Category Archives: Technology

Posts related to technology in general.

Managing the privacy of your Kerika boards

Kerika offers a great deal of control over how each board is shared:

  1. A board can be made public to everyone.  This makes sense for open-source projects and many nonprofit and advocacy groups, where the goal is to get maximum visibility and publicity rather than to hide the details of what the project is about.

    Making a board public means that anyone who has the URL of the board can view it, even people who are not Kerika users.  Note: we are talking about viewing the board; viewing doesn’t mean anyone who isn’t part of the board team can make changes.

    If a board is viewable by the public, it can be found by anyone using Kerika’s search function.

  2. A board can be viewable by everyone who is part of the account team. This is the default setting, and it makes a lot of sense for most organizations: you want your coworkers to be aware of what your team is doing, unless the project is particularly sensitive.

    An account team consists of everyone who is a Team Member or Visitor on any board owned by the account.

    As people get added to individual boards, they are also automatically added to the account team.  When someone is removed from every board owned by an account, they are automatically removed from the account team as well.

    As with public boards, described above, we are talking only about viewing, not changing: only people who are Board Admins or Team Members on a particular board’s team can make any changes to that board. (And, of course, the Account Owner who owns the board.)
    If you use Kerika’s search function, you can find boards that are being shared with the account team, provided you are part of that particular account team.

  3. A board can be kept private.  This means that only the people who are listed on the board’s team — as a Board Admin, Team Member or Visitor — can view the board.  (And, of course, the Account Owner who owns the board.)

    This is appropriate for any sensitive projects, e.g. stuff related to personnel matters or confidential contracts.

    Private boards can’t be found by Kerika’s search function either, and it doesn’t matter if you know the URL for the board: only the specific people listed on the board team can see anything related to that board.

For each board owned by an account, the Account Owner or Board Admins can manage the board’s team: decide who is part of the team, and what sort of role (Board Admin, Team Member, or Visitor) each person has.

  • Board Admins and Team Members can make changes to all the items on the board, including any documents attached to the board.
  • Visitors have read-only access to the board and all its documents.
  • A person’s role can be changed at any time by the Board Admin or Account Owner: the effect is immediate, and extends to all the documents associated with the board as well regardless of whether you are using Google or Box for your file storage, or whether you are storing your files with Kerika.

A board’s team and current privacy settings can be viewed by clicking on the Team button that appears on the top-right of the Kerika app, when viewing a board:

Board Team button
Board Team button

Clicking on this button brings up the Board Team dialog:

Board Team dialog
Board Team dialog

Each person who is part of the Board Team is listed in this dialog, in alphabetical order along with their role.

At the bottom of the dialog is the board’s current privacy setting: in the example shown above, the board is being shared with everyone who is part of this user’s account team. (We have obscured the URL in the screenshot for security reasons.)

If you are a Board Admin or the Account Owner, you can change the privacy of the board using the Change Privacy link that’s shown on the bottom of the dialog:

Board Privacy options
Board Privacy options

So, every board can have it’s own privacy settings: private, shared with account team, or public.

When you are viewing the boards in an account, Kerika shows clearly what the privacy setting is for each board:

Privacy settings, at a glance
Privacy settings, at a glance

If you are part of someone’s account, you will be able to create new boards in that account: you will automatically be a Board Admin on those new boards, but the owner will always be the account you are working in.

You can set your privacy preferences for each account; this will determine whether new boards you create are automatically shared with your coworkers or not:

Privacy preferences
Privacy preferences

All your preferences can be set at https://kerika.com/preferences.  The default setting is Share with Account Team, which works well for most people, most of the time.

 

G Suite Marketplace listing disappeared

About a week ago, the Kerika listing on the G Suite Marketplace disappeared for reasons we still don’t understand.  We have been working actively with Google’s engineers to fix this, and are confident they will soon deliver a solution — the problem is on their end, not ours — and in the meantime we would like to apologize to anyone who is affected by this.

The underlying problem is that G Suite Marketplace is transitioning, and right now there are some overlapping systems in place that are creating problems for Kerika (and possibly other third-party apps).

Historically, if you wanted to publish your app on the G Suite Marketplace, you did so using the Chrome Web Store — which is where you also published your app for the Chrome Web Store, obviously.

This always led to to some confusion from our perspective: we had to maintain two identical product listings using the same Chrome Web Store Developer Dashboard.  And since this process has been in place, for the past several years, Google itself has been deprecating the use of the Chrome Web Store to distribute browser-based apps through this store.

Meanwhile, the Chrome Web Store Dashboard itself is getting a much-overdue UI makeover, and while this is underway the dashboard doesn’t have all the functionality that the old dashboard does, and there, of course, some bugs remaining in the new dashboard that Google needs to iron out.

(While the old Chrome Web Store Dashboard was ugly as sin, it was old and stable. The new Dashboard is much nicer, but not quite, quite ready yet.)

And there’s also the Google Cloud Platform API Dashboard: newer than the Chrome Web Store Dashboard, and with a completely different user interface and functions, since it manages an app developer’s use of many different cloud services from Google.

This has become another place to maintain your app’s product listing, and this seems to be where our problems originated: the G Suite Marketplace currently takes some information from the Cloud Platform Dashboard, and some information from the Chrome Web Store, to define your product listing.

We have been actively working with Google’s engineers, support and product management to try to resolve this problem — and we are grateful for the attention they have been giving us — and we hope to be out of the woods soon. One unexpected benefit of these problems has been the opportunity to talk to Google about our experience as third-party app developers: hopefully our feedback can help them make the G Suite Marketplace more useful to both Google’s customers and ours 🙂

Using Service Accounts to manage all your Kerika Users

For some segments of our users, e.g. college students using Kerika for their course projects, it makes sense to treat each user as an independent entity, since the relationships between these students will vary from class to class, from semester to semester.

These collaboration networks are very dynamic, and it’s impossible to predict whether a team that got together to work on a three-month class project will stick together after that project is over, or work as the same group of people on the next class project.

In business environments (companies, nonprofits and government agencies), however, the teams are more stable: people don’t change jobs every few months.  But, turnover can still be a problem: if Joe leaves your company, how can you be sure that all the boards and documents that Joe had created are not lost along when Joe is gone?

The simple solution to this is to use service accounts to own all the boards that are being used by a community of users, like a department or even the entire company (if the company is small enough).

A service account looks like any other Kerika account — it is associated with it’s own email, e.g. kerika@example.com — but it isn’t actually a real person: the email will have been set up by the organization’s IT staff or management, and the password is typically shared between a small handful of supervisory people.

Unlike real people, service accounts will always stick around: they won’t retire, resign, or get run over by a bus…

This means the organization has continuity and security with respect to it’s Kerika boards and documents: because the project assets are owned by kerika@example.com, rather than joe@example.com, it doesn’t matter whether Joe is still working at the company or not.

We encourage all our professional users — people working in companies, nonprofits and governments — to set up service accounts as a best practice, and we can help you: just email us at info@kerika.com and we will do all the account consolidation for you:

  • All the boards owned by the people in your organization will be transferred to the ownership of the service account instead.
  • Everything about each board is preserved as part of the transfer: all the cards, canvases, due dates, etc. remain the same after the transfer; it’s just that the boards are no longer owned by joe@example.com and susan@example.com, but instead are now owned by kerika@example.com
  • You can decide who to consolidate within the service account: typically it is everyone in the organization, but if you have different departments or cost centers, it will make sense to have more than one service account — one for each department or cost center.
  • After the consolidation, individual users within your organization will no longer have separate accounts: their Kerika identity, preferences, history, etc. are all preserved, but instead of working in several different accounts, they will all be working in a single service account, that’s under the control of your organization.
  • All this can be done by us, overnight: the next day your users can come into work and login as they did before, and have access to all the boards they had the previous day. All the boards will look the same, and your users can pick exactly where they left off.

When users have been consolidated within a service account, any new boards that they create will automatically be owned by that service account, rather than by the individual users.  This ensures that all current and all future project assets are owned by the service account, i.e. by the company, rather than by individual users.

It’s still possible for individual users to have privacy within the service account: for sensitive work (e.g. personnel matters) they can adjust the privacy of individual boards to be “share with board team only”.  When the privacy is set to board team only, the board will be visible only to the people who are specifically added by the Board Admins to the board’s team.

The Account Owner, i.e. the service account, will always have access to every board within that account, regardless of the board’s privacy settings. This is consistent with how other organizational assets are currently managed: if you have a work email, for example, you expect to have privacy from your coworkers, but you know that the company’s IT department will always have access to your email if they need it — and your email doesn’t really belong to you, but to your employer.

 

Seeing at a glance what’s hidden

If you hide a column from your view of a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika now makes it clear whether this column has any cards or not:

Hidden columns
Hidden columns

In the example shown above, the Release Notes column is empty, so it is shown in a light shade of grey, while the Final Review column has at least one card, and it is shown in black.

Kerika also helps you see, at a glance, whether the columns you are hiding have any updates you haven’t caught up on, or cards that are overdue:

Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates
Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates

The orange icon in the example above shows that the This Sprint column contains cards with updates on them that you haven’t caught up on yet, and the red icon shows that the Planning column contains overdue cards.

Bug, fixed: signing up for Kerika from “.software” domains

With the proliferation of top-level domains we have had to update some of our old code that tried to make sure people were signing up with properly-specified emails.

In the old days, of “.com” and “.org” and other short domain extentsions, this was easy to check at the time someone entered an email address: if it wasn’t properly formatted we could alert the user right away so they didn’t go down a dead-end path.

We can’t do that anymore: new top-level domains are being launched on a regular basis by registry companies and the list of potential domain extensions is no longer finite or easily matched by regular expressions.

We thought we had done these updates a while back, but clearly something slipped through the cracks: people from “.software” domains were unable to sign up as new users.

That’s fixed now.

Bugs, fixed: edge cases where due dates on tasks weren’t being reflected correctly at the card level

If you create a list of tasks on a card on a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika does a bunch of stuff in the background to make sure your view of what’s due, at the card level, board level and account level, are always correct.

We found a couple of edge cases where the due dates on tasks wasn’t rolling up correctly to the card level, potentially giving users a misleading view of what was currently due for them:

  1. When the last task with a scheduled due date was removed (deleted) from a card, this wasn’t correctly adjusting the due date for the card itself.
  2. Similarly, when the last task with a scheduled due date was no longer scheduled, this wasn’t correctly adjusting the due date for the card.

Both bugs have been fixed. They were real edge-cases, so it’s likely that most users never noticed them in the first place, but still…

 

Bug, fixed: copy-paste of card details in Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer continues to be slightly offbeat in its behavior, and this trips up our testing since it still has some quirks that are not found in Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

One bug that one of our Norway-based users found was that he couldn’t copy the details of a card using the Ctl-C key combination while using Internet Explorer, without going into the edit mode of the card details.

We fixed that. Ctl-C and Ctl-V should work much better.

We are moving away from monthly billing

We used to offer monthly and annual subscriptions, and in the last 5 years we had just two customers ever request the monthly option.

Everyone else found the annual subscriptions far more convenient so they wouldn’t have to process invoices or receipts, or get internal purchase approvals, every month.

The monthly purchase offer wasn’t very good for Kerika either: there’s a certain amount of bookkeeping and overhead for processing every invoice and given the already low $7 price per user, this offer was essentially a money-losing proposition.

So, we are now discontinuing the monthly subscription purchases altogether.  We are asking all our customers to purchase annual subscriptions: the amounts involved are still very reasonable, and if you do change your mind in the middle of the year, you can still request a refund for the unused portion of your annual subscription.

This means you don’t have an risk of overbuying: if you change your mind about using Kerika, you can get a refund for the remaining portion of your subscription.