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Kanban POC



It’s nice to look back and be satisfied with a decision you made.


Decision-making is part of our lives, from literal life-and-death decisions made with minimal (if any) conscious thought, to decisions about what to have for dinner.


In the face of a threat, which can range from an imminent physical threat to a perceived attack on a cherished belief which is part of our “identity”, our “lizard brain” often takes over (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response). In such cases, we react rather than consider.


When the threat is physical, this is an appropriate response, and we can improve our ability to handle such situations by training – in fact, this is a key goal of military and self-defence training. It’s axiomatic in many systems that the critical factor is to do SOMETHING. If it’s a “good” thing, all the better. Better (in most such situations) to do something sub-optimal than to “freeze” and do nothing at all.


Fortunately, we are rarely faced with imminent threats to our lives, so we usually have the option of thinking before acting. In such cases, we should always try to think before reacting. But how can we do that?


Breathe deeply, count to ten, take a walk, write it down, ask a friend – whatever works for you. Some people add a “delay” to their outgoing email, to give them a chance to recall it if they change their mind about sending it. Pausing gives us time to think, and time to calm down if we are upset. It also gives us time to re-read or reconsider something, and helps us reduce the chances of our doing something we might regret.


I recall one situation in which this helped me... I was managing a project, and saw an email exchange which seemed to suggest that a server had not been shut down properly. Since shutting down that particular server was a key milestone of the project, and I had already reported that it had been shut down based on a prior confirmation, my initial response was to become quite agitated. Panic!


But, instead of simply reacting, I worked on something else for a few minutes. This gave me time to calm down a bit. Then, instead of sending something which would have been harsh and counter-productive, I simply sent an email double-checking what was said, and asked for a confirmation that the server I was interested in had indeed been shut down.


The response I got was an apology for a typo in the server name, and a confirmation that the key server had indeed been shut down. Simple, easy, no escalations required, no need to apologize for over-reacting. Whew!


In our online lives, many people don’t think before reacting, which is one factor leading to the toxic nature of some interactions and the polarization which is such a challenge in our world. But most of these people are themselves reacting without thinking, and while you can’t control their actions, you can control your own.


It’s bad enough to react without thinking under normal circumstance, but worse when you consider that scammers depend on convincing you to react without thinking. Think about phishing. Scammers will try to scare you into thinking that your credit card will be deactivated, or that the police will come to arrest you for something, or that a package will not be delivered, or whatever the scammer can think of to get you to react without thinking. And everyone is susceptible to this – no one is immune. I have heard a number of experts describe the phish that they fell for. Waiting on an urgent package when the phish came that their package was delayed, or the spoofed response to an ongoing email exchange.


I highly recommend the podcast Hacking Humans (https://thecyberwire.com/podcasts/hacking-humans), but most of the InfoSec sources in my playlist discuss social engineering to some degree (https://www.til-technology.com/my-playlist)


Scammers try to exploit fear, greed, or anything else they can to cause you to react NOW, because every second you think about your response reduces the chance that a scam will succeed.


In our daily lives, we juggle many decisions, and everyone needs a system for dealing with them. I tend to triage my decisions based on their impact, then assess the risk of a decision being positive or negative.


Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?


Not so much. All it means is that I decide whether a particular decision is important or not, and how much I care about the result, then figure out what the upside/downsides are.

What’s for dinner? I don’t really care, so I’m not going to spend a lot of effort deciding. So, unless I decide to try something brand-new and “risky” in some way, the downside is minimal.


What kind of NAS solution should I choose? Here, I thought about the relative merits in terms of cost, level of effort for me to set up and maintain, and the fact that I wanted to minimize my risk of loss of data. My process for doing this is summarized in my post “NASty Thoughts” (https://www.til-technology.com/post/nasty-thoughts)

What fonts should I use? Now, THAT is a tough one that will need more thought, but at least I have something I can use for now...

Back to the point, though, what was this decision I’m so happy about?

Well, when I wanted to learn more about web development (https://www.til-technology.com/my-blog/categories/webdev), I decided that I wanted a project that was relatively simple, but not trivial. My reasoning was that my goal was NOT to become an “expert” web developer, but rather to get a better understanding of the tools and processes associated with web development. By selecting a simple Kanban board intended for personal use, I thought I had something that was actually useful, both in general and as an illustration of project management techniques, but simple enough to do in stages. I figured that I would encounter challenges that I actually cared to solve.


And I was correct. After deciding to use post-it notes as the visual metaphor, and realizing that I needed to learn a bit about HTML and CSS (https://www.til-technology.com/post/you-have-eyes-but-you-cannot-css), I managed to create a post-it note. But then I started thinking a bit more about “realism”, which led me to adding the shadow, the tilt, and the variable colouring. Then, I had to think about the page layout, spacing, scrolling, and other issues that might well not have come up in an artificial example.


All of this got me thinking about future updates, fixes, and enhancements. For now, all of my tasks require editing of the HTML file – obviously not viable for a “product”, but exactly how I intended to manage this project. Start with a minimal Kanban board I could actually use (in however “primitive” a way), then expand to add features until I have something I consider “done”. I’ve already learned a lot, so I already think of this experiment as successful.


Maybe I’ll lose interest over time. Maybe, I’ll want to build this out as a “real” application or a mobile app. Maybe I’ll convert my LAMP-stack (Linux, Apache, mySQL, PHP) to MEAN-stack (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MEAN_%28solution_stack%29 – MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, Node.js). Who knows? I guess we’ll just have to see – and that’s another part of decision-making: Understanding when a decision does NOT need to be made.


Cheers!

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