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?