Feb 23, 2018

Digital Machinists

By: Jacob Smith


Perhaps becoming a father makes you enjoy This Old House. Perhaps, it's just an acquired taste. The host of This Old House is named Norm. Norm is obsessed with making jigs.

Before diving into a project, Norm takes the time to build something to make the job more efficient, accurate, and precise. Sometimes it feels like it takes as much time to build the jig as do the work.

The jig isn't the tool, it helps the user better accomplish the task using existing tools.

Building digital jigs can speed up your work and improve it's quality. All too often we take our tools as they are and don't consider how we might machine our own parts to make them fit together better.

For example, we use TeamWork for project management. TeamWork has a feature that allows you to create a task via email. We also love the Gravity Forms plugin for WordPress. So let's get jiggy (sorry I had to).

We have an internal project start up form. Transitioning projects between phases can lead to issues, so we wanted to slow down a bit and make sure we gather all the information that Ashley, our project manager extraordinaire, needs to move from a signed contract to a kicked-off project. Here's what that form looks like:


Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 10.54.36 AM


Once submitted, a task is created in TeamWork and assigned to Ashley. Any attached files are uploaded to TeamWork and the digital jig sets a reasonable due date.

We've used this pattern to build other intake forms and a bug report for website beta reviews. The bug report uses hidden fields to record browser dimensions and URLs automatically. A few simple things that make website beta reviews that much smoother.

Sometimes the job is too big for a jig. Then you may have to machine your own tools. Sometimes everything out there stinks and you have to roll up your sleeves and build it yourself. That's the situation we've run into recently with editorial calendar tools. As a result, we're building our own. It's called Bruno. Bruno's not ready for prime time just yet, but stay tuned.

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