Improve task management system

Created on Thursday 25 February 2021, 18:17

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  • ID
  • Project
    Metabolism of Cities
  • Status
  • Priority
  • Type
    Programming work
  • Assigned to
    Paul Hoekman
  • Subscribers
    Carolin Bellstedt
    Paul Hoekman

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We currently have hundreds and hundreds of tasks that are listed on our site. Each of our subsites has its own task list. Each task has a certain type, making it more or less suitable for someone (programming, communication, research, etc). There is a priority setting, and an option to add a tag. Some tasks are directly related to specific documents (datasets, journal articles, video, etc). However, despite all of these settings and linkages, managing tasks is very messy. Some of the reasons are:

  • We have one single interface to search for tasks, and unless you really know what you are doing, it's tricky to find the right stuff.
  • There is the issue of tasks being linked to documents. This gets very fuzzy quickly, because currently each engagement with a document gets its own task (uploading is a task, processing is a task, etc etc). This is good for keeping track of who did what, and give them credit for their work. However it's terribly complicated to discuss stuff after the work is done, and it's also difficult to locate the relevant tasks once they are completed.
  • We use the same commenting system in the forum, and it is sometimes unclear when one is commenting within a task and when this becomes a forum topic (because the place where you comment is sometimes an embedded place, when you are "deep inside" an MOC section, which is then actually linked to a task/forum topic, but without this being very clear to people.

So let's make this better. I don't know yet all the things to be done, but here are some of my ideas:

  1. Sort out document-related discussions... I think they should ALL take place within the document, and the "document-related tasks" should be removed from the task list (they could show up in people's profiles but they will then link to the document, not to a task that they have never seen before in that format).
  2. Let's separate tasks a bit better by type, and make special interfaces for certain audiences. We have one "portal" for design work, but this is actually linked NOWHERE and we need other ones for other things (e.g. programming).
  3. Would be good to search for text inside discussions, as we have struggled to dig old stuff up before.
  4. General look at the presentation of all tasks and how to make that clearer.

I'll get started with this and we can take it from there.

Discussion and updates

New task was created

Okay so as I add this task, I observe two more issues:

  • When you add a task you go back to the task list --- I think you must either have an option to go to the task from there, or that we should just forward people to the task itself to begin with.
  • Also there are tasks with no date in the list, putting them on top all the time, let's sort that out.

Task was assigned to Paul Hoekman

Status change: Open → In Progress

Okay so I've been going diving into this a bit. One of the key issues that I hadn't realized before but that is clear from trying to sort this out is: our classification of tasks is not great, and that makes lots of other things difficult. We have this structure of having a main type of tasks, and then a specific classification. We have these main types:

  • Creating
  • Uploading
  • Reviewing
  • Curating
  • Sharing
  • Participating
  • Learning
  • Administering
  • Programming
  • Designing
  • Communicating

And then all of these individual task "types":

Add a

  • new event
  • Add a new organisation
  • Communication and engagement
  • Create education material
  • Create visualisation or graphic
  • Curate uploaded items
  • Data research
  • Design work
  • Finish an Online Course
  • Finish an Online Course module
  • General Research Work
  • General administrative work
  • General review work
  • Process a dataset
  • Process a publication
  • Process a video
  • Process collaborator signup form
  • Process shapefile
  • Programming work
  • Review a data article
  • Review and publish shapefile
  • Share information on social media
  • Upload Data
  • Upload a data visualisation
  • Upload a dataset to the inventory
  • Upload a photo
  • Upload a publication
  • Upload a video
  • Upload and curate items
  • Upload shapefile
  • Write a data article

Key problems with this:

  • Many of these specific task types are very detailed ("Process collaborator signup form"), whereas others are very generic ("Programming work").
  • We have a very uneven usage of these task types (ie some have tons of tasks, some have 0)
  • There are two goals that we conflate at the moment: we need a task classification for keeping track of point counting, and we want to use a task classification system to present what kind of stuff is to be done at MoC so that people can browse, comment, join, etc.

I think the crux is in the last point, and using the same classification for two purposes makes things hard. Attached also a screenshot of numbers by main category. You can see many have no activity. So we need to rethink this. We also need to have a proper think about the whole point system and assign points properly. But for now I'm going to focus primarily on the classification system for task management - one thing at a time.

So, I think we should come up with some categories that are sensible, that are NOT related to points but that are all about how to present the kind of things that should be done at MoC sensibly. Let's start with top-level stuff - I doubt it makes sense to get more specific than that. Here's what I can come up with for now:

  • Design work (design a logo, social media graphic, etc)
  • Programming (any coding to be done for the site)
  • Education material production (develop an instruction video, write up a tutorial, etc)
  • Information curation (properly labeling things, reviewing uploaded stuff, etc.)
  • Content writing (writing up a report from an event, news article, etc)

The question is: in order to show people what it is that we do, is this a good grouping? I think of making mini portals for each of them, where we list all the options in a somewhat sensible way, and provide tools and instructions for that specific type of work. Are we missing things? Any suggested changes??

So I have taken the first steps in setting up this better division I mentioned above. I have set up a new table with Work Categories. This would eventually supersede the Work Type field, but for now we need to have both while we figure out the best, final structure. In any case, the Work Categories contain a better list of types of activities, with one catch-all group that I called "Auto-created tasks". The idea is that all those tasks that we have exclusively so we can track points, go there. We can then in a much simpler way filter those out when managing tasks. I have done the relabeling of existing work tasks, to show what the division looks like (a better overview will come later, just gotta write some code for that). I observed two problems with the relabeling done so far:

  • I have put many of the task types in "Auto-created tasks", but in reality we sometimes used those categories for hand-made tasks. We likely need to find a way to filter those out otherwise we'll lose sight of them.
  • There were a couple tasks with no good place. Mostly what we previously called "Administering" and "Communication and engagement". I re-added the latter, and I put the former tasks in "Information curation". Let's sit down later to properly review things in there so we can figure out what makes most sense.

FYI here is the new overview by category - looking much better!

Okay, making progress. I've set up a first demo of the restructured system. In the setup, the following key things are changed:

  • All of the automatically created tasks are hidden.
  • The tasks are now just shown in one huge list. Instead, people are shown the 6 main categories first, and ask to select. They then see the relevant tasks.
  • There are still options to filter and to e.g. see the entire list, or only a subset of a specific topic.
  • For each of the main topics, there is an option to set up a general instruction page, like so. At this point, only DESIGN and PROGRAMMING have introduction pages -- we should write the pages for the other sections soon.
  • There is an option to start a general chat in each category. That makes it easier to discuss contributing etc without having to open a chat in a specific task. Each conversation topic opened there will also appear in the forum. Each subsite has the same instruction page (we should likely add a disclaimer above to make clear this is general MOC instruction stuff), but the discussions are subsite-specific.
  • Small tweak: after creating a task you now go back to the new task itself.

That's it so far. Screenshots attached. Let me know if there are any thoughts on this so far. I think we should work out the reclassification of task types etc soon, but that may be a nice thing to discuss Thursday at the meeting.

Paul, this is da 💣!!! At the very least for the fan of tidy and organised working in me 😀🤓
I appreciate you so much for documenting it all like you did. This and the improved system is incredibly helpful!! I don't have any more input for now, will see how it goes as I'm using it and provide feedback then. Looking forward to hearing more about it on Thursday.

Jeje very cool to see your positive feedback Carolin ;-)

Yeah let's see how it goes but my idea is that we can now really start using this for our task management in the team, and we therefore should spend some time on Thursday figuring out tasks and task categories so that we can make a to-do list and then all work on this! Let's see!!

Hey Carolin, I'm just checking in to see if you have any comments based on a few months of using this new structure.

My own impressions:

  • This organization is MUCH better and allows for a much more condensed overview
  • There are still some tasks that are not neatly classified so the whole point of needing to review the categories still stands.
  • We need to roll this categorization out in some other places as well, and we need to make these 'portals' much more integrated.

I feel that basically this (kind of) structure works, but it needs to be fully rolled out and not somewhat tucked away and only visible when you click very specific links.

Those are my feelings at the moment. I will work on making all of this more visible but if there is any other input please do share!

Closing this as I'm going through open tasks. This main task was mostly completed and if there are specific new things to be done it would be best if you create a new ticket for that for future coordination in the new team.

Status change: In Progress → Completed