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Kanban Ipsum

Starting a project can be hard, especially when you have limited time and other work on your plate. It’s also hard to force yourself to be disciplined and not try something too complex when you’re part-way through a course (of whatever sort).

I’ve seen a lot of beginners come into karate classes wanting to learn how to “fight” like whichever action star they happen to like. (Please see for some of my comments on martial arts training.)

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be able to do things like your idol, but it’s important to realize that these things take time and endless practice. There is an endless supply of cringe-worthy “martial arts” videos on YouTube, including “auditions” for a Kung Fu movie (, endless fake “martial arts” videos, and take-downs of those videos. That said, there is also a lot of really interesting and useful content from serious practitioners, so it’s mainly a matter of learning to judge the quality of the material.

Now that I’ve decided on trying to build a Kanban board as a sample/test project (, I’ve been trying to figure out what to build, in what order, and how I can most quickly come up with something I can use.

When I conducted my personal Kanban experiment, I took a manila file-folder and a marker to build the columns and rows, then used post-it notes of different colours for the tasks (using different colours allows for easy visualization of different projects, priorities, or any other breakdown that is useful, depending on context).

When thinking of using post-it notes, I actually found an article describing the process, and how to implement it using post-it notes. (Interesting, though I’m not planning to download their app).

A basic, “traditional” Kanban board is generally broken into columns which represent the stage/status of a task, most frequently “To do”, “In-Progress”, and “Done” (with endless variations on the labels), and columns which generally represent a person or project.

From experience, I know that I will want to be able to customize both the rows and the columns. For example, I have found that a “Hold” status is often needed, to address tasks which are dependent on others,and I have also found that critical tasks often “jump the queue” and need to be addressed ahead of other work. Proponents of Kanban generally try to minimize things like these, but reality often makes that difficult. I also find it useful to include an “archive” section, to retain visibility of some completed tasks without clogging the “Done” column, and a “backlog” column, which I use for triage and prioritization, and to limit the number of items in “To do” status.

The beauty of Kanban is that you can adjust it in a variety of ways, according to your needs and preferences.

When I consider that I’m only about half-way through the YouTube video series on HTML and CSS, and that my next steps would include the actual HTML/CSS development along with learning about PHP and mySQL, my limited time seems even more limited. So, what to do? How can I realistically build something useful, while learning how to build something useful?

One of the key concepts in project management is that of “progressive elaboration”, which is simply that the information available about a project will become clearer as more information becomes available. And one of the keys to Agile project management is to deliver “working” software frequently, building one component at a time – this allows for more frequent feedback, and increases the adaptability of a product being developed.

Wait! I don’t necessarily need a full-featured Kanban application, with the ability to flexibly define columns and rows – that can come later.

I don’t necessarily even need columns and rows! Maybe the first iteration of the tool could be a simple page with post-it notes. I can get value out of that, even if it means editing HTML to apply updates. (Of course I could do that in a spreadsheet or in “raw” HTML, but this is a learning project, so I don’t want to simplify THAT much)

Which brings us to zombies.

Wait, what?

Well, it brings us to working on the HTML/CSS for a post-it, which brings us to zombies.


Hm. I guess I skipped a step or two there...

Since I’ve decided to go with the physical post-it metaphor for this tool, I thought it might be interesting to select a “handwriting” font, and thought that Caveat ( might be a fun one to start with.

Then, of course, I needed to think about what the post-its would look like, track down some colour codes, and think about how they might look, especially when there will be different tasks with different descriptions. I found an interesting post regarding how to style post-it notes “realistically” – looks very interesting, and I may look into it at some point, but for now I’ll keep things as simple as I can.

When designers want to see how a layout looks, they usually want different blocks of text, and using the “Lorem ipsum” ( is a common way of getting it. The benefits of the approach is that it “looks” real, but is basically meaningless (which avoids distracting the viewer with the meaning of the content and highlights the fact that the content can be ignored)

The original Lorem Ipsum appears to have been derived from a text by the Roman orator Cicero, bit it is actually only a few decades old, which I found surprising. That said, I wanted something a bit less traditional.

I considered using something fun, like, which generates fake “program code” when you hit random keys, but that doesn’t really “fit” with a Kanban board.

Instead, I decided to use one of the “Ipsum” variations. There are a lot of them out there, including “Dalek Ipsum”, “Cheese Ipsum”, and “Hodor Ipsum” (consisting simply of variations of the word/name “hodor”). But in the end, I decided to use “Zombie Ipsum” ( I like “zombie movies” – while some are just gory, the best ones try to illustrate how people respond to disasters, and how thin the veneer of civilization can befor some people.

So, now I have a post-it note. Now I need to watch more on HTML and CSS, so I can figure out what to do next.



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