A Personal Review of Task Trackers

tl;dr: My favorite is Pivotal Tracker.

Last night a friend of mine asked me about task trackers. This text is my response.

Trackers I know off the top of my head:

  • Pivotal
  • Asana
  • Jira
  • sprint.ly
  • clubhouse.io
  • Trello
  • YouTrack
  • Github Projects

Trackers I’ve used for at least a couple of months:

  • Pivotal
  • Jira
  • Trello

Trello has very low support for any kind of “point system”.

The “point system”, which consists of assigning “points” to estimate task complexity or time to finish, is a little contentious. It’s difficult to agree upon the criteria for one “point”. I learned from the folks at CodeMiner 42 to give one point to each task estimated to take from 1 minute to one morning (half a day). Simple as that. The idea is just to try and have all tasks simplified into one point. After a while the results start to show the overall performance, with almost no time wasted estimating tasks.

About 2 years ago I used Trello with a kind of plugin for points. It was very rudimentary and did not generate reports later, so it was not very useful. I am not aware of improvements to this in Trello.

Jira is very complete, and can even be installed in your server. The version I used the longest was installed that way. Consequently, it was and looked very out-of-date. You can choose many variations of Kanban and others, but the interface is bloated and visually confusing. I was unhappy with Jira.

Pivotal Tracker, as I said, is the one I like the most. I really like the fact that it’s just two lanes: Backlog, for tasks that are estimated and prioritized, and Icebox, where you throw ideas to be thought about later. The app is very powerful, and with Epics and Tags you can really organize and grow a board without going crazy.

It’s very easy to change the status of a task. Instead of dragging-and-dropping to lanes, you click Start-Finish-Deliver-Accept or Reject. It’s a simple improvement but on the aggregate it’s significant.

I’ve heard good things about clubhouse.io, apparently a newcomer to this competitive problem space, but I haven’t tried it yet.

I’ve played with Github Project, but at least at the time it missed many basic project management tools.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been using YouTrack. It resembles Jira but seems more well finished, and I haven’t seen the analytics part in detail yet.

So this is a summed up version of my feelings for task trackers.

Even if you work alone, a task tracker is an amazing stress reducer. As the team grows, it becomes more and more fundamental. If you don’t use one, I encourage you to try as many of the above as you can and see which you prefer.

A [WIP] checklist for interviewing (or getting onboarded) for new jobs or projects

After a year at EmCasa.com, I’m getting ready for a new job or project (let me know of a good one by the way: gustavo@poe.ma). At this point it’s clear that there are questions I should ask the people hiring me, probably before agreeing on the engagement.

Here’s a list of them:

  • What do you expect me to accomplish in 1 week?
  • What do you expect me to accomplish in 1 month?
  • What do you expect me to accomplish in 3 months (if the above two are met with responses)?
  • Who’s the team I’ll initially be working with, and what does each of the people do?
  • Is there a designated project manager in place?
  • Do you use methodologies such as Scrum, Agile?
  • Do you have daily standups, weeklies or recurring meetings?
  • Do you have a project board? Can I look at it?
  • Do you use Slack or some similar tool?

It’s ongoing at this point. I’m also agnostic about the order. Of course, in a conversation, it’s hard to stick to a script and that’s not the main idea anyway. But asking a few of these, I feel, will increase the likelihood of initiating better work relationships.

These blog posts also have good points-of-view:

http://danabrit.blogspot.com/2017/06/interview-notes-and-questions.html
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