Atlassian Stride

Stride is a new product from Atlassian.  It is a re-branded and, hopefully, improved HipChat.  I haven’t tried it yet, but our team account will be upgraded soon enough.

To be honest, I’m not that excited about this move, but I’ll give it a benefit of a doubt.  I know there was a lot of hype about Slack recently, but I was really happy with HipChat.   I tried Slack for three days, and ran away.  But HipChat I can’t leave without.  It’s a much simpler and cleaner user interface, and it just works – completely out of your way.

Judging by the screenshots, Stride is a user interface upgrade to HipChat.  Atlassian has been moving to the new design recently with BitBucket and possibly other tools, so this part makes sense from at least their perspective.  Stride also brings free video calls, voice calls, and screen sharing.  HipChat had this option for the premium accounts (2$/month/user).  We tried it for a month and reverted, as the quality of calls and video was horrible.  And there were constant crashes and disconnections. Hopefully, Atlassian has put some work into these issues for the Stride release.

The most annoying thing about the upgrade from HipChat to Stride will be all the integrations.  Atlassian is promising to migrate all the data – history, files, custom smileys, etc.  But the best part about HipChat are the integrations.  We have a whole lot of them – GitHub, BitBucket, TravisCI, Twitter, WordPress,  Zabbix, and even our own custom ones, that we use for project deployments.  All these will have to be reconfigured and setup for Stride separately.  That’ll take a few hours here and there to get things back to where they were.

As far as the new features go, I don’t see too much yet.  Apart from the already mentioned voice calls, video calls, and screen sharing, there are just a couple.  Focus Mode is not really a big feature.  HipChat, much like any other messaging application, already had the status (Online, Away, Do Not Disturb, etc).  So Focus Mode is pretty much the same thing, with an extra time setting, so that you don’t forget to change you status back after a couple of hours.

Actions and Decisions is a nice addition.  You’ll be able to mark any message as an action or decision so that its easier to find and follow up on later.  But for us that’s not going to do much as we are already using Redmine for the project management.  Actions go into Redmine as tickets, and can later be referenced in commit messages, linked to each other, etc.  Having actions in Stride will probably work for very small teams with very few projects.  For us, we have a separate room for every project, every team, every office, and then some.  So searching for actions in a hundred-something rooms is far from perfect.  But maybe Stride’s search will be more powerful than that one of HipChat.  We’ll see.

Oh, and I’m guessing all the users will have to downloading and install new apps – for mobile, desktop, etc.  That’s yet another thing to do.

As I said, I haven’t tried Stride yet, and I hope it’ll be a huge improvement over HipChat, even though I HipChat worked great for me.  As I see it now, I think re-branding and the new design could have happened on the HipChat infrastructure.  Moving people to the new application altogether has to be justified by some major improvements.  And I’m not seeing anything major just yet.

Is group chat making you sweat?

Jason Fried has an excellent write-up on the pros and cons of using group chat for the team communications, and some of the ways to make it better. We use HipChat in the company and while it’s vital to our operations and I can’t even begin to think how we could do what we do without it, it does have some negative side effects – exactly as James describes them.

The most valuable advice out of that long article is this one (I’ve heard it before a few times, but it’s worth repeating):

Think about it like sleep. If someone was interrupted every 15 minutes while they were trying to sleep, you wouldn’t think they’d be getting a good night’s sleep. So how can getting interrupted all day long lead to a good day’s work?

 

Don’t use Slack for FOSS

Please don’t use Slack for FOSS projects” is a compelling case for why you shouldn’t use Slack for Free and Open Source Software projects.  Make sure to read the discussion in the comments as well.  (By the way, many of the arguments apply to HipChat too).

hipchat-slack

The suggested alternative is IRC, which I agree with.  My only minor disagreement in regards to IRC is using it for companies as well.  Companies are much more fragile and sensitive than Open Source community, so it doesn’t work all that well in some places.  I think Slack/HipChat work great for company communications, but if you want to have full control over your chat system, then try out Rocket.Chat, which I blogged about earlier this year.

35 new ways to do your work right inside of HipChat

HipChat keeps extending the amazing list of integrations with other tools and services.  This blog post – 35 new ways to do your work right inside of HipChat – lists some of the recently added.  Included, among others, is even a multiplayer snake game.

HipSnake

 

Rocket.Chat – the ultimate self-hosted open source chat platform

Chat is becoming more and more important for team communication and collaboration (what is ChatOps?).  Old school applications like Skype are being replaced with modern, web-based chat platforms, that provide group/room and one-on-one chats, file uploads, screen sharing, voice and video communications, API integration and more.  There are plenty of solutions to choose from too.

Traditionally, self-hosted solutions were difficult to setup and maintain, and were lacking in integration options.  So many teams choose to go for the third-party hosted approach.  This is not very exciting for companies that deal with sensitive data though.

As mentioned before, at work, we are using HipChat.  It’s nice, it’s free, and it integrates nicely.  Lately, there has been a lot of hype about Slack, which I tried, but didn’t particularly like.

rocket.chat

Today, however, I came across a very nice option, which seems to be a breeze to self-host and maintain – Rocket.Chat.  It’s modern – written in JavaScript, it has a long list of features, and there is a vibrant community around it.

You can try the live demo, or deploy it to your infrastructure via a gadzillion different methods, or read the beautiful documentation.  And there’s a rumor of HipChat and Slack import tool, so you won’t have to start from scratch…

Let me know what you think.

What is ChatOps? A guide to its evolution, adoption & significance

HipChat blog runs a rather lengthy post on what ChatOps are – “What is ChatOps? A guide to its evolution, adoption & significance“, which provides some insight into how the new generation of teams communicate.

At Qobo, we are at Stage 3 – Gimini, with a whole lot of dedicated rooms (one for each project, and a few more), some workflows (most notably “Hey Leonid, can you merge and deploy this pull request please“, or a shorter “@leonid, please m&d”), and some automation (we get monitoring notifications from Nagios and Zabbix, repository activities from GitHub and BitBucket, as well as do project deployments using slash commands).

We haven’t eliminated email completely, but combined with Redmine project management tool, we’ve significantly decreased the role of unstructured emails in our work.

Infrastructure update : GitHub, BitBucket, HipChat, TeamworkPM and Redmine

It’s been a while since I posted an update on our infrastructure tools, so here goes one.  (I know, ideally, it should be on our company’s blog, but we haven’t finished that part of the site yet).

Continue reading “Infrastructure update : GitHub, BitBucket, HipChat, TeamworkPM and Redmine”

HipChat releases the new web interface to the world

HipChat – the greatest team communication tool since IRC – released its updated web interface to the world.

hipchat

 

I’ve seen it before, as I opted into the beta testing, and I’m glad they’ve finally pushed it out to all users.  It’s awesome, slick, and completely out of the way.

And if you haven’t tried HipChat for your team yet, I urge you to do so.  Here are some of the awesome things about it:

  • Unlimited rooms.  You can have rooms by subject, by project, by group, and so on.
  • Direct messaging.  You can do groups on one-on-ones.
  • Integrations!  This is one of the major reasons to use it.  We have it integration with GitHub and Nagios currently.  And a gadzillion of other services are available in just a few clicks.  Super awesome!
  • History.  HipChat preserves history of conversations, so introducing new members into a team is so much easier – they can read, scroll through, or search the previous room messages.
  • Clients for any operating system, including Linux, smartphones, and just web.
  • Flexible notifications.  You can configure when, if at all, you want to be notified of the new messages.  You even have an option to alert you with SMS, if you are offline.  Which is especially handy if you are using Nagios integration or similar.
  • Files, links, previews, emoticons, and a tonne of other goodies.
  • Free!  Yes, that’s right.  HipChat is free.  You only pay for premium features, which include video chat and screen sharing.  And even then it’s only $2 per user per month, which still qualifies as free.

This tool is truly indispensable!