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Trac down your bugs

I have just discovered a great tool called Trac that I’ve decided to use to manage my projects. I usually manage my projects using Org Mode in Emacs, but since Haploid has been hosted on Savannah, I’ve been interested in having a web-based, form-oriented system. I had ViewVC installed, but all you can do with that is browse source code: it’s a damn-good system for that, but it’s not a project management system.

I read a little bit about Trac and discovered
that it’s used all over the place, including by NASA. That’s a pretty ringing endorsement considering that they have the resources to just hire somebody to build something in-house. Instead they use a Free Software package designed by somebody else. And they’re not just managing software with it: they’re managing missions.

This gave me an idea: can we use Trac to collaborating on scientific manuscripts? Why the hell not? People see a false distinction between documents and program source code; however, there’s no reason for that. What you do with the text to get your work done is insignificant compared to how you manage it. A “bug” or an “issue” with a manuscript would be something that needs editing. Using Trac you can assign it to one of your co-authors. It’s integrated with VCS (it specializes on my favorite, Subversion, but plugins are available for most other VCS systems that I’ve heard of, and some that I haven’t heard of), and shows you diffs, etc. Trac has a wiki built in, and on and on. It’s built for collaboration.

So my goal with Trac is going to be to adapt my manuscript editing and creating, and future collaborations, to use Trac. I’ll let you know what I find.

Categories: Tools
  1. June 21, 2010 at 19:25

    That would be interesting! =) You might also want to check out Open Notebook Science, which would work great with that idea.


    • June 22, 2010 at 08:33

      Open Notebook Science is an interesting idea, but my idea with Trac is actually something less radical. I’m thinking of the same notion of collaboration that people now use, but just using Trac (or something else sensible) to keep track of the collaboration. I think this would be better than the “systems” I’ve used before, which usually consist of renaming a file every time you edit, emailing it to somebody and then having a meeting three weeks later saying “Didn’t you get my email?” In other words, it’s “not a system, it’s a complete breakdown of the system” (George Costanza).

      I was most impressed to hear that people at NASA are using Trac; this sounds much better than what happened with Columbia in 2003. Incidentally Mr. Tufte may be the subject of future posting 😉


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