Category Archives: Kerika

Posts about Kerika, the company and its people

Restyling Preferences

We have restyled your Preferences page, to be more in line with the new design of Kerika that we released a couple of months ago.  It now looks like this:

Board Preferences
Board Preferences

We are using the familiar “card container” style for showing different categories of preferences, like WIP limits, along with the left-side tabs that are similar to those you find on the Home page.

The Boards tab lets you set the following preferences:

  • The privacy of new boards you create: you can make them accessible to anyone with a link; to just people who are part of your Account Team; or to only those people you invite to the board as Board Admins, Team Members or Visitors.
  • Whether to use Work-In-Progress (WIP Limits) on new Task Boards or Scrum Boards that you create.
  • Whether to have your documents converted to the Google Docs format, if you are using Kerika+Google, or whether you want to retain them in their original format e.g. Microsoft Office.  (This preference isn’t shown to Kerika+Box users, or those users who signed up directly.)

 

Notification Preferences
Notification Preferences

In the Notifications tab you can decide how much you want to hear from Kerika when stuff happens (that concerns you).

If you are assigned a card on a Task Board or Scrum Board, and someone does chat on that card, Kerika will always push that to you as an email: we assume that since you are responsible for a card, you need to know sooner rather than later when someone has a comment or question about that work item.

If you are a Board Admin, however, you can decide how many notifications you want when stuff happens on boards that you are responsible for.

For example, you could be notified if someone adds a new card on a board: this usually means that there is new/more work to be done by your team, so you might want to quickly check whether it is important — or whether it is even relevant for that particular board.

And, as a Board Admin, you might want to know whenever someone moves a card to Done.  This is usually a welcome notification: people like to hear that stuff is getting done, but if a team/board gets a lot of stuff done every day these emails can be a nuisance and you might want to turn off this preference.

And, depending upon how involved you want to be with each card and each Team Member, you can get notified whenever a card is reassigned from one person to another.  Some Board Admins like to be very much in control over who is doing what, so if a Team Member takes the initiative to reassign work to another Team Member the Board Admin may want to know right away. Other Board Admins take a more relaxed, hands-off approach and let the team handle its own work allocation.

Finally, you can choose to get a 6AM email summary of everything that is overdue, due this week, and due next week: for all cards assigned to you personally, as well as a all cards on boards where you are one of the Board Admins.  You have the additional option of getting this list summarized by date, or by board — or both.

Canvas Preferences
Canvas Preferences

The Canvas Preferences let you determine how lines, shapes and text look like, by default, when you use Whiteboards.

One useful preference in this tab is to have items snap to grids: this helps you lay out process diagrams more neatly.

 

Views across all your boards

At long last, we have built Views — one of the most commonly requested features, and something that we had been obsessively designing and redesigning over years, trying to figure out the best way to handle this need.

We have done it now. Views has been built, and is automatically available across all your Task Boards and Scrum Boards, whether they are owned by you or shared with you.

We are starting off with four standard Views, and we will built more in the future, and add a way for you to build your own Views as well.

The Views we have built are:

What’s Assigned To Me

The most commonly asked for feature by people who are working on several projects — and, hence, several boards — at the same time.  This is what it looks like:

What's Assigned To Me
What’s Assigned To Me

Everything that’s currently assigned to, on all boards except for those that are in the Trash or Archive, are collected for you into a single View, where cards are organized as follows:

  • Not Scheduled
  • Overdue
  • Due Today
  • Due This Week (excluding what’s already included in Due Today)
  • Due Next Week
  • Due This Month (excluding what’s already included in Due Today and Due This Week)
  • Due This Quarter
  • Due Next Quarter

It is a comprehensive summary of everything you need to get done, and it will be invaluable for managers and anyone else who has to work on multiple projects at the same time.

If you select a card in a View, like this

Selecting card from a View
Selecting card from a View

You get quick access to key actions:

  • Move to Done
  • Move to Trash
  • View Board
  • Open

Open opens the card right there, inside the View itself.  View Board, on the other hand, opens the card in the board in which it is located.

Both are useful, depending upon the card and what you want to do: in some cases you just need to update a particular card — e.g. reschedule it, add a comment or file — and opening the card in the View itself, which is very fast, is enough.

In other situations you might want to be sure you are understanding the context of the card, and it is better to see where it is on the board that contains it.  This can be helpful for cards that you are not quite sure about.

What’s Due

This View will be particularly helpful to managers (Board Admins): it summarizes everything that’s due, on all boards where you are one of the Board Admins:

What's Due
What’s Due

This basically brings to life everything that you can also (optionally) get in your 6AM Task Summary email.

Cards are organized for you as follows:

  • Overdue
  • Due Today
  • Due This Week (excluding what’s already shown as Due Today)
  • Due Next Week
  • Due This Month
  • Due Next Month

For this View, as with the What’s Assigned to Me View, we try to be smart about not showing duplicate cards: if something is due today, for example, it will show up in the Due Today column, but not get duplicated in the Due This Week or Due This Month column.

This makes it easier for you to plan your schedule: you can see what needs to get right away, and what needs to get done later.

What Needs Attention

Again, a View that will be of particular interest to managers concerned with several ongoing boards:

What Needs Attention
What Needs Attention

Here, Kerika tries to show everything that needs a little extra attention: things that are

  • Overdue
  • Flagged as Critical
  • Flagged as Blocked
  • Flagged as Needs Review
  • Flagged as Needs Rework
  • Flagged as being On Hold

These items typically represent your risk profile across all your boards, and Kerika brings it all together in a single View.

What Got Done

Great for anyone who needs to produce a status report, or any manager who needs to monitor progress across many different projects:

What Got Done
What Got Done

Across all boards where you are a Board Admin, this View summarizes

  • What got done Today
  • What got done This Week (excluding items shown in This Week)
  • What got done Last Week
  • What got done This Month (again, excluding items shown for Today and This Week)
  • What got done Last Month
  • What got done This Quarter

Accessing Views:

All your Views can be accessed from a new tab called Views (naturally) on your Home Page:

All your Views
All your Views

On each View card, Kerika shows how many items are included in that View, and as of when.  The Views are automatically refreshed when you open them, but in-between they are not updated because we do not expect the information shown to change on a second-by-second basis.

If you are worried that your View is out of date, you can update it by selecting it on your Home Page:

Refreshing a View
Refreshing a View

You can also update any View that you currently have open, by clicking on the Refresh button shown on the top-right of the View:

Refreshing a View
Refreshing a View

We will let you go crazy with these Views, for now. In the future we will add more (we already have some ideas on that front, but would love to hear from you as well!) and also add a Custom View capability.

Meanwhile, enjoy.

A bunch of bug fixes and usability improvements for Tasks

We have done a bunch of small bug fixes and usability tweaks to the Tasks feature we introduced a few weeks ago:

  • When a user’s last Task within a card is marked as Done, the user’s name is removed from the list of people shown as being assigned to that card. (Previously you had to do this cleanup manually.)
  • When a Task that was previously marked as Done is changed to be “undone” (open/remaining), the user who had previously been assigned to that Task is added back to the list of people shown assigned to the card.
  • Bug fix: If someone is assigned to a Task, and this person had previously completed a Done Task, this user wasn’t getting added automatically to the list of people shown on the card. This has been fixed.

 

We had a problem today

Kerika was unavailable for about 15-20 minutes this morning; our apologies to everyone who was affected.

It’s back now, and we are still investigating the root cause.  All we know right now is our Amazon Web Services (AWS) Load Balancer, which acts as the immediate front-end to every browser that tries to connect to Kerika, reported a problem.

UPDATE:

It is starting to look like Amazon Web Services was having an internal networking problem; our server’s error logs included entries like

[97207ms] ago, timed out [81830ms] ago, action [cluster:monitor/nodes/liveness], node [{#transport#-1}{thl-D8yeRmGg9N_4GyNNUQ}{elasticsearch}{172.18.0.12:9300}], id [133181]
06-07-2017 16:44:53.077 [ConsumerPrefetchThread-1] ERROR   com.amazon.sqs.javamessaging.AmazonSQSMessagingClientWrapper - AmazonClientException: receiveMessage.
com.amazonaws.AmazonClientException: Unable to execute HTTP request: sqs.us-east-1.amazonaws.com: System error

Restoring service was unexpectedly hard: we couldn’t reboot the AWS EC2 instances from the AWS Console, and couldn’t even login to the machine using ssh.

Eventually we had to power down our EC2 instances and restart them from scratch.  Not good.

Internet Explorer on Windows 7 is too retro for us

If you are still using Windows 7, please use Chrome or Firefox instead of Internet Explorer 11 (or, worse yet, an even older version of Internet Explorer).

We are not in a position to support Internet Explorer on Windows 7 anymore: for one thing, we don’t have any PCs running Windows 7 anymore.  And Microsoft itself has stopped selling Windows 7 several years ago, and mainstream support ended two years ago.

We realize that some of our enterprise customers are forced to stay with Windows 7 because of legacy systems that don’t work well with newer versions of Windows, but supporting Windows 7 is not something we are in a position do, or have any interest in pursuing.

Too retro for us
Too retro for us

Chrome is the workaround.

The design effort behind our new version

For our extensive redesign of Kerika we used the Sketch design app for the first time, transitioning way from our earlier use of Adobe’s Creative Suite.

Here’s our design effort, by the numbers:

  • We created a total of 937 individual screen layouts, all of which were high-resolution and pixel-perfect.
  • Each screen was designed for 1680×1050 pixels, which is the resolution of a 21″ desktop monitor although each design was subsequently tested on a 1400×800 laptop screen as well.
  • Every element on every screen was laid out to its precise final size and spacing, to create a photo-realistic view of the design.
  • We exclusively used vector graphics so we could scale our views for different devices and resolutions without any loss of resolution.
  • Every screen was mocked using real data, rather than lorem ipsum-style fake text, so we could get a more realistic idea of how much space actual cards, columns, etc. would take.
  • We used realistic storylines for all scenarios: user personas were developed and used consistently, so that, for example, the same person appeared as Board Admin on all screens.
  • Every interaction between different features was considered simultaneously, so that we could guard against edge cases where the design might clash or fail when multiple user conditions were true at the same time.

Here’s an example of a screen mockup:

Inviting someone
Inviting someone

Here’s the same screen design, with dimensions marked as redlines:

Inviting someone (Markup)
Inviting someone (Markup)

Extensive use of symbols (repeating objects in Sketch) helped us ensure that we had consistency across all 937 designs, simultaneously.

We exported our icons using the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format, rather than PNG or JPEG, to ensure there was no loss of resolution when we used these icons in the Kerika app.

Over 1.5 years, we went through 35 complete iterations of the design, where nearly all 937 screens were changed as we explored different concepts.

And, no, we aren’t done yet…

Kerika at Lean Transformation 2016

Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika, and Joy Paulus, Senior Policy and Program Manager for the Washington State Office of the CIO, delivered a joint presentation at the Lean Transformation 2016 Conference.
IMG_2224

The subject of the talk was “Collaboration Across Organizations: Big Results with Small Teams”. Here are the slides from the talk:

Sorry for the disruption in service this morning!

We switched over to Google as the registrar for a number of our domains yesterday (we used to use a mix of GoDaddy and Register.com previously), and in the process our DNS got screwed up.

We didn’t realize this right away because it affected one of our subdomains (which meant the website itself was up and running, but one of the ways in which you can sign into Kerika was messed up.)

The basic problem was with Google’s way of handling incoming transfers of domains that have already been set up: even if you use the setting for keeping your current domains, Google doesn’t keep your current DNS settings for all the subdomains as well.

Our apologies for everyone affected by this!

Update on 10:15AM PST Oct 6:

We are still waiting for Google’s bazillion DNS servers to all get the new DNS entries.  It’s a bit hit-or-miss for individual users, depending upon which Google server they get routed to when they try to login.

Here in the Seattle area, for example, we can login consistently, but we know some of our users can’t. In India it is literally a 50:50 chance that your Kerika session will connect to an updated DNS server or not.  In the UK the problem seems mostly fixed now.