Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grive, the unofficial Google Drive client for Linux

A Linux version of Google Drive is still on the giant's to-do list, and many of us believe that it will never be released. The best alternative I could find is Grive, an unofficial open-source client developed by a former Google Drive developer.

Combined with a package called Grive-tools, which provides GUI support, it is all you need to have your files synchronized on your favorite operating system.

Remember that Grive is an unofficial Google Drive client and installation is at your own risk.

I followed these steps to have it running on Ubuntu 14.04:

1) Click on the Start button and go to "Software & Updates"

2) On the "Other Software" tab, add the following source
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/thefanclub/grive-tools/ubuntu utopic main
3) Open a new terminal and type
sudo apt-get updatesudo apt-get install grive-tools
4) Click on the Start button and go to "Grive-Setup"

5) Follow the setting up instructions

That's it! Grive will create a new folder in your home path and start synchronizing (might take a while). Just make sure that you have the auto-sync option enabled (see image below).




Monday, December 15, 2014

LRM, the right moment to make important decisions

Many times we tend to make premature decisions just because a generic process dictates to do so. However, early decisions are hugely risky and often result in work that has to be thrown away.

Similarly, if we delay the commitment beyond a limitthen decisions are made by default, which is generally not a good approach to making decisions. That limit is called the last responsible moment (LRM).

Scrum process favors a strategy of keeping all our options open until the LRM, i.e., when the cost of not making a decision becomes greater than the cost of making a decision. See this figure extracted from Essential Scrum.

At the beginning of a development effort is when we have the highest levels of uncertainty. Scrum and Lean Startup processes help us to reduce all forms of uncertainty with validated learning, so that our knowledge about the process and the product grows over the time.

According to the LRM principles, we are delaying commitment as much as we can until we have more information, so that we can make a more informed decision.


Monday, December 8, 2014

How to increase your team's productivity with the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is an efficient time management method that breaks down work into 25-minute intervals (called pomodori) separated by 5-minute breaks in order to improve concentration and mental agility.




During these pomodori, the user has to focus on a single task. You cannot check your emails, chat with your colleagues or answer the phone until the next break. Every four pomodori you can have a long break (30 minutes).

Let's be honest, we all have troubles managing our time. You are working on your code and suddenly you receive an email that makes you lose your focus. Not to mention if you have smartphone or Facebook dependency. Task switching is not efficient, having short breaks after a high-concentration pomodoro is.

I have been using the Pomodoro Technique together with Scrum, where time tracking is not acceptable, but leveraging team members' performance is always welcome.

The results are very positive. My colleagues hesitated at first, but once they were fully committed we were able to deliver more and better artifacts per sprint, and team satisfaction significantly increased.

Some free pomodoro tools:

  • Strict Workflow. Free Google Chrome plugin that enables users to manage their pomodori and block websites that are not allowed during these intervals (i.e. Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, online news,...).
  • LiveTeamApp. Free web app that helps you manage your pomodori, track your tasks and chat with other team mates. No registration is required.
  • Moosti. Free web app to easily manage your pomodori and breaks.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to improve User Experience with Mouse Tracking

The goal of User Experience Design is to enhance customer satisfaction by improving the interaction between the customer and the product. You can follow some best practices that normally lead to a better performance. However, this is not an exact science, and most founders would love to know how their customers are actually interacting with their product.

When the product is web-based, there is a technique called Mouse Tracking that records the mouse movements, clicks, scrolling and keys pressed when they are visiting your site. It's actually like being behind your customers when they are browsing your website.

I have been trying out Mouseflow, one of the leading mouse tracking tools in the market. After signing up (free plan with 100 recordings/month), I just had to add a few Javascript lines of code in my target page (index.html in arturocalvo.com).


The results are incredibly positive. I was able to see how dozens of users were interacting with my website from different devices and browsers. For instance, I learned that most of the visitors were interested in my portfolio, and that Android users were not completing the contact form properly.

Mouseflow provides interesting analytics, such as click heatmaps, movement heatmaps and viewport maps (scrolling).


If you want to learn how your users interact with your website and improve your acquisition and activation rates, give it a try. Other nice tools in the market are ClickTale, CrazyEgg and LuckyOrange.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Evaluating Scrum management tools for a startup

I have been evaluating some cloud-based management tools for Scrum teams, with a special focus on tech startups with 10 employees. These are my thoughts.

JIRA AGILE. $20/mo. Free 7-day trial.
  • PROS. This is the most professional project management tool that I have ever tried. Especially adapted for Scrum or Kanban, Jira Agile will guide you through the process of creating your product backlog, launching your first sprint and getting relevant charts and reports. The dashboard looks pretty much like Trello, drag&drop driven with a nice look&feel. Limitless options for managers to set up the project, team and to get the most out of Scrum framework. Jira Agile has its own app store. Very easy to scale and combine with other Atlassian tools such as Confluence.
  • CONS. Perhaps it is too complex for a startup that just needs to launch experiments and make their MVPs evolve rapidly. Some features are not really relevant at this stage. Moderate learning curve for managers in order to make the best use of this tool. For Scrum masters and team members it is quite easy to use, though.



SCRUMDO. $50/mo. Free 30-day trial.
  • PROS. It has been developed just for Scrum, so it has the features that you need, and nothing else. Scrumdo includes some useful features such as the Planning Poker tool for estimations and a team chat.
  • CONS. I was very disappointed with this tool. The user experience is, in my opinion, the main challenge they have to face before considering charging us $50/month. I found it difficult to follow the process despite the tip tools, and their look&feel is not very appealing.


VERSIONONE. Free.
  • PROS. I am very impressed with this complete tool to manage Scrum projects. VersionOne guides you though the sprint process, providing useful features at each stage (sprint planning, tracking, review,...). The most interesting feature is probably the TeamRoom, which allows team members to see at a single glance how is the sprint going. Different reports allow product owners to make better decisions. The way it is designed invites to collaboration across teams.
  • CONS. Most of the features described above are only available on the Enterprise plan, which costs $29/user/month. Probably too expensive and complex for a startup.


BASECAMP. Free.
  • PROS. It is not only good for organizing your tasks into to-do lists. In addition you can share relevant files, text documents and even organize meetings. Basecamp's app store includes dozens of free apps that can be integrated into Basecamp. It is easy to create sprint planning backlogs, estimate and assign resources which are notified by email.
  • CONS. The user interface is slightly old-fashioned but quite intuitive. It does not support burndown reports, so you might need to install a third-party plugin.


TRELLO. Free.
  • PROS. The most easy-to-use tool. Trello has a very intuitive and clear interface that will reduce the learning curve to a minimum. Tasks are organized in to-do lists, and lists are organized in boards. Many third-party apps are available in its marketplace, covering Trello's weaknesses. Available web-based, Android and iOS. 
  • CONS. Trello is great for small teams, but I find it difficult to scale. If you have many tasks and/or lists, it becomes more and more difficult to manage the project. In addition, you need external apps in order to create management reports.


CONCLUSION. For a 10-employee startup I would recommend:
  • If they have an experienced Scrum product owner and Scrum master, use Jira Agile. They will be able to get the most out of it with a minimum learning curve.
  • Otherwise, use Trello and install some free apps such as Burndown. Whenever you are ready to scale, you have more experience in Scrum and you have some budget to spend, switch to a paid platform such as VersionOne or Jira Agile.