We began working on the Complete Developer Podcast in July of 2015 though our first episode was not published until September 10, 2015. Much of this time was spent setting up our website and writing a backlog of show outlines. Part of the process early on involved developing our routines for recording and publishing episodes. We wanted to have it simple enough that anyone could come along and figure out the process but complex enough to get the job done. My co-host and programming mentor Will has a friend that works at LeanKit so he suggested we give their product a try.
I found a natural inclination to using the LeanKit software and we ultimately purchased a license to use it rather than continue with the free service. Over the last half a year of publishing I have become the project manager and defacto SCRUM master for the show.
This post primarily provides an overview of our process and how we use principles from AGILE project management in recording and publishing. It also covers how I learned to use a kanban board on LeanKit and became the project manager for the podcast. For a detailed description of our process for each board follow the links at the bottom of the post to each individual board. We recently purchased new equipment for recording that has changed the process and I will discuss the differences in our original roadmap and how the map changed for the better with the new equipment on the posts about each board. To read about our new equipment check out my post on LinkedIn Pulse.
In the months between beginning work on the podcast and publishing our first episode we set aside some time to set up a kanban board on LeanKit. This process while intuitive had a slight learning curve as I had not set up a kanban board nor recorded a regular podcast.
To start I created a new board for Complete Developer Podcast. At the time I thought we’d only need one board but that changed as I learned more about how our process would work. Once I selected Create a New Board I was taken to a list of templates. LeanKit has templates for many different types of projects including business, education, IT (operations and software), and personal projects. I chose the General Kanban Board to get started.
Next I customized the template for our purposes. To do this I went into Board Settings and Board Layout Settings. Here I was able to name, create, remove, and move all the lanes and sub-lanes. I found the archives lane to be an immovable object even with my unstoppable force. Once all the lanes were created and named I set about creating custom card types for each part of our episodes: Intro, IoTease, Main Body, and Tricks of the Trade. For this post I will follow the creation of an episode body through our process.
As stated above it was a learning process and we found after recording our first episode that after mixing the recording we no longer needed to have a card for each segment. This is when I created a second board for our post production process of editing, writing the show notes, and publishing. The first board included the idea, recording and mixing.
We began to develop a backlog of recorded episodes that had been through the process but not yet published. Also we did not have a standard place to put our ideas for new episodes. I used the notebook app on my phone and Will used Google Docs. So at our first quarterly business meeting on our way to the Code Newbie Atlanta meetup I talked with Will about the issue and how we need three boards to deal with the different stages our episodes pass through on the way from initial idea to publication. I then laid out my proposed roadmap for each episode.
Each episode starts as an idea submitted in the Ideas lane of our PreProduction Board. It then goes to the Outline lane to be written. We also added an extra step of approval with an Approval lane next. Finally the episode will be placed in the Schedule lane to be scheduled for recording.
Once recorded the episode will pass to the Post Production Board and enter the Editing lane to be edited for content. It then passes to the Mastering lane while it is checked out to our audio guru Jason Belcher. Once checked back in it goes to the Meta Data lane to add our meta data for the podcast and retrieve times for the show notes.
Finally the episode is ready to be published so it goes to the Publishing Board. Here the emails and show notes are written as it passes through each lane. It ends in the Social Media lane where it stays for three weeks while it is promoted on our social media accounts until retired to the archive.
We never know when an idea for an episode will hit. Many times I’m driving listening to another podcast and an idea to elaborate on a topic comes to mind. When this happens I will use the LeanKit mobile app to create a new card in our Ideas lane with a title and description of the idea.
Each episode passes through multiple points of review and approval. We did not do this originally and it was not a problem until we recorded an episode that did not flow well and both Will and I agreed it should never see the light of day. From that process we were able to create an episode on Conflict Resolution where we discussed the episode and conversation we had after recording it.
Just last week Jason, our mastering master, found a segment of the intro that taken in the wrong light could be seen as racist. That was not the intention of what was said. Sometimes when talking to someone of a similar mindset a person makes an innocent statement that is not perceived as insulting until outside of the context. We were able to catch and remove that segment thanks to the review processes we have in place.
Each Monday we record sprints of two or three episodes. We have built a backlog of recorded episodes for weeks we are unable to record due to travel or illness. Occasionally we will have a series or set of episodes we want to record all at once and will schedule a weekend sprint. We hold sprint planning meetings each week before recording where we discuss episodes at various stages on our PreProduction Board that need approval to move forward.
The goal of using a variation of AGILE is to be simple enough that an outsider can come in and understand the process but complex enough to get the work done. This however can be short circuited by time dependent episodes or spouts of sudden inspiration before the sprint.
“Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth” ~ Mike Tyson
- BJ (me) - host and project manager
- Will - host and expert knowledge base
- Jason - audio guru and mastering master
The ideal flow for an episode has been described in the Episode Roadmap above. It moves through a process of writing and approvals before being recorded so that everyone has a chance to sign off on the episode. After recording it will be passed quickly through post production and enter a scheduled backlog as WordPress allows us to easily schedule posts and we can have two or three weeks scheduled at a time.
However, ideal and reality rarely mesh when confronted with other areas of life and obligations. Many times this means the approval process suffers as an outline may only be given a cursory view before being approved. Also ideas come to us on the fly and sometimes that is while recording so Will or I may go off the original topic because the conversation lead that direction. We also have to work around our lives for recording and Jason’s life for mastering the audio.
This is the very reason we chose to base our structure on the AGILE methodology. We are able to adjust our process to match reality. In our most recent quarterly meeting we discussed removing the approval process for outlines but decided to keep is as we want to encourage ourselves to better review our content before recording.
To read more about the individual boards and how I created and set up each board follow these links to the specific board.