Using Taiga to manage writing a book

Over the years, kanban boards have become a key part of my work. It’s no surprise that I ended up using a kanban board to keep on top of my progress in the year and a half I spent writing Program Management for Open Source Projects. I chose Taiga because it’s an open source tool that has a lot of great features in the free tier SaaS offering.

What is kanban?

In its simplest form, a kanban board is a set of sticky notes on a wall. Each note represents a unit of work and the wall has columns to represent the state of the work. The states can be “to do”, “doing”, and “done”, or you might have a more complicated workflow. No matter how you set up your columns, you and your team “pull” cards forward as you progress the work. Cards can be set to show the current assignee. you can use different colors to reflect different types of work. Software-based kanban boards offer even more bells and whistles to add on.

The key feature of kanban is that it reflects the current state, not some aspirational state. The kanban board has no concept of due dates (although some software lets you add that). Work is done at the pace it can be done.

My Taiga setup

Apart from the basic kanban functionality, Taiga offers a higher- and lower- level of tracking. Cards (Taiga calls them “user stories”) belong to zero or more epics: logical groupings (often time-based) of related cards. Each card can also have zero or more tasks, which are smaller units of work.

I decided to have several epics based on my publisher’s internal milestones. Each chapter became a card. Initially, I didn’t use tasks. But after I got into the rhythm, I noticed that a top-level section was generally an evening’s worth of work. Using tasks for sections became a natural extension.

Cards started out in the “story map” column. This is where I wrote the short synopsis for each chapter that let my editor and the publisher know broadly what I had in mind. Once I finished the story map, I moved the card to the “ready” column. When it was time to start writing a chapter, I put it in the “writing” column. The card stayed in that column until I completed all of the associated tasks. Then it was time to send it to the editor and move the card to “editing”. When the editor was satisfied, the card moved to “done”. If I had more work to do, it went back to “writing” until I addressed all of the comments.

In all, it was a fairly simple setup. But it helped my stay organized over the long course of working on it. Putting notes on each card or task helped me pick up where I left off. I could have written the book without using Taiga, but it would have been a much more unpleasant experience.

This post’s featured photo by airfocus on Unsplash.

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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