10 reasons not to use Assembla

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Although Assembla is one of the best ticket systems, I hate it at times. Main reason is that their team plays with fonts and colors and thus changes the site appearence, and at the same time ignores the major issues.

Here is the list that irritates me the most:

  1. When you create a ticket, the editor doesn’t work properly. For example, if you hightlight a URL with intention to mark it as a link, they still ask you for the URL in a prompt (a month ago they would even just replaced it with a default markup text like “[[http://server.com | URL TEXT]]“)
  2. The same is WIKI based on tinyMCE — it fails so often, that 50% of times I have to open the content HTML source and fix things manually
  3. Affiliate system — it pays you back only if you refered 3+ new users. I have just 2 leads, and I loose $80 every month…
  4. Some time ago they had an offer to blog about them and get $5 reward — I wrote a post, and their marketing guy Ryan told me that they gonna pay me only after a referal would pay a bill — which was not mentioned in the offer.
  5. If you want to export tickets data (for example, to count some stats regarding development performance), you will have to deal with their internal semi-JSON format with no documentation (only not-so-self-explanatory feilds names)
  6. Previously they had a project name in project space URL, now they use a unreadable hash — if you work with more then 1 project, you’d feel how unhandy it is
  7. There are 3 (three!) different SVN repositories types (SVN+Trac, External SVN, Source/SVN) in Tools which is confusing. Every one has its own set of possibilities — you have to choose what is more vital for you, you cannot have it all.
  8. Current filter choise is lost if you leave Assembla page for 5-10 minutes, and you have to switch to it over again. The choise is saved in a HTTP-secure cookie (it means you cannot change it by JavaScript). Damn, why?
  9. They don’t show hours total for tickets  no matter how you group them. It’s one of the most important things for developers, guys.
  10. If you want just to get content of the project, you cannot.  I mean not SVN Checkout, but kind of SVN Export — download all folders/files without SVN client. They had a button that allowed to download the project as ZIP archieve, but now it’s not there. I have a few PHP projects which many people download and use, and they complain often about this missing feature.

All in all, Assembla still has a big way to go to maturity.

UPDATE [Feb 7, 2012] – previously, when you click on a milestone name on a ticket page, you go to the milestone and can see all tickets. Now you get the ugly build-in JavaScript prompt to rename the milestone. WAT?!%$??

3 Responses to “10 reasons not to use Assembla”

  1. Andy Singleton Says:

    Thanks for this anaalysis. It sounds like we did a poor job of supporting you as an affilate. I have questions about some of your other observations.

    1) Why are you highlighting URL’s? They always get converted to links from plain text.

    2) Yes, we need a better wiki editor. Does require a lot of fixing of broken HTML.

    3) Maybe we should pay after 2 referrals, not three. We don’t want to pay people to refer themselves. How would you solve this problem?

    4) $5 reward? That was a weird offer. I need to find out more about that. Ryan last worked with us about two years ago.

    5) Ticket export – why not use CSV option on top of the ticket list?

    6) Which URL’s are showing the space ID instead of the name? I agree that the URLS with ID’s are confusing. Originally, they were all space ID’s. We are moving all of them to project name. Wiki was the most recent. There are still some inconvenient URL’s in the Files tool.

    7) 90% of people take the normal Source/SVN repository. We offer the others for special cases. For example, we still suport a lot of Trac projects, and some people want external (self-hosted) for security reasons. but I think they are not confusing for new users.

    8) I appreciate this input about handling the filter setting. The current setup will save your selected filter in your session. It should last as long as your session lasts, which is much longer than 10 minutes. However, if you login again, it goes back to the default filter that the project manager set. This is a compromise between allowing the project manager to set your view (which is good for team building) and allowing you to select your own view (which is good if you know what you are doing). Maybe it is too clever.

    9) You can get ticket time totals from the Time tool in Space or Portfolio. However, we are also going to add total estimated time, and total recorded time, as an option in the ticket filter views. It is a good suggestion. It wil be part of the estimating upgrade that we are working on.

    10) Yes, we did have a download button that downloaded a Zip file. It’s a good feature, and it is still available in many cases, but I believe that we removed the Download button in projects bigger than 10 megabytes because the zip process was causing performance problems. We are planning on raising this limit when we move to our new high speed storage later in the summer.

  2. Carl Says:

    I actually use Assembla a lot, and was Google-ing for a reason as to why their latest Support tool has a delay from the time I e-mail a ticket to the time it posts on the pages. So I was already in Grr@Assembla mode and thus this struck me at the right time to get me to reeeally get ready to bash them…

    That said, I feel like your article, while with valid points, really missed the whole point of what Assembla’s about. It’s managing your projects, users, and tickets. It has great tools for doing all those things and APIs to get data in and out as you please. As a Git user (SVN has seen its days, sorry), I haven’t had any issues and there’s many different views to suit anybody needed to use the system for ticketing and workflow management.

    As a developer, don’t care about a Wiki editor. But I’ve had to use a few in software I’ve written, and I know it’s not a trivial task to make work. From that and some of your other comments (highlighting URLs??), I think just getting to know the system will make life so much easier for you.

    So, ironically, your article kind of brought me back to being happy with Assembla again, it does do many things, does them right and well, and while not totally mature, it’s always coming out with new features and they do a pretty good job of listening to their user base & community.

    All in all, decent article on a couple points, but overall you’re complaining about micro-features and forgetting that it does what it set out to do and does it well.

  3. Skakunov Alexander Says:

    + one more: you cannot edit wiki from a mobile – a cursor and keybord don’t appear. (Android – HTC Desire S).

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