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Trello is now half million strong (trello.com)
198 points by Brajeshwar on July 9, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

I love Trello and am a huge fan. I'm finding that I don't use it as much as I thought I would, though.

The missing feature for me is the ability to share a column between boards. This would let me work with other people. Work is hierarchical. I make big decisions and then those big decisions get split up and consumed by other folks. I can't have everybody controlling boards at every level. So when I drop "clean room" to my "Stuff my son is handling" column, I don't care or know how he breaks that up and does it. All I care about is that once he's broken up that work and completed all of it that he passes the card to my "done" column. I create and track the task at a high level. He does the same at a lower level. My big task breaks up into a bunch of small tasks for him. The same kind of scenario plays out in lots of things: refurbishing a house, planning for a summer vacation, tending to landscaping around the house, and so on.

Everything can't be flat. There has to be some kind of hierarchical structure. Having one column appear in multiple boards would allow that to happen. Might be some other solutions. Don't know. You could get into some kind of parent-child thing, but that's butt-ugly. I think just letting one column exist on multiple boards would solve the problem without creating a complexity problem.

That's the one thing preventing me from active use. If they could fix that, and somehow figure out the hosting/privacy issues many companies have, it'd be a perfect app. Keep up the awesome work, guys!

"If they could fix that"

The question also is how long will they continue to fix and offer a service which has no revenue? And who is to say the service won't get acquired (in addition to just being outright cancelled). Saying "always be free" doesn't create a legal obligation given a change of circumstances.

(I have a workflow which depends greatly on free Thunderbird and the (paid version) of the quicktext pro extension. I was pretty upset to even see stories that TB was not going to be maintained as well going forward.)

"Saying "always be free" doesn't create a legal obligation given a change of circumstances."

Neither does charging. Most SAAS products charge on a monthly basis, so the most any vendor owes you is 30 days of usage. Even so, they could always just shut down today and refund you your money.

Not to toot our own horn, but Fog Creek has been around for 12 years, we've been profitable every year along with having dozens of employees. There's little chance that we're about to disappear (or get acquired). We've invested a lot into Trello, and we're not going to change our minds on a whim.

We realize people are running their businesses and adapting their workflows around Trello, and we're encouraging that. Our plan is to give you even more security and more reasons to integrate our product into your business in the future.

So while I can see some merit in arguing that "saying always be free" is just a promise, it's backed by a company that's over a decade old. I don't see any evidence to suggest the scenarios you are describing.

Just a plea - remember that there is a tier between "freeloaders" and "companies willing to pay $$" - it's what you would call the "supporter" level. This is the level that dropbox, for example, lacks - some ability to give, say, $3 a month not in order to get premium features, but to feel good, and support a product you like.

I use Trello every day for a whole bunch of things and it really does make my life easier. It would make me happy to give Trello a bit of money for services that I already use for free.

[Edit to comment below: I don't think it is such a strange suggestion - it's the NPR model: everybody gets to listen to the radio station for free, some get to feel good about supporting it in exchange for something nominal like a bumper sticker. Sure there is a difference between accepting money and never having to deal with money, but I assume Trello has some plan to accept money eventually for something]

"$3 a month not in order to get premium features, but to feel good,"

Not speaking for Trello here but keep in mind that taking money (or charging a nominal amount) creates an obligation on the part of the recipient (reciprocity principle). So if the amount to be gained is nominal in some cases people or companies would rather get nothing. There are also additional legal circumstances that taking money for a service would also possibly create that would far exceed the benefit from the revenue).

> it's the NPR model

So for one week every six months, you'd go to your Trello projects and instead of being able to use them normally, you could use them for five minutes at a time before you had to listen to a 10 minute plea for money that wouldn't stop even if you donated right away?

Sure, if I got a designer tote bag.

"Neither does charging."

As we saw almost happened with Sortfolio.

"little chance that we're about to disappear (or get acquired)"

Have you seen The Godfather?

"Not to toot our own horn, but Fog Creek has been around for 12 years"

I do get your point and I know of the reputation of Fog Creek obviously. I'm not comparing you to Apple cancelling Newton, rack servers, or clones (to name only a few examples at that company). And while you are correct about saas companies each situation is different and from experience I am weary of profitability of a product or a company. Fogcreeks financial circumstances can change (as can googles or any companies obviously) and in that case the best intentions go out the window. It's every man for ...

I remember a time when it was close to unthinkable for someone to walk away from their mortgage for all but in the most extreme cases. Obviously the mentality with that has changed (as well as with bankruptcy) and jobs for life. In the end companies and people do what they need to do to survive and make hard choices. To me the fact that a service is paid makes it more likely to survive (once again the outlier being the Sortfolio threat to close if no buyer found at 480k.) than one that is free and generates no revenue but has operating costs.

As a general rule.

Each situation is different.

Otoh, I do believe that a paid product from certain companies (Apple just shut down Mobile Me) is not always better than a free product from another company (Fog Creek) as one example.

Perhaps you could add a commitment somewhere that should the product be discontinued for any reason the source code would be made freely available.

To be fair, they have been charging from day one, through other offerings. Although Trello is a free product, it's maintained by a VERY profitable bootstrapped company. They have a brand to protect. Killing a product used by half a million people seems like a terrible idea. It seems like they should integrate their paid products into Trello and cross-promote with paid services.

I'm usually right there with you on the "free vs paid" bandwagon. In this case, there does seem to be a clear disincentive to kill a product that would probably destroy the reputation of a profitable brand. I do think it's a dumb idea to count out ever charging for a product. If people are willing to pay, that should always be an option. Also, as a free service for business users they should definitely find ways to make users data completely portable. I'm much more comfortable using a free service if there's a data portability option.

UPDATE: There is already a data portability option.


Your data is yours. If you ever want to stop using Trello, you should be able to download your data. All Fog Creek products feature data portability where applicable. We strongly believe in it. To export your data, simply open a card or click the board title, then Profile. click the 'Share, Print, and Export' button, and you'll find export options. Currently, we allow export to JSON which is a format that lends itself well to technical usages and cannot be loaded into programs like Microsoft Excel. It is, however, complete, and so does suffice as a backup."

We've adopted Trello wholeheartedly and have worked out a decent solution to what you describe. Our overarching board ("Software Roadmap") consists of "Epic/Story" cards. Each of these are large projects we expect to be broken down. In each description of the card is a link to a project board for all the detailed tasks, each of which one developer can work on. It's a hierarchy by convention. When all of the tasks of the project board are done, the card on the roadmap can be archived or moved to the "done" column. YMMV

We implemented Trello, along with daily working/billing about a month ago, and I don't think we'll ever go back. Working on one project per day instead of trying to do 100 things at once cut my stress in half and doubled my productivity.

Trello makes it easy to see what's getting done by whom, and who is available to work on the next item coming down the pipe. Client work gets done faster, and we have more time for internal projects. We have one board for invoices, one for leads, and one for projects. Its a great system.

So, we owe a huge thanks to the folks at Fog Creek, and I can't understand why we can't pay them. But also to Ryan Carson and Thomas Ptacek, for their strong recommendations of Trello[1] and daily billing[2], respectively.

[1] http://ryancarson.com/post/24884883426/how-i-manage-40-peopl... [2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4101802

Could you elaborate on how you've implemented "billing"?

I have some ideas how to implement time tracking for billing purposes but haven't got around to it yet.

I think Trello is fantastic. It's a game-changer for development and project management, even if you use it solo. My only problem is I can't use it at work due to our privacy and regulatory requirements.

Fog Creek: A version we can host ourselves, please! We would pay fogbugz-levels if not more.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but we have no plans to make a self-hosted version.

Yes, I should have said I've seen that in your FAQs. I understand it, of course, but it's a great pity -- the demand is relatively high, judging by the numbers of forum posts looking for "trello alternatives" out there.

It wouldn't even have to be updated anything like as frequently as real Trello, or at all. A stable snapshot, with security updates if you found egregious holes, would be more than enough.

It's very hard to sell a product only to "understanding" customers, because I doubt they would agree on what "as frequently" means. Or how much self-assembly is required to put the whole thing together if there's no installer. People will say they just want a zip of .js files and they'll be happy to get it running, but when they get that zip file they get very angry, not happy. I've seen it happen too often.

"When you said it had some rough edges, I thought you meant ..."

Ever considered selling it in a form of an installable appliance?

All you need is a Greasemonkey script to encrypt/decrypt everything as it goes in or out.

I'm only 90% kidding.

This is actually a very interesting idea.

I work with Agile teams, and putting data on other people's servers is a BIG hang-up for a lot of companies. Even when we assure them that it's not requirements or specs, just symbolic work tokens, they still freak out.

If you encrypted it client-side, you could make the argument that nobody without the encryption plug-in could see any of it -- that you're just storing encrypted blobs somewhere.

It probably still wouldn't fly -- I have my suspicions that much of these conversations revolve around control, not security or policy, but it would be worth giving it a shot.

Yes, at some of these companies, you are not allowed to use Google Docs for coordination but Sales gets to use Salesforce.com because that is the industry standard.

You seem to be looking for Fogbugz. http://www.fogcreek.com/fogbugz/

Apart from the fact that they are very different products, bonaldi saying he would pay "fogbugz-level" prices implies he already knows about FogBugz.

The title is misleading. Signups are not really what matters. I wonder how many users actually log in at least once a week.

I have Trello account and tried to use it when it launched but eventually I reverted back to my good old pad and pen once again.

Our engineering team logs into it daily, and some of us stay logged in throughout the day, checking off lists and hashing out ideas in the cards before importing them into engineering docs. It's a great way to manage features and organize tasks, even if we don't fit into a classic "Agile" cycle.

Trello has been a big hit with my wife who is a writer. She uses it to organize scenes, chapters and various snippets before integrating them into her draft. I've tried introducing various storyboarding applications to her with very high resistance -- Trello was the only thing that really "took" with her.

If you just want to jot down notes and don't need to organize them, Trello's probably just a bit too rich an interface. Once you've got more balls in the air and jugglers in the mix, Trello becomes a lot more interesting.

"Signups are not really what matters."

Signups to free services matter less, relatively as well.

What means something though, in nearly everyone's mind, is a large number. 500k free signups to a service (regardless of whether they login more than once (which is what I did btw) is more newsworthy and attention getting then a small amount of paid users paying bupkas to the traditional world. (I'm not talking about someone posting on HN about something that they put together over the weekend which earns them $1000 per month which HN finds interesting).

I agree and disagree. I don't think the title is misleading. (in fact, it's a fact!) but your point about engagement is valid.

We track a bunch of other interesting numbers as well, such as number of active users in the last month, number of users with four actions (they actually clicked something) in the last month, number of new boards created in the last day/week, etc.

If pad and pen are what it's replacing, you aren't taking full advantage. Get your team on there.

I love Trello. I've been using it to plan my wedding. At first my fiancee was worried that it would add too much overhead. (She was never overly concerned that it was spectacularly nerdy to be using a software project planning suite—and that's a sign I found a keeper.) It's really shined with the guest selection/invitation process.

We created a couple of lists to group and sort guests into Definite, Good to Have, and Maybe lists and used labels to relations to whoever wanted them, which really helped with the friends and extended family that the other didn't know. We used checkboxes to track addresses that we were waiting on, who's save-the-dates have gone out, etc. I've used the API to total up people for the headcount (since cards we often for "Jack & Jill Smith"). If we were doing assigned seating, we'd probably make lists for each table and move the cards around. Thankfully, we decided to go for heavy hors d'oeuvres.

The thing's versatile: very few things feel like they're driven by the project planning domain (e.g. voting for cards). I'd love to see some kind of ability to embed scripts and save some checklists as templates that I could apply to cards with one or two clicks, but the API access suites my needs right now (and I know some people are using Greasemonkey scripts).

I really love Trello, I think I could use it in so many facets of my life...but the nonstatements on its future (is it going to be monetized? is it even going to be around in six months? etc.) make me hesitant to really commit to it.

It's going to be around in six months, things that are currently free are going to remain that way, and we're not adding ads; I'll let you draw an inference on the monetization. I actually thought the Trello team had made that clear, but I'll bug them to see if there's a way we can make it even more so.

Edit: https://trello.com/privacy states the above clearly, near the bottom. I agree that slapping that under the "Privacy" page probably doesn't make sense.

(I work for Fog Creek; go through my comment history.)

Thanks for the response. This makes me much more interested to start investing time in moving various workflow tracking processes to Trello.

The guys behind Stackoverflow and Trello have a positive tracking record. There is no evidence it will change. :)

However you raise a good point: exportability/portability of the data...

You can export data very easily, either using the Trello API or just by appending ".json" to pretty much any URL. For example to get a JSON dump of the resources board: https://trello.com/board/trello-resources/4f84a60f0cbdcb7e7d... (note the .json).

Disclaimer: I'm a developer on Trello.

Hi. I love Trello.

But unless you're expecting only developers/programmers to use Trello, then saying "using the Trello API or just by appending '.json' to pretty much any URL" is basically worthless to most people. Our definitions of "very easily" must be enormously different.

If you're ever curious, the Trello board for Trello is public: https://trello.com/board/trello-development/4d5ea62fd76aa113...

I mention that because a vastly saner export tool that's highly newbie-friendly is outlined at https://trello.com/card/bulk-data-export-for-organizations/4...

True. On the other hand, it creates some level of trust since any programmer can now implement a Trello alternative for you to port your data to. So making the data available removes a lot of the lock-in. Of course, if the data can be exported in a format immediately usable by an application you already know such as some form of calendar this would be better. But I don't know of an application that overlaps sufficiently with Trello to capture the whole experience.

Data can also be exported with the "Share, Print, and Export" link on every card and on a board's drop-down menu.

Thanks a lot for your answer! BTW, you do a great job!!!

I started playing with Trello a week ago. It's beautiful and I see huge potential using it for my daily todo list. One thing I really want is a dead simple way to add new items to an "Inbox" list, which I sort later. (Thinking GTD)

An Android home screen widget and maybe a Chrome extension for this would rock. This is how I currently use Remember The Milk on my phone because you can specify a default list for all new items.

Is something like this in the works? If not, looks like I should be able to cobble something together using the Trello API.

I use zapier to convert emails to a backlog list (using a "trello" filter for the emails).

Ooh, I like Zapier! Looks like a useful service

I've been wrestling with this, too. Right now my GTD Inbox list is just empty, because if I'm going into Trello, I might as well put the item where it belongs (whether Next Actions, Waiting On, etc). I guess I'm looking for my Inbox to be populated with stuff that arrived outside of Trello.

I might be wrong on this because I'm relatively new to Trello and GTD, but I also didn't see a way to tag cards, which seems really useful.

You can adopt a convention (like #tag) and then search/filter cards with that tag pretty easily. It's not built in tagging support, but I'm not sure if GTD actually requires more than that.

It might be possible to write an IMAP interface to Trello, so it just shows up as another email account you can file emails into (Board -> Folder, Title -> Subject, etc.).

Click on a card -> add a label.

Android support is on the way, and already in beta: https://trello.com/card/android-app/4d5ea62fd76aa1136000000c...

Is it a public beta? I'd love to participate.

The problem with closed source and hosted options like Trello (even if free) is that couple of years later the company could close down the product. You have seen it with Google and Google is even larger and more reputed than Fogcreek. And the reason you always hear is that they want to focus on core areas.

You will now be left with an XML dump of you data (if the provider even gives you access to your data) and the burden to code a half decent alternative for you to use the data.

That is why I would normally prefer services that has their code open sourced like teambox. It gives you the comfort that if you can get hold of your data, you could run with it from the very next day since you have all the tools already with you. https://github.com/teambox/teambox

That's pretty neat. I use Trello quite a bit but have some of these these reservations, so I just gave Teambox a look.

My initial impression is that it does way too much. There are a plethora of options and I just don't know what to do or what things are good for. Trello has more or less the right things in the right places and presents the right information. The learning curve is low and the usefulness high.

There are some things it does that I hypothetically like: for example, I think finding a way to cram ephemeral (not taking a burdensome place in the UI) but archived (for completeness) IRC-style conversations into Trello would be quite useful: sometimes the "activity" field is too heavy. I dislike the monolithic nature of Campfire rooms as well, so I think organizing chats around Trello cards is an intriguing concept.

All in all, I don't have a super complex and well-enriched bug database (that's elsewhere, and not really Trello's strength) in Trello, so if I had to move off, I'd take an afternoon or two or two and do it, although the upheaval to my planning would be annoying. The usability gains trump my leeriness of lock-in, but as a result I will probably never use particularly exotic features of Trello and constantly be looking for an open source replacement, even though I'm totally willing to fork over some dough for a hosted service.

My ideal would be if Trello.com made money hosting an open source Trello-the-project.

We just tried this out for hiring and it worked amazingly, we could all see at a glance who the obvious candidates were and kept a nice collection of votes for us so we didn't have to send out an annoying email every day.

If Trello implemented what DanielBMarkham said (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4219109) and what pgambling said (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4219092) then I would start using immediately for my day-to-day task management, and people I hire would be using it then too.

I've been pumped about this since I first saw them at Disrupt. I wasn't able to get TC signed up, but maybe I can get MSNBC...

I use Trello on a semi-regular basis, for what may be a unique thing. Use it on a monitor for a D&D initiative board. It's great for shared viewing, shared editing of sequence. It's scale-able for display on external monitors, and easily color coded.

Not it's intended use, but it's been a great improvement over a small whiteboard and magnets.

Read the whole thing without being told what Trello was. I have no idea. It could be a porn-site for all I could tell.

I use Trello on the side for project planning and was looking just the other day for a way to pay fog creek for Trello

(1) just so I can say I've paid them and have some minor commitment to maintaining my data and account

(2) and because I think it is a great product that I'm happy to part with a few bucks as a way of saying thank you.

We'd rather have you tell your friends and colleagues about the product than send us any money at this point. If you get one other person to use it, that would be vastly more valuable to us than a few bucks.

This looks like a tool I love called AgileZen Has anyone who has used both got an opinion?

Trello is more general purpose whereas agile zen really focuses on software development. You can use Trello for development as well but it doesn't provide fields for determining which build something was fixed in etc... You're sort of expected to do that yourself with more columns or commenting. They do have an API so you could have your build system manage cards as well.

I personally like it for the fact that it is so light weight though but for larger groups it may not be flexible enough.

AgileZen did all this and some of their initial customers were law firms--hardly software dev only.

Trello has an iOS app that is really it's biggest strength. I still like the full color cards for AgileZen over Trello, but they are both very similar.

Thanks for the great product, guys.

I use Trello to keep track of my work tasks, personal tasks, and game dev tasks. It's heavenly.

congrats! i've been meaning to try this out

Just signed up to trello not too long ago.

It's hard for me to differentiate it from PT. is there any killer features that stands out? It looks as cluttered as PT.

What languages is Trello based upon?

There's a lengthy write up here - http://blog.fogcreek.com/the-trello-tech-stack/

They somewhere said they use Node.js extensively on the server. And bootstrap is the framework.

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