Saturday, October 9, 2010

Robbing three casinos at once

A few weeks ago I watched the movie Ocean's Eleven a few times and spent a whole night writing down the plot's entire plan as a work-graph in Freemind. The result was a not-so-big graph (around 170 vertices), but when you try to view it all in one screen you get this:

I chose this particular plan because it illustrates a few problems with current planning tools.

Notice it's not such a big plan. 170 work-items, when each item measures in hours, is about two weeks' worth of work for a small team. Yet when you try to visualize it all in one screen you get a mess. Granted, Freemind isn't exactly designed to do this, and there are other tools that do a slightly better job at laying out graphs. But these tools don't allow you to write down and edit your plan as easily as mind-mapping tools like Freemind do.

The same plan in MS Project looks like this:

A bit less messy, but still: you can't really make out the text; the connecting lines overlap and you can't tell what depends on what; and if you zoom in you have to scroll the screen four times just to view the whole plan. And editing? Forget about it. Writing down the initial plan in Freemind took me 1-2 hours, but doing the same in MS Project was just impossible. I just couldn't do it.

And what if the plan had 1700 steps, instead of 170? Both of these tools would have failed spectacularly.

Now here's the same plan in Gigantt. Click any item to zoom into it, or use the mouse wheel. By zooming in on each level of the plan you maintain your 2D orientation and you're not lost in the details. 

What's missing? A lot. Obviously, it still doesn't show connecting lines between items. And of course it's read-only. But with time I'm going to add the ability to edit the graph as conveniently as you would a mind-map. But that's all in future showcases. Right now you can just have fun zooming around this skeleton of a Gigantt plan and hopefully be impressed by how difficult it is to rob three casinos at once.


Winterrain said...

I wish i had something like this to work on my project now.

Assaf said...

Soon enough. But seriously, would you have paid a monthly subscription to use such a service (assuming it was feature-complete of course)? If so, how much?

Winterrain said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shaiko said...

Hi Assaf(Shai from Mobixell),

Seems like a very worthy problem you are trying to solve. I myself hate every project planning tool I used , I found that MS-project is good for planning and difficult to maintain and that most of the web ones I used are just feature crippled and not responsive enough


fingers crossed.

OhadG said...

Tell you the truth, I wouldn't take it like that. If I were an administrator or a manager supposed to use your service, I would think seriously about the followin:

1. This is currently (as it seems) a web service. Is it possible to deploy it locally at company servers or is it must be service you will supply remotely?

2. Would it have integration support to share information with other tools like MsProject, TFS and like? The thing is that companies that already use other tools wouldn't

pay or take the risk of loosing their current plans and history. They would like a smooth integration from their current tool into Gigant.

3. Edit permissions per stage/item is required

4. How is it possible to read details and history per item (I want to know who change the schema and when, and also add my comments to each task which will be like a balloon

that pops up once the mouse goes over an item.

5. How do I see that task closed/finished

6. I would like to see a small (very small) icon at the buttom of each screen (especially when I zoom in). The icon will be used to return to the 100% view, instead of work

hard with the mouse to return to the glabal overview of the plan. I want one-way click to return to default zoom level.

7. I can't search for specific item/word/phrase. How should I reach easily to some item which I don't know its place?

8. Will it contain any time frame details? How do we know when each task would end?

What do you think?

Hope that helps. I have many more ideas, will communicate it in the future.

Assaf said...

lol, Ohad, this is just a mockup of one way to visualize graphs that I'm trying out. Finding missing features in this thing is not the point. All the issues you raise, and more, have been considered, don't worry. What you see here isn't 1% of the planned feature set.

OhadG said...

Assaf, you asked us "would you have paid a monthly subscription to use such a service (assuming it was feature-complete of course)? If so, how much".

How can I answer this question if all details are missing? I understood of course that it's just a mockup, but how can I imagine what does "feature-complete" mean in your own mind? (certainly can't say how much I would pay for something that I have to imagine myself like the product look and features you still keep in your own mind...)

Just tried to help...

Assaf said...

Fair enough. I guess you'll have to stick around to find out how it's going to look in the end...

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