Articles by Amanda Bizzinotto

Introducing Points - A blind estimation tool from OmbuLabs

At OmbuLabs our goal is always to smooth processes, and make work easier. Isn’t that what software engineering is really all about in the first place?

When we are getting ready to do a project or to make a proposal one of the questions that we are always asked by clients is “how long will it take”? To come up with an estimate on timing we like to use a system of points and blind estimates by multiple team members to find an average of how complex the project will be. We can then use this information, together with our database of delivered projects, to estimate how long the project will take.

To accomplish this, and make the process smoother we built a tool called Points and now we have moved it to open source in case it can be of use to any other teams out there!

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Using Tettra to Keep our Content Organized

At OmbuLabs we use Tettra to power our knowledge base. As a remote, distributed team it is very important to us to have our content structured and organized. We follow some good practices to keep it organized and up to date, which we describe here, and we use Tettra to keep our knowledge organized and integrated with the tools we use on a daily basis.

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Organizing and Maintaining a Team Knowledge Base

As a distributed, remote team we use different tools to communicate at OmbuLabs, like Slack and Zoom. Those are great for live communication. But every company has information that needs to be kept and stored somewhere. In our case, we started off using the GitHub Wiki and Google Docs. However, documentation and policies need to be maintained, updated and checked regularly. And having information scattered in different tools, formats and accounts became a hassle.

That's where a knowledge base comes in. At OmbuLabs we use Tettra and we will share our experience in a different article. But regardless of what tool you choose, here are some practices that will help you keep your knowledge base organized and updated.

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Removing Negative Words From Our Codebase

The discussion around the use of problematic words / terms in technology isn't a new one. This issue can be traced back to, at least, 2003 when a Los Angeles county worker filed a complaint with the city's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance after seeing "master" and "slave" in computer equipment labels.

This issue has resurfaced with recent events and, at OmbuLabs, we believe it is important to take it seriously. It is past time to remove this metaphor from our codebase and review some of the terminology we use. We have started taking the necessary steps to rename "master" branches to "main", as well as (and perhaps more importantly) remove any reference to the term "slave" and replace "whitelist / blacklist" with "allowlist / blocklist". Our team is actively working on that.

But we understand that is not enough. This is not an action that will solve racism by itself. It's part of a larger commitment. In this article, I'll explain the context and motivation for this change and how it fits with our core values and long term vision as a company.

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Snap Minis: How we can help you bring your app into Snapchat

Last month, Snap announced a new product during the Snap Partner Summit 2020, Snap Minis. Minis are bite-sized third-party experiences that live inside of Snapchat and can be accessed through Snapchat's Chat interface. They’re built on the same principles and technology as Snap Games and are easy to develop, allowing you to build an experience that is available to Snapchat users worldwide.

OmbuLabs recently developed a Snap Mini for one of our clients. In this article, I'll share the main advantages of launching a Snap Mini and how we can help you get started:

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The OmbuLabs Workflow: working with GitHub and Pivotal Tracker

As a remote team, we work and communicate asynchronously a lot of the time. Additionally, as a software agency, we work not only on client projects but also internal projects related to various aspects of the company. This means we will have stories and pull requests opened accross different internal projects at all times and it is important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to what needs their attention and what the next steps are.

We have shared more information on how we use Pivotal Tracker here. We also like to use GitHub to its full potential. Therefore, we needed a standardized workflow that would take into account how we use both these tools and ensure everybody on the team knows what is going on by looking at a Pivotal Tracker board or a list of open Pull Requests.

In this article, I will walk you through the workflow we created for our team. You can find a flowchart representation of the workflow here.

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Team Retreat: How They Can Help Remote Teams "Click"

Remote work is a growing reality. In the 21st century, we have distributed companies that work 100% remotely, with team members scattered around the world.

While remote work has its benefits - diversity in background and experiences, access to an immense talent pool, cut down office costs to name a few - it also brings its challenges. And the biggest one is communication.

There are several pieces of software that aim to facilitate communication in a remote work environment. At OmbuLabs, we use Slack for our day-to-day conversations and Zoom for our calls. However, as a remote team, we don't get to meet our teammates face to face. We don't have "water cooler" chats or as many opportunities for casual chats as an office environment.

So how can we bring our team closer together? How can we build that team spirit that comes from seeing everyone and talking about our casual, social lives? Well, last month we had a team retreat. And it was great.

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Using Actual Story Points to Become Better Estimators

At OmbuLabs, we strongly believe in continuous improvement.

As a Scrum team, before starting a sprint we estimate the complexity of the stories using the Fibonacci scale. But how do we become better at estimating stories? How do we know we're evolving as a team?

In this article I outline the process we are following to become better estimators.

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Onboarding New Team Members with Slack Workflows

When a new team member comes onboard, there are several tools and resources they need to access, as well as processes, practices and guidelines they need to be aware of. There is also workflow and company culture information you want to communicate. After all, each company has its unique features and you want new team members to be comfortable with the existing team.

For remote teams, this process can be very challenging. Thankfully, if you use Slack, you can use their Workflows feature to easily onboard new team members, making the process actionable and easy to follow.

In this article I'll describe how I used Slack Workflows to make the onboarding process here at OmbuLabs quick and easy.

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Making Your Clients Better Product Owners

Different clients bring different projects, perspectives, workflows, and experiences, as well as different challenges. Before starting a project, one of those challenges is to define who will be the Product Owner.

Ideally, you would be able to assign the role internally or to the client based solely on the characteristics of the project. However, that's not always the case. It might just be that the client insists on being the Product Owner or that you are a small team and can't really assign the role internally. Whatever the reason, you might end up in a situation where your client isn't really a good Product Owner.

Here I'll share some strategies we implement to help our clients become better Product Owners and ensure the best experience for them and for our team.

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The Manual Tester: Becoming the Best QA Asset For Your Team

No app is flawless. We all know that. Quality Assurance is an important part of any software development process and the better the tester, the higher quality the software that gets deployed to production.

But… how to be a better manual tester? Applications have evolved greatly and are becoming more and more powerful, but the manual testing process stays pretty much the same. So what is it that will make you stand out?

Here at OmbuLabs we have some techniques that we employ that ensure our high satisfaction rates. In this post, we’ll share some tips with you.

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Manual Testing: How to become a better tester of your own code

Manual testing is a necessary part of software development and quality assurance. And although it's important to have a dedicated tester in your team, you as a developer can also help speed up QA, and thus the software development process, by becoming a better manual tester of your own code.

But how to do that? I'll cover 4 simple points that will help you get there!

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