Discourse as a GTD Reference Repository

Discourse as a GTD Reference Repository

(Curtis Spendlove) #1

So, I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know). Off the top of my head, I’d say the two most common answers to “where do you maintain your reference materials” are:

  • Evernote (or similar)
  • Dropbox (iCloud, Google Drive, etc)

I’ve been trying to simplify my buckets and only use what is necessary. While I like having mostly markdown files as my reference, I’m feeling compelled to spice things up a bit (due to my new leadership roles).

I also took stock of my subscriptions to see what I could streamline. I realized that I might be able to move my reference largely to Discourse and get many of the advantages it contains.

(I got the main idea during a work discussion about how to solve our data silos problem—particularly email, slack, and texts. We are going to try to use Discourse as a project reference suite.)

This may be a dismal failure. Or it may be my best idea ever. Stay tuned for the exciting journey…


A New Experiment with Discourse
Can you be genuine online?
Comparing Bear to Ulysses
(Curtis Spendlove) #3

An example of a work-focused thing I’d like to store and share:

Over the next two or three months I’ll be doubling the size of one of my Angular teams. I will be bringing on 2-3 FTEs and 1-2 contractors.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate the Junior / Senior designations for development roles, but unfortunately it is the language the industry speaks.

I’ve spoken to a few internal employees and really liked my discussions. We opened up the position and got 150+ applicants in a day and a half.

I expect to do phone interviews with the top 5-7. And I expect to add a few of those to my short list. Things 3 has been fine to help me organize my actionable tasks.

Luckily, I won’t be passed all 150 resumes, since our hiring team is amazing. But I will get the best 20 or so.

The end result will be a collection of information about 5 or 6 amazing people. I want to track this long term. Sometimes you run across people who are awesome, but don’t fit the current project. Sometimes you get awesome people who aren’t interested in the current project, but are interested in something else down the line.

I know I can store all of this stuff in a directory on my Mac that syncs to iCloud (or wherever). I could even point DevonThink at that repo.

But I could store it in a web tool as well, one that is made to store multimedia and do some pretty magical stuff with it.

I see no reason I can’t store my plans for the house deck, or my plans for my website in Discourse as well.

BTW. Those three people in the screenshot started out as Email to Things forwards. I moved those entries through the headings as they progressed through the interview process.

I wish I had thought of Disourse sooner. I’d have recorded my conversations and uploaded them as an entry. I also would have kept better dated notes to refer back.

(Wilson Ng) #4

Would you be putting your references online as a way to share it with your work team? That would be my biggest reason to put it on Discourse. Otherwise I’m happy to keep it quarantined for my private use.

But I guess I can see it on Discourse with a secured login to keep it away from prying eyes.

(Curtis Spendlove) #5

The work stuff, yes. I was actually working through security implications last night. It seems that Discourse has granular enough settings. Though I can’t find a way to secure individual topics. But you can secure them via categories. So that is fine.

Some stuff will be sensitive, most won’t. Most will be project related communications. I like to prepare for my “greyhound moment” (if I ever get creamed by a huge commuter bus on my drive, I want people to be able to continue my efforts with as much detail and as little downtime as possible.)

For my personal stuff, the walls are a little less defined.

(Joe Buhlig) #6

This topic makes me happy. :hugs:

Being a Discourse developer, I see a lot of teams using it for precisely what you mention. I’ve also run across a few individuals who set up instances for primarily personal use and then create categories for external workers that they invite in to consult or handle a project. They end up using it as a task manager of sorts.

And considering you can get an instance running on Digital Ocean for $5/month, it’s likely cheaper than a lot of task manager and reference tools out there.

So, yes. I could easily see this working. I even have a side project with a Discourse instance for tracking individual projects that are assigned to users. Every time there’s an update (daily most of the time) they post what’s new and what’s next.

If you tie in Office 365 or Google Drive, you can start posting links to documents that help you create a single point of contact with the project.

Ok. Time to step off the soapbox. :wink:

(Justin DiRose) #7

I’m assuming it runs pretty well on this tier of machine?

(Curtis Spendlove) #8

It does. I had to do a custom install, but it was easy. The one-click installer wanted me to use a higher spec droplet (said something about disk space—but there are options to increase the disk space).

I’m guessing it wouldn’t drive trafficked installs, but for an individual/small team, it should be fine.

(Joe Buhlig) #9

Curtis is spot on. The $5/month droplet is plenty for a one-person install. The :guild: is running on the $10/month size and it has more than enough bandwidth remaining.

That said, I’m starting an experiment on this one. It occurred to me that Discourse could be the killer notes app.

  • full API functionality
  • markdown editor
  • uses webhooks for extensibility on the back-end
  • similar to Evernote with categories (notebooks) and tags

Which makes me think CGP Grey may be interested in this setup. :thinking:

But I’m giving it a shot. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll report back.

Creating new Discourse topics via URL
(Curtis Spendlove) #10

Hmmm… just hmmm…


One might even dip ones toes into iOS development to build a client (assuming there isn’t already a Discourse client—I haven’t looked).

To be fair, the web client is very good in Discourse. So native clients aren’t necessary. But might have additional power for a “notes” application driven by Discourse.

(Joe Buhlig) #11


(Curtis Spendlove) #12

Uh huh. Of course. :slight_smile: Why wouldn’t there be. That team is spookily ahead of the curve. :wink:

Boy, the ratings are a bit rough though. Regardless, it’s installed and ready to take a look at this evening.

(Joe Buhlig) #13

Also, this:

(Curtis Spendlove) #14

Yup. That was the impetus for me linking back to this post. I realized I need to add some updates to a few of my threads. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. :slight_smile:

I’m intrigued, though, as I was curious about replacing pretty much the exact same set of apps (and subscriptions) as you. :wink:

(Brett McHargue (The Ruby Troubadour)) #15

I suggested this to my team once (we’re slack and email heavy with project info going to a Confluence wiki to die) but was shouted down for trying to introduce yet another channel for people to use. I would really like to get out of the “what was that phrase on Slack again?” mode of project management.

(Mike N) #16

Does discourse have an easy way to get the content exported into a usable / importable format in the event that a year from now you decide to migrate to a different tool?

(Joe Buhlig) #17

I hear this one a lot. There’s no easy solution here. But I do know that there’s a cool blog post about how the Discourse team themselves use it for just about everything. This post has helped a few teams convert.

There’s a built in backup process that you can export and then re-import into another Discourse instance. I can’t say I’ve heard of anyone building an exporter that works with another tool at this point.

That said, I’ve been exploring the possiblity of an Evernote/OneNote importer/exporter to make it easy for people to convert to/from Discourse for this purpose. It would really depend on the interest, though.

(Mike N) #18

My question was the more around the practical implications of folks like yourself, and the rest of the productivity tool addicts here (myself included), who regularly experiment with new platforms. This would appear to be a solution that would demand a technical skill set to implement if you ever thought you’d change tools.

(Joe Buhlig) #19

As a follow-up, this is proving to be a pretty sweet setup. Given the vast API of Discourse, services like Zapier, and the fact that the API is basically a URL Scheme, I’ve been able to automate a handful of things using this simple setup:

This would be correct. Right now, you can get an export but it would take some know-how to get it into something else. That said, I’ve explored the idea of an Evernote importer for Discourse. It would make sense to explore an exporter for it as well.


Wondering if Discourse might be a good digital back channel for a real world graduate school course. I’ve thought about slack before, but it seems incredibly flawed despite the hype.

(Joe Buhlig) #21

I’m currently on 28 Slack teams (clients). It can be used well but only if you don’t expect to search it or use it for documentation. And in those cases, the teams use some other system for long term storage. And Discourse does this really well. But, of course, I’m biased. :man_shrugging: