Bringing Simple Back Mingle in 2014

Posted by Ethan Teng

21 April 2014

Mingle’s super power is its configurability. You can configure Mingle to support any way of working, from Scrum, Kanban, or your team’s own process. However, as with any great super hero, you have to learn to control your powers in order to use them for good. This year, we are focused on making Mingle’s super power easier for you to wield and build great things with.

Our mantra this year is “Bring Simple Back”

By the end of 2014, simple, everyday tasks like creating or editing cards will feel as natural as grabbing a pen and writing on an index card. And, more “advanced” tasks like changing your card wall or adding a new type of card will be so easy you won’t have to resort to searching our online help to figure it out.

I know that may sound like a bunch of puppies and unicorns, but what does this really mean? How will we do it? Let’s break it down.

Making the everyday feel natural

Viewing, creating, and editing cards are common, everyday tasks. But, until recently you couldn’t perform these basic actions directly from the card wall.

We’ve already made this experience a lot better. From the card wall, you can now drag and drop new cards onto the wall from the infinitely renewable stack of cards (what we affectionately refer to as “magic cards”) located in the bottom-left corner. Also, you can see a preview of any card on your card wall just by clicking it. Then, simply double-click to start editing its title or contents.

Over the next few months, we will make this experience even better. You’ll soon be able to tag a card; edit its property values; change what kind of card it is; and even delete it, all from the card preview. We’ll also be adding auto-save for cards so you never lose your work again.

This is all to make the common, everyday interactions with Mingle cards feel as natural as writing on, marking up, and even ripping up a physical index card.

Even in a digital world, things can feel tactile

One of the best things about having a physical wall is that you can easily pin your team’s avatars on cards, draw red dots on cards that are blocked, or (in our team’s case) stick a cat sticker on story cards that need to be toggled. (That’s fodder for another blog post!)

We believe that once you move to a digital wall, you shouldn’t have to give up this immediate, tactile interaction.

So, we’ll be adding a sense of “tactility” (yes, it is a word!) to Mingle. We’ve already taken a step in this direction by showing your team’s avatars on cards. Soon, we’ll be making it possible to drag and drop avatars, tags, and icons (like “!” for priority, and maybe even a cat or two) directly onto cards.

With a single physical wall, you don’t run the risk of people seeing different versions of the same thing. However, that requires everyone always be sitting and working together in the same place. This is no longer realistic as teams become increasingly distributed. So, teams are moving to digital tools like Mingle. But, if someone in your office makes a change in Mingle, the remote members of your team won’t immediately see those changes unless they remember to click “refresh.” This is not good and fails our “tactile” test. We believe a digital wall should be as effective in helping distributed teams stay in sync as a single physical wall is for teams who sit together. So, we will definitely be making good on this.

Finally, to give a true tactile experience, we’ve also made Mingle touch-responsive. Feel free to pull it up on your iPad or (better yet) touchscreen TV and give it a try. The only action that doesn’t yet work that well is ‘drag’. We need to spend a bit more dev effort to make that work, and we will.

Your card wall as a dashboard

Sure, the card wall is good for showing what work is in progress. But, that’s not really enough anymore. Moving forward, we want to help you and your team be able to quickly and easily answer these other important questions, just by looking at your card wall:

In fact, we already help you answer the first two questions! We now show avatars on the cards on your card wall, and Cycle Time Analytics is constantly running behind the scenes. In addition to improving on these interactions over the next few months, we will help you answer the other two questions, all from the card wall.

Also, as more teams begin to work in a flow-based manner, being able to set WIP limits – and calling out when teams go over those limits – is becoming increasingly important. You can also expect to see this coming soon to a card wall near you.

Empowering teams to DIY

Mingle’s true power – and what distinguishes it from the other tools out there – is its configurability. It is the only tool in the market that gives you absolute freedom over how it is configured, from the columns on your card wall, down to the types of cards your team needs, and even the properties of those cards.

But, it’s not easy to configure Mingle today. We’ve hidden away much of the configuration under obscure admin settings. As a result, teams do not feel empowered to self-organize and change Mingle themselves. This is definitely not the behavior we want to encourage. We want you to change Mingle to support your process as you evolve and improve over time.

So, we’ve done something about it. And, we’re going to do more.

Changing your card wall to add or remove a column, or even rename one, used to require lots of digging into the project admin settings. Now, you can directly add, remove, (drag to) reorder, and (click to) rename the columns of your card wall.

Also, adding a member of your team to Mingle used to be a rather laborious admin task. Now, just click “invite”, type in their email address, and you’re done!

Next up, we’ll be improving the tabs in Mingle. Soon, you will be able to drag to reorder tabs, group less important ones into a “More” tab, and create or rename tabs with a single click.

Seeing the complete picture

Finally, Mingle is great at providing visibility into what your team is working on. But, it can be better at providing the complete context about that work. For example, what conversations have taken place that are related to the work in progress? What are the relevant check-ins? What documents outside of Mingle contain additional information about the work?

Mingle already lets you comment on cards or “murmur” a message to your entire team (or directly at a specific member of your team), but both comments and murmurs are rather hidden and easily overlooked today. We will be changing this and making them more front-and-center so it’s easier to see what conversations are taking place. In addition, we plan on improving notifications so that people on your team don’t miss out on important information being shared with them.

But, we know lots of conversations happen outside of Mingle. For example, HipChat is becoming an increasingly popular communication tool among software teams. We want to bring those conversations into Mingle, and also communicate what’s going on in Mingle to teams as they chat in HipChat. So, we will be looking at ways to integrate Mingle and popular chat tools like HipChat this year.

Also, a team’s check-ins are as important (or more!) as the conversations about the work. Mingle onsite supports integrations with a variety of SCM tools, like Git. We currently don’t support SCM integration in Mingle in the cloud but definitely feel it’s important.

Finally, if you’re like us, we have documents, prototypes, screenshots, and even videos spread across a variety of sources: Google Docs, Dropbox, Meteor, etc. And it’s becoming harder and harder to find everything related to the work in progress. Wouldn’t it be great if Mingle could be the place to look for and find everything related to a particular story? We think so! So, we plan to look into these types of integrations, as well.

We want YOU!

We’ve already done a lot to “Bring Simple Back” while keeping true to Mingle’s roots of being the only tool that you can configure “soup to nuts” to support how your team works, today and down the road as your team evolves. And, as you’ve now seen, we have a lot more in store for Mingle! And while these are our primary themes for the year, they are not meant to be exclusive. We are constantly learning and adapting based on the needs of our customers, the market, and our business. Keep an eye on this space to stay up-to-date with any changes to these themes.

Speaking of learning and adapting, we are always looking for customers to speak with, show prototypes to, get feedback from, and potentially even roll out new features to first. If you’re interested in working with us to make Mingle the best tool out there, let us know. Just leave a comment for us here or tweet us @thatsmingle. We’ll be in touch soon!

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