Dev Diary 21 – I know what you did last planning

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Hi hacknplanners!

This iteration has been focused on putting in place the activity log, a feature many of you have been requesting since almost the beginning. We started to build this system long ago, but we were not sure about the first approach we took and decided to rewrite it from scratch. The change was so big we couldn’t reuse the data we had been tracking under the hood for many months now, which really sucks but, on the other hand, the new system handles better very important aspects like performance and scalability, so we think it’s worth it. Bare in mind we are going to track almost every action you make, which means loads of data stored on our servers. In order to let you see some activity right away, we started tracking task-related actions a week ago, so you can see some data there.

We also added changes to our permission scheme, introducing a new access level with very limited writing capabilities, which is very useful for contractors or temporary employees.  Let’s take a deeper look at these and other improvements:

Features and improvements

Activity log: 

We have built an activity log that has been integrated into different pages within the application, in order to provide a record of actions performed on tasks and other elements of the system. The log is sorted by date descending, so recent actions are shown first. The log has a scroll-based pagination system, so you can just scroll down continuously to go back in the timeline. In the future, we plan to add search and filter capabilities to make finding specific information easier.

The activity log has been added to 5 different places in the application:

  • Task editor (Personal & Studio): We have added a new tab to the editor, where you can track the complete lifecycle of the task.
  • Design element editor (Personal & Studio): We have also added a new tab to the design element editor that is displayed when you select an element in the game design model section. This log shows all the activity related to the element, including its tasks (and these actions of tasks that once were part of it) and other updates like changes of name, type, description…
  • Project section (Studio only): We have added a new tab to the Project section of HacknPlan Studio projects, where any activity related to the project is displayed sequentially. Perfect to have a full overview of what’s going on on the project.
  • Milestone section (Studio only): The Milestone section also contains a tab including the log for the activity of the milestone and the tasks inside. This is good to evaluate and detect what’s been the cause of bottlenecks, delays… and learn from your performance in an iterative way.
  • Team section (Studio only): The Team section display the activity of each user within the project, so you can now follow the trail of the actions of all your team members. This is especially useful when you have contractors or other external parties working with you. Although we provide such feature, nothing works better than having a team culture based on trust and not on surveillance, so we hope you don’t need this functionality too much and, if you do, it’s for you to analyze and improve your own performance.

It’s important to notice that some sensitive activity, like updating the permissions of a user, is not shown to everyone, but just to admins or the involved users depending on the case.

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The new permission editor

Permissions:

We have added a new access level to our permissions scheme, called “Update only”. This level gives very limited writing capabilities to the user for a certain category, and it is especially useful when you have external parties working with you and you want them to be able to track their work, but not with the freedom to create, delete or update any field of your tasks. So, what can these users do then? The can perform the following actions on tasks they have been assigned to:

  • Sort and move tasks among columns.
  • Change the final cost of a task.
  • Add attachments and set them as cover (but not delete them).
  • Complete or reopen sub-tasks (but not create, edit or delete them).
  • Add comments (but not delete them).

Performance improvements:

We have added some client cache systems to reduce the number of calls to the server, which means a smoother navigation and quicker response to actions. We will keep working regularly on making the tool the most performant and productive we can; the user experience is always one of our priorities.

Other small improvements:

  • Set the project name as the page title, so you can easily identify the tabs when you are working on several projects at the same time.
  • Added tooltips to card icons on Studio projects.
  • Added status colors to milestone metrics on Studio projects, so you can easily see when something is wrong.
  • Some small UI improvements for the task editor, comment sections and others.

 

Bug fixes

  • Sometimes the manual sorting using drag and drop wasn’t working properly. The new position was correctly saved to the server, but the visual representation was not consistent.
  • Fixed a small typo in the text of one of our notification emails.
  • Fixed a bug related to permissions for HacknPlan Studio organizations, which made some project owners have inconsistent permissions after importing their personal projects into the organization.
  • The task search system wasn’t finding any results for strings containing special characters like accent marks.
  • The status icon was not shown on the tasks listed in the Team section.
  • When a milestone had no due date, editing it was automatically setting it to today’s date.
  • Thanks to user Keian Collins who reported a quite complex and rare use case that makes you receive notification about a comment on a task from a project you already left, we fixed it immediately, as privacy is one of our priorities.

What’s next?

The next milestone will bring both Studio and Personal users many interesting features. We will add the first integration with GitHub for Studio users, allowing you to link commits with tasks in HacknPlan, track them in the activity log and receive notifications. We will also work in some important core features, like a cost logging system, platform customization, a downloadable backup of your data and other surprises.

Happy planning!

Chris Estevez

HacknPlan Founder

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