Tag Archives: Notifications

The Notifications feature of Kerika.

What’s New and Updated: a new Kerika View

Views are unique to Kerika: no other work management system provides such an easy way to see what matters, across all the boards you are working on.

These Views make it easy for organizations to really scale up their use of Kerika across multiple projects and many ongoing projects at the same time.

We have now added a very useful new View: What’s New and Updated.  As you might guess from the name, this View lets you catch up on everything that’s new and changed, across all the boards you are working on — as a Board Admin, Team Member or Visitor.

What's New and Updated
What’s New and Updated (click for a larger image)

This View can work very effectively as a Dashboard for managers who need to keep track of many different boards, all working at the same time: instead of constantly revisiting each board one-by-one, this View is a simple, comprehensive way to see everything that’s changing across all your boards.

The updates are shown in Kerika’s unique “heads-up” notification style: the blue New tags highlight cards that have been newly added to your boards (that you haven’t opened yet), and the orange highlights show you precisely what’s changed on your old cards.

The new and changed cards are sorted into columns, with each column containing all the new and changed items within a particular board.  The newest changes appear at the top of a column, and if a board has nothing new to report, the corresponding column is not shown (so your View doesn’t get cluttered up.)

(Cards that are moved to the Done or Trash columns on a board are not included in the View, to help avoid getting the View cluttered.)

As with all Views, it’s easy to operate on all the cards within a column, by selecting the Column Actions button that appears on the top of each column:

View options
View options

The Mark All Cards As Read action is useful if you want to ignore everything that’s going on in a particular board, e.g. when you have just returned from a status meeting where you got fully briefed on what’s happening on a particular board.

Another way to temporarily ignore individual boards is to Hide Column: this collapses the column from the View, and let’s you focus more intently on the handful of boards you care most about.

Selecting a card in this View lets you open the card within the View itself, or to open it on the board where the card actually sits:

View card
View card

(Sometimes it’s easy to deal with cards just by themselves; sometimes the View Board action is more helpful, if you want to be sure you understand the full context in which a card changed.)

Using your mouse’s right-click action will also bring up a bunch of useful actions for that card:

Mouse actions
Mouse actions

In addition to all the other actions you can perform on cards, you also have the option to get the URL (address) of card using the Get Link action.  Every cards, every canvas and every board in Kerika has a unique address, and using these URLs anywhere on a board, e.g. in the board’s details or chat, will automatically set up a link between the two cards.

When you mark a card as “read” on this View, it remains on the View until you click on the Refresh button (shown at the top-right corner of the View).

And, as with all Views in Kerika, the What’s New and Updated View includes the “For Me” toggle button on the top-right corner: clicking this will quickly filter the View to show you just those items that are personally assigned to you.

For Me toggle
For Me toggle (click for larger image)

This feature is available to all our users, just like every other feature in Kerika: it doesn’t matter whether you are still in your 30-day free trial, you are working on the free Individual Plan, or are benefiting from Kerika’s free Academic and Nonprofits Accounts. Everyone always get the same Kerika goodies 🙂

Making Kerika less chatty for new users

It’s hard for us to get the balance right between making sure our users don’t miss out on important project updates, while avoiding the impression that Kerika is “too chatty”.

We are changing out default preferences settings — this will affect new users only, not existing users — to have most notifications emails turned OFF by default:

Notification defaults
Notification defaults

One reason for this change is that our Views feature does a good job of providing an overview of important updates across boards — and we are going to make it even better in the near future — so for new users in particular, we don’t want to give the impression that Kerika will increase their incoming emails, rather than actually streamline their existing communications.

Making it easier to know when Kerika has a new version

The Kerika team works in 2-week Sprints, but not every Sprint results in a feature being deployed to production: sometimes we have to wait for enough pieces to be built before we can release an entire feature.

(Bug fixes always get deployed at the end of each Sprint, and we we aim to have zero known bugs at all times.)

If you left Kerika running overnight in your browser while we rolled out a new version, it’s important to make sure your browser updates itself to get the latest software from our server.

To make this easier, we are introducing a notification inside the app that will let you know that you need to reload/refresh Kerika to make sure you are working with the latest version. This notification appears only when we have a new version deployed, and we can detect (or suspect) that your browser is running outdated code.

This is what the notification looks like:

New version notification
New version notification

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.

Timing is everything when you send email

We occasionally email all of our users, when we have released something significant in terms of functionality or usability improvements.

On average, we probably send these emails 2-3 times a year, although we release software updates much more often.

Not every software update is announced in a mass email, although all the improvements and changes are always noted on this blog: unless the changes were big enough to require some additional explanation, we prefer to let users discover the new features on our own.

What we have noticed with the last couple of announcements is that the timing of the email makes a very big difference in terms of how many people actually open and read the emails.

Here are the last two emails we sent:

Timing is everything
Timing is everything

 

The “Release 62” announcement was actually far more significant, in our opinion, than the more recent “Release 66” version, at least in terms of UI changes and new features.

But, the Release 62 announcement went out mid-day on a Monday, and it was largely ignored as a result: only 9.7% of people opened that email.

The Release 66 announcement, on the other hand, went out on a Saturday afternoon, and had nearly double the open rate.

We think the simple explanation is that there was less competition for our emails on Saturday afternoon: fewer emails from colleagues and fewer crises to attend to.

We had long suspected this to be the case, but never had such clear proof that timing is everything when you send email 🙂

How you can tell if your Project Team has changed

If you are the only Project Leader on a Task Board, Scrum Board or Whiteboard, you will know when someone joins a board — after all, you would have approved their invitation in the first place.

But, if there are several Project Leaders for a board, it might be one of the others who added somebody to your board, and they might not have discussed this with you…

So, Kerika makes sure you know whenever the project team on any board has changed in any way:

  • If someone has joined,
  • If someone’s role has changed,
  • If someone has left.

(After all, someone could have left the team on their own, without telling you!)

Whenever there is a change in the project team, the Board Settings button on the top-right of the board will appear in orange.

Board Settings is highlighted
Board Settings is highlighted

Click on the Board Settings button, and you will see the Team tab is highlighted: this is Kerika’s way of drawing your attention to this particular tab within the Board Settings display.

Team tab is highlighted
Team tab is highlighted

When you go over to the Team tab, you will see that the new person’s name is highlighted in orange, for a few seconds. It’s a discrete yet very effective notification from Kerika, drawing your attention to the presence of someone new on the team.

Changed roles are highlighted
Changed roles are highlighted

The same kind of notification is used when someone’s role on the team is changed, e.g. from Team Member to Visitor.

Kerika also tries to let you know when someone has left the team, by highlighting the Project Settings button in orange, and the Team tab within the Project Settings in orange as well.

Smart notifications, from Kerika — the only work management system that’s designed specially for distributed Lean and Agile teams 🙂

Finding the next unread update in a long column

When working with a crowded Task Board or Scrum Board, you want to be sure that you haven’t missed any updates on cards that are out of view: for example, updates that are out of the scroll area because a particular column of cards is very crowded.

Kerika makes sure you don’t miss anything, and it does this will a handy little button in the form of a downward pointing caret that appears at the top of every column where there is at least one card that needs your attention:

Finding all the changed items in a long column
Finding all the changed items in a long column

Clicking on this button will help you quickly find the next updated card in the column, and then the next, and so on.

The color of this caret (button) depends upon what sort of updates are present in a column:

  • If the column contains any overdue cards, the button is red, to alert you to the overdue problem. (We figured this is the most important information we could show you, particularly if the overdue card is out of sight.)
  • If the column contains any new cards, the button is blue. Unless, of course, the column also contains overdue cards, in which case the overdue condition is considered more critical than the fact that you have new cards, and so we show the red button.
  • If the column simply contains updated cards, and nothing that is new or overdue, the button shows in orange.

Regardless of the color, the button works the same way: clicking on it will help you find the next card of interest within that column, and then the next, and so on. The column will automatically scroll as necessary to show you updates that would normally be out of sight.

And when you have caught up on all the updates, the button goes away automatically. Neat, huh?

Making sure you never miss a project update

In addition to the styling changes we have made, we have also been working to make sure you always have easy access to your project updates, by improving and extending the onscreen notifications you get from Kerika. There are a whole bunch of improvements in our newest version:

  • Kerika reminds you when you are hiding a column on a task board: using the Workflow button, you can always personalize your view of a task board, hiding some columns if they are not of interest. Now, Kerika makes sure you don’t forget that you have some columns hidden, by showing a small indicator above the Workflow button:

    Indicator that you are hiding some columns on your task board
    Indicator that you are hiding some columns on your task board
  • And, if there are updates to cards on columns that you are hiding, these will never get missed:
    Updates on cards that I am not viewing
    Updates on cards that I am not viewing

    Clicking on the Workflow button will show you clearly which hidden columns have updates:

    Updates on hidden cards
    Updates on hidden cards

    In the example above, the “This Sprint” and “In Development” columns are currently hidden from view, and there are updates to cards on the “In Development” column.

  • If you have several projects underway, Kerika makes it easier than ever to know which of them have updates that you haven’t seen. This is done in two places in the user interface: first, your project tabs show orange indicators when there are unread notifications:
    Updates are highlighted on project tabs
    Updates are highlighted on project tabs

    And, when you are browsing your list of projects, you see orange highlights on the project cards as well, to let you know there are unread updates:

    Updates are highlighted on project cards
    Updates are highlighted on project cards
  • And, finally, a new feature makes it easy for you to find updated cards within columns, which is especially useful when you are dealing with a lot of cards, e.g. in a Product Backlog:

    Finding the next updated card in a column
    Finding the next updated card in a column

As with all our product improvements, the Kerika team has been testing the changes extensively by “dogfooding” the software: we use Kerika for all of our work, and we have been very pleased with these improvements which have really improved our own team productivity!

 

How to tell if a file has been updated

The first version of Kerika was written as a peer-to-peer (p2p) application, so one challenge we faced was detecting when files that are being shared as part of a project were changed by a user, so that we could send the latest version to everyone else on the team.

Our first attempt at a solution was to simply examine the Last Modified time for files. However, this proved to be very unreliable for a rather odd reason: whenever you open a spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel, it automatically updates the Last Modified time to be the current time – even before you had made any changes.

And when you close Excel, without having made any changes, it resets the Last Modified time back to its original value. So, whenever you opened a Excel files for viewing, we would erroneously identify it as an updated file.

We then tried looking at the size of files, to see if these had changed since we last examined them. We knew, of course, that this would be error prone in its own way: if you change some text within a file such that it contains the same number of characters as before, the overall size of that file would not change.

But this approach failed for another reason altogether: Microsoft Word allocates disk space in chunks at a time, rather than as exact amounts. This means that any edits to Word files that do not require Word to grab another chunk, or give up a chunk, would never be reflected in the reported size of the file.

Eventually, we decided to take the MD5 hash of files, which is a more reliable way of detecting if a file has been modified. We were concerned about how much CPU overhead this would take, but it proved to not be a problem after all.