Rollcall: What are you working on?

I'm happy to announce that our latest product, Rollcall, is now in an open beta. Rollcall is a super easy way to build a status dashboard for your team. We originally built it for our own team to use and, after looking at what it did, realized it could be really helpful for a lot of our friends at other companies. So, we took some time, cleaned it up and are now finally ready to share it with you.

Rollcall web

So, what exactly is Rollcall? Simply put, it's an easy way to share what you're working on with your team. While we think it can benefit companies big and small, we've focused on companies like Fanzter: developers in different locations using tools like Github issues and Trello to track our day-to-day work and needing a way to keep everyone informed about what we're working on without a lot of extra work.

We already use Campfire, so our first thought, like many of you, I'm sure, was to just have everyone post when they started on a new issue or housekeeping task. Those quickly got lost in the other chatter or got ignored in other rooms.

Beyond that, we found that developers are really BAD at posting those sorts of updates: "Fixing the autocomplete bug that came in yesterday" or "looking at upload crasher in Spot". Unintentionally vague or cryptic updates were pretty common.

So, we built a web-based command line for our status updates that let us easily link to more information. Sure, we allow pasting a URL in, but since we use Github Issues, we made it easy to link to any Github issue just by using a Github-style reference short string. For example, that first status above becomes:

fanzter/rollcall#123: Fixing the autocomplete bug that came in yesterday

The main text is still easy to type, but if I didn't know what that bug was, the fanzter/rollcall#123 automatically gets linked to the corresponding issue on Github.

Don't know the issue number? No problem. Rollcall's autocomplete allows you to search a project by keyword. Just type or autocomplete the project, and then enter a keyword instead of a number, like so:

fanzter/rollcall#autoc

Rollcall will automatically show you tickets with that term in the title.

You can also teach Rollcall about projects or issues manually. For example, we have common tasks like checking support tickets or business operations tasks that get their own color and link to the relevant tools. Rollcall is pretty flexible that way.

Status update that mention projects or issues also get tagged with some extra annotations. Here's what a tagged status looks like:

Status update from Rollcall

This way, at the end of the day or week, I can easily see what projects we worked on, and can see if, for example, unplanned bug fixing is taking up too much time.

It's even possible to add notes to an update, and mail the week's accomplishments to someone. If you work in an organization that requires weekly status reports, you can now generate one in a few clicks.

Even better, you can display your Rollcall status board on your iPad in Safari or, even better, using Panic's Status Board app. Or, if you have a TV near your desk, just hook it up to a Chromecast: Rollcall can output to it, too. You can see more at gorollcall.com.

We're just getting started with this - we're excited about the possibilities with a real command line around status updates. We're already hard at work integrating more services based on early feedback from our closed beta.

Now we're excited to open it up to general signups. Please send us feedback! Let us know what could be better. Also, let us know what services you'd like to see added. We're keeping a prioritized list based on your feedback.

A few other details: The Rollcall Small plan will be free during the beta period - everyone will be setup with that plan by default. If you need to add a larger team, let us know via the support form.

Go ahead, check it out, and let us know what you think!

Summizer 2.3

We're happy to share that Summizer 2.3 is now available on the App Store. It never sat well with us that we had to pull Summizer because of Twitter's API update, and based on our support tickets and messages from Summizer users on Twitter, a lot of you missed it, too. So we found some time to rewrite all of the parts that talk to Twitter and updated the app. It's also been tweaked to look good on iOS 7 and features a lot of little bug fixes.

One important note: Because of Twitter's new rules, you'll have to log in using a Twitter account in order to run searches. This also means that you're rate limited. What that means is that Twitter has set some limits on how many searches you can run in a given period of time. In practice, unless you're tracking a lot of keywords, you won't run into this at all.

If you do run into any problems or have any questions, use the Support button in the app to get in touch. Thanks for all of your support.

PS. We've lowered the price to $0.99 for now. If you have friends that need to track trends on Twitter, it's a great time for them to check Summizer out.

Say hello to Spot

I can't believe it's almost the end of 2013. It has been a crazy year, but along the way we've shipped a few things so I wanted to share what Fanzter has been up to for the past year.

We quietly launched a 1.0 of our latest iOS app a few months ago and talked to our Coolspotters users about it. We gathered a ton of feedback and kept tweaking and improving things. This week, we just released version 1.1 and I'm happy to say we're ready to share it with everyone.

The app is called Spot. We think it's going to be a big deal. Our goal is to help you shop smarter, whether it's for clothes, for a car, or for a new phone.

It has been really helpful for me already. Earlier this summer, I began shopping for a new car. So I started taking pictures of cars that looked interesting. Normally, I'd tweet a few pictures out, or ask my friends on Facebook what they thought about a car. With Spot, I was able to take a photo, tag the car, share it out to my friends, and get opinions from everyone.

BMW X1 Spot Mini Countryman Spot

At its core, Spot is about sharing the products you think are worth sharing. We all do this. Some of us do this while we shop, like Kate or Ravid, sharing something new they're about to buy:

Celine Boston Bag Spot Celine Boston Bag Spot

Or we do it after making a purchase we're happy about, like Brian and I sharing and talking about the tools we use for getting fit:

Basis Band Spot Fitbit & Fuelband Spot

Spot lets you organize these conversations and feedback in ways you can't easily do with other apps or social networks. Tag everything with the products and all the spots and comments are kept together. Organize things by lists, such as things you want or things you own. Recommend products with a single tap.

The best part is that when you're looking for a new car or a new pair of shoes or whatever, you'll be able to search Spot's database of over 100,000 products to see what people love, what they think, and how it actually looks in the real world. Eventually, you'll be able to see just what your friends think, and search in ways that you just can't do elsewhere.

The app has been live for a few months now to get early feedback and usage. Now that we've got 1.1 out, we're excited to share it with everyone. Check out Spot, start sharing your favorite products, and help us deliver this vision.

We're also listening for your feedback. Just pop over to the settings screen and hit the Support button. If you run into any problems, don't hesitate to tell us via that button or by getting in touch with me.

PS. We're busy working on Spot and are about ship another product or two. So, short version: if you're a developer and looking for a new gig or client, get in touch. We're hiring.

Fanzter's Next Wave

After almost six incredible years at Fanzter, I've decided to move on.

There are no words to truly express my gratitude for being a part of such a special company. Founded back in 2007, we've gotten stronger each year, we've built some great products, and the team's commitment to excellence has never wavered.

Sujal Shah, our current CTO, has assumed the role of CEO. Sujal is an engineer and product builder with a passion for inventing. He's been with us since day one and I can't imagine a better person to lead Fanzter into the future.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Fanzter's employees, customers, and investors for their support and encouragement over the years. It's been an experience I won't forget, and I'll always be proud of what we built.

Fanzter's best days are ahead of it, and I look forward to cheering from the sidelines.

Aaron
@aaron

p.s. Congratulations Sujal!!

RailsConf 2012

RailsConf is an annual conference held in the United State which gathers together members of the Ruby on Rails community, new and old, for a few days of education, debate, comradery and pot pies. The 2012 conference took place last week in Austin, Texas and Fanzter was there. Most of our server-side software is written using Ruby on Rails and our team strives to keep pace with the latest developments in the project. Most of the time following blogs and watching screencasts and video recordings from conference talks is sufficient. But sometimes you just need to get face-to-face with other developers and feel the pulse of where things are headed.

I was asked to participate in a panel discussion titled "Real World Rails Apps at Massive Scale" along with some impressive other panelists from Zendesk , Groupon , Uken Games and Blue Box Group. Speaking to a packed room, we discussed the core strategies used to bust the myth that "Rails doesn’t scale". Further topics ranged from specific tools used, to how each company kept performance central to their product’s life cycle. A Q&A period closed out the talk and continued throughout the conference as attendees stopped panelists in the halls to dig into more specific topics.

The big opening keynote speeches are always a major draw. With RailsConf, the almost celebrity nature of the best known members of the community takes that to a higher level. The event kicked off with a keynote from the creator of Ruby on Rails, David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH), speaking about the nature of conservatism and fear of progress, exhorting upon the audience to look at progress as a way forward, not as a threat. The topics and language of the keynote were typically lively, though the cursing took some time to get warmed up to DHH’s usual level.

Monday’s closing keynote was by Rich Hickey, software guru and creator of Clojure, and focused on true meaning of the word simple. Rich urged us not “complect” concerns within our systems. His functional-driven approach was a refreshing reminder that there is a huge range of patterns and possibilities in software design, over which our job is to filter and select those which are appropriate to the problem at hand.

Day two opened with a crowd favorite, Aaron “tenderlove” Patterson. Aaron’s talks are legendary and this one opened strong and finished softly, with plenty of humor to lubricate the audience between the presentation of new ideas. Aaron presented a few ideas he’d like to see come to Rails 4, most notably a simple ActiveQueue interface. He also expressed his own riff on the Fear of Features mantra, organizing change into three categories: cosmetic, refactoring, and course correcting. The talk ended abruptly with an almost fear inducing call: “We need to be prepared.” Following Aaron was the presentation of the Ruby Heroes awards and a packed schedule of talks and pot pies.

An impromptu Rails Core panel lead into Tuesday’s closing keynote, a talk by the founder and CEO of TechStars, David Cohen. David’s talk may have struck some as a bit too heavy on the TechStars pitch, but plenty of ideas were applicable to most startups and mirrored much of our philosophy here at Fanzter. Especially resonant were the final two, “Quality Over Quantity” and “Usage is like oxygen for ideas”.

The final day of the conference was headlined by a live taping of the Ruby Rogues podcast. A popular and sometimes controversial group, the RR team donned silly hats and proceed to riff on each other’s ideas and the questions from the audience.

There were dozens of sessions during the conference, ranging from page speed optimization to using Ruby to hack a Roomba. The community had been challenged to make this the most public RailsConf yet, and the intrepid members of the New Haven Ruby Brigade took up the call. They lead a collaborative effort to document each talk in near real-time via a public GitHub wiki. These notes, combined with the upcoming videos from ConFreaks, should achieve the goal of making much of the knowledge shared at this RailsConf available to everyone who couldn’t make it to Austin.

The conference closed out with a long session of “lightning talks”, short talks done rapid fire on just about any topic the speaker wanted. These were quite fun and overall went off well. Everything from Sidekiq (a new background processing library) to “hacking” the airlines’ frequent flyer programs. RailsConf went out not with a whimper but with a roar. And pot pies.