First App for Our Startup


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We needed a way to test the development environment based on JIRA Studio and the best way we could come up with was to do a real app. That way we can go through the entire life-cycle of a project and confirm that the tools will do the job. And more importantly, we’ll start working on the kind of app that interests us.

Actually doing a project, and not just talking or thinking about it, is a world of difference and we’ve learnt a lot and its opened our eyes to many things that we hadn’t considered before.

Not to make things too complicated for ourselves, we decided on a simple image guessing game for Android mobile phones. The user would be shown a grid of images and would then have to guess the word that matches. But we wanted to do all the things needed for getting the game into the Android app market.

So were to start? You need at least have a project description and set of features. For that we started using the Confluence wiki to document the initial project outline. Once we were fairly comfortable with the scope of the project, we mapped the high-level features to tasks in JIRA. Each task had descriptions, a schedule and a developer assigned. Together these tasks made up the project plan.

JIRA Studio also hosts a SVN repository to store the software code which is then pulled into the Eclipse IDE for development. A very nice option we started using was Eclipse Mylyn which pulls in all the tasks right into the Eclipse development environment and makes a developer more task-focused and more productive. That way the developer doesn’t have to flip between the web-based tools and the development environment to work on tasks; tasks are integrated in a seamless experience.

One aspect about JIRA Studio is that its project management tools based on the Agile methodology. It’s not important that you know what that means since you aren’t forced to used that, but it does mean that if you have experience with tools such as Microsoft Project, then there isn’t anything like that. You basically end up with managing short lists of prioritized tasks. So that was something for me to get used to and I even looked around for some other tools to could fill that gap. But after thinking about it more, there might be advantages to keeping the first set of features small and not completely lay out the entire roadmap of the project at the beginning.

During development we realized that we needed more tasks to track, like how we were going to market the app and how we were going to generate income from the app. We adjusted the list of tasks and with Mylyn integration it was very easy for everyone to keep up with these changes.

Once we had the first version of our app ready, we did some testing ourselves using software simulators and real Android phones. We found some bugs and so created some JIRA bug tasks to track that too.

We ran into some issues with the hosted tools: once the web server became unresponsive and we had to file a support ticket. Fortunately, Atlassian resolved the issue within several hours by restarting our host instance but it still wasn’t clear what exactly went wrong. We also had a few instances where Mylyn could not contact the API for the JIRA tasks. We figured out that you had to log out of the web site and Eclipse and then log back into both to resolve the issue.

Another concern is that Atlassian decides which capabilities they will put on all the hosts, so you cannot extend the capabilities of the hosted software by installing your own plugins. They do have a process where you can ask for new plugins and then they will consider those for the next version of the Studio software. Another gotcha was that some of the software that is part of the 30 day trial are commercial and not part of the Atlassian suite. These include some diagramming tools and time management tools, so if you want to keep using those you have to pay for them on top of the Studio hosting costs.

Up to now, we’ve been very happy with the experience and it looks like we’ve found what we’ve been looking for in a hosted development environment.

If there is anybody in the same situation as us, I have one good suggestion: start working on something simple; you’ll quickly find out if it’s the kind of thing you would want to do. You’ll also figure out if you have the right kind of tools and if you have the right set of people to get the job done. Better to figure this out early in the startup than plunge head-first into something without any kind of early validation.

Image courtesy of Flickr user akaalias.

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