World." A first reading was interesting, especially because I am always looking for new approaches for a modern management. So €12.99 were put into the iTunes BookStore and every free minute invested in Brian J. Robertson's work.
Little by little, however, I began to wonder whether this is not an attempt to make the famous "Silver Bullet" for the Americans. Nevertheless, I fought over half the book until I gave up. But what is the - or even my - problem with the "Silver Bullet"?
Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not a friend of these so-called hype management methods. This includes some management classics, as for example "Getting Things done" by David Allen. Here it is not the method in itself, but much more my envy that I have not had the idea to make a lot of money by "putting new wine in old bottles" ;-)
But Holacracy is dangerous. If I do something wrong with GTD, I burn some personal time. This hurts, but otherwise is not harmful. If I do a mistake in Holacracy, in the worst case, I could drive a company against the wall and destroy existences. Because at this point, Brian Robertson takes a great responsibility when he says, "If you introduce parts of the Holocracy, the power structure will not change." So he demands, that the whole company has to change. This was, when my alarm bells started ringing!
In the further course, the concept became more and more opaque and complex that I inevitably built up a training and certification empire in my head. But when the comparison between a company and an operating system came up, I closed the book amused and spent my time more meaningfully.
(no) Christmas story
At this time, it is customary to celebrate a Christmas story. From all sides one can hear from "But it came to pass at the time ..." up to various versions over the old Ebenezer Scrooge, the hard-hearted nickel nurser. It is no wonder at all, that these stories are so successful. In addition to the fact that Mr. Dickens had a very pleasant "writing", storytelling is still the best methods to convey knowledge.
Taking this occasion: Due to multiple request, we have re-added the making of story for Merlin to our documentation. It had been buried more and more over the years in the blog Macpm.net. Now, we have reissued it as quick guide.
You probably already read the news, we need to take a rest. As every year, we use the time between Christmas and New Year for this. The support will be reduced to a minium, the sale and the development pauses completely. Also I personally will try to relax for a few days.
Therefore, for this year, I conclude with my best magical wishes. Spend the holidays with joy and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017. The next year will be very exciting for us as well as for you as a Merlin Project user. I am looking forward to it ...
I just don’t understand where the time goes anymore. It only feels like yesterday that I wrote the last Friday article, when my Mac pinged me that I had to hit the keyboard again. So, what did this week have in store?
Merlin Project 4.1
Naturally, the dominant topic was our new version 4.1. Even though it’s not my turn yet – thanks to our German depreciation laws – to get a new MacBook Pro, supporting the Touch Bar was very important to me.
In particular, many of our partners were really looking forward to the new version – and also got busy tweeting about it (for an example, see the tweet on the right). I’m really looking forward to seeing how great an impact the Touch Bar will have on day-to-day work. Maybe I should just pop into an Apple Store, where (hopefully) the first range of demo devices will be available.
Merlin Project vs. Merlin Server
The number 1 question on the phone this week was: “What’s the difference between Merlin Project and Merlin Server?” So I thought it would be a good idea to explain it again here, but in a different way. You use Merlin Project on your local Mac, where you create and update your projects. If you want to work with other people or use other devices simultaneously, you use Merlin Server. Merlin Server is a separate product, which you need to install on one of your Macs. As such, it isn’t a cloud service.
To use it, you publish a project on Merlin Server. Following that, other people or your other devices such as your iPhone or iPad can subscribe to the project. It is loaded onto the device and only edited there.
Our synchronization feature is the magical bit. Whenever this device is connected to the Internet, the local version of Merlin Project attempts to communicate with Merlin Server:
- "Is there any new data for me?" or
- "I’ve got new data for you!" followed by
- "Let’s compare all the changes and synchronize what we find!"
But best of all, you don’t have to do a thing: All the magic happens in the background. And if you’re offline, Merlin Project will wait patiently until you’re online again.
Living without email on the iPhone
Inspired by a blog post by Lars Bobach and one or the other discussions on the PM Camp in Dornbirn, Germany, I’m also trying to live life without email on my iPhone. Something that Lars Bobach said really struck a chord with me:
"Somehow my brain seems to have associated waiting time with email checking."
That’s so true. I associated every free minute with checking my emails – no matter where I was ;-)
I’ve been testing it since Tuesday and can at last simply switch off more often. I’m able to take more time to think about topics rather than just react to them. In return, I also read emails more carefully. Now I only wish that emails could be better thought through now and again before they’re sent ;-)
Now I must get back to doing what I need to do. Bye for now…
Lately, I’ve regularly found myself asking the same question by midday every Friday... I think you know well enough now how the rest goes from previous Friday articles ;-)
Essentially: What did I have on this week?
The TouchBar comes to Merlin Project
I already announced it soon after the new MacBook Pro was presented: Merlin Project will of course support the TouchBar. After this, I was bombarded with emails, some of which contained very detailed ideas and requests. Many thanks for these!Read more...
Lately, I’ve regularly found myself asking the same question by midday every Friday: “It’s midday Friday – how could this week have rushed past me yet again?” Yes, I really do ask myself this question just like that – and never like the often-said TGIF (thank god it’s Friday), because I like to work. My motto is “FAA” – “Friday again already” ;-)
So I’m taking some time again to review some of the topics that have caught my attention these past few weeks. Maybe I’ll even manage to throttle back a bit... Or as consultants say: “Decelerate”.
Microsoft Teams, Slack, and all the rest
The trend continues. Since this week, MS has also entered the chat-tools fray. Now dutifully integrated into Office 365 comes the next all-singing, all-dancing tool. While Microsoft Teams isn’t a big issue for us at ProjectWizards in particular, there does seem to be a trend towards companies integrating their own chat tools into their software. A prime example of this is Evernote with WorkChat. The problem I’m increasingly confronted with is that I find myself needing to rummage through loads of programs when searching for a specific discussion. Why don’t vendors simply support existing, compatible systems? In Merlin Project, I simply add a link to an info attachment, for instance, and hey presto I’m in the thick of the topic – and the discussion continues in the specialized system (here’s an example):
Tools we use
Talking about Evernote, I’ve been asked numerous times whether I’d be willing to tell you which tools we use – apart from Merlin Project of course. So I thought yes, why not.
First off, you need to know that we don’t have a centralized structure. This means, our staff can work wherever they want to get their job done. “Headquarters” in Melle is just my assistant (and combined wife) and me. That’s why there’s only one small common denominator concerning our must-have programs.
- We develop using Xcode and manage the source code using Git.
- User documentation is written in Asciidoc and managed in Git.
- Internal documents are organized in a variety of ways using Evernote.
- Support queries are answered via Kayako, but we’re working on changing the system.
- Oh yes, and we organize projects – in case you’re wondering – using Merlin Project.
In addition to these, each member of staff has their own favorite tools. In my case, these are:
- Keynote for presentations
- Things for organizing all those little tasks that don’t need full-blown project management. For viewing in Merlin, we developed an Action Script many years ago now.
- MS Excel for anything involving figures – I am the CEO after all – Chief Excel Officer ;-)
- And of course, the usual suspects that come with macOS, like: Mail, Calender, etc.
Almost forgot: As Merlin Project supports Mind-Maps, I’ve never needed to open any other Mind-Map app ever since it has. Obvious, right? ;-) If not, the usual applies: If you’ve got any questions or comments, simply get in touch via Twitter or send me an email.
Now I must get back to work. Bye for now...