Sneak peak – Team Geek

When communicating with other people (not only with your colleagues), remember the golden rules which I picked up reading this fairly amazing book (a complete review will follow later) :

  • Ensure that your email can be read in 10 seconds.
  • Your explanations should be covered by three paragraphs at most
  • You should end with a call to action

It is amazing how this simple rule is not followed in most cases of everyday non-verbal conversation.

Motivating your team out of nowhere

Surviving crisis in IT

Lately I’ve been wondering that my posts are maybe a bit too general. This is why I want to share some really existing problems with you and my attempts to solve them.

At our company we had a rough time during the last year. On worst months we had only around 500 EUR income for the whole company, however we managed to survive and here are some hints on how to achieve it.

  • Transparency is the key to everything. If you are forced to delay payments to your employees, make sure they know everything about the situation. Hiding information can only lead to negative aspects, revealing it may lead to even positive reaction (for example almost all employees will just think, that you keep more money for yourself instead of paying them. Nobody will believe you, that you’re out of money too)
  • By your commitment to share the status quo you call in two outcomes, which are good for both sides – people, how really rely on regular payments (for example if they have to support non-working family members or pay credit rates) will leave as soon as possible, so you will avoid conflicts with them in future (and believe me, conflicts with this kinds of people are the most terrifying) and they receive a possibility to look for a “steadier” job as soon as possible (which will mitigate their financial drawbacks).
  • The second outcome will result in a win-win-situation – some people will still say “okay, I’m staying, you can pay me whenever there is more income”. For you, as a company owner this is good because of two reasons – these people commit themselves to their job, meaning they will really work (since if they don’t, there is no point in staying, they will want their money). The second reason is simple – you can rely on those people in future. Both sides will know, that there are ups and downs, and if you survived together, this will strengthen your bond.
  • Next key point is the presence of a “leading idea”. And by that I understand some higher goal which your company should ideally have and try to achieve. Let’s consider an example – say, your company creates only generic websites for clients (shops and landing pages). Chances are, when in trouble, people will think – well, there is nothing special in my job, why should I even stay? Instead, if you are developing an interesting SaaS solution, which could impact thousands or millions of people, well – it’s almost everytime worth suffering for.

Last but not least

Don’t forget to reward people for their loyalty. If you survive the crisis together and you behave like an asshole at the end of the day, the most loyal employee will be your most terrific nightmare.

Business – fucked up style

Recently I stumbled upon such an interesting book, however it’s only available in Russian (Бизнес в стиле Ж). I would strongly recommend every project manager (not even in IT field), every business owner and other “higher” positions to read this book. It contains only 200 pages and can be read in one breath.

One can freely say this book is focused on business survival (as the title suggests) and several ideas are worth to be remembered. Author is not the last person on Russian media landscape and owns Gameland which is responsible for multiple print and online media (car tuning, computer games, cinema etc.)

Few useful tips I gathered from this book:

[readolog_blockquote ]Be ready to denounce your previous experience, even if it was good and successful. Especially during crisis times.[/readolog_blockquote]

[readolog_blockquote ]Crisis times are similar to war times – pay no one, collect from everybody, care only for the fighters.[/readolog_blockquote]

Be ready to drastically change your business attitude (for example author, who was printing a 240 pages shiny magazine switched over to 160 pages magazine, printed on cheap newspaper paper (no pun intended)). Do not let any money leak – freeze (temporarily) all your debt flows. It’s better for each party (you and your creditor) to invest this money into further business development, because it’s the only way you can earn money and for your creditor to get his money back. Try to restructure your debts (most creditors are willing to give you discount if they will see payments from you). For the best employees (and most motivated ones) rise their motivation – if they suggest a new project, give them 100% of project’s income first year (sink it later on…).

[readolog_blockquote ]Always pay your debts (like Lannisters) – even if it takes you years.[/readolog_blockquote]

[readolog_blockquote ]Try to be as open minded as possible – talk to people, follow latest trends. You can never know what might be the next hit during or after the next crisis.[/readolog_blockquote]

Just imagine – Russians are generally hostile towards Muslim culture, however this didn’t affect their love for hookah at all! Or sushi – Japanese culture is considered as weird, raw fish is a no-go, rice isn’t that popular… but sushi you can find on almost every corner.

[readolog_blockquote ]All your employees are divided into three categories: Predators, Parasites, Owners and Sheep.[/readolog_blockquote]

While almost all your ordinary employees can surely be tossed into the sheep category, proceed with caution when creating a profile for your top management. You should avoid having predators and parasites at any cost and should encourage owners or owner-like behavior. Predator’s real goal is to snatch. For his own profit he will without a wink put your company in danger. Parasite is all about creating a busy impression – his input is extremely low compared to salary, and all his energy goes only into persuading you, that he is busy doing stuff. Owners are the most rare category of top personal – they treat your business like their own and are really willing to do everything to make it prosper. While during peaceful times predators and parasites will most likely successful hide their nature, giving themselves as owners, crisis time reveals such characters very quickly. Non-loyal employees have no right to be in your company. Your best guess would be if a top manager declines your offer to decrease his salary during crisis time in exchange for a higher share in company’s revenue – it simply shows that they don’t believe in your success and your clearly don’t need such people.

[readolog_blockquote ]Share more information with your key employees.[/readolog_blockquote]

Most likely, your general employee won’t care what is happening with your company – they simply care for themselves. Thus, sharing negative information with them won’t make anything better – this category of employees won’t be able to influence anything at all. However, the higher you climb on the position ladder the more information you should share. You simply can’t expect owner-like behavior if you hide important things from your top people.

I hope you enjoyed this short summary, feel free to (learn Russian and) read this book by yourself!

The Software Development Edge – Book Review – Part III/III

Finally I gathered all the strength required to finish this review. It’s a little bit tougher than back in the school days, however I hope it might serve some educational purpose.

As explained in the last post, this review part will not continue the previous path, but summarize the whole book (in a shorter way). You can regard this as a kind “best of”.

Core idea – Politics

[readolog_blockquote ]”Developing software is such a unique and complicated process, I can’t make an estimation how long it will take and I won’t take the responsibility for my due dates” – this is utter bullshit. Software development is just as unique as any other professional field (just ask your friends). If someone refuses to take over responsibility it’s is clearly not because he/she is such a genius.[/readolog_blockquote]

Core idea – Crisis

[readolog_blockquote ]Act – that’s the main point. Regardless if you’re a hired crisis manager or were just moved to another project which is deep in the shit, your main goal now is acting. It will stink for a while, so don’t bother with keeping good relationships (with customers, other employees, anyone…).[/readolog_blockquote]

Core idea – Project

[readolog_blockquote ]Keep your project within the given due date. Do it at any cost – mostly you will be cutting off unnecessary features. However you can’t fit any project in any time frames. Take your time in advance and get an honest opinion from your team members how they estimate the whole project. You really need those honest opinions and people you can trust. If you can’t, it’s time to say goodbye to those.[/readolog_blockquote]

Core idea – Developing

[readolog_blockquote ]It might be some de facto standard right now, but still I see even in my team how things can quickly get out of control if you don’t invest time into concentrated continuous releases, called iterations. Force everyone to deliver something each week. It will require a lot endurance from you, but there is just no other way…[/readolog_blockquote]

I promised to keep it short and simple and here we go. Four core points which should awaken your interest in this book. If you want to intensify the review reading I would recommend you part I and part II, however more than that I would just suggest you go out there and buy this amazing book.

How to write useful technical specs

I might be not that wrong in assuming that a lot of IT people out there encounter same problems regarding tech specs all the time – they become obsolete sooner than they are written. Mostly created to show the client – hey, we’re doing stuff here, here is the result, 100 pages of pure informational power. However, the result is often the same – after one glance, each team member will soon forget that this spec ever existed.

So how make specs more useful? In this article I won’t show how to formulate your spec, but more how (technically) to manage, that your spec stays up to date.

Use LaTeX

No, not in the bedroom with your girlfriend (on the other side – who am I to judge you?), but the document markup language (according to Wikipedia).

LaTeX is not only cool – writing specs feels almost like writing code – but it allows you to maintain a healthy development process considering your spec.

Problem No. 1

When your specs are starting to get bigger and you add stuff here and there, it is very (VERY!) hard for your team to follow up on changes. Using GIT in combination with LaTeX allows you to commit any changes just if it were code. And GIT markup fantastically highlights all changes that were made. So next time you can just give your team a link to the latest commit to they will see only the new and recent parts.

Problem No. 2

Have you ever tried to create links within a document, say in MS Word? Yeah, you kinda able to do that, but if you add, say, a new point to your numerical list, all your links will get messed up. Regardless to say what happens if you add a whole new chapter at the beginning. LaTeX allows you to define variables, just like any programming language. Just use a simple

where section:intro is just a clear variable meaning that your content is in the section called “intro”.

Problem No. 3

As soon as you try to maintain your MS Word spec you realize how this program is clearly not created to write large documents. Ever tried to create a numerical list, then add a break and continue the list? Then you’ll know how easy it is to screw things up. By being completely controllable there is always an easy solution for almost everything you want to achieve with a LaTeX document.

Use GIT

I mentioned it already in the previous paragraph, but I can’t stress it out enough – your LaTeX spec will really shine bundled with GIT. Not only you have a neat version control (and don’t need to save “project_x_tech_spec.v.1.0.docx”, “project_x_tech_spec.v.1.8.docx” and so on), an ability to link only your recent changes by sending a commit link, but you also have one place for your always up-to-date end format, because recently github learned how to display pdf-files.

So basically your pdf url stays always the same, something like this:

https://github.com/username/docs_folder/blob/master/your_project/spec.pdf

My setup

Since TeX is permissive free software (to me it sounds a lot like open source), there is a bunch of good free editors (honestly, even notepad will do it). However I felt in love with Texpad – it’s available only for MacOS (and iOS) and makes full usage of your retina display. It costs 25 $ and is available for download at Texpad homepage.

Starting writing documents with TeX may be a bit hard the very first time (on the other hand – what isn’t hard the very first time?), but there are plenty amount of templates out there on the interwebs helping your out to fire your document up. My personal favorite (there are few Russian language related things which you might omit) :

Happy writing!

The Software Development Edge – Book Review – Part II/IV

Let’s continue where we left last time.

Modelling

It is important that you are able to explain your software to non-coders. This however involves other techniques than showing code (when abstracting a bit, showing code might be the worst way to explain software).

The other extrema – typically found in “management level” PowerPoint presentations, showing absolutely nothing useful at all. Avoid it.

Writing code

As a it project manager you should be familiar with the language your team is using. Even if you come from a different language and were a professional coder yourself, it doesn’t always mean that you will know which problems the team using that specific language will encounter.

Since beginning by reading books is quite terrible and boring idea the best way to learn a new language is to write a program that covers a lot of topics (and in turn, this topics could lead to serious problems). You need a standard program.

Standard problem

It should cover:

  • (Console) line in / output
  • Retrieve data entered by user
  • Simple algorithms
  • Long term data storage
  • Standard data structure like linked lists
  • How to deal with exceptions
  • How will the program scale, will it adapt to new requirements

A wonderful solution is provided by the animal game (I’ll cover that on an extra page).

Get out!

Each product has only one goal – to suffice the customer’s demand.

Even the smallest projects tend to grow and expand. If you omit integration process the entropy will finally win.

Convince your superiors to provide you with best people possible for the integration process. Every project needs its “king of deployment”.

Continuous integration and version control are your tools to go – someone messed something up? Just revert his/her commit. You need a build every night with all tests up and running? CI is your friend.

Avoid “we’ll write a script for this problem” at any cost. Scrips are fragile and are hard to debug. Your road to hell is paved by scripts that got out of control.

While integrating there are only few ways to do things right and a lot more to mess stuff up. Take the integration seriously, invest every possible minute in it.

Compromises

The two most important thing you’re obliged to do as project manager – keep your project within initial borders and don’t let it die a slow feature-death.

I think everyone knows the basic triangle – volume, resources, time (pick two). Marasco however adds a fourth dimension – quality (nobody will care a year later on if you delayed your project or exceeded budged, only quality will remain).

At this point a small digression – Marasco now translates this thoughts into some mathematical formulas. Although I’m not a fan of stuff like “If we assume normal distribution we can calculate the probability of our project to fail…” – please don’t do that. If you ask every team member “can we do that project?” – their answers is your best probable guess, not some distribution. However some conclusions are to be considered:

Like Brooks said – most project fail because of lack of time compared to all remaining reasons combined(!).

You can’t compensate lack of one parameter by the other (in big volumes).

You should adjust parameters equally (you can’t add a ton of quality with just one week development time)

Time estimation

As a project manager it is your duty to create an atmosphere of confidence – nobody should be punished for not being able to give a perfect time estimation. This only leads to defensive mechanisms and developers will often increase the estimation to be on the safe side which in turn is bad, because you can’t rely on this numbers.

What is the main source of all evil project problems? Basically every project manager sees the working time estimation (for the whole project) as a working document, while their superiors see the time plan as a contract. Often it arises two types of time plans – one for the outside world and one for the inner development. This is a little fraud and Marasco recommends using one honest time plan.

What are main reasons for bad planning? First of all – there are almost never known all connections between certain software parts. Just use some simple combinatorics – if there are two parts that needed to be connected, there are only 2! = 2 ways of doing that. If there are three parts we have 3! = 6 ways of combining them. Let me just tell you, that n! increases really fast… You can prevent that by using small iterations, because by forcing to release a working product at the end of an iteration you can reveal hidden dependancies.

Second main reason is that delay may sneak in unnoticed. Brooks said – a delay by a year starts with a delay by one day.

If time estimation was given honestly your usual project delay should be around square root of remaining time. Let’s say you are at time point 0 and your project is estimated by 16 weeks. This means that you will probably finish between 16 and 20 weeks from now on. If you are in week 12, meaning that 4 weeks are remaining (and everything went fine so far), project delay should be around 2 weeks, meaning total development time between 16 and 18 weeks.

If you end up being faster than square root of a given estimate – you have a typical example (and problem) of someone being too defensive. The only right thing to do is to fire those people.

So basically you have following: ideal time estimation = ITE = good.
ITE +1*sqrt(remaining time) = help required.
ITE – 1*sqrt(remaining time) = excellent.
ITE +/- 2*sqrt(remaining time) = both cases very bad

How to achieve honest and objective estimation? Note every estimation (good thing is, nowadays every task tracking software supports such features) then write down each result based on given estimation. This will help you calibrating your project and the work of each individual project member.

Remember – not the result is important but rather its predictability.

Project rhythm

Just like a lot of stuff in our lives, even software projects follow certain rhythm. Compare it to a learning curve – at the beginning development process is slow – you are planning a lot of things, organize them and do research. Then you gain speed – the main process begins. When reaching the end state you might encounter speed decrease because a lot of little problems pile up and now is the time to solve them.

I bet you can confirm it on an intuitive level – projects start heavily, then accelerate and then stick in sort of swamp. Sometimes a feeling arise that you cross the finish line barely walking.

If we translate this into iterations we can encounter that there is negative “force” at transition points. This is where you as a PM should invest your energy to get the project curve up again.

Some interesting derivative information from that research – about 60% of required knowledge you receive during the first 40% of the project, but at that point only about 25% is effectively done. It lowers the risks (because you are investing time in planing and research), but on the downside you can’t show a real progress. To discuss the importance of the “learning” with your superiors you should prepare for example a list of risks and how the learning might reduce or even completely remove such risks.

Right now, as I’m finishing the second part I realize that it just takes too long to write such a detailed summarization and, what bothers me even more is that it makes it even harder for my rare visitor to follow such an analysis. Therefore I will switch from now on to shorter, more personal articles.

The Software Development Edge – Book Review – Part I

Hear me, I beg. And say thankya, big-big. This one is going to be a hell of long post, but do not worry, you can browse through the cites really fast and get all the essential data you need. My very short summary – go and buy this book, remember (almost) every page, it will do you some good. The software development edge by Joe Marasco should be your holy book, your guidance in the dark realm of leading teams and developing software.

I counted exactly 170 good ideas, worth remembering. Regarding a total count of 370 pages we have a score 170/370 ~ 0.46, which is amazing! It means almost every second page you’ll encounter contains something useful.

As you might guess in my book summary I’ll have to cover over 185 pages of ideas. Since it would take too long to release a complete overview at once I decided to split it up in four parts, each covering around 100 pages of text. The first one ends exactly at page number 100.

For now, here we go – book’s best points, no cites but rephrases:

General

Spend a lot of time talking to your developers, get familiar with details and problems.

Worst combination possible – keenness absence and sloppy management. Mostly, it will lead to programs that don’t work and if they do, not very well.

If you happen to be the team leader, do not easily yield to your superior (of course you should listen and give in in most of the times, but not easily, because your superiors may suggest (due to their unknowingness) unreasonable demands.

Your iterative approach to solving problems: observe, listen, empathize, synthesize, testing, write down.
Observe – look around you. What’s happening? Where could be the source of a problem or maybe it’s symptoms?
Listen – after you’ve located the problem, talk to people and listen to their opinion. Talk less, write more.
Empathize – the clear difference is here to “listen” – while empathizing you not only collect objective data, but also give subjective feedback.
Synthesize – now put all parts together: your objective data while observing and listening, emotional aspects while empathizing, your box of tools for solving problems (should be mostly your experience). The result – a possible approach for the given problem – should be put out to test.
Write down – now you should write down everything that occurs while your approach is doing it’s job. If you don’t do it it will become much harder to convince others to accept your approach. Besides, what’s not written down is soon forgotten.

Doubt everything. Check every partial solution.

In every big project someone, who is on his/her own is a potential danger. However you shouldn’t throw all people in one big basket. Create as little teams as possible with as little members as possible. Four groups three or four members each may be way more productive than an horde of 50 employees.

Sooner or later every leader will have to make choices. If your team members were chosen correctly they will accept your decision because having one is better, than none decision at all. However it doesn’t mean that you are free to come up with any crap idea – you still need to analyze give situation. The only thing to avoid is to be paralyzed.

Goals

The mountain top – the end of your project – should always be the main goal. Everything that hinders you and your team on the way up must be cut off.

On the other hand climbing up in real life is just the half of it, you also need to come down. This can be compared with supporting your existing project – a successful one can be completed and then supported over a long period of time.

Why projects fail

Nonrealistic time schedule

Too many team members, team contains a lot of mediocre developers compared to the best ones.

Neverending stories projects lasting so long, that all requirements change multiple times.

Ignore first iterations’ results. No analyze and change after seeing them.

Lack of clear goal, understandable by everyone

What can lead to success

Small, but smart plan with few details is more effective than plan overloaded with details

Clear your work before requirements change

Correct your movement’s vector (use small iterations) on the fly

Durability – extraordinary peak strength means nothing on the long term

Concentration – your team don’t lose sight of the goal

Management

Don’t hire high skilled people to involve them in trivialities.

Main point of every task should be a client’s problem. Even more important is for your product to generate additional value for your customer (by solving his problems).

Best leaders can project their sense of goal to others – by giving them a good example. Managers make sure that this goal is achieved. Best people out there unit qualities of leaders and managers.

Take care of every small problem in time. Even smallest problems tend to grow massively. This leads to two kinds of bad managers – the “ostrich” ones, who won’t see the problem and the “lazy” guys, who will postpone everything until it’s too late. Don’t be one of them, problems don’t disappear magically.

Do not let you lead easily. Always remember – your goal is to solve a problem, achieve some result, not to make you most popular and well-liked guy in the department.

Don’t panic. Seriously. Be solid as rock. Every crisis will be over, your duty is to participate in solving this crisis, not in overreacting. Be an example for everyone else (rock-solid).

Laugh. Even when facing dumbest customer’s demand, better laugh about it, do it, forget it than making drama.

Teams forgive their managers a lot of things, but laziness, incompetence, lack of reward for efforts and lack of humor are not among them.

Trust your instincts – if you are really feeling uncomfortable with something, trust your inner self, most likely you’ll turn our being right (this also means do not hire people who will make you uncomfortable – in exceptional cases it might be worth the risk).

Developing software

Goals are most likely not where they meant to be. Often because at the beginning the technical requirements are not quite clear und well understood.

During the process people will make mistakes.

Your goal is a moving one.

A good manager will always make a lot of little steps rather than few big ones. This allows to shorten the overall distance because after one misstep you haven’t travelled a big distance and after a dozen steps your next one will most likely be close to optimal.

Do not start with easiest problems. By doing so you’re digging your own grave. Your team won’t bother with upcoming possible risks. Even the easiest task will grow big (there is always room for improvement). This leads to scarcity of time for the real challenge and to one further problem – explaining that you need more time doing the most difficult part, covering the biggest risks is much easier to your superiors than begging for more time because your team was wasting it.

Iterative approach forces you to apply all lessons learned from this project (all previous iterations) to all upcoming iterations of the same project.

 

Happy new energy! This is how you make bitrix work with git.

I wish everyone a pleasant new 2015!

May your business flourish, your apps find new users and your customer forget the number of your technical hotline.

Besides, if you should ever happen to work with 1C-Bitrix framework here are some hints how to befriend it with git. If you just try to plain start developing a Bitrix app under git you may encounter few uncomfortable things – since Bitrix is huge (more than 18000 files) ever commit will take long. In most cases I received plain errors instead of pleasant working.

So here what you should do:

First, add this to your local git config

You may want to play around with the numbers, just keep in mind following:

Larger window sizes may allow your system to process a smaller number of large pack files more quickly. Smaller window sizes will negatively affect performance due to increased calls to the operating system’s memory manager, but may improve performance when accessing a large number of large pack files.

As seen here

So now which files to exclude from bitrix using rather .gitignore or /.git/info/exclude? Of course I can’t tell you where to put your development files, but it is a good practice not to touch those:

Meaning ignoring them is generally a good idea. This will save you a lot of time! Happy coding. (For the record – we’re using GitLab instead of GitHub for reasons of security, however commands are just the same for both of them)

Next book sneak peak

The next one, “The Software Development Edge” by Joe Marasco is finally done. Since I’m continuing my more “scientific” approach on book summarizations this time it turned out to be really extensive. I guess it will take a while to write everything important down.

A little sneak peak on my work regarding this awesome book by Joe Marasco.
A little sneak peak on my work regarding this awesome book by Joe Marasco.

[readolog_blockquote ]One of the main reasons for Joe being able to deliver software in time was his effort to understand every detail of development, every problem occuring, thus, leading to knowledge where you can make right decisions for the whole project movement. This effort is not based upon some kind of magic, but simply upon investing a lot of time in talking with developers.[/readolog_blockquote]

Nobody knows what it’s like… to be the PM.

Thankeee’sai for waiting. This post took a bit longer than it should have. But since I’m reading a real heavy one – Coders at Work, next book review will follow not so fast. However I want to share another few thoughts with you.

PM Tips – Part 1 – sales, talking, clients

I was wondering – are there any concepts that make a difference between a good it project manager and a mediocre one? Was I able to make this transfer or am I still somewhere deep below the ocean?

Let’s try to take a look from a bird’s view – if it’s possible.

[readolog_blockquote ]You will have clients[/readolog_blockquote]

That’s the sad truth. You will have to deal with clients. This means – oh gosh! – talking to them, persuading them, selling services to them, explaining stuff to them. By no means you should feel like a sales manager, but you will always have verbal relationships, like it or not. You may not like it, you may even hate it and be worst misanthrope ever walked on earth, but you’ll have to deal with it. Even if you work as technical manager, or CTO or just for a company where clients, paying your company, are cleared by other people, regard your superior as your client.

Do the experiment, you will discover they act just the same… they wont understand most things you say, so you’ll have to explain, you’ll need to persuade and sell them everything (you need new chairs for your team? It’s kind of a sales process too!). This part of PM tips doesn’t suggest that you should be or have experience as active sales manager, however you should get used to similar sales processes.

[readolog_blockquote ]Clients don’t know what they want[/readolog_blockquote]

Most of the time this statement is true, unfortunately. On the other hand… this is 70-80% what you’re paid for. See why you should get familiar with your clients? Because it’s not completely true, that they don’t know what they want, in most cases they simply don’t know how they want it (meaning the software you’re creating) done. Some research should be done to extract exact numbers, but I would guess the ratio 40%-60%.

[readolog_blockquote]Experience matters[/readolog_blockquote]

If you’ve done a few online shops you’ll probably know what to suggest to your customer next time. You won’t know every detail, your client either, but in this case your both percentage knowledge doesn’t work multiplicative, but convergent, thus, creating desired result.

How to get your team organized with 5$ per month

Some time ago I had a pleasure (no irony intended!) to start working in a company with no established developing process at all. There was no issue tracking, no communication tools, no code hosting…nothing (nothing but a Russian Bitrix system, but it doesn’t count, since it’s awful and nobody was using it). Now I want to share with you one of myriads of possible approaches. As it happens we pay only 5$ per month to make it work.

How to start?

First of all you’ll need a webserver. We decided to pick up the cheapest DigitalOcean droplet which is available for exactly 5$ per month. You can pick Linode or any other server, where you’ll be granted full root access. DigitalOcean comes with a fancy possibility to create a Redmine-Droplet in just 55 seconds, this is just what we did.

Where to host code?

Trust me, even if you have just one developer you better start using version control. Github is the most common service just to do so, however if you can’t afford sharing your code with the community you got to pay for private repositories. A wide known alternative would be Gitlab, which not only allows you to host the service on your own machine, but also doesn’t charge you for creating private repositories if you continue using on-demand version. I didn’t manage it to install Gitlab on our 5$ droplet (maybe I’m just not gifted… maybe it has something to do with recommended RAM size of 2 Gbyte and two unicorn worker units to be able to handle http requests – 5$ droplet got only 512 MB RAM), so we’re using private on-demand repos. However if you manage to install gitlab on your machine the following routine will be much easier, since pulling from Gitlab won’t requre any hooks as it will be on the same machine as Redmine itself.

How to connect them?

You’ll probably don’t want maintaining two systems at a time. This is where so called hooks come in play. You can try and install https://github.com/phlegx/redmine_gitlab_hook but for me, although I set up (at least I suppose so) everything correctly, it didn’t work.  What I did instead was following:

  • create an ssh-key on your server, where redmine is hosted (since chances are you won’t be able to copy the key to your clipboard you’ll need to send the file to your local machine first via scp

  • now comes a tricky thought – since Redmine hooks only its local repos but your local environment is another one, we need a workaround. As depictured below you need to set up your remote origin as gitlab

Gitlab Redmine connection visualization
Gitlab Redmine connection visualization
  • To keep your Redmine repo up-to-date, you’ll need, first of all, to create one (on the Redmine server) – simply git init /home/redmine_projects/project1
  • Create a cronjob – nano /etc/cron.d/sync_repos
  • Repeat the line for each repository (app should be the owner of the repository. In our case it is “root”)
  • Wooosh! You’re done! Now every push will be visible just 5 minutes thereafter in your Redmine repo-tab.
Now your repo on the server where redmine is installed is always up-to-date (with a 5 minute delay).
Now your repo on the server where redmine is installed is always up-to-date (with a 5 minute delay).