Category Archives: Technology

Posts related to technology in general.

Adding support for Mozilla’s Extended Support Releases

Kerika works well on modern browsers, but we still occasionally get folks trying to sign up using an obsolete or very old browser. (For example, Internet Explorer is obsolete; you need to use Microsoft Edge.)

To handle this, Kerika checks the browser information returned by your computer when you try to sign up or login, to weed out the unsupported old browsers.

We have expanded this now to make sure organizations that are using Mozilla’s Extended Support Release (ESR) program to manage their Firefox deployments are not hindered.  Based upon this chart from Mozilla:

It looks like ESR 60.3.0 is equivalent to regular Firefox 63, so we now let people using this ESR (or newer) to use Kerika.

And… Google’s Marketplace is screwed again!

We have disappeared again from the Google App Marketplace: this is the third time in the last two weeks, and Google is trying to find the bug that’s causing this to happen.

The sequence that triggers it seems to be as follows:

1. We make an update to the Kerika product description on the Marketplace, to reflect some significant new improvement or feature.

2. The update shows up correctly, for a day or two.

3. Then the entire Kerika product listing disappears, without any warning or notification!

4. We contact Google, and they try to to restore the Kerika product listing. Unfortunately they find a really old set of screenshots and text, at least 3 years out of date if not more, and it’s a mystery where they even dredge this up from.

5. So, we try to update our Marketplace listing, and the cycle begins anew…

Waiting on Google to fix this!

So long, Internet Explorer 11

We cannot continue to support Internet Explorer 11 any more, for the simple reason that Microsoft itself doesn’t want to support IE 11 any more.

All of Microsoft’s browser focus is on their Edge browser, which means that as newer HTML5 features and standards get adopted by the browsers, these are going to show up in Edge, not IE 11.

And since Kerika is a pure Web app, one that requires you to download no software of any kind, including browser add-ons and plug-ins, we really need to make use of the latest HTML5 goodies that the browser vendors provide.

These goodies are going to be available only on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge, and that’s where Kerika is gong to work best.

Tripped up by an unkept Promise

As you know, Kerika is a Web Application: everything runs inside a browser, without the need for any plug-ins or add-ons.

We achieve all this with a ton of JavaScript code (and a sprinkle of SVG, for our Whiteboards.)

One, significant, disadvantage of JavaScript is that it is “single threaded”: two bits of script cannot run at the same time; they have to run one after another.

So while Kerika is running inside a browser on your laptop, our JavaScript has to share a thread with lots of other stuff that’s going on, such as painting, updating styles, and handling user actions.  All of this has the potential to slow down Kerika, while the JavaScript code waits for something else to finish.

To get around this, we used JavaScript’s Promise function: this let Kerika’s code get going with its normal business while waiting for other browser functions to finish.  What we didn’t expect, however, was that the Promise function isn’t supported by Internet Explorer 11. (Although it is supported in Microsoft’s Edge browser.)

This caused problems for all of our Internet Explorer 11 users — people using Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge were unaffected.  We finally figured out what the underlying problem was, and did a workaround using a polyfill, which is a way to provide new functionality in older browsers that don’t support it natively.

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.