[MUD-Dev] Team management

Peter Harkins ph at malaprop.org
Tue Feb 25 01:41:21 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


I'm the admin of a small mud in alpha (described in more detail in a
mud-dev post on 2002-12-11) and I'm interested in how other
non-commercial muds out there manage their wizards and such. I'll
describe our situation and then how we're handling workflow, and I'd
hope to hear what other folks are doing.

We've got three active admins and we do most of the lower-level
mudlib coding. It's pretty easy for us to keep our activities
coordinated, we've got usually non-overlapping interests in what to
code.

Keeping track of wizards is another matter. We've got over a dozen,
of varying levels of commitment and experience level. The hardest
thing to know is what they're up to or if they're stuck or
slacking. We've got a few newbies who sometimes need hand-holding,
and they'll sometimes be reluctant to ask for help (though we've
mostly gotten it through to them that we don't think they're dumb
for asking questions) or they'll get stuck and disheartened without
us realizing it. A few of the wizards that are experienced coders
(and I'll admit I fall prey to this vice) are content to theorize
and plan systems but not implement them.

In a nutshell, we have a hard time knowing what everyone is up to
and if they need help, a push, or something to do. So, on to how
we've been keeping track of the team.

First off, we have a mailing list. We post specifications to it when
we're proposing major changes or additions, and then assume silent
assent unless discussion pops up. It's where we do the longer-range,
bigger stuff. I've recently started posting weekly digests, which
I'll describe more below.

The web forums are where the day-to-day stuff happens. Bug reports,
ideas, nohelps, etc. from the mud get posted to them. We can shuffle
them around between forums (ideas get moved into 'backburner' or one
of the 'todo' forums pretty quickly, for instance). Because people
don't always read them, admins can e-mail a thread to someone with a
note attached, which we use for bugs ("This bug is in your code,
have at it") or to give assignments ("This sounds like it's up your
alley, want to implement it?").

When we've got more than 3-4 people online, we tend to start
brainstorming design issues, and someone will write up a summary and
post it or (if everyone's up too late already) just post a log. The
admins generally log on and idle when they're at a computer so
they're around to ask questions.  When there's an error or debug
message printed by code, it goes to a channel rather than to a
system log or the individual user, so we can work together or just
help with errors before newbies end up silently seething in
frustration.

This all works pretty well so far for workflow, but it was still
hard to tell when people were idle or not around. Lately I've been
posting a digest of what's happened in the last week to the mailing
list[1]. I take a week-old backup and a current one and run diff -r
to see all the files that've changed or are new, then post a summary
broken down by wizard. When I can't tell who wrote something I'll
poke around the logs or ask whoever's online at the moment, sticking
it in an 'unknown' section for claiming if I can't guess. It's been
working well: wizards like seeing their deeds recorded and if
there's a gap after their name instead of something accomplished
they take the hint or point out what they did that I overlooked.

So that's how we're getting things done. We keep an eye on the code
to find inactive people, we have forums from which we can hand out
assignments, and we've got the mailing list to sketch out "the
vision" on. This is the part where you chip in how you do it on your
mud. :)

[1] Examples:
  http://www.simud.org/pipermail/walraven/2003-January/000727.html
  http://www.simud.org/pipermail/walraven/2003-February/000753.html
  http://www.simud.org/pipermail/walraven/2003-February/000760.html

Peter Harkins, "Malap" on Walraven/SIMud: http://simud.org

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