Saw this article by the CEO of Basecamp about using it to keep Basecamp employees in the loop...can I customize Redmine to do this? Can I make Redmine as easy to use as this?

Added by the fury about 7 years ago

I saw this during breakfast a few days back and it really got the hamster wheel in my brain spinning

It talks about a few items - message board, automatic check-ins, and todos. Now, message board is relatively straightforward, as Redmine already has one. Todos I think could be done by a custom Redmine issue tracker where anyone could assign anyone. Automatic checkins, I'm not sure how I'd do that. Above all, I'm not sure how I'd make Redmine pull it all together in a nice intuitive package like it seems Basecamp has, at least in that setup that they showed off.

I've been using Redmine with a couple of team members over the last couple of years (a couple of software guys and a test guy who verifies issues as fixed once software is released), and have logged hundreds of issues and solved many of them, including having integrated it with git so that we can directly reference a Redmine issue from a git commit to keep it all together. But this workflow is pretty isolated to just the software, and I haven't gotten much traction at getting, e.g., the hardware team, or the research & development projects (where there's mostly thoughts and discussions of what new hardware or software will eventually look like) on board to Redmine. And for the most part if someone does use Redmine, it's simply that they turn on the email firehose and receive email for all updates on all projects, and then forward an email to whomever they'd like to discuss. That's a couple dozen engineers (including the boss) that are still used to sharing work over email, dropping files on a network drive, and hashing it out on whiteboard diagrams that never leave the conference room (save for somebody takes a picture of it with their phone and...sigh...emails it around).

I think part of it is that there's a high amount of friction to learning and using Redmine. The UI is a rather utilitarian one that scares away most of the people I've tried to get to use it. I don't mean to offend with that statement, as I know it's a hell of a lot of work to design such a sophisticated system. And we're talking a free and open source system as opposed to a company who makes their living on making an easy to use product, so I understand it's a different ball game. I'm not much of a wizard with CSS / template design, but I'd like to know what I could do to try to decrease that friction, so that if it's even possible to mirror those things that the Basecamp guys have done, it's in an easy self-explanatory UI that plugs everything in well.

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RE: Saw this article by the CEO of Basecamp about using it to keep Basecamp employees in the loop...can I customize Redmine to do this? Can I make Redmine as easy to use as this? - Added by the fury over 6 years ago

There's been some significant improvements in Redmine in the last few months, especially with the + button, "new wiki page", etc. Pat on the back, Redmine contributors! Thank you for your service. I wish I was better at coding in Ruby and could contribute something other than wish lists myself :(

I would like to refresh this topic with my latest thoughts, and in case anyone else has any ideas on how to use Redmine to apply those "heartbeat" practices in the aforementioned article. I'm currently using a Basecamp as described for the heartbeats, and it's got some traction, and I think it's kind of undermining my efforts to get people to use Redmine.

My brainstorms:
  • Set up a cron job type deal to automatically post a new thread in a heartbeats forum at the beginning of each week -> "what are you working on this week?" and the end of each day -> "what did you work on today?".
    • Everyone who's "watching" the forum gets emailed, can reply to the email or log into Redmine to post.
    • But how do I make people watch a forum by default?
    • And then there are company holidays, etc. where I would not want it to post
    • I don't have the faintest clue how to set up a cron job or plugin to do this. I've managed to get the crontab to refresh repositories and check for emails, but that's about it. (and the repository check doesn't seem to generate email notifications if a commit fixes an issue)
  • Set up a new issue tracker, "Heartbeat Request" to serve in place of using Basecamp's "to-dos" as the article described.
    • Reply in the issue? Or make a new thread in heartbeats forum?
      • If in the forum, it could get washed away in the flood of daily/weekly checkins.
      • But if in the issue, then daily/weekly updates and periodical (on-demand/monthly/etc) status updates aren't in the same place.
  • Or, simply use the heartbeats forum for heartbeat requests.
What it would still be missing compared to Basecamp:
  • Mobile/desktop/browser push notifications. Basecamp has that done pretty well, and I'm not sure how to make Redmine do that, or if that would be valuable anyway if email notifications and mobile web work well enough.
  • Multiple assignees (other than creating a new usergroup, which isn't always convenient).
What I've done lately in my Redmine install:
  • WYSIWYG wiki editor
  • CMS plugin with a couple pages built up with some project grids (big easy clicky buttons). The grids take part of the project description (in settings) as their card face. The first line of the project description is a short (one-line, few words) phrase of what it is in brief, then the project description includes the main wiki page, and then the last line of the description is an image of the project (either a customer logo or a stock photo if it's not a customer-specific project). The result is that on the grid overview page, they see the project name, short one-liner and a big image. The big images tend to help, I'm told. And then clicking on each project card takes them to the Redmine main project page for it, which has the full description including the main wiki page (which generally tends to be elevator pitchy--how do you describe this project to someone who has no idea what's going on within the company?) and all of the project tabs Redmine users are familiar with.
We range from the most neckbearded geek who loves to stay on top of the latest tech (me) to the "can't teach an old dog new tricks" type that will just refuse to use any tool no matter how easy. Most of the people who've been invited to our Basecamp have figured it out, but that isn't the case with our Redmine. So, what I still need to do:
  • Figure out how to teach people how to use it, or how to make its UI more discoverable.
    • CMS/wiki pages self-documenting how to use it?
    • Some kind of built-in onboarding javascript tour?