Thursday, 21 June 2012

replicating iDoneThis

iDonethis is one of these head slappingly simple ideas - automatically send out a an email every so often to your team to find out what they've done - incredibly useful if you're across timezones, and that way you get your information back.

Now of course it's much much better to talk to people, but sometimes that's difficult to do on a regular basis especially if we're dealing with people whose office times only just overlap with your times.

iDonethis provides a simple way to prompt people to tell you what they've done and keeps you on top of things. It's not a panacea, and you still won't know of problems if they don't tell you, but it at least gives you a chance.

The one problem (especially if you're working on limited funds) with iDoneThis is that  it costs money.

However you can fake it up quite easily using Evernote, an old  PC running the linux distro of your choice and some basic scripting.

Basically the recipe goes as follows:

  • put a list of your team's email addresses into a file, one address per line
  • create your canned email message
  • write a script like this

while read line
mailx -s "what did you do today" $line  -r  < canned message
done < file_team_email_addresses 

  • and then wrap this up in a cron job.

This will then mail them and when they reply, the messages will end up in an evernote notebook for reading and neatly builds up a log of reports.

One can imagine a host of variants on this, like randomly changing the canned message and subject line.

I was fortunate in that I had an old sun server with mailx to do this on - you could equally well use another mail application such as mutt to do this equally effectively. Obviously your server needs access to sendmail, procmail or similar and there are some security implications to having a private mail install.

You don't need to use evernote either - if you simply want them to go a standard mail box substitute that address for the dummy notebook address. If you want to send out a digest, you can of course install the mailman email list management software on your linux box and have the replies go to one of the list mailboxes ...

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