Eating Our Own Dog Food

IMG_20160617_105851

The development team at ANSWR is a small group still – we all sit in one room at our offices in downtown Boston. On any given day we can be overheard working through requirements, debating the value of new features, helping each other solve problems and answering each other’s questions about why certain code works the way it does during code reviews. Of course, that’s when we’re not arguing over where to find the best burritos (Villa Mexico) or coffee (Gracenote) near South Station.

A few months ago, throughout all of those conversations and the many hours of collaboration – whether in person or over HipChat – we started to see a pattern of the same or similar questions reappearing multiple times. Problems that one developer had solved weren’t getting filtered efficiently to other developers, questions were just getting asked to and answered by the same person who had figured it out the first time, over and over again. It was becoming an anchor on the productivity of the whole team and wasting hours per week that as small group, we didn’t have the luxury of.

The thing was that each of us had all spent a shitload of time using our own software – we installed it, uninstalled it, ran searches, tagged and annotated thousands of pieces of content during development but we never, as a team, USED our software as we expected other teams to. We were so focused on building the best product possible for our customers that we lost sight of why we started ANSWR in the first place: to make knowledge creation, sharing and recall easier for all types of teams.

That’s when we decided to eat our own dog food, for real – and it really worked.

We cleared out the old test data, set up a fresh new team, added all of the developers to it and started using our Chrome extension to tag “real” content that the team was finding helpful, wanted to share with others or just remember for themselves. Over the past few months, we’ve curated hundreds of pieces of useful content found during Google search sessions and teased out of Confluence on wide ranging topics as diverse as debugging memory leaks in Ruby applications to writing obscure SQL aggregations for Redshift to cleaning the dust of out our laptops.

All of this newly curated content is being shared by the team every day though our HipChat Bot and at the top of our Google searches and we’re now seeing real benefits.

We’ve seen a remarkable uptick to the teams productivity by shaving off those repetitive search hours we were previously wasting – freeing us up to push through our debt and feature backlogs more efficiently.

We’re also collaborating better and more transparently because we are sharing more and more frequently about what everyone is working on and searching for.

And the best result of eating our own dog food (and why you should too) has been discovering new features that, as users, we want to see on the platform that we may not have thought about or prioritized as highly before. Hashtag searches from the Chrome omnibox anyone?

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.59.07 AM

 

TryForFree


Learn more about how ANSWR can help you curate smarter and share better with your team.

Keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Eating Our Own Dog Food

Search Sucks

1-BOx5kCCEeGaHJ8ozn3BN-w

For those of us in the tech industry, who rely heavily on the internet to do our jobs, having all of the world’s information at our fingertips can be both empowering and disarming at the same time.

Whether we’re talking about software developers with a coding problem or support engineers with hardware issues, our first stop is the Internet and most likely a Google search. From there we bounce between different sites, scroll through forums and retool our queries in an effort to identify the best answer for the problem at hand.

Each of these search missions seems to take frustratingly longer than it should and is often made up of many queries and results strung together to find just one answer. Then, just like us, our teammates consistently embark on the same or similar time consuming search missions in an effort to find those solutions again at a later date. Let’s face it, search sucks but repetitive search sucks interminably more.

When one person on your team finds the answer, everyone should have it.

I have tried many different techniques to avoid relentlessly banging my face on my keyboard in frustration when I can’t find the elusive piece of content that I ran into on the internet a few weeks ago. They all eventually become unwieldy.

Seriously, how many bookmarks can one person have and maintain? I’ve also turned to internal wikis and various knowledge systems to keep track of important information and share it with my teams but they all seem to go stale rather quickly, requiring an inordinate amount of care and feeding.

1-_kN5aeT3ab5kg5L_7bEu_A

All curation grows until it requires search. All search grows until it requires curation.” — Benedict Evans

Curate, Annotate, Share

The key principal of taking the time to curate information is to avoid that frustration and to make finding the answers faster a second, third and fourth time. It’s also to keep your teammates from doing the same by sharing pertinent information with them in a seamless way.

All of my half-measures and attempted solutions just shifted the problem from one system to another and so on. Ideally, I’d be able to mark a useful piece of content, make a few notes on it, share it with my team and never think about it again until I or one of my teammates need to access it.

At ANSWR we were built upon this principal and feel that we have the solution. Browser based, one click sharing and annotation of valuable information, seamlessly integrated into how you already work. We save you and your team time and a few broken keyboards.

TryForFree


Learn more about how ANSWR can help you curate smarter and share better with your team.

Keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Search Sucks