Crowdsourcing QA with Suite101

BugHerd is useful for anyone designing a website, from startups to web agencies to Facebook applications. We recently caught up with Rafe Hatfield, the head developer from Suite101, a growing content network that’s been using BugHerd to crowd source and manage feedback for their site. BugHerd’s feedback widget embeds a tab in your page, much like UserVoice. However, BugHerd’s widget allows users to submit feedback using the same point and click technology as the core bug tracker, and the reports are fully integrated into your existing workflow.

This is particularly useful for media sites that constantly push new content. Errors that miss the editors and developers can be easily pinpointed by reader with BugHerd, so that the quality of the site can be upheld.

Tom:

Hey Rafe, can you give me a general overview about Suite101 and what you’re about. What makes you awesome and how long have you been around?

Rafe:

Suite101 has been around since around 1996, initially as an online community for writers, we evolved into a home for writers to publish articles and earn income with a revenue share plan. We’ve spent the last 12 months reinventing ourselves and changing our technology to allow us to grow faster. We’re moving towards a platform that will allow people to share their personal experiences with a view to teach others in a social setting. We’re in the very first steps of this new product, the next few months will see it rolling out. (that’s a long and wordy explanation but we’re in a very odd place at the moment, slowly evolving into something new – if you want the short version then we’re in content publishing)

Tom:

That sounds like you’ve come a long way. What kind of problems were you encountering with Suite101 that lead you to BugHerd?

Rafe:

The main challenges we have with regards to bugs are getting all the variables correct (OS, browser version, exact process the user is doing, etc), understanding the exact step in the various processes the user is on, and actually getting the user to report the bugs in the first place. There’s also the processing and handling of the actual bugs themselves – being able to easily process new bugs and deal with the flow, without having outsiders clog up Pivotal Tracker.

Tom:

So how has BugHerd addressed these problems?

Rafe:

By allowing the users to register their bugs on the page they’re getting them, we get exact knowledge of what’s going wrong and where its happening. If they’re running the plugin, we get a screenshot so we know we’re seeing exactly what they are, without worrying about browser versions etc. The feedback tab keeps bugs out of the flow until we’ve had a chance to review them and put them into the backlog, and the fantastic integration with Pivotal means that working on them either through the bug herd site, via the widget overlay on our site, or through Pivotal all works to seamlessly progress them.

Tom:

Great! So what kind of issues does Suite101 use BugHerd to manage?

Rafe:

We are using BugHerd to handle all of our front end bug tracking at the moment, and are slowly moving the back end bug tracking in also (historically back end bug tracking goes directly into PT however we want to use one interface for everything).

Tom:

Cool, so what did you change from to BugHerd? What processes have you kept?

Rafe:

Previously we were using Lighthouse, which is a great application but the integration with Pivotal left a little to be desired, and the flow wasn’t smooth. We also use (and continue to use) zendesk, mainly as a communications tool now. Prior to this all of our bugs were done directly in Pivotal, which gave outsiders access to our main project planning tool and clogged our backlog with things we weren’t interested in dealing with as yet.

Tom:

So are there any big changes you’ve seen since using BugHerd?

Rafe:

There is much less back and forwarding with people to get to the bottom of what the bugs are about, our help desk people are much happier with their process flows, the process of dealing with bugs is unquestionably smoother and “neater”.

Tom:

Finally, do you have any other tips for other web dev teams looking to use BugHerd

Rafe:

Tips for new users – ramp up to opening up the tool to everyone. We are very slowly pushing it out to more users, and until very recently only used the bug reporting tool in-house; this gave us a lot of practice to work out the flow we wanted, get used to handling bugs and moving through them, understand the interfaces properly, etc etc. If we had opened to the world from the start it probably would have been a much different experience.

 

rhatfield
Rafe Hatfield is the head of product development at Suite101, a collaborative publishing platform based in Vancouver. You can follow him on Twitter by his handle @RafeHatfield.

About Tom - Tom Pisel hangs out with lots of different numbers at Macropod. If you're very quiet and don't startle them, they might just say something interesting. He's worked with several Melbourne startups and founded TRAMSURANCE, which might have been a big deal if it wasn't illegal.

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