Won’t you make some time to come help us build and perfect GForge Next? Just leave a comment – we’ll be recruiting First Dozen candidates through the end of April, and would love to hear from you. If you can’t make it for May, then we’ll add you to the invite list for the Next Hundred phase. Send a link to anyone that might be looking for a better, more powerful and more cost-effective tool for tracking tasks and collaborating on projects.
First, A Bit Of Background
If you’re already familiar with GForge and what it does, feel free to skip ahead. If not, you’re in the right place.
GForge is a commercial product built and maintained by the GForge Group. It was originally started as a fork of the Sourceforge code nearly 15 years ago. It’s a project collaboration web application that includes a ton of modules for each project, from task tracking to version control, mailing lists and forums to wiki pages and blogs. It has very broad and deep configurability, and nearly everything can be access-controlled to specific (and configurable) project roles. Pretty much everything gets logged in an audit table for traceability, and there’s reporting almost everywhere.
Most of our customers are large, engineering-oriented shops with CMM, DoD or other stringent standards to meet, across dozens or even thousands of projects. Think chip makers, defense contractors, gigantic world-wide engineering and manufacturing conglomerates, that kind of thing. We license the code to our customers, and they have access to that code for their own security analysis, review or customization purposes. We’re extremely customer focused.
I’ve been at GForge for nearly two years now. In that time, we’ve added some significant new features (chat and support trackers come to mind), cleaned up a lot of old code, and generally moved the product forward in lots of very gratifying ways. Before working for GForge, I was a customer for nearly ten years, so I developed some pretty clear ideas of what was special about the product, and what could, uh, use some work. And while we’ve done many of the things I had in mind, in the end, it’s not enough.
The features, the integration between them, and the data – those are all very solid and still very relevant in 2014. But the existing GForge code, the existing layout and user experience will just never do the things we want them to do. The structure of the code is out of step with current patterns, and simply won’t work with autoloaders, Composer and other tools that make PHP so productive in 2014. Much of it isn’t very testable. There’s all manner of technical debt in the old code, like raw HTML output from domain models, overly-complicated URL parsing and generation, and so. many. different. pages.
To build the next GForge, we’re going to start from scratch – well, sort of.
Existing GForge Customers: This plan involves a gradual re-implementation of the features currently available in GForge AS. There is NO plan to end new development or support for GForge AS, and there won’t be any plan until GForge Next is ready for prime time. Just as we did with the 5.x sunset, existing customers will have plenty of time to evaluate, test and migrate from GForge AS to GForge Next. We will develop and support both GForge AS and GForge Next for quite some time, and we’ll make sure that the transition is low-risk and high-value for you.
To build GForge Next, we’re going to write brand new code on top of the same database. This means that we’ll be able to check what the new code does by reading and running the old code, using the same data. It also means that as people start testing GForge Next, they will also be able to switch to (old) gforge.com and see the exact same data. Or do something that the new code doesn’t support yet, which brings me to my next point.
The existing features are broad and deep. In fact, they can be distracting or downright intimidating for new users, who don’t need that kind of power or flexibility. So we’re going to deliver GForge Next in roughly four phases, outlined below. The first phase will be focused on task tracking and version control. It’ll be very simple and very opinionated – many of the choices you could make in the current GForge release will be pre-set and not configurable. Subsequent phases will add back the existing GForge features, but with carefully reconsidered user experiences, and (wherever possible) mobile and touch-friendly rendering.
Our phases revolve roughly around the size of the testing user base, as follows:
The First Dozen (FREE!)
Starting in late May, we’ll have a very basic, low-friction version of GForge Next deployed and running. We’re looking for about a dozen people/groups to use it on a daily/weekly basis and work closely with us to ask questions, tell us what works (and what doesn’t work), and basically give us lots of feedback. In return, we’re going to update the site many times each week (or each day), tweaking the look and feel, fixing bugs and adding features constantly.
Main features for The First Dozen will be pretty basic:
- Login – Using a GForge account, or others (possibly Github, G+, even Stack Overflow?)
- Create a Project
- Invite users to your project
- Project Chat – Ever-present contact with the entire project team. Archived, searchable, and integrated with the other GForge Next features.
- Git repo (including the option to clone a remote as part of the project setup)
- Kanban Task View (we call them Tracker Items)
- Tracker Item Browse – a more tabular view than Kanban, with more filtering, sorting, export and edit capability
The goal for this phase is to allow small teams or casual users to test GForge Next with their existing code, with less than 5 minutes of setup time.
The Next Hundred (Still FREE!)
In late July or early August, we’ll add up to 100 users/projects to our test group, and the following features:
- Sprints – Group Tracker Items, track velocity for each Sprint
- Super Search – One search bar, in the same place on every page. Searches everything you’re involved with, and shows results by project or module.
- The “G” Mega-Menu – Super-simple navigation across everything you might need
- Git repository browser – See tags, branches, file tree, revisions, commits, and diffs as part of the GForge Next interface
- Batch Import – Create a bunch of Tracker Items with as little as a title for each. Paste lines into the box and voila.
- Activity Stream – See a real-time feed of who’s doing what on the project. Commits, Kanban and Tracker Item changes, all that stuff.
- Pull Requests – View and comment on the diff, iterate on the changes, and promote new code, all on the GForge Next server.
- Standup Report – Get your story straight a the daily, weekly or random standup in 60 seconds or less. Then everyone can share their 1/2/3 list quickly or review it later via web.
Open For Business
Late this year, we’ll launch the paid version of the service. Projects from The First Dozen and The Next Hundred will get free or heavily discounted rates, as will qualified open-source projects and even some startups. This version will include practically everything currently included in GForge AS, plus some all-new features and capabilities:
- Workflow Design – Fully-customizable Tracker workflow. Define who can move a Tracker Item to each status, require fields based on the new status, trigger scripts, set/update fields.
- Reporting and Charting – Powerful data gathering, filtering and sorting, combined with tabular and printable views, file export, and charting.
- Project Homepage
- Kanban Setup – Define your own custom planning board. Choose almost any field for the columns (like release, assignee, sprint), group values together, show aggregates for each column (like count or average size). Save and name your board and let the whole team use it.
- Organizations and User Groups – Define organizations and put projects under them. Create groups of users (like customers, vendors, or various departments), and give those groups access to what they need.
- Customer Support Tracker – Currently available in GForge AS 6.3, give your customers the ability to submit and update tickets. The customer view shows only those Tracker Items that belong to the user’s group or organization.
But Wait, There’s More!
Starting in 2Q 2015, we’ll add even more:
- Discussions / mailing lists
- Social features – Upvoting, endorsements, suggestions based on friends of friends or shared technology between projects.
- Document Management – The powerful docman module currently available in GForge AS 6.3. Drag-and-drop upload/download, versioning, comments, even inline edit for text/html.
- Release Management – Build a roadmap of product versions, and manage the set of Tracker Items in each release.
- Request To Join
- Project Fork – Clone the setup and the Git repository for an existing GForge Next project.
- Blog/CMS Module
- Tracker Detail Designer – Lay out the Submit or Edit form your way.
- Migrations from Github and Jira
- Enterprise Login – Install GForge Next inside the firewall and use LDAP, SSO, or OAuth for your internal user base.
- SVN and Mercurial support
- Jenkins Integration – View and kick off Jenkins builds from GForge Next. Install the Jenkins plugin and give project users seamless access to their GForge Next projects in Jenkins.