How can I track ideas for my project?
October 29, 2007 3:18 PM   Subscribe

What tools exist to track ideas in a project?

I oversee a project that has a lot of moving parts -- various deadlines, multiple "bosses" with their own ideas about what should/could be done and lots of little milestones. I've been able to develop a method for keeping up with deadlines and milestones, but I've yet to find something suitable for tracking what I call nuggets of information. These are more amorphous ideas and concepts that come up during meetings or conversations and don't neatly fit into a deadline or milestone but still are important to remember. (It's hard to give an example, but sentences that start with "It will be important to remember...." or "We should really be sure to consider...") usually contain nuggets. Right now, I just record them in my project notebook, but then I forget about them, or can't find them when I need to. As a result these can often slip through the cracks until six months later someone remembers them.

In my younger days I could remember these things, but either my work has gotten a lot more complex or my memory isn't what it used to be (or both) So what I'm looking for is something that would allow me to track these nuggets. I'd like to be able to store the nugget, the date, who said it, priority and some keywords associated with it. I could then query the nuggets, prioritize them and find them if I needed to at a later date. If the app was online, that would be ideal, but its not a necessity. Also Mac or PC -- I could handle either one. If nothing like this exists, I can set up a quick Access database for this, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel.

Solutions I've tried and found lacking for this task: Backpack, Omni Outliner, Word file, Curio.

Does an nugget tracker exist? Is there something I'm missing about the solutions I've listed above that would allow me to do what I want? How do you track these kind of things?
posted by cptspalding to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Mind Manager for the corporate world.

Free Mind is a very fine GPL version that's easy on the pocketbook.
posted by Industrial PhD at 3:35 PM on October 29, 2007

iGTD? (Note that despite the name, you don't have to have a clue what gtd is to use it, I know absolutely nothing about gtd.)
posted by advil at 3:40 PM on October 29, 2007

posted by grouse at 3:41 PM on October 29, 2007

Put it on a wiki as grouse says.

This will make it searchable and trackable. The question is then what kind of wiki.

You could use Tiddly wiki which is a self-contained wiki that you store on some machine. There are half a dozen other wikis you could use. Choose one to taste.

You could also use Google Notebook if you want to be able to access your info from anywhere that has a web connection.
posted by sien at 3:59 PM on October 29, 2007

I use papel, which is geared towards creative writing and displays multiple text files organised into characters, scenes, etc. Ignore these labels and it becomes a useful tool.
posted by Acey at 5:08 PM on October 29, 2007

Here's my related question.
posted by Acey at 5:09 PM on October 29, 2007

Not online, but Evernote might work. It's a fully indexed "log". For me, the great thing about it is that you can just start writing without having to first categorize. Every word serves as a keyword.
posted by Kevin S at 5:15 PM on October 29, 2007

I've found Basecamp and Backpack to be very useful.
posted by rachelpapers at 7:09 PM on October 29, 2007

I'm a big fan of VoodooPad on OSX. Like a little mini-wiki + extra stuff.
posted by inkedmn at 8:29 PM on October 29, 2007

You could try something old-school such as Hipster, essentially a small stack of index cards held together with a binder clip. When you get an idea, you write it down on an index card and place it into a cardfile. It's best if you work out some sort of category to put them into.

You could also try something like Treeline which is a simple Personal Information Manager that sorts in a tree hierarchy.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 1:00 PM on October 30, 2007

If you do go the index card route, you can find special 'bleachers' and card systems over at Levengers as well as 'shirt pocket briefcases' to hold the index cards for you instead of the Hipster's binder clip - but look around, I found a nice leather holder at my local Wal-Mart for $4 and various office supply stores may have them for $10-$20.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 1:24 PM on October 30, 2007

Zotero! - Open Source, University Funded, Free, Firefox-based. It is used by many academics.
posted by chrisalbon at 1:58 PM on October 30, 2007

I like Scrivener for this. My favourite feature is the "clip pad" that floats above my desktop - I can easily drag and drop links and text and images to it while I'm surfing, in one fluid motion.
posted by annathea at 4:57 PM on October 30, 2007

I have the Levenger shirt pocket briefcase - and I seriously love it. It's like a hipster PDA but with a little extra awesome.
posted by inkedmn at 10:11 PM on October 30, 2007

Well, if Backpack won't do it, what about Remember The Milk? That at least allows tagging and it's easier to move things from one list to another than it is in Backpack. That said, one of the key things for me to retain 'nuggets' (as you call them) is knowing that i can email to an app from anywhere (work, home, PDA) and I find RTM's email function lacking. Backpack and Highrise are much better at that, but the moving-between-lists thing is harder than it should be.

That said, if you came up with a convention for Backpack, something like
[Project Name] "at the VP meeting on 12/15, Bob R. said that he really doesn't care about historical data."
[Project Name] [date] Remember to check with the hosting company on [date] because we should be three weeks from launch

might help solve your problem. And Backpack is searchable.

One of the things GTD teaches people is that it's not about tools, it's about process. I wonder if the issue here is not about what tool you use, but rather that you need to tinker with your process a little bit. I don't mean this in a critical way at all, but in a way that might save you from the helpless quest to pursue multiple pieces of software that won't do what you want.
posted by micawber at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2007

Central Desktop? (not affiliated, not PepsiBlue - just a fan).
posted by rmm at 12:12 AM on November 3, 2007

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