While there’s much more happening, these are the most tangible things that we’ve accomplished recently or are getting really close to sharing. Much of what we’ve been working on isn’t directly exciting from a customer standpoint, but it’s all laying the groundwork for us to really focus on big stuff in the very near future.
Additional Help & Focus on Development
Over the last couple of months, we’ve brought in some additional help in getting things done. Steve Smith and John Nunemaker from Ordered List were particularly awesome as they’re responsible for email receiving, and Adam Keys has been the driving force behind the upcoming release of our API. Saying that they’ve been kicking ass would be a huge understatement.
Their work has been key in helping us rebuild momentum as my transition to full-time brought a couple of weeks of distractions for me. It’s also helped us evolve our processes so that releases can be more frequent and more stable. Which brings us to our less exciting achievements.
As significant development stalled over the last year, we failed to keep up with our staging and release process. As a result, if we wanted to begin releasing more significant and complex features, we needed to return to a good staging environment and get a release process nailed down to eliminate risk and ensure that we could experiment. So while everyone else was working on features, I got to focus on making it easier to test and release those features.
We’ve also added the capability to preview some new features with select customers so that we can get some real-life use in production before committing to a given implementation. It may not be exciting, but it sets us up for the future.
For what it’s worth, we’ve really never focused on performance. We made sure that nothing was out of the ordinary or particularly egregious, but Sifter has always been fast enough. This past weekend, we had some hiccups with search indexing as our index had outgrown our server. We’ve upgraded and are making some additional tweaks to further improve performance.
As a result, Sifter is faster than ever even as our traffic is reaching record highs, and we still have a handful of additional improvements that we’ll be pushing out this weekend. Of course, all of it means that we’ll be able to spend more time on features that are more meaningful to customers.
Anyone and everyone is now able to simply reply to an email notification and have the content show up in the comment stream for the issue. One of our top requests has always been email integration. While this initial release is simple, it’s a big first step. We still need to add support for attachments, updating issue status, reassigning issues, and potentially even submitting new issues via email. However, the hardest part is behind us. We’ll continue to improve this in the coming months.
The API is still a little ways off, but the good news is that we do have a read-only API live and enabled for our own account. We’ll be sharing it with a handful of accounts here in the near future once we’ve finished up the documentation. Like Email Replies 1.0, a read-only API is significantly short of where we hope to be long-term, but we really want to focus on getting things out the door. So, scaling back our ambitions has been key.
A lot of new features and planning are dependent upon us having a clear vision of where want to take Sifter. As a result, we’ve invested a fair amount of time in exploring ways to improve the information and interaction design of Sifter to create a framework that’s more accommodating of our future plans. We won’t be flipping a switch and magically releasing an all new design, but we have begun taking steps to evolve into a new version of Sifter that will be better all around. If you’re interested in seeing some of the early concepts, you can check out Dribbble.
After the last year of minimal development, we have a huge backlog of goals and wishes. Much of that work is necessary but boring so we brought in some help to get feature improvements out sooner rather than later.
Now that I’m full-time and we’ve spent the first couple of months getting the unsexy stuff out of the way we’ll be able to start improving existing features as well as adding a handful of new ones. We hope it’s been worth the wait.