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A Retreat into Our Development Process

March 14, 2011

The Fishbowl (’s web development team) + our Community Manager met for several days in Portland, Oregon to reflect on the past year, set goals for 2011, and generally sing our hearts out via Karaoke and Rock Band.

One of the sessions gave us a chance to reflect on our development process.  After coming out of a long period where our focus was re-building on a new platform, plus making improvements and expanding its functionalities, this retreat session allowed us to focus on shifting our process to accommodate a whole new style of working that uses short, iterative development cycles.

We drew on our own experiences, looked towards other development teams we admire, and made some revisions to our development process. Here are some highlights:

  • In order to accommodate new feature development while at the same time taking care of the regular maintenance a site like ours requires, we’re borrowing a two-team development cycle model from 37signals where teams alternate responsibility for maintenance work. This way everyone gets to do the fun stuff sometimes, while sharing the burden of the less fun, but still important, bug fixing and small improvements.
  • Inspired by Kiva’s Innovation Iteration, we’re incorporating our own “Fantastic Fifth” iteration to allow for developers to work on projects they’re excited about but that might not otherwise be prioritized. We expect this will benefit Idealist users in lots of ways we can’t yet imagine!
  • We’re moving to a new ticket tracking tool, Jira. And we’re taking this opportunity to re-define our workflow. We’ve created a lighter process, and identified a few of our problem areas where improved communication would help.
More still to come from inside the Fishbowl, including some of our user research strategies for the year!



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