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Improve team productivity by letting us configure your space

Posted by Andy Singleton on Sat, Apr 26, 2014
  
  
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We recently talked to some of our busiest customers, and we found that many of them had never configured their spaces.  Their team members were landing on empty pages and clicking around, instead of landing right where they wanted to be.

It's amazing what you can do with Assembla configurations.  However, we know you are busy and its not your job to figure out every detail. If you want, WE will do the configuration for you.

Go here to request and submit a ticket to get help from a configuration expert. Our support experts will swoop in to help configure your space.

Here is the TOP SECRET checklist that we use to get spaces tuned up.

  • Landing tab on each space - select the right place to start.
  • Remove or add tool tabs
  • Add custom tabs to show a unified view of all tools and systems used in the project
  • Add custom banners to build branding and team spirit
  • Ticket landing tab (list, cardwall, planner)
  • Set ticket status columns and tags to match your workflow
  • Ticket list filters. Default list in each view.
  • Current milestone
  • Default cardwall settings
  • Email alert defaults
  • Permissions - Owners and watchers. Tab visibility restrictions.  IP restrictions.
  • SVN and Git repository names
  • Git protected branches - enforce a code review workflow
  • Git and SVN server-side hooks
  • Do you want any Webhooks to go to a chat system?
  • Do you want to connect to Bigplans.io for a real-time chat and planning system?
  • Build hooks - FTP, Webhook, SSH tools to automatically build and post changes
  • Configure other tasks in the SSH tool

Assembla is designed to (hopefully) start simple, and then accept more configurations as your process gets more sophisticated.  If you do it long enough, you can end up with a lot of special configurations. For an example, here is a picture of the Assembla space where we build the Assembla.com application. 

assembla dev resized 600 1

At the top you can see a custom banner showing some key performance indicators - trials, subscriptions, and users.  I have opened the "More" menu list so that you can see some of the custom tabs that we added to give our team access to their development and monitoring tools.  You can see Jenkins, which does our builds and is posting status to tickets and stream, and NewRelic, a terrific tool for monitoring our production servers.  The list is longer than what you see here, including all of the developer forks of the master git repository.  We have also configured child spaces where each team can see their own cardwall.  Each tool is configured so that we quickly get the information that we want.  Using this system we can move dozens of changes per day from the ticket cardwall, to code review, to build and test, to release.

Ready to get started? Go here to request and submit a ticket to get help from a configuration expert.

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Assembla Tips and Tricks to Work Smarter and Faster

Posted by adam feber on Thu, Mar 20, 2014
  
  

assembla tips

Assembla has many powerful and hidden capabilities that can help you get your work done more efficiently. In order to get those most out of your Assembla projects, here are a few tips and tricks to help you and your team work smarter and faster. Do you have any tips and tricks you want to share Email tips@assembla.com or tweet your tips with hashtag #AssemblaTips.

Get attention from your team members with @mentions. For extra certainty, add a ! at the end like @adam! or @support! to instantly send an email to that member or group. 

Type @ and start typing a users name virtually anywhere in Assembla to call out users. User get notification alerts in their top bar to signify something needs their attention. Set up labels in the Team tab to mention groups like @support or @admin. 

Focus the attention of your team by setting your project’s default landing page (tool) and arranging the tool tabs so that the most important tools are easy to find. 

Visit the Admin tab of your project > click on the Appearance section > and scroll to the Navigation section. Drag and drop tools to rearrange the order of the tool tabs in the main navigation and select the desired default tool in the “default landing tab is” drop-down. When you have made the desired changed, scroll down and click on ‘Save Changes.’

Illustrate your point by dragging and dropping files on a ticket.

Once a ticket has been created, you can grab any file from your desktop and drop it anywhere on the ticket. This will upload and associate the dropped file to the ticket. 

Edit ticket status values to create custom workflows. Additional status workflows will be displayed on the Cardwall view so you can visually see the status of all work in progress. 

Go to the Tickets tool > Settings sub-tab > Status and Workflows section. You can create new statuses and rearrange the order of your statuses. The order the statuses appear on this page is the order they will appear in the status drop-down on tickets, and the order of the columns from left to right on your Cardwall view.

Get code reviews by setting repository branches as "protected” so only certain team members are able to push commits to a given branch after the code has been reviewed and approved.

Visit the repository’s tab within Assembla > Settings sub-tab > Protected Branches section and define what team members are allowed to perform what action to given branches.

cta tips2

We would love to hear your tips and tricks! Email us at tips@assembla.com or tweet your tips with hashtag #AssemblaTips.

If you do not have an Assembla project, get started for free.

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Apology for network errors on Friday and Saturday

Posted by Andy Singleton on Mon, Feb 10, 2014
  
  
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On Friday and Saturday, many of our users experienced 504 error and dropped connections.  We apologize for these annoying events.  We have a plan to make sure that it does not happen again.  Thank you for your patience.

What happened?

 We were overloaded.  We got too many requests for data from Subversion, and our firewall and proxy servers were overloaded.  Load spikes from the repository servers disrupted both repository traffic, and Web traffic.  The load came from game updates.  Some of our users are hosting game content, and on Friday night, when a lot of gamers start up, thousands of them were pulling updates from Assembla Subversion servers.

What are we doing?

  • Rate limiting our repository servers, so that the servers in our private, high-availability datacenter cannot become overloaded in this way.
  • Organizing our proxy servers so that repository problems cannot affect the Web app.
  • Adding a high-throughput server in a public cloud datacenter, so that we can host games and other high-throughput applications.

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Join the Continuous Revolution

Posted by Andy Singleton on Wed, Aug 21, 2013
  
  

We launched Assembla to work with distributed teams, and this required a new kind of agile dev process. Scrum with its stuffy meetings clearly did not fit the teams we work with. Cloud-based teams need to work differently.  We want to:

  • Release more frequently
  • Respond faster to users and customers
  • Scale to larger projects and teams
  • Manage distributed teams and tap global sources of talent
  • Compete better, especially with fast-cycle SaaS, Web, mobile, and big data projects
  • Reduce or eliminate the stress surrounding fixes and releases

The winner in this voyage of discovery is continuous planning and continuous delivery. The pace of competition on the Internet is so fast that all of the winners will eventually need to go continuous. In recent months we have talked to many companies that want to release more frequently, or continuously.

Continuous Agile combines traditional Kanban and Lean task management with recent innovations in Continuous Delivery.  It is is compatible with existing Scrum teams, but also works for modern, cloud-based teams and leading edge online services.

Our Continuous Agile initiative gathers together ideas, tools, and services to help you (and us) release more frequently and innovate faster. 

Ideas: Unblock! A Guide to the New Continuous Agile

Please check out an early draft of the ebook. We use this material to answer real questions from teams that are trying to release more frequently. We update it as we find new questions and ideas. You will find a VARIETY of approaches that you can use. We started building a guide that would cover basic task management, code contribution, and testing, so you would have a practical guide to the previously mysterious art of releasing every change. As we got into it, we found that some of the most interesting discoveries were around product management, which is the true route to success.

Co-authors contributed valuable knowledge. Michael Chletsos, Assembla CTO, contributed the big idea of “distributed” versus “centralized” flavors of CD.  He also put together the detailed workflows that allow us to release 250 times per month. Luca Milanesio sends us his innovations for building mobile apps. Damon Poole, now Chief Agilist at Eliassen and formerly the founder of Accurev, introduced me to Kanban and continuous release ideas three years ago, and is now figuring out how to apply them in large enterprises.

We’re moving some Continuous Agile ideas to AndySingleton.com. We will expand our coverage of the big picture with more contributors and partners. Blog.assembla.com will be more focused on the product with “what’s new” and “how to get more out of it” for users. So, add your bookmarks.

Tools: The Assembla Renzoku Release

The Renzoku package helps you plan, code, and release changes with one-piece-flow. It includes planning, Kanban view, code contribution, code review, and reporting. All of these activities are linked together on a ticket with a complete discussion and activity stream. Here’s an expanding list of relevant blog articles that describe the features. Please write in if you have questions about how to set up a continuous process.

Services: Hands-on Help

We’re expanding our “Release More Frequently” workshops, where we introduce your team to Continuous Agile, and help them figure out how to release more frequently.

Learn more at ContinuousAgile.com, and check back soon on this blog for announcements of public workshops online and in Boston.

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Milestones is now a subtab in the Tickets tool

Posted by Nadia Romano on Tue, Jul 02, 2013
  
  

If your project has the Tickets tool installed, you will notice that the Milestones tab has been removed from your project's main navigation. You can now find it as a subtab in the Tickets tool.

A long time ago, we put Milestones on a separate tab because we were migrating users from Trac tickets, and Trac put Milestones on a separate tab.  However, in reality, Milestones is always part of a Tickets tool. We removed the special case where adding and removing Tickets also adds and removes the Milestones tab. This will also reduce the amount of tabs in your project's navigation.

Image 6 27 13 at 4.21 PM

You can read more about Assembla's Ticket tool here.


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Production Monitoring: See the Webinar You Missed

Posted by Michael Chletsos on Wed, May 22, 2013
  
  

I just finished up a webinar entitled Production Monitoring: The Key Steps Towards Continuous Delivery, presented with Airbrake.io The webinar focused on how Production Monitoring is the most important process in any application, but particularly online applications when practicing Continuous Delivery.


 

The Key Points were:

  • Continuous Delivery is not a process that I can define for you, rather its a goal.
  • The Goal of being able to continuously deliver your code to QA/UAT or Production and react in real time to the results of the release.
  • Iteration Planning is Stressful
  • Confidence in Releases is Key to Automating Deploys
  • Confidence in Code is Key to Moving Fast
  • More Data and Less Stress

If you missed the webinar, you can view it above or watch it on youtube and/or download the slides.

At the end of the webinar, I was left wondering: How does Assembla fit into the Continuous Delivery Pipeline? Stay tuned, more to come.

To Learn More about Continuous Delivery checkout some of my other blog postings:

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment vs Continuous Integration 

Distributed Continuous Integration - Keep the Mainline Clean 

Avoiding Premature Integration or: How we learned to stop worrying and ship software every day

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Assembla Search Improvements

Posted by Nadia Romano on Wed, May 08, 2013
  
  
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In the past, Assembla search did not work very well. It did not match the search query to the type of searching that people were doing for a specific, recent item.  When you’re using Assembla Search the odds are you are looking for a specific document, ticket, wiki or merge request and not for a wide range of information on a certain topic. Hence, how you query and what results are relevant differ from one case to the other.

To fix this issue, we introduced a series of changes that will hopefully make your life easier when using Assembla Search. Instead of having exact and non exact match mixed in the same list of results, now you can switch between one or the other. Just type your query with quotes to look for the exact match or use the “exact match” checkbox.


search image

We’ve also changed default sort criteria to be by date so that more recent results appear on the top of the result list (don’t worry you can still choose by relevance if you need to). To make the UI cleaner, we’ve  unified some result categories. Merge requests and Commit comments will now appear under the same tag “Merge requests”. As well, Tickets and Ticket comments results will appear under the tag “Tickets”.

We hope that with these changes you will use search more. I am using it a LOT more.  If you have any suggestions or feedback, you can post a comment here.

Need help? Learn more about How Assembla Can Help You.


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Using Estimates? Cumulative Flow Chart is for You

Posted by Maxi Perez Coto on Tue, Apr 23, 2013
  
  

Yesterday, this report showed only a daily cumulative quantity of tickets, we have improved upon it.

Do you use estimates on your daily work? - Good news, today you can choose "Ticket Estimate" from the “Type” select box.

 Screen Shot 2013 04 23 at 14.29.18 resized 600

You will be able to see the same Cumulative Flow chart, but this time you will see the sum estimation of your tickets (per status).

Which type of Estimating do you use?

  • Do not use estimates: Default estimate value is 1.0, so you will get the same graph as Ticket Count.
  • Show estimated total time: Estimate value is saved as a float value representing the total time, you will see a cumulative report of tickets total time.
  • Show estimated points: In this case you can manually set points to each ticket, the result will be a summation over time of points in tickets.
  • Estimate as T-Shirt sizes: (Small / Medium / Large): Same as estimated points but with predefined values.
    • Small => 1.0 points.
    • Medium => 3.0 points.
    • Large => 7.0 points

We have been collecting this data for a week so far - full month Cumulative Flow Chart will be available in three weeks. If you use estimates on tickets, then this upgrade is for you. Enjoy!

Read more about how Assembla can help You.

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Lava Walk: Taking a Team Down a Treacherous Road

Posted by Michael Chletsos on Wed, Mar 27, 2013
  
  

When I first took on the role of CTO at Assembla, I researched Team Building and came upon the dreaded Corporate Retreat with a lava walk or lava flow exercise.  It's a team building exercise, that quite frankly seems boring. Well I currently reside in Hawaii and we have a totally different take on the Lava Walk.  

assembla lava

The Team

Here you see Ben Potts (DevOps extraordinaire), myself, and Nadia Romano (CX Engineer afficionado). These two along with another (Ramsey, not pictured, he snapped the photo) followed me into a lava field for a grueling 13 hour hike, it was meant to be only 2 hours. But once out in that field, the lava beckons you to continue on until you find it.

The Treacherous Road

The terrain was tough. Lava once hardened is not like walking along pavement, so much as walking along pavement with broken bottles littered across it after an earthquake. You have to be careful where you step to say the least. Everything around you is black lava. The air is full of smoke and sulphur smells at times. And of course, we had limited water supplies, flashlights, and mosty appropriate clothing for the terrain (good hiking shoes, long pants, and an additional layer).

wasteland walk


Fortunately we also chose to walk on a nearly Full Moon - which allowed us to not use the flashlights (as the batteries on our smartphones (the flashlight apps are great) were dying) and walk in the pale light of the moon, it was fantastic. 

We made it to the lava fountains after 4 hours or so of walking, it was sheer magnificence. To watch lava ooze down the side of a fountain is a treat to see.

The video does it no justice, smartphones just can't capture the actual image that is unfolding 3 feet (~1 meter) in front of your face.

Lessons Learned

An actual Lava Walk has many lessons to be learned hidden within it. Each person has a role to play:

  • Leader, the one who sets the path and keeps the group moving
  • Enthusiast, the one who remains positive and keeps the group motivated
  • Stalwart, the one who continues on beyond all obstacles and triumphs
  • Supporter, the one who helps others in their time of need

The role is not so much chosen as it is placed upon you. Sometimes the roles shift from person to person. I learned about these people while walking through this barren wasteland and I am sure they learned about me.  Ben is always positive and moving forward. He wants to see things and make things happen. Nadia will accomplish any task no matter how hard.  She is not afraid of an obstacle in her way. I learned that I am stubborn and when I should push people to move faster or harder and when I should allow them to move at their own pace.   

All in all it was a great experience and I hope that I continue doing other Team Building exercises in the real world, maybe not so extreme next time. I do not encourage you to make a real Lava Walk as part of your corporate exercises. This time it ended well, only some bruised ankles and sore feet. I do have to apologize to Ben's wife for keeping him out so late and worrying her half to death:

Shannon - I sincerely apologize, it was all my fault that Ben did not come back until the morning. Sorry.

sunrise over lava

We did get to see a beautiful sunrise in the morning as we left the fields. It was a worthwhile adventure.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely, I would, however not all people want to trudge through lava fields, perhaps just a Magic the Gathering Session would be a good Team Building exercise next time.

magic gathering excitementPeople do love that game. He sure does.

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Another Success Story for a Critical Update: Assembla Patched

Posted by Michael Chletsos on Mon, Jan 28, 2013
  
  

January has been a good month for Rails patches.  With the latest vulnerability released about 1 hour ago, we were quick again to patch our application.  Again our internal process was instrumental in allowing such a fast patch - within an hour from being notified of the issues.  This is the 3rd time this month that we have had such a situation and responded in similar fashion. 

ruby on rails patchThis patch was a group effort with Lawrence Pit of Mirror42, the RedHat Security team, and the Rails Core Team.  The interaction of these groups is what makes the open source community work and so great to work within.  

Thanks goes out to Artiom Diomin, Stanislav Kolotinskiy and of course Michael Koziarski and the Rails community for fixing this vulnerability so quickly.  Without the work of the various members of the different teams, we would not be able to continue such fast patches.

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