GForge Next: Updated Screenshots, Kanban, Tasks, Chat

We recently gave an early preview of GForge Next which included a chance to sign-up for early access to GForge Next.  Today we are keeping the ball rolling by sharing new screenshots of our new Kanban feature, tasks and chat.  Please follow along as we share our ideas and you are encouraged to help us hit the mark by providing feedback either in the comments below or by sending a note to feedback@gforgegroup.com.

Kanban

These days Kanbans are a dime a dozen, however, what is unique about our approach is that we are able to provide the convenience of planning with Kanban without making significant changes to our current codebase.  After all, the Kanban is a more visual way to manage Trackers in our current system.  With Kanban we are leveraging that existing information and presenting in a way that makes planning easy:

Welcome_-_GForge_Next_and_Inbox__4__-_tbibbs_gforgegroup_com_-_GForge_Group__Inc_Mail

The above screenshot hasn’t been implemented yet it gives a concrete idea of how we are approaching Kanban.  By default we will show all the statuses in your project as columns and inside them are tasks associated with each.  Changing the status of a task will be as easy an dragging a task from one column to another.  Taking things a bit further, you will be able to switch to a view that shows your tasks in a Kanban view grouped by the assignee:

group-by-assignees

Chat

For over a year we’ve made the case that chat shouldn’t be something you bolt on to your existing collaboration suite using a third party tool, and API and duct tape, rather, it should be an intrinsic part of any project.  While we’ve done this quite well in our current product, we’ve raised the bar by making chat available as you move in GForge from one project to the next:

GF Chat & Menu

As you can see in the screenshot above the project’s chat room is made available in a panel that you can hide easily.  GForge Next will support all the features our customers gotten used to in our current product including project activity (commits, updates to tasks, continuous builds, etc) with the project discussion.  If you look close, you’ll also see an updated version of the new menu in GForge Next that will let you quickly jump between projects easy.

Tasks

Our current version of GForge has had bug and task management for years and we’re finally redesigning all aspects of how you work with tasks in GForge Next:

Browse-Tasks

While this is a simplified version of what we plan on delivering, it shows the direction we are headed.  Gone is the old table-based tracker item browse and instead you get a simpler, more powerful replacement.  While browsing tasks you will be able to quickly change the most common field such as assignee, priority and status and once updates are made the page will reload the data to owner the selected filters.  Future iterations for browsing tasks will include some additional features:

  • The ability to edit a task right on this same screen.
  • Mass update of tasks
  • Searching and filters

Adding tasks has also been improved to be simple and clean:

Add Task

For existing customers, one of the things that should jump out at you is the tagging feature.  This has always been a part of our current offering but using tags has been cumbersome and thus, infrequently used.  GForge Next will make pervasive use of tagging.  As you start typing a new tag, we will give you an autocomplete list of matching tags that have already been used on your project.  Additionally we have made it much easier to add a number of new tasks with the new “Save & New” button that will keep you from having to go back and forth between browsing tasks and adding task.

We are exploring the idea of making this screen available as part of the browse page so you can add tasks without leaving the browse page.  Similarly we hope to have similar way for adding tasks when you are in the Kanban.

Again, these are just a few of the concepts we are working on in GFoge Next.  Let us know what you think by either posting a comment below or sending a note to feedback@gforgegroup.com. In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates…

GForge Live Chat Support

This is a quick note to let our customers know we now offer support via a live chat.  We are providing this by leveraging our existing chat feature in GForge .  You can still manage your support tickets via our online system, however, we think our customers will find live chat as a great alternative.  Also, we should note we offer live chat support in both English and Spanish

Join GForge’s Support Live Chat Now!

Preview of GForge Next!

This is an exciting time for us at The GForge Group.  As we hinted in our preview of the upcoming GForge v6.4.0 release we have been working on a re-design of GForge and we’re happy to give you a glimpse of that work and give you limited, early access when the first version is ready.

To help set the table, we want to share our goals with this first release of GForge Next.

  • Provide a minimum viable product (MVP) to new users looking to host their project.  The current version of GForge has a number of rich, deep features and it would be unrealistic to launch them all at once completely redesigned (especially with no customer feedback).  The MVP will include:
    • User and project registration
    • A user’s profile page
    • A project’s summary page
    • Project chat room for collaboration
    • A single tracker for tracking enhancements, bugs and tasks
    • Working Git repository integrated with the tracker
    • A fully documented REST-ful API
  • Make the easy tasks easy.  Our current design has served us well for a long time but there are too many steps to accomplish simple tasks.  In the same vein, we need to make harder tasks easier.  Or goal is to reduce the reliance on documentation that our current system requires.
  • Collect feedback from early adopters on the redesigned system.  We plan on doing this by providing a convenient feedback icon on all redesigned pages as well as reaching out to our customers in a variety of ways (email, online meetings, etc)
  • Vet the decisions we’ve made on our technology stack.  For the geeks out there, we are using a mix of tools from our old stack and newer technologies:
    • Composer
    • Angular
    • Doctrine
    • PostgreSQL
    • PHPUnit
    • Jenkins
  • Add the beginnings of a true SaaS model.  Right now GForge is only available via download.  Moving forward we want to offer both SaaS and downloadable options.  This also means our SaaS implementation make new features and bug fixes immediately available through our automated build and release system.

Before we share the first screenshots of GForge Next, we want to invite all of you to sign-up for early access today. While early access will be limited, we do plan to open it up again as we approach beta.  Finally, we want to hear from you so please post questions below or feel free to send questions or feedback to feedback@gforgegroup.com.

Screenshots

“G” Mega-menu

Knowing how screen real estate is a premium, we wanted to provide a better way for users to move between projects and to quickly access common features.  This screenshot shows the “G” Mega-menu prototype which ditches persistent left and top navigation for a menu that is accessible by moving your mouse over the “G” in the header:

Screenshot 2014-10-03 10.32.27

 Project Summary

The project summer is a landing page and this is a first stab at it.  There will likely be significant changes however, this shows some of the things that are possible.

GForge_Next

 

The working prototype above is showing two simple graphs that are completely rendered in JavaScript complete with mouse-over animations and drill-down support.  The beauty about much of the work you see above is we have all that data currently, we

Git Support

We will be providing Git support in the initial release but, for now, we don’t support web-based browsing (it is coming).  However, we do want to show the main Git landing page:

GForge_Next

As you can see, we coach users through the process of not only learning Git but also how they can use the integration we provide between Git and the Tracker.  Full Git support is there so you will be able to follow the instructions on that page to do your clone as well as tie commits to tasks, we just haven’t released the browser-based navigation of your Git repository yet.

Browsing Tasks

GForge_Next

 Kanban

GForge_Next

This prototype shows how we were able to quickly render the Tracker into a Kanban format.  We have lofty goals for the Kanban but our initial goal is to provide drag-n-drop capability to move tasks between two statuses and to quickly add new tasks to the view.

We will be providing short, screenshot updates on a weekly basis here so please keep an eye out and in the meantime post any questions or comments you may have below.

Preview of GForge v6.4.0

We have been pretty quiet this summer regarding the work progress we’ve made on GForge but that is going to change dramatically.  We will be making two big releases before the end of the year and in the coming weeks and we’ll be sharing all the details here.

The first big development is the work we’ve done on the next generation of GForge.  This past spring we started a complete redesign of GForge taking care to include the features our customers have grown to love while ensuring a pleasurable and efficient experience for our users.  We will be talking more about the specifics of our redesign in the coming days and weeks so please check back.

For now we want to share some of the new feature in the upcoming v6.4.0 release.  We don’t have a firm release date yet but expect an October release.  While working on v6.4.0 we made some tough decisions on what features deserve to be added now verses tackling them in the redesign effort.  To that end, we only added features that will have lasting impacts on your projects.  So what can you expect in GForge v6.4.0?

Sprints

We have added native support to GForge Trackers to support sprints.  Agile shops will get all the features they need to create and track their sprints.  We have been using this feature internally for a number of months and here is a screenshot showing a list of sprints.  It should be noted that Sprints can include tasks across all the Trackers in a project (e.g. Support, Bugs, Tasks, etc).

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Sprints___Browse

As you can see, our Sprints are date-based and run weekly but your Sprints can be tailored to meet a specific goal or milestone. In the image above we provide a quick status of the sprint along with how complete it is.  Over time this list can become quite large so you can filter your sprints with intuitive options like “Not Started”, “In-Progress” or, our favorite, “In-Progress or Not Started”:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Sprints___Browse

Once you have your sprints created you can very quickly add tasks to the sprint using Tracker Item Browse where we have included Sprints in the filter and mass-update forms. Here’s how you can filter on a sprint:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Tracker___GForge___Browse_Tracker_Item

Here is the mass-update feature using sprints:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Tracker___GForge___Browse_Tracker_Item

Finally, what is a sprint if you can’t track its progress?  Each sprint gets its own burn-down chart to help project leads and project managers verify the team’s velocity toward the sprint:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Sprints___View_Sprint

Finally we have included sprints in the Tracker Query and export features so you can quickly create customized reports leveraging sprints in GForge v6.4.0.

Trove Improvements

The Trove in GForge may seem like an ancient relic however we dusted this feature off in v6.4.0 so that organizations can better organize their projects into a taxonomy that make tracking your project portfolio easier.  If you aren’t familiar with the Trove, it allows you to define your own method for categorizing projects.  For example you may choose to organize project by technology(e.g. Java, .NET, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, etc). Other real-world examples include tracking which projects are subject to United States export control laws or for assigning the re-use level a project has based on it’s maturity (i.e. documentation, testing, etc).

We’ve completely revamped the Trove administration screen making much more intuitive to work with while reducing the possibility of making mistakes:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Admin___Display_Trove_Map

As you can see from the screenshot above we’ve added a few new features:

  • Easily move Trove categories around.
  • Move one Trove category into another.
  • Set the access level each category has.  This allows GForge administrators to specify which Trove categories can be set by the project administrator versus those that can only be set by the GForge Administrator.
  • You can indicate if the Trove category should be included when users perform site-wide or project-based searches.
  • The updated tree structure shows your entire Trove map and allows you to quickly add new Trove categories.  For the first time, you can now manage the top-level, parent Trove categories.

We’ve also updated the Trove to make it easier for project administrators to organize their project:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Projects___GForge_AS___Trove_Categories

In the screenshot above you can see we’ve made it easy for project administrators to quickly add or remove their project to existing Trove categories.

Project Templates

One of the more powerful features of GForge has been the ability to set-up project templates so that new projects can be quickly and consistently created to use the features you value most in GForge.  While you have always been able to create project templates that generate a default set of Trackers (with workflow), project-based chat, etc we recognized that organizations with a large set of project templates had a hard time finding them.  With the improvements we’ve made to the Trove, there is now a new parent-level Trove category for project templates.  This allows you to organize your templates any way imaginable such as by organization or department.

Here’s an screenshot of how GForge Administrators manage the templates in the Trove:

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___Admin___Display_Trove_Map

Once you build the striation for your project template, it appears when users create new projects:

Screenshot 2014-09-23 12.16.39

Tracker Workflow

GForge has always allowed project leads to specify a workflow for tasks, however, the administration of the workflow was a bit cumbersome.  We’ve made this a lot easier in v6.4.0:

Screenshot_2014-09-23_12_21_28

Prior to v6.4.0 you had no visual indicators for which workflow transitions you’ve specified rules for (such as who can execute this transition, fields required to make this transition, etc).  A gray circle indicates you haven’t added any rules to the corresponding transition and a blue circle not only indicates you have provided rules, if you hover over the blue circle it will give you a quick summary.  This will make managing a complex workflow much easier your teams.

And Much More

In addition to the above, we have numerous other bug fixes and improvements. In fact we currently have over 300 updates.  We’ll save the details of those for the v6.4.0 ChangeLog, however, here area a few more highlights:

  • Training Videos: We have created a number of training videos and you can stay up-to-date as we publish them on our YouTube channel.
  • All configuration settings have been moved from the files in /etc/gforge to the database.  We now ship a convenient shell script that allows GForge Administrators to view and tweak their settings.  Also, as part of this, we automatically rebuild the configuration cache so no more running “#>cd /opt/gforge && php ./bin/create_config_cache.php”.
  • Added support for CentOS 7/RHEL 7.
  • Added support for Debian 7. NOTE: while this works there are some RPM dependencies GForge has that aren’t covered by the Debian repositories.  We will be documenting how to install GForge under Debian as part of a future blog post.
  • Chat rooms are now URL accessible.  This means you can share the chat room via email or link to it from another document.  (NOTE: we’re exploring using this as a new support options for customers).
  • Project searches now use GET instead of POST which means you can share the URL of searches with other team members.
  • Added a configuration option to auto-approve projects.  Great for organizations who host GForge on an intranet and who don’t want to explicitly approve projects.
  • Added a configuration flag that allows GForge administrators to specify if Project Administrators can promote their project to a project template.
  • mod_auth_gforge Apache module is now used by default.  This means that role checking and ACL verification against the GForge database can happen over HTTP(S) with SVN and Git.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented users from adding more than one SSH key to their GForge account.
  • GForge now provides the same UI we give for pre-commit filters for post-commit filters.

GForge Next

As we eluded to at the beginning of this article, we will be sharing some exciting news on our redesign effort.  We expect that to happen in the coming days and it will include screenshots of working code to show-off some of the big improvements we are making.  We will also share a tentative timeline on when the first alpha will be made available as well as a general timeline toward the first beta.

PHP Contract Opportunity

The GForge Group has two open contract position for PHP developers to help with improving GForge Advanced Server and providing customizations for our customers. This position is expected to last approximately 3 months. All submissions received at opportunities@gforgegroup.com on or before June 20th, 2014 will be considered.

What We are Looking For

  • Work from your home or office.  Iowans will get an extra look but we are open to candidates living elsewhere in the United States or abroad.  The only real requirement we have is candidates must write and speak English well.
  • Knowledgeable in Linux/Unix system administration including Apache+PHP installation and configuration, scripting (bash, etc) and package management.
  • Serious programming chops.  While qualified candidates must be proficient in PHP, the best candidate will have real-world experience in additional web-based languages.  The candidate must also be solid with SQL (PostgreSQL a bonus), JavaScript (jQuery a bonus), Git, REST, SOAP.  ORM experience would help (Doctrine or Propel a bonus).
  • Open Source Advocate. Most of the software we work with is based on open source technologies.  We want candidates familiar with using open source development tools and prefer people who are or have contributed to open source projects.
  • Someone who embraces teamwork and can keep up in a face-paced environment.  Must be able to stay focused, yet knows when to ask questions.

Responsibilities

  • Work will include roughly 70% backend PHP development and 30% frontend work.
  • Perform code reviews (pull requests).
  • Attend weekly, online sprint planning meetings (Mondays).
  • Attend daily, online stand-up meetings.
  • While we expect you to be working roughly 8am – 5pm CST, Monday-Friday we can be a bit flexible.

Warning to Consulting Shops

This isn’t our first rodeo.  We are looking for a first-round draft pick so help us by not wasting our time with junior level candidates.  Please send us no more than two candidates from your company.  We have a long memory so we will remember who sent us serious contenders and we will definitely factor that in on future opportunities.

GForge 6.3.1 Released

Today we are happy to announce the immediate availability of GForge Advanced Server v6.3.1.  This is primarily a bugfix release and the highlights include fixes for the Support Tracker feature and some minor security enhancements.

Download GForge Advanced Server v6.3.1 Now!

Support Tracker Fixes

If you haven’t already tried out the Support feature in GForge AS 6.3, you definitely should.  Here are a few key fixes and enhancements to that feature:

  • [#15070] Support tracker: Member group not set properly.
  • [#15071] Support tracker: skip first notification after the TI is submitted and set the timestamp
  • [#15134] Support group and assignee lost.  Suspecting cron15.php
  • [#15151] Support tracker: autoclose sets close date correctly  but it’s not visible in browse or TI pages.
  • [#15433] Filter “Out Of Office” replies (and similar automated messages) from creating support requests in GForge

Miscellaneous Improvements

There are also a few other improvements that warrant a quick mention:

  • [#11848] Mass Delete broken
  • [#19112] Navigating wiki versions doesn’t quite work right.
  • [#19246] License Tracker – Valid user gets access denied
  • [#19258] Docman allows uploading of HTML files which can have spam  possibly JS making it possible CSRF vuln
  • [#19388] My Account > Disable Account not working
  • [#19221] When parsing files  filesystem_index cronjob could trigger a tracker item notification
  • [#11830] Fix xss vulnerability in tracker item edit screen
  • [#19331] Sanitize paginator parameters
  • [#19847] MAG: change default database name to “gforge” instead of “gforge5″
  • [#19649] upgrade_gforge – Unused plugins cause confusing output

For full details, please have a look at the Complete GForge v6.3.1 ChangeLog

Download GForge Advanced Server v6.3.1 Now!

How Valuable Are You?

A long time ago, I learned some great criteria for taking or keeping any job.  I mean, like, a long time ago.  Like, before Google.

Here they are, in random order – apply your own prioritization:

  • Will you be successful? That is, will you deliver projects, make money, become famous, get the girl, whatever it is that you want.
  • Will you learn something new?  Might be technical, might not.
  • Will you be valued?  Will the people you’re working with (and for) be capable of understanding your contributions?  Will they appreciate your contributions?

For me, the third bullet has always been the toughest to find or keep.  Maybe that’s why it is my most important criteria.  Or, maybe it was already my most important, and I just noticed how much trouble finding it could be.

So, how do people make themselves valuable?  I’ve seen two basic approaches in the twenty or so years I’ve been doing this.

The Wrong Way – What You Keep to Yourself

Historically, people make themselves valuable (and/or powerful) by becoming the choke point for information, or approval, or funding, or whatever.  When only one person in your organization is allowed to touch the requirements (or the database, or whatever), you may be dealing with someone who measures their value this way.

office-space-tom

“I take the requirements documents from the customers and bring them to the developers”

He may have people skills, dammit, but he’s not helping the team – he’s making sure that they can’t get along without him.  Or so he thinks.

As a manager, I can tell you that my biggest HR risks are always the people who bottleneck knowledge, process, money, whatever.  If they get hit by a bus, decide they want a big raise, or take an extended vacation, we’re hosed.  They have knowledge, skills or connections that we can’t easily reproduce.  So as the person who’s responsible when bad things happen, I’m going to actively pursue this person’s secrets, and make sure they’re backed up somewhere, by someone.

If it sounds like a bad situation for the team, it is.  But it’s actually just as bad for the person, in most cases.  Ten years ago, I started a new job as a team leader.  The biggest complaint from the team was that they were each chained to a given project.  They were the only person on the project, they carried all of the knowledge, the relationship, and the responsibility.  They couldn’t move on, they couldn’t learn anything new.  They were just stuck.  For most people, this does not feel like success.

A year later, we had standardized our process, the documents we used, even much of the code templates.  People were able to move from one project to another.  They were even able to talk to each other about different projects using common terms.  There were a few people who didn’t like this change, even though they had complained about lack of mobility.  Those folks still hadn’t adjusted their way of measuring their own value.

The Right Way – What You Give Away

Plenty of good engineers are collaborative by nature – that is, they enjoy sharing their knowledge and getting some of yours in return.  And while it’s certainly a more friendly way to work together, it’s also more productive, more robust and more resilient, especially in the face of team or project changes.  But believe it or not, giving away what you know actually makes you more valuable as well.  Think about how valuable Stack Overflow is today, and you’ll see that it’s true.  Compare SO and its success against ExpertsExchange, which largely hides answers behind a paywall.  EE might make some money, but SO rules the world.

Being an “open knowledge” kind of person is also the best defense against Competence Debt and other creeping forms of team decay.  So as a team member I like the approach, but as a manager I demand it.

 

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