Articles in the ‘Projects’ Category

An Evening with Sprintly

Last night, I was lucky enough to meet Joe Stump, former Lead Architect at Digg and founder of SimpleGeo, who sat down with 7 developers near Old Street and showed us his latest creation: Sprintly. Here’s my notes from the talk.

Sprintly was born out of frustration in how products are made. Joe is a business major, not CompSci like many Silicon Valley successes. The guiding principle behind Sprintly is that product is greater than the process.

No time like the present
The first major difference to most agile tracking tools is that there’s no concept of time in Sprintly. In SCRUM, we use points, but that’s still tied back to a notion of time (where it should be effort+complexity+doubt), so it’s still a developer lying to themselves. Sprintly works with the notion of features, and those features will ship when they’re done.

Sprintly has Stories, Tasks, Tests and Bugs. Stories are your general user stories, Tasks are any other tasks, Tests are for developers to write tests for their code and Bugs are bugs! Any of these can be tagged with anything. A lot of teams tag with “a release” (1.0, Cupcake, whatever) which is fine, but the release will happen when stories are done or when the team decides to release something. Sprintly isn’t there to enforce the process, just help you along the way.

The holy grail for “older” clients: e-mail integration
Everyone is allowed to be part of the process in adding stories to the backlog, favouriting a story or just looking around. There’s e-mail integration whereby emailing a specific address and cc’ing a developer will create a task assigned to that developer with the content and attachments of that email. The developer can then respond via email and that will be added to the conversation. It’s awesome. I can see my clients getting involved with the agile process through this even though they may not be aware of it, helping manage the admin overhead of ticketing through e-mails. Long-term there will be ZenDesk support and potentially others depending upon “how much their API make me want to kill myself”.

Tasks can be sorted easily with the quick-sort bar which shows in-progress and backlog items. These are integrated with GitHub, but it can work with any SCM that has a post-commit hook (SVN,Perforce etc), and even those SCMs behind a firewall. Any open bugs can be modified with your commit messages, even closing or marking multiple tickets as fixed.

Dashboards for those up top
There’s a dashboard with standard drag & drop Kanban board on it. It’s a bit bare at the moment but this will be much improved in the future, including tools that allow managers to estimate better and identify overloaded developers. There’ll be a read/write API coming in January so developers will be able to do our own dashboards for stakeholders etc if we don’t want them to have access. Eventually Sprintly will give you daily digest emails and better integration with email when tasks are closed/broken.

In comparison to others, it’s got its own niche: “Jira is like bringing a thermonuclear warhead to a knife fight”, you only use 1% of it at most. Trello is similar but isn’t just for software developers, it could be used for anything so won’t be as useful in the long term.

Sprintly is currently getting loads of great feedback from users with around 35% retention rate for daily task usage creation, which is excellent for such a new product. You just have to search Twitter for Sprintly love to see how well they’re doing.

Making money right now, and opening beta in 2012
Joe talked about how important he thought it was to be making money straight away, rather than having profit as “an afterthought”. So, from January 1st 2012, Sprintly will be $9/month/seat (which is cheap compared to competitors) and it will enter open beta shortly after that.

I’m really looking forward to using Sprintly in anger at the start of next year. If you want to be part of it, get yourself on the waiting list. Thanks again to Joe for talking to us and I can’t wait to start playing.

End of an era

It’s the end of an era for me. On Monday night, I got this e-mail from my old university hockey club

It’s a sad time for me as was my first big web project. Over the four years I was at uni, I re-wrote it three times. As I learnt more and more about programming, CSS, MVC and HTML, I discovered whole new things I could do. It was one of the first sites I’d seen that used Facebook to log people in, well before Facebook had a proper mechanism for allowing you to do that, and people loved it. It was my playground and now it is no more.

However, all is not lost. I’ve set up to serve as a lasting memory of an awesome site. Joe, the new club captain, may still want to carry on with the site, get one of the freshers to, well, freshen it up. I’m hopeful that my gift to the club may continue to be used in some capacity, but, for now, it’s gone.

Patching iUI

Recently, I’ve been working on an iPhone web app for my employer (internal, so I can’t share). I based the design and architecture around the iUI library by Joel Hewitt, which became an overnight de-facto standard for web apps. However, after a lot of playing with it and turning it inside out, I’ve found there are a number of problems which have not yet been fixed.

For example; I want to run an AJAX search on a page one menu down my site tree. I found that this wasn’t possible as subsequent javascript code was not evaluated by Safari. There’s other things too, like any iPhone/iPod application link not working, having to press any link that goes to “_self” twice and having a slide animation that stutters more than a broken record.

I am happy to say that fixes exist for all but the last item, and I have put them all into a javascript file, which can be found at the end of this post.

However, I do not believe that this is the solution to iUI’s problems. I feel that a complete re-write in a standardised library like jQuery is the solution. Who knows, I may even find time to write it 😉

So, here’s the file: iui.patched.js




I’ve given the design of this blog a much-needed update and have finally made a wordpress theme (comments welcome).
The whole site now fits nicely into the design of and I’m pleased to say the process wasn’t too hard! I followed a guide on Deziner Folio (though don’t copy code directly from the website, all the ‘s and “s are HTML encoded and dreamweaver doesn’t like it). I’ve even managed to make the site widget-enabled which works rather well.

So, in summary, I’m pleased with myself.


Currently Listening to: Bloc Party
Currently Eating: Burgers, 3 in 3 days!
Currently Watching: Blade Runner, not understanding the whole Deckard is a replicant thing
Currently Reading: How to win friends and influence people
Currently Feeling: like a pork pie