Awhile back I ran an analysis to pick a backlog manager for Thali. My winner was Pivotal Tracker and I really like it. It’s super slick. But as an open source project we need to run our backlog out of our GitHub issues so we can manage everything in one place. While Pivotal Tracker has an add-on that provides GitHub issues integration, it’s clearly an afterthought. So I’m back to look at backlog managers that run straight out of GitHub. My winner this time is Waffle
Running our backlog out of Pivotal Tracker just made less and less sense as we moved more and more to GitHub, especially now that we are using multiple repositories so we can release functionality stand alone rather than as one integrated tar ball. So we needed an issue tracker that ran straight out of GitHub. But we need features that GitHub issues don’t provide:
Multiple Repository Support We want to be able to see and prioritize work items across multiple repositories
Sizing We need a way to give a rough estimate of how big an item is going to be.
GitHub Issue Based We want all of our work items, our bugs, everything to just be GitHub issues so everyone can see exactly what’s going on.
Beyond that our requirements are essentially the same as last time which in addition to the above are nested stories, world readable and reasonable cost.
I evaluated a bunch of potential choices and the only one that really stood out was Waffle. It’s not terribly fancy. It has no where near the power of something like Pivotal Tracker (who still maintains a super easy UX btw) but it is more than good enough for our needs. They have a nice “unified” view of issues across multiple repositories, everything is driven straight out of GitHub and they can provide sizing. They support nested stories via labels and filters. Not ideal compared to Pivotal Tracker’s epics but it works. They provide world readable links, you can see ours at https://waffle.io/thaliproject/thali. And the cost is free for open source projects like ours.
I originally wasn’t even going to try HuBoard because I was so incredibly frustrated with their website. It doesn’t say anything! I couldn’t answer even the basic questions I have in this article from their website. Normally in such circumstances I just move on. But I had read so many people saying nice things about HuBoard I decided to actually try it.
Nested Stories Not really. They do support labels but the problem is that you can’t apparently create the label from inside of HuBoard. You have to go to GitHub, manually create the label there and then you can use it in HuBoard. This is especially bizarre given that HuBoard absolutely does support setting up labels for it’s KanBan columns. I’m guessing that HuBoard actually can create labels in GitHub from its UX and I’m just not smart enough to figure out how.
World Readable Yes
Cost Free for public repositories
Multiple Repository Support Not really. Yes, it can run in as many repositories as you want. But oddly I couldn’t find a way to get it to give me a single view across multiple repositories and allow me to set priorities globally.
3 The rest
Blossom I can’t for the life of me figure out from their docs if all cards are GitHub issues or if they can make GitHub issues into cards. I also can’t figure out if we can make our Blossom board public. The fact that I can’t find a link to any Blossom boards makes me think they aren’t public.
SweepBoard They do support labels and even have labeled columns but the columns get old quickly as we have lots of potential labels. But they have good filtering so that’s fine. The main issue is that they don’t seem to have world readable links for their boards. Near as I can tell you can only see a board if you login with a GiHub user account.
Tablero This is an open source project that provides a multi-repository view over GitHub issues. The only problem is that it’s not hosted and right now I really just want a hosted solution. Of course when we have enough of Thali running to do hosting there then we should come back and see if we can run Tablero on top of Thali!!!
Zenhub This is a Chrome plugin which enhances the Github website. I’m a Firefox type of person so I wasn’t interested.