For some reason this week I feel like blogging about some of my time-saving tools. I’m certainly not a superstar when it comes to eliminating wasted time. But when I was FPL I had to figure out ways to be more effective so I could spend more time on the tasks that truly required it.
If you run meetings online, you probably already know there are cool projects like Debian’s meetbot to make the process easy. You can give instructions to the bot during the meeting, which are recorded in the minutes, using commands like #info, #agreed, #action, and so on. We use meetbot in Fedora as well, for just about every meeting we run. We even use it to log hackfests and other groovy online get-togethers.
But how do you get those minutes out to subscribers of the team’s mailing list? I’ve seen some people encounter problems doing this quickly. Those problems cause stress, because you want to do a good job for your teammates. If the process is hard, it’s tempting — heck, sometimes it’s necessary — to put it off, so you can do other priority tasks. Then you feel guilty about it later when the minutes aren’t out on time. Wouldn’t it be great to eliminate that stress and guilt?
Now, I have zero doubt that someone could automate a no-time-required solution, and maybe some folks out there use such a system. But in my case, I do like to look over the minutes first, and sometimes prepend a little text at the top. For instance, I might want to add an explanation or extra pointer for context, or a note about something that went wrong mechanically. If you’re in a similar situation, or just not ready for full on automation for some reason, here’s how I do minutes very quickly. Maybe it will help you in the future:
- I have my IRC client and my email client, Mutt, up in separate windows.
- When the meeting ends, I send the command #endmeeting, and meetbot outputs information about where to find the minutes and log.
- I immediately start a new email in Mutt, with the subject “<Name of meeting> recap <date and time>”. This calls up Emacs for me, but it doesn’t matter if you’re using a different email client.*
- I copy the three lines (Minutes, Minutes text, and Log) that meetbot outputs, usually with a mouse. (If you’re in screen or something, use its copy function.)
- I paste the lines into my email and align them properly if needed.
- I use the mouse to copy the link address for the text-format minutes.
- In Emacs I run a shell command using Alt+1, Alt+Shift+!.** The command is curl -s -o – <paste the link address from step 6>. This command retrieves the text-format minutes straight from the internet into the buffer.
- I trim the headers as needed.
- I send the email. (Here’s an example from today.)
That looks like a lot of steps, doesn’t it? But since almost everything there is copying and pasting, the actual time to complete this is under 2 minutes. (If you’re a fast typist and good with your editor, it’s more like 30 seconds.) Thus the title for this post!
* Well, it does matter a little. When I used Evolution, there wasn’t a way to insert the output of shell commands easily into my compose window. That’s totally sensible because Evo isn’t designed for the 0.1% of people who like running shell commands. It’s barely more work to just use a terminal and then Evo’s function to insert file content.
** The Alt+1 means that the following shell-command, run by Alt+Shift+!, will dump its standard output into the current buffer, which is where the email’s being composed. If you were using a terminal with some other email program, you could do curl -O <paste link address> which would retrieve the minutes to a file. Then you could paste the file into your email compose window.