Story Carding Your Way to TED

TED2010 has long past. The presentation went off without a hitch, and that can be attributed to oodles of preparation. A dozen people were tapped to ready the Photonic Fence for its first public demo. There was a ton to do: finalizing the software with a handsome interface, constructing custom casing and mounts for the hardware, breeding hoards of backup mosquitoes, testing, tweaking, testing, tweaking…you get the idea. With so many scrambling to cross off hundreds of tasks, this easily could have turned into a formidable debacle.

In order to streamline workflow, 3ric Johanson pulled a tool from the extreme programmer‘s handbag. Story cards are a visual way to organize tasks. Each item is placed on its own card and clustered based on topic, delegation, sequence, or whatever is appropriate in the moment. Dependencies between tasks are then shown using green arrows. The approach is flexible as items are easily edited or moved, while providing an always up to date big picture for all involved.

The board was hung in a prominent place in the Lab. As to-do’s were completed, challenges revealed and priorities shifted, the board underwent constant evolution: a tapestry of note cards fluctuating, receding, diverging, with old worn cards giving way to sprightly, fresh, new ones. Though more impressive was the team’s ability to stay focused and agile. Ultimately the demonstration garnered a standing ovation at one of the most popular conferences today. So the next time you’re facing down a beastly project, give story carding a try and report back with your findings.

If you want to see a video summary of all the prep, check out Getting Ready for TED

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  1. Alex Barker
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Would’ve been cool to see a time lapse video of the board from beginning to panic

  2. Joel Sapp
    Posted February 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if you could apply this tool to an issue closer to home. The Asian Carp situation is very serious and might be able to use your lasers system to identify these invasive species.

    Loud noises cause the fish to jump out of the water and into the air. There are ways to temporarily stun all fish with electricity and they would float to the surface. Such techniques could allow software and optical gear to ID the Asian Carp and fry them.

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