Cool to see Fog Creek succeed like this. I've been following Joel for almost fifteen years (the now defunct Fog Creek message boards were some of the best on the internet for a couple of years).
From the beginning Joel made a simple assertion: Hire great people, give them a great environment, then sit back and watch them kick ass. He said this before all of this became conventional industry wisdom (and probably played a major role ushering it in). With products like CityDesk, FogBugz, and Copilot failing or seemingly meandering, it didn't really seem like much would come of it. But they kept at it and look at them now. I guess good software does take ten years (give or take) .
Of course it didn't hurt that Joel is one of the best bloggers who ever done it, and I'm sure at least Stack Overflow benefited tremendously from being seeded with Joel's captive audience, but they have still executed the hell out of it and continue to do so, and obviously continue to spawn awesome stuff on the side.
I agree. It's so strange now that I will often make references to Joel or his essays in talks and no-one will know who I'm talking about. I always have to explain that back in the day there were two big software essayists - PG and Joel. No youngsters knows Joel's stuff now - the internet's great at getting you today's news, yesterday's tends to get lost underfoot.
Joel if you're listening please come back to blogging. You're a great writer and I think you've got such an utterly different perspective on things now after having done SE and Trello that it would be a massive waste for you not to share it back with the world again.
I entered this industry in February 2012, but his essays have still had a major impact on me as a developer. Part of the credit for this goes to Jeff Atwood, who has retained a lot more visibility than Joel, for frequently linking back to early internet writing.
I think it's a cultural osmosis thing. If the older developers mention stuff like "We're a 9 on the Joel test" or "Obviously we shouldn't do a rewrite, what are we Netscape" or "Are code base is large enough that the tooling requires static typing" People will read the essays. If all anyone is talking about is tech-crunch, probably not
I've read it and I'd say that Steve Yeggie is making generalizations about static type systems using greatest common divisor of them all: Java.
He attributes the need for patterns to OCaml type system, where they aren't needed, for example. Or assumes that you need all interfaces up front.
Both those assumptions are not true!
I think SY is good at jealous humor like his post about "academy found an software engineer who cares about Haskell". That's his natural domain. I believe everything he writes is homorous and jealous, that way I don't have to think he is just plain stupid.
22, read most of Joel’s blog when I was 16, despite living in Nigeria with Snow.
I can’t imagine the youngsters of today never wondering who stands behind SO—and that brings you to JoS and CH too.
I’ve seen a different opinion though: people claiming Joel and Jeff spoiled a generation of developers by presenting subjective opinions as self-evident truths in the form of feel-good light reading. I don’t subscribe to this viewpoint but it’s worth mentioning.
His essays were collected into a book. One copy of the book is in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system. Also, I somehow managed to find and read his entire blog a couple years ago. His writing is not completely lost in time.
This is actually my favorite opening line to use at talks: "My name is Kasra and I run the mobile team at Stack Exchange. The first response I always get after I tell people that is 'why does the stock exchange need mobile apps?' and I'm here to explain that to you today, except you know, with the right company name."
Yes, an interesting definition of failing (I'd be happy to fail like that). Incidentally, you may be pleased to know that I continue to use the FogBugz homepage / website as my go-to example of great 'websites that sell stuff'.
Completely agree. Before HN became big, JoS forums (especially the Business Of Software forum) were my go to place to connect with fellow technologists. That is where I originally learned about Patrick Mckenzie.
Personally, Joel has been a big inspiration for me. He pretty much shaped how I view software development by writing those all time classic articles.
I know that for some people, this is an issue. The problem is the cost of switching to another name. For a ten year old product, the cost is IMMENSE. It can definitely be done, but it's a hard problem.
Naming is also really hard. We spent TONS of time picking out the name Trello and just narrowly avoided naming it something really stupid by serendipity. (The code name was Trellis, but all the domains were taken and we insisted on having a dotcom url).
We use it at work, and in fact my boss considers it and Kiln the best source control and bug/issue tracking software around, and I think it's pretty fantastic as well. The automatic gantt chart and probability of shipping metrics are pretty amazing. I don't know of anything else that lets you use git or Hg on the same repositories, which is great since you don't have to force your team to use one or the other.
Honestly, that sounds like a sad place to work. If the name just sounds "silly" you must not be working around software people that are very knowledgeable about the industry, otherwise they would know about FogBugz and Joel by now. I imagine many "enterprise" places are probably like that.
Joel is definitely a hero (to me) but I think this is unfortunately very far from conventional industry wisdom. Conventional industry wisdom is SW is easy, all SW people are interchangeable cogs, stick them in a cubicle and micromanage them...
I love Trello. We use it as our editorial workflow board at Mashable (meaning it is where stories live from assignment (or sometimes conception) to the various editing/publishing phases. We use it to visually see what is publishing next, to see embargos or scheduled posts for different areas and more importantly, to see what everyone else is working on.
To me, that's the hallmark of a good tool: when it can be used in an industry it really wasn't designed for (publishing workflow) as if it was built for that purpose.
I think especially with management tools like Trello robustness is a huge factor, everyone seems to have their own series of cobbled together processes that kind of work for them, but with the feeling that maybe if they could digitise $PRODUCTIVE_METHOD it would be more productive. Trello's robustness to this helps make it really valuable.
Me, too. We started using it and it pretty much made software management as simple as managing a McDonalds. I simply put in orders for code into Trello and watch as the items move from left to right. Then, we just booted everyone who wasn't finishing during their shift so we're running lean and mean. I can't believe people used to think of writing software as a "craft," and it's frustrating to me that it took so long for people to realize it, but I guess this is kind of like the iPhone of software dev.
I like trello and use it for personal stuff occasionally, but the work I do just can't be hosted somewhere else. Legally. So I hate web apps and cloud this, cloud that, mostly because they are no good to me.
The type of work I do would change before the need for controlled local hosting will--in other words it might be that mine line of work will become obsolete or transform so dramatically that the requirement of controlled local hosting is moot. That would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.
I wanted to use Kiln but then they silently stopped supporting the server version and removed it from their webpage. Good that I had not started with it before that happened.
We use FogBugz, hosted in house (can't have our data out in the open for several reasons) and with some custom plugins to integrate with other in house systems like serial number lookup. I recently learnt that they most likely kind of cancelled that codebase too, but did not tell anybody. They just stopped to provide updates and also removed the excellent and powerful ability for plugins with the "performance update" enabled (instead they but popular plugins directly in their code):
A VM is not really a solution for me for several reasons, especially if plugins are gone and our own will not work. I can only speculate, but it really looks that way. (They send newsletters to customers and announced the "performance update", but never talked about how and when this would come to "FogBugz for your Server")
I wish they were able keep the version for your server with plugins and without VM around.
Yeah we're long-time in-house Fogbugz users as well. We wanted to move to a local Kiln but it wasn't available any more so we rolled our own Git setup. I see why running things as a cloud service makes sense for Fog Creek but unfortunately it's not for us.
Since they're apparently planning paid Business and Enterprise versions, I wouldn't be surprised to see at least one of those be a fully in-house solution. If they're not letting people do their own installs they may follow the path of the Google Search Appliance.
On the other hand, it may not be affordable depending on the size of your shop, but that's a different matter.
We also have no plans to make an in-house solution. While the tide has not 100% turned, in most places at big companies like Amazon and Microsoft, they can already use SaaS solutions (you sign a big contract, but even if your app is on AWS, msft employees can use it). For the companies that cannot, the added complexity to development and support is likely not worth it (for us).
Since a business closing does not typically occur in week-long increments, probably not. "24 x 7 x 364" is generally understood to mean one day off a year (usually Christmas Day in the US), and "24 x 7 x 51" would not be clear at all.
we're enormous, with all the fun that entails, but for a purchase to be involved, the following criteria must be met:
1) it must be sufficiently expensive. free is bad
2) i must convince everyone on my department that this is "the new way" that we operate (i.e. everyone has to use trello just like I would)
3) i must show through some pseudo science how it improves efficiency to several layers of management
Unless something is super compelling, it's not worth the effort. And if it is super compelling, it probably won't be approved anyway.
I guess I'm pretty jaded about the whole thing. If there is a neat tool, or some productivity enhancement/stress reducer, I usually just find a way to use it myself under the radar and don't share it with anyone (which offends me greatly as it's a terrible waste).
I'd actually have to go through that process for emacs 24, though in that case it's getting past the IT gatekeepers and proving to them that emacs 24 won't bring down the cluster. So I find a way to compile and run it and just don't talk about it a lot.
But anything web appish is out of the question. I settle for org-mode in emacs, but it'd be nice to collaborate. Sadly with our process of onboarding something, there's no room for experimentation or feeling something out or developing a workflow that would be worth demonstrating.
I used to work at a client site where they wanted us to list all of the tools we used (as software developers) because they didn't want us to use these "computers" that we were using, in their offices on their network, and instead they wanted us to all code using citrix dumb terminals.
I no longer work at that client site, or for the company that sent me there.
Great to see Trello, Fog Creek and Joel doing well.
Joel/Fog Creek are one of the few entities in the startup ecosystem that I read about and think to myself, I want to be a CEO like Joel and build a company like Fog Creek.
A lot of startups claim they want to "change the world." And I think Joel can actually claim to have done that thanks to his influential blog and the humane company culture he's setup at Fog Creek. And this is without even counting stack exchange.
100% agreed. He is one of the first to inspire me at a young age to become an entrepreneur myself, and it's stuff like this that continues to inspire me:
"That architecture is all the stuff I spent ten years ranting on this blog about, but y’all don’t listen, so I’m just going to have to build company after company that runs my own wacky operating system, and eventually you’ll catch on. It’s OK to put people first. You don’t have to be a psychopath or work people to death or create heaps of messy code or work in noisy open offices."
So Trello is not currently profitably? "Fog Creek is profitable and could afford to fund Trello development to profitability." Given its growth rate and presumably low sales / marketing expenses, it would seem to be easy for them to be profitable.
I am no longer a Fog Creek employee (I left to join an education startup a bit ago), so this is not an official opinion, but anyway:
Joel wants Trello to grow a lot faster than Fog Creek could bootstrap it. In my personal opinion, a big reason why Copilot and Kiln never quite made it was that we didn't have the developer resources to dominate the market when we were in a good position to do so. Because we insisted on bootstrapping, we necessarily had very small teams, meaning that competitors, who were willing to go into debt to have larger teams, were able to come from behind and surpass us in both marketing and features. In other words, while both products are successful and profitable, they likely could've been a lot more successful and profitable if Fog Creek had thrown a lot more resources onto them back at the beginning.
What you're seeing with Trello is an attempt to avoid that happening again. Trello is currently in a strong leadership position; taking VC now to secure that will pay for itself later. While Trello could likely be profitable very quickly if Fog Creek wanted it to be, doing so would require a very small team bootstrapping itself again, meaning that Fog Creek could repeat the same mistake a third time. And that's why you're seeing this.
I don't agree with what you wrote at the end. It's not a "mistake" to bootstrap and have a much higher probability of success with a lower possible return. I know that's probably not what you meant, because you wrote earlier that we could have been "more successful", but it also ignores what would have been a much higher risk and loss of ownership in your assumption.
Joel and I are naturally conservative in nature and having succeeded at Fog Creek with what we set out to do (building a successful company where devs wanted to work) allowed us to swing for the fences with Trello and Stack Exchange. The risk is much higher. The reward is bigger, but we own a lot less of those VC funded companies.
Trello is one of those apps that you can dismiss too fast because you think it doesn't do enough, but which to come back to because everything else is too complex. I've been using it extensively, and it has almost gone viral around me. As in, every time someone needs to manage a project, I hear "Hey, what was this simple project management software you told me you're using for everything you do?", and there comes a new Trello user.
I even remember using it for managing my own time when I was working for a large Japanese company that was using excel spreadsheets to manage projects, so I could have a clear interface and use a quick and dirty piece of JS I wrote to generate the sacrosanct Daily Reports I was asked to provide.
Sometimes you need a detailed vertical app - like a bug tracker, or an applicant tracking system or a CRM. But a lot of times, you don't. You just need something simple because your needs aren't that complex. And using something you are familiar with is easier than trying to learn something new.
Trello is the always going to be a horizontal app. And sometimes people will need to move to something else to solve their problems. If you are using Trello as an ATS and you start getting 50 applications a day, you are going to go nuts. You need to switch to Jobvite or Greenhopper. If you have a team of 100 devs trying to track your bugs, you want to use FogBugz or Jira or Pivotal.
Joel used a metaphor that I like: The verticals are like stones on a beach and Trello is the sand that fills in all the space between.
In the future I think you'll see the Trello product evolving to support those other verticals and adding value (i.e. quick overview) in the way Trello does best.
At least as of mid-2012, HubSpot was using Trello exclusively for project tracking. Even then, Trello did more than enough to meet their needs. If you think you need a more complicated tool, you might want to rethink your process and workflow. /$.02
This has been pretty much exactly my experience as well.
I tried it out and didn't get hooked. Then I went to use a bunch other other similar pieces of software, and eventually came back to kick the tires again. I was pretty much 100% hooked at that point. I've been using it for almost everything for two months now. We use it on my team, and I use it for almost all my personal stuff.
I think I've gotten about fifteen or twenty people I know to use it. They really dig it as well. I feel like it's one of those pieces of software that really "gets out of your way" so to speak
It's incredible how such a simple idea could become so big.
I'm sat here trying to think up some grand scheme that's going to make me my millions. Its a great lesson that really all I need is a simple idea. The key is in the execution. Take that simple idea and develop (and market) it to perfection.
Once in a while in HN you see the question, "what side projects are making you passive money?". From my understanding, most of them are simple SAAS ideas fetching 200-300k. Eg, patio's appointment remainder app.
Instead of saying "I need a simple idea"...I think you should phrase it as "what is a simple pain point that I can solve"
I work at Trello. We actually don't think of Trello as Kanban. Trello at its core is a collaborative list of lists. You can use Trello to implement a Kanban workflow but Trello is not an implementation of Kanban. A lot of people use Trello for things like to organizing their soccer teams where there isn't a hint of Kanban -- each list could be a game and people add themselves to indicate that they want to play.
I think the great thing about Trello is simplifying down to a pure visual metaphor.
Trello is about putting lists of cards on boards. That's it.
You can use it to do all kinds of things, but it's a medium rather than a framework. When I've tried other to-do list apps, or project management tools, etc. they all end up becoming too restrictive. They try to teach you to do the right thing in the right way, not realizing that it is different for different people.
Joel himself once talked about Excel, and how for most people, Excel isn't about spreadsheets, or formulas, or calculations - it's about laying things out in a grid. That's it. People just want to be able to write things in columns and rows, and colour them. And that simple behaviour is incredibly powerful.
> "Trello is about putting lists of cards on boards. That's it."
100% this, for me.
That's how I'm able to get people to use it. They ask a lot of questions about what means what and assume it's more complicated than it is. As soon as they realize that the top level metaphor is seriously just a board with cards, they're like "Oh! that's really cool. I can use this" and they're off.
I don't think that's what he/she meant, I don't even think the 'kanban' was about Trello. It's about taking something relatively simple, then honing it to perfection. That is how you make great stuff - not by building something huge that only works most of the time, and even then only satisfactory. Kanban is about small improvements every day, for many days, applying the power of compounded improvement so to say.
I think it's simple in the "simple made easy" kind of way that Rich Hickey has spoken about . I think something can be deep, refined, and simple. I'd also say that those are my favorite concepts. I guess it's what I think of when I use the word 'elegant'.
It's really clean and straight-forward to use, but the simple components provide a lot of flexibility and power, while being easy to teach someone.
I use trello for just about everything, and I would have dropped it a long time ago if it took more than five minutes to show someone how to use the fundamental concepts. I can get them up and running in no time, and the users (even non technical users) tend to find all the interesting bits on their own as they go.
Trello at its core is just a list of lists. Very simple concept.
It can be used to implement more deep ideas such as Kanban, but these aren't forced on you.
I remember before Trello came out I needed an app that provided a list of lists (who doesn't). I designed it all out but never implemented it. I saw how much competition there was in the space. There are hundreds of tasks list and to-do apps out there.
So when Trello was announced I secretly scoffed at them thinking they were doomed from the start for choosing such an obvious and already implemented idea.
Still I signed up and started using it. It has been fascinating to see the app evolve and become a huge success. I only feel a little bit miffed that it was something I almost did myself since I know I would not have implemented it anywhere near as well.
Dog fooding our own software is one of our greatest strengths: We use FogBugz and Trello to build Kiln, Trello is built from Kiln and Trello. Fogbugz is built from Kiln and FogBugz. (And Joel On Software is built with CityDesk, may it rest in peace.)
I completely agree with your first point. Being able to actually delete boards would be great, rather than having 5 archived boards.
I disagree with your second, but am genuinely interested as to why you might want this.
The idea is with Trello and other kanban systems is you move tasks from the left to the right. If your intent was to create another type of transition, you're breaking the underlying concept. If your intent is to break up a single list into multiple small lists for organisation, could you use something like colour coding instead?
edit: have just read further down that they don't intend for it to be a strict Kanban system, so perhaps there's room for multiple lists in a column. I'm still interested in your specific problem though!
Imagine the value Trello brings you today. Imagine the value it brings you with these two features.
Is it really different enough that it crosses the threshold of being worth using?
I find that hard to imagine. How much time do you spend looking at archived boards? What would you do with two lists in a column that you can't do today with one list that has some "subtitle" cards?
I'm asking because I'm genuinely curious to know use cases like that, not rhetorically.
My own problem with Trello (that I use a lot despite that problem) is that I feel the need for more than one view of my data, i.e. sorting it in more than one dimension. Perhaps having the ability to have two boards with the same cards. Unfortunately, I cannot imagine any good UI for this.
I wish cards could be tagged. I use labels for overall categorization but I need tagging to tie cards back to our project management system (which I find unusable for actual project management). Currently I just make the first line of the notes my faux tag.
It's s minor gripe though, Trello is pretty great.
Trello has quite a good API that you can use. It's trivial to hook it into whatever other system you happen to use. We linked Trello to our Redmine ticketing system, and it works pretty well for our needs.
I've been using Trello daily for over a year now to keep track of projects and tasks at work, and it has been great. While I sometimes freak out that Trello alone holds my work to-do list (instead of nice, safe paper and pen), I have yet to experience any significant downtime or lost data.
Great news, congratulations. I'm interested to hear what people think about it's chance of survival now. As part of Fog Creek they started monetising Trello and had a chance of building a long-term business. Now with the investment there is greater risk they will end up acquired and shut down. On all the Trello threads here people have always been very worried about that scenario.
> In 2010, the company spun off Stack Exchange Inc.
This is not what actually happened. As far as I remember, Stack Overflow had nothing to do with Fog Creek per se, except for Joel begin a founder of both. Stack Exchange Inc. grew from Stack Overflow Internet Services LLC which Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky were founders of. Fog Creek did not make Stack Overflow.
Congrats on the funding from a happy gold member. I use it to manage (and not forget) all the many small things I need to do or to keep track of ideas for the future. One of the biggest features is that is does not mandate a workflow because it's just boards with lists with cards. I use it in ways partly inspired by Kanban, Getting Things Done, and the typical calendar.
After trying so many tools, pivotal tracker, asana, google docs, Trello was so refreshing and easy to use I immediately became an evangelist. I think a key feature is you can share it with non-techincal folks and it makes sense to at least some degree right away. Yay Trello, happy you will be around for a long time to come!
One of the biggest things I loved about Joel and the entire Fog Creek / SO history is that it always felt like a company. A real business with real people. Not a cartoon and not a sweatshop. I hope with this news Trello continues down that path.
Amazing to see the journey of a a blogger & company I have admired for the past 15 years. His blog was one of those inspirations for me to want to start building my own business. Big fan of Trello here. Many congratulations.
What do you all use Trello for? I've tried a number of different task management systems, including Trello, but I haven't yet found a use case for Trello feels 100% perfect. Curious to hear how others are using it!
Love how Trello is customizable to everything I want. Easy to integrate with other services, utilize their card feature and generally make task management easier. Very happy for the Trello and Fog Creek team. Look forward to seeing how it evolves on its own these coming years!
disclaimer: There's absolutely no real thought about how I'd implement this as I'm saying it.
I like trello a lot. I'm practically obsessed with it.
It works really well for my small teams and my personal life.
A couple people have said it doesn't scale well to larger teams (with necessary ymmv disclaimers).
I wonder if that's because of how inherently formless and simple it is (which I think is its strength). It's a very general metaphor that narrows to lots of specific use cases easily. It'd be interesting if there were more optional constraints you could add to boards/cards/etc to formalize a specific workflow. I'm just shooting from the hip here, not sure what that would look like.
Anyone else seeing lots of parallels in functionality between Trello and Google Keep (keep.google.com). I have been using keep a lot since google got rid of their google.com/ig homepage. Not finding a overwhelming reason to migrate to Trello.
It's Facebook for enterprise. Basically, everyone in your company joins the social network and you have a wall, and can post and follow others and message, etc... My company has it and much like Facebook, I have an ongoing love hate relationship with it.
I'm in a completely remote company of ~65 people, and it's purpose is likely to replace some of the water cooler talk and serendipitous culture that you miss out on in virtual work spaces. I don't think it does this, but I'm also a pretty light user.
My team tried it several times over the first 1 - 2 years it was out. I have not tried it recently. That said, at that time, we could never get it to stick. It was good for high level stuff, but like all project management software, we ended up constantly working to keep it in sync with reality. This was especially acute when using github because for any stuff that was code-related, we were basically duplicating tickets and tracking in both places. So github tickets were the real source of truth and Trello always lagged. Once that happens, the non-code milestones start to suffer as you start wondering why you're doing all this in the first place.
Tracking issues in github (and we use FogBugz as well) has the benefit of being where the "rubber meets the road", so it's effortless and transparent to keep up to date. Merging non-code tasks (e.g. design work) with code is still something we struggle to track and keep tabs on.
I definitely gave this some thought, I think it's not so straightforward though. There is a bit of an impedance mismatch between the things that a bug tracking system emphasizes and captures and the things a project management system captures. Simply porting bugs over isn't a clean solution and can lead to confusion among non-developers when the bugs are highly technical. Github makes it especially hard because there is no support for dependencies so you can't roll up a bunch of individual technical tasks under one umbrella without lots of extra effort.
To be clear: while I can describe the problem, I honestly don't have any ideas what the most elegant or clean solution is. I have never found a satisfactory solution. I end up keeping lots of stuff in my head and writing summary emails.
We implemented Trello + Github sync with Waffle.io and it was as close to perfect we could get without spending a bunch of time writing our own code to do it. It still wasn't perfect however and I spent a lot of time making sure things were in-sync, which on a normal schedule wasn't a huge deal, but when fires popped up would become a very small priority.
I'm surprised no one has built a better way to do this. We tried syncing with Zapier first (a company I absolutely love), but if I recall correctly it was a one-way sync, and we needed it to go both ways.
Yes, we (at https://codeable.io) use Trello for pretty much all internal (async) communications, from Sprints (user stories) to features, to ideas,...
No learning curve, exactly the right features.
And also there's something I like in Trello that Basecamp (I know comparing apples to oranges, but both can be used for similar purposes) doesn't support: closure. When something is no longer relevant, you archive it and it's gone, no more mental burden. Quite important when you have 100s of tickets.
My research lab uses Trello to coordinate on protocols, results, and publications. Each project gets a board, with lists for each step in the process. Cards are used to describe what was done in the processes like a typical lab notebook. Add on comments and file attachments and we can collaborate remotely.
The itch I needed scratched was that Trello lists sometimes disintegrate into junk-drawers. Their API let me build something to pull out a list, let the team rank the cards and then reimport it into Trello. Yay for killer APIs! http://blog.forcerank.it/tame-your-trello-backlog
I've used it when needed (i.e. someone picks that to get started), but honestly Pivotal Tracker is the same thing with more features and even crusty old JIRA has an agile board view option it nowadays where you can drag card versions of the JIRAs around. So Trello is kind of an also-ran that doesn't compare well with the current leader or the industry standard.
I use it for personal project managing but I knew it was popular when my girlfriend's sister was showing it to her Dad. She does R&D (chemistry) at a water proofing sealant company. The company has 30 employees and they use it to track projects. I need to get out of my software bubble and realize that a lot of tools can be applied to other industries.
Yes. It works well for us because you build your process on it rather than having a process dictated to you. A lot of the "agile" project management tools are too opinionated about how you should work, and hence are difficult to use unless your process fits exactly.
I consider myself pretty adept at UX and have no real issues with Trello and it's been quick to learn and use for our technical and non technical staff alike. It may have slight issues but nothing in the scale your comment suggests.