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New! Plan with Epics and Stories

Posted by Andy Singleton on Tue, Jul 09, 2013

 Many Assembla projects have moved beyond a simple list of tickets.  Our users are organizing projects hierarchically with parent and child tickets.  They are also working with agile methodologies that do planning at the Epic, Story, and Task levels.  We have added a new field called "Plan Level" to Assembla tickets.  This will help you add parent and child tickets at multiple levels - Epic, Story, and Subtask.

Story is the default type.  Any ticket that you create will start as a story. 

You can add Subtasks to a story on the planner, sidebar, or Related Tickets tab.  Subtasks are steps to complete a story.   They help you organize design, development, and bug fixes before the story release.

Epic is the top level.  An Epic describes a big feature that you will implement over time, by releasing a series of stories.

Why are they different?

In previous versions of Assembla, you could add child tickets to any ticket.  You did not need to worry about the "Plan Level".  The new system has types with different behaviors.  Most of it will work as you expect, by default.  However, it is more complicated.  Why do we need these new types?

When you move a Story to a new milestone, you move all of its tasks.  Tasks are tightly attached to a Story.  We assume that tasks are always finished at the same time as the parent story.  You cannot move a task to an implementation milestone like "Current", without moving the parent story.  You release a story, not the tasks.

If you have an Epic in your backlog, you can move its stories to the Current or implementation milestone one at a time, and release them one at a time.  Stories are loosely attached to an Epic.  So, you can finish Epics incrementally.  You can "Implement feature 1" and then later "Implement improved feature 1".

Our users have posted many requests about child ticket behavior.  Some people want stories.  They want to attach a set of tasks, and have those tasks move to the Current milestone with the story, and then get closed when the story is released and closed.  We implemented this behavior on the Planner.  Some people want epics.  They want to make an outline with a list of stories under an Epic or topic, and then move each story to implementation at the right time.  We implemented this behavior on the Outline.  To resolve the conflict between these two views of how child tickets should behave, we created the different plan levels.  These plan levels match the different ideas of "Epic" and "Story" in most agile methodologies.

Setting the Plan Level

The default Plan Level is Story.  If your Plan Level is empty, your ticket will act like a story.  You can set the Plan Level to Epic or Story in the sidebar field.  When you create child tickets of an Epic, you will create stories (loosely attached).  When you create child tickets of a Story, you will create Tasks (tightly attached).  It sounds complicated, but it will work by default.  You can only create Tasks by adding them to a Story.

The Outline view will automatically create types at the correct level, with Epic at the top level.

Using Stories

Stories make your planning views smaller and easier to manage.  They describe the important features that you want to release, and they hide extra details in subtasks.

It is a good practice to plan your backlog with stories. Then, when you move a story to the current sprint or milestone, you expand it with more detailed tasks.  We show stories on the Planner.  You can open a story and add Tasks in the Task tray under it.  You can also track individual bugs that needs to be fixed before the release of a story, by adding them to the story as Tasks, using the sidebar or the Related Tickets on the Story ticket.

Traditionally, a story describes a complete function for a particular role, in the form "As <a role>, I want to <product functionality/action>, so that <benefit/goal>."  For example, a story could say "As a Scrum iteration planner, I want to open a story in the planner, and add tasks to it, so that I can more clearly define and estimate the work in the current sprint."  We wrote about stories in our draft ebook, here.

Using Epics

Epics are a new feature to help you organize bigger backlogs.  You can sort a list of 20 or 30 stories into a sorted backlog.  After that, you will want to organize them by topic, or "Epic." 

The child ticket in an Epic is a story.  Stories are not strongly attached to their parent Epics.  You can take stories from an Epic, one at a time, and move them into different implementation milestones. 

Why use Epics?

  • You can work with bigger backlogs.  You will organize the stories in each Epic as a separate topic, without looking at the complete backlog.
  • You can distribute planning work to more people, by assigning different Epics to different people.
  • Epics help you to be more agile, because you can finish stories one at a time, and implement the Epic incrementally.  You want to release frequently and incrementally.
  • And, Epics help you see what is completed.  You can see what stories are done, what stories are in progress, and what  are in the backlog.

One of our Assembla teams created a special milestone called "Epics" for our Epics.  We can select the Epics column into the Planner backlog column, and see the high level topics that we are working on.  The Outline clearly shows your Epics in the left column.  And, you can select the Epic type as part of a list filter.

Views of the Plan Level

On the ticket sidebar, you can set Plan Level to Story or Epic

Screen Shot 2013 07 02 at 10.42.31 AM resized 600 

The Related Tickets tab shows you child tickets

On a Story, the Related Tickets tab helps you add Subtasks.

Screen Shot 2013 07 02 at 4.11.42 PM 

On an Epic, the Related Tickets tab helps you add and manage and schedule Stories.

Screen Shot 2013 07 02 at 4.11.06 PM 

In List view, icons show the parent Epic in green, parent story in orange

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Stories on the Planner - add or drop Subtasks

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Epics on the Planner - see stories, and link to the related tickets page to edit

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This is a tricky one. If we allow you to drag and drop stories, you will see them in two places - under their home milestone, and under their Epic.


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Post-it Notes Are an Instrument of Oppression

Posted by Andy Singleton on Mon, Jul 08, 2013

Post-it notes have a glamorous role in the world of agile Scrum and Kanban teams.  They represent the power and intimacy of small team.  Using post-it notes, you throw out ideas with a satisfying squelch.  You rearrange and reorganize your task board on a whim.

However, post-it notes also cause problems.  They are bad for distributed team members, or even for someone who happens to be home with a sick kid.  If someone is not in the room, handling the paper, they aren't included at all.  There is only one version of posted truth, and alternative organizations are not considered.  Worst of all, you throw them away at the end of an iteration.

Post-it notes are an instrument of oppression and control.  You use them to control access to the task board.  You use them to oppress anyone who is not in the room with you. You use them to erase institutional memory and rewrite the past.

In a world with lots of good online ticketing and issue management systems, there's no excuse for the tyranny of post-it notes.  You should put your notes and task boards online where everyone can comment, and you don't lose the information.


In Assembla's ticket system, we try to include everyone in an online conversation:

  • We contact the correct people with "follower" email alerts, and a real time activity feed showing comments
  • @mentions in tickets and comments draw users right to the point where they can reply
  • Tickets show a complete history of the discussion and work
  • A cardwall provides a shared team view (Renzoku package), and can be set as the default view for your team.

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Space Manager: Many projects, one team; One project, many teams

Posted by Jon Friedman on Thu, May 30, 2013

How do you see the forest but keep teams focused on their own trees? With Space Manager.

Assembla recently introduced the Space Manager feature to help service providers and companies with large projects handle two use cases:

  • Many client projects being serviced by one or a small number of development teams.

  • One complex project being developed by several development teams.

Space Manager, along with the new Tag feature, can help these companies manage their backlog better, let teams focus on their own work, and give clients and customers a restricted view of their own ticket lists but nobody else’s. It helps managers manage the “big picture” while making teams more efficient.

Use Case #1: Many projects served by one team

What if you are a service provider or custom development firm creating software apps for multiple clients? Or part of a corporate web site or application group serving multiple internal customers?

Then you want to maintain a master backlog of tasks, but also keep track of which tasks belong to which clients. You may also want to let your clients submit requests directly to the master backlog, and later view the progress of those tickets, but not be able to see tickets submitted by anyone else.

With Space Manager, you can set up a “Master Space” for the entire development team, then a series of “Child Spaces,” one for each client. The process will then work as shown in the diagram below.

As clients submit tickets, the tickets are tagged with the child space name of each client (in the diagram, “C1,” “C2” and “C3).


The space owner and designated tech leads have visibility into a master backlog of all submitted tickets. They validate and refine the tickets, then sort them in order of priority, taking account of the importance of the individual tickets and the need to balance the demands of the clients.

They then select the most important tasks to go into the “Current” milestone (or the current Scrum sprint, or the Kanban process).

The development team can see all of the tickets in the Milestone, Planner and Cardwall views, sorted by priority, and tagged by the client.

If you want to give clients visibility into their tickets you can do so, but they are restricted to the tickets in their own child space - they can’t see tickets (or messages, or repositories) from any other child space. 

Use Case #2: One project developed by many teams

What if you are working on a large project that is being created by many teams - perhaps an architecture team, a UI team, and a backend team?

Then you want to maintain a master backlog of tasks, but let each team keep track of its own tickets, documents and code, without having to sort through the work of the other teams.

With Space Manager, you can set up a “Master Space” for the complete project, then a series of “Child Spaces,” one for each development team. The process will then work as shown in the diagram below.

The product owner submits tickets to the backlog. The space owner and designated tech leads validate and refine the tickets, sort them in order of priority, and assign them to individual teams (in the diagram, “T1,” “T2” and “T3). They then select the most important tasks to go into the “Current” milestone (or the current Scrum sprint, or the Kanban process).


Each development team can see ts own tickets in the Milestone, Planner and Cardwall views, sorted by priority. They also see only their own messages, documents and repositories.

The space owners and tech leads can always see the “big picture” and communicate with all of the individual teams, while the team members can focus on their own artifacts, without needing to filter out work from the other teams.

There are several variations on this use case. For example, tasks can be assigned to Git forks or Subversion branches, and each fork or branch can be managed in a child space. 

Use Case #3: Many projects supported by many teams

 What if you need to support multiple clients with multiple development teams? Space Manager and Tags can help you there too.

You can set up a “Master Space” for the entire organizations, “Child Spaces” for each client, and child spaces for each development team.

Now tickets are tagged by the source (client, product owner, etc.) and by the assigned team. Managers can maintain the master backlog and see the global view at all times. Teams can focus on their own tasks and code. And clients can be given a limited view of their own tasks. 

How to use Space Manager


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Looking for a Git Bug Tracker? Look No More.

Posted by Titas Norkunas on Mon, May 20, 2013

Integrated Git issue tracker

Forget about setting up a Git repository and an issue tracker locally only to have an integrated Git repository with a bug tracking system to run your software project.

With Assembla, you have an integrated system at your fingertips - just install a Tickets tool and a Git tool to your Space - that’s it, you are done setting up, let the work begin. Out of the box, you will be able to reference tickets from your commit messages - just write “re #1” in your commit message and a link to the commit will appear on ticket #1.

Git bugtracker - integrated repositories and issue tracking

  • Change ticket statuses - just naming a ticket status - “Fixed #1” - will place a link in the ticket to the commit and change the ticket status to Fixed.
  • Track time - enter a record of how much time you spent working on a particular task by using  “Fixed #1 Time: 1h30min” to your commit message.

Want more integration?

Are people making commits to the repository, which you can’t trace back? Well, we have a solution for you. With our new custom server side hooks feature you don’t need to ask everyone to create a pre-commit hook on their machine. Just install a server side hook to your repository to reject the commits that do not contain a ticket reference - nobody will be able to push a new commit that is not related to a particular ticket.
Server side hooks to integrate git bugtracker and repository

Even more integration?

Need more automation in your workflow? You can write your own server-side hooks, which we will review and put on our servers for you to install. Just send us a merge request!

Get your free Git repository with an issue tracker here.

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You've Got Tagged!

Posted by Nadia Romano on Thu, May 09, 2013

Does your ticket sidebar look like an endless groceries list? Are you looking for a way to organize stories and epics? Are you knocking your head trying to find your way through a sea of tickets?  Then, I think you will be more than relieved to hear that we’ve released Tags for Tickets.

So, go to any ticket view and start tagging. It’s easy. Just click on the edit icon and enter a new tag or select from the existing list.

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If you want to change which tags appear on the popup for users to select go to Tickets->Settings->Tag. Select Active if you want a tag to appear in the popup selector or else Hidden if you want to remove them from it.

tag 2 

We hope you enjoy this feature and start tagging right away! Let us if you have any comments or suggestions.

If you want to learn more about Assembla's Ticket and Issue Management System you can read more about it here.

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Server Side Hooks on a SaaS repository? ✓

Posted by Michael Chletsos on Tue, May 07, 2013

Oh BTW, you can have Server Side Hooks in a SaaS Repository.

Cloud repository hosts have failed us. The power of hosting your repository locally is the ability to implement Server Side Hooks. These hooks allow you to control your repository and the source code contained within.  Its super convenient for an organization with many contributors to a single repository. You can syntax check code, ensure commit messages are proper, add the power of automation or anything else you need your repository to do better than if you were relying on external webhooks.

To add a Server Side Hook in your current Assembla Repository - go to the Settings Page -> Server-Side Hooks:

server side hooks

  • Git: pre-receive, post-receive and update hooks

  • SVN: pre-commit, post-commit, pre-revprop-change and post-revprop-change hooks

  • Community Supported: Submit your own hooks or partake in the fruits of another’s labor

  • Prevent commits that do not comply with your Coding Standards

  • Validate commit messages for status updates and valid ticket reference

  • Create Workflows with specific status and ticket changes or kick off external procs

We are very excited about Server Side Hooks and hope that you find them as useful as we do. Take a look at some of our other available Repository Features.

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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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New Ticket Metrics - Reports that are actually useful

Posted by Andy Singleton on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

The Tickets tool has an all new reporting UI.  You can find it under the Metrics subtab of the tickets tool.  This is a big leap forward for Assembla.  Our old reports (ticket metrics) were not useful, and we did not use them.  The new reports are redesigned to fit our continuous development process, so that every report has a purpose.

Please go and look at some of your reports, under Tickets/Metrics. You will probably learn something.  I did.  The first thing you will see is the “Contents” page.  This is a list of reports with a picture and an explanation of what the report  shows you.  Here are some new highlights:

Cumulative Flow Diagram

Cumulative Flow is so important that we will post a more complete article about it.  It shows you the status of open tickets, for each day that you have been working on the current milestone.  If you run a Scrum process, it will show you a burnup chart.  If you run a continuous or Kanban process, it will show your velocity, and what status tickets are piling up in.  Here is an article that shows the basic shape of Cumulative Flow.

Here a report for development.  You can see that we stopped doing releases during Christmas break, leading to a bulge in orange "Deploy now" status.

assembla cum flow resized 600


A simple way to see weekly velocity – by number of tickets, or by points.   Use this to see your ups and downs, and to estimate your future capacity.

Here is an Assembla velocity report. We use ticket count (every ticket is one point).  You can see a decline in closed tickets during Christmas week, and a half week (through Wednesday) at the end.

assembla velocity resized 600

Stuck Tickets

If you run a continuous process, you want to focus on tickets that do NOT move to the next step in a short period of time. Those are the things that will cause problems for your lean process.  The Stuck Tickets report shows them.  You enter a number of days, and it shows Current tickets that haven’t moved in that time.

These tickets have been stuck a long time!  I'm asking my guys to fix that.  I cut off the field at the end of the line that shows the date.  It sorts the oldest tickets to the top so you can see the biggest problems.

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BONUS – User reports

The user report has some nice new graphics.  This report is amazingly useful  for me.  It shows user activity across all Assembla tools.  You can link to it from the Tickets user report, which shows the tickets a user is working on, or from the “reports” link on the Team page.

The left panel shows the times that a user submitted events, in your time zone, or their time zone.  The right panel shows the type of things that they are working on.  The rest of the report shows everything that they are working on, in detail.

You can see that I now have a management job where I comment on tickets but don't post code commits or handle merge requests.  There's a lot more detail further down the report.

user report 3 resized 600


We have a lot of credits for these new features.  Hank Lander worked through the requirements.  Ryan Yeske came in and added sophisticated new data structures to track the cumulative flow.  Felipe Artur, Kivanio Barbosa, and Andres Aguilar implemented the reports.  Paco Lule made design improvements. Leandro Camargo brought all these pieces together to bring the reports to completion. 

Get all of these reports - and more - with Assembla Renzoku

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Story tickets with subtasks / to-do lists

Posted by Andy Singleton on Fri, Jan 04, 2013

We just released a frequently requested feature - an implementation of Story tickets with subtasks. You can use the subtasks in a Scrum planning process, or you can use them as an informal to-do list. To see this new feature, go to the Tickets/Planner UI, and open a ticket by selecting the little triangle on the side. This opens a “task tray” under the ticket. You can write into the form to make a list of subtasks. You can create a to-do list in a few seconds, right there in the task tray. You can also drop other tickets into the task tray.

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Tasks move with the parent Story ticket. So, if you sort the Story, or move it to the Current column, or to a different milestone, the tasks go with it. Use this relationship to make a list of tasks that should be completed before you release the parent Story.

You can also see the Tasks on the “Related Tickets” tab of the parent Story ticket, and you can add or edit tasks right inside the Story ticket.

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The tasks are complete tickets, so you can assign them, discuss them, and see them in Cardwall and List views.

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In the old Outline view, parent and child tickets are only loosely related, and child tickets do not move with the parent. The Outline parent tickets create an “epic” relationship, where you can release each tasks separately on the way to completing a major feature. We’re going to remove the old Outline UI in favor of the more modern Planner, but will offer a way to build the Epic relationships. Many Outline users told us that they wanted “move with the parent” behavior. So, now you have it with the expanding tasks on the Planner. Please switch over to the Planner UI.

Here are two ideas for using Stories and Tasks:

1) You can use Stories and Tasks in a classic Scrum planning process where you write Story tickets, and put them in your backlog, without tasks. The Story ticket describes the function, not the implementation. It includes a summary of the user goal and functional requirements, for example “I am a user and I want X, so I use the system do this action…” Then, after you pull a ticket over to the Current work column, you expand it by adding more detailed implementation tasks. Then you finish all of the tasks, and close the parent Story.

2) You can use this to make your backlog smaller and easier to handle by grouping several backlog tasks together under one functional story. You can drag and drop tickets into the story tray under a parent ticket. The Tasks are hidden in the Planner view, but are still fully functional tickets in the other views.

We thank André Mendonça for implementing this feature - get it for free with Assembla Renzoku!

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Assembla Touch for Android - Task & Project Management On The Go

Posted by adam feber on Wed, Jan 02, 2013

Android Screen2

Assembla is pleased to officially announce the release of Assembla Touch for Android, a free, full-featured app that brings Assembla's task and project management features to anyone with an Android phone or tablet.

The new application syncs with any project that has the Tickets tool installed. From your Android device, you can easily see and search project tasks, create new tickets, edit/comment on existing tickets, view your activity stream, and even attach files such as screenshots and optionally include device info and errors logs as ticket comments – perfect for Android application development and testing.

Note: While Assembla Touch for Android has been available on Google Play for over two months, version 1.0.2 was recently released on December 18th. For those that have found Assembla Touch prior to 12/18, please make sure to update to the most recent stable release.

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Key Features:

Create New Tickets in Seconds:
Think of a great idea or something that needs to be done while you’re on the go? Quickly create a new ticket in seconds. Assign it to a team member to work on or maybe to you to add more details later - either way, it is posted so it will not be forgotten.

Attach Pictures:
It's easy to attach a picture from the phone to a ticket. This is the feature that I use most frequently. Simply sketch something on paper or a whiteboard, snap a picture, and add it to a ticket.

See What’s Going On:
View your full activity stream or filter the stream events for specific projects. Click on ticket activity to access the ticket via the app where you can edit, add comments, etc.

Mobile Development and Testing:
If you have ever developed and tested mobile apps, you know how difficult it can be to pinpoint bugs/issues due to unknowns like what was the state of the device when the error occurred, exactly what device and what version of the OS is it, etc., but Assembla Touch for Android makes this easy.

Test your app from mobile devices. When errors occur, simply snap a screenshot and attached it to a new or existing ticket via Assembla Touch. Include the device info and error logs and now your team can fix the problem without spending excess time trying to diagnose the problem. 

We find this to be extremely useful and a must for anyone testing mobile applications or mobile-optimized sites.

Find What You’re Looking For:
The homepage allows you to easily access tickets assigned to you and tickets you follow. You can filter all project tickets by project, milestone, or user. A search conveniently lets you find the ticket you need, when you need it.

Security On the Go:
Assembla Touch uses HTTPS to communicate with Assembla servers so that your password is never exposed on public networks.  Additionally, authentication and authorization uses oAuth2 so your password is not stored in the app. 

Get the App:

Download the app today on Google Play. For users with iPhones and ipads, learn more about Assembla Touch for iOS devices and download it today in the App Store.

Let us Know What you Think:

Since this is the first official release, we would like to hear from you. Please leave your comments below and we will take them into consideration as we continue to improve the app. 

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