Another dozen of things Assembla could have fixed

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Often Assembla makes me remember these wise words — “any fool can make things bigger and more complex” (I started this topic in a previous article “10 reasons not to use Assembla” where I even got reply from their guy, but seems things don’t change fast).

In general project is one of the best on the market, but the devil is in details, and those details just make me crazy at times.

The project is not stuck, development is active, but it seems that the focus of the Assembla development is 2 things:

  • where to put a sidebar of ticket details page — left or right? (it jumps every 6 months)
  • tiny CSS changes of menu and buttons.

All in all, the project is a decade mature, but still feels amateur at times. No offense.

Here is a list of things that irritate me the most.

Assembla spaces fail #1: Inactive open-source project

My piece of code called “CSV import with visual mapping” is quite popular — people download it (from Assembla repository), ask questions, request support. I don’t develop new features, people just use it as it is.

At the same time, Assembla thinks, that due to the fact that I didn’t visit the space and don’t commit new code, space is not used. They marked it as inactive. There is now way to reactivate it apart from either buy a credit (no, thanks, it’s open source and you allow free spaces) or spend some time to recreate a new free space, recommit the code and update the links (that’s what I gonna do when they finally kill the old one).

Assembla spaces fail #2: cannot remove a space

Wanna kill a space? Maybe you want to switch to a cheaper plan this way? All you get clicking a “Delete this space” button is a “Space was successfully queued to be deleted” message and the space remaining forever.

Tickets fail #1: Parent story is NOT a parent ticket

This feature announced not so much time ago made me remember those words regarding making things bigger and more complex.

You have to choose either relations between tickets are “parent — child” or “parent story — child story”. A bit confusing, ha? Stories are made for Agile guys, the other option is for the rest.

To make it easier to distinguish a difference, child stories have a special icon =)

Behavior is different too — closing a parent story will also silently close all children tickets.

Having stories doesn’t help since…

…you cannot see tickets hierarchy (tickets fail #2)

Even if you spent some time defining tickets relations, it not possible to make a tickets filter sort stories so that their children are still shown under the parent story. All tickets are equal!

assembla parent story

Your filter becomes a mess of parents and different children. Agile.

Tickets fail #3: the details editor

Make a list (numbered or not) out of a few lines, make a hyperlink out of a URL — just not possible. You get a template of a hyperlink and you are supposed to edit it in order to form the proper hyperlink. These things work for decades on other sites — making a hyperlink in Gmail is just sexy.

Take me right. It’s kind of ok if it doesn’t work in a free plug-in, but the tickets are the heart of Assembla as project management tool, these guys charge money for it — and it simply doesn’t work.

Tickets fail #4: the filter totals – NO WAY

You have a filter of tickets. Do you want to quickly find out the total estimated / spent time? Open tickets one by one and use your calculator.

Wiki fail #1: Editor

WISWIG editor adds a lot of crappy tags. Many times I experienced that after changes are saved (something complex like a big table with hyperlinks and new lines) what you get is a mess.

No preview button is available (anymore), but there is a half of the screen of Wiki format reference text, so you cannot just go down to the page bottom and click Save — scroll carefully not to miss it!

Wiki fail #2: Never change the format!

OK, you realized that in Assembla world what you see is not what you get. Yes, they allow to change the format of Wiki pages from WISWIG to something more reliable like Textile or Markdown, but get ready — it applies to existing pages as well!

Yes, your pages are not readable anymore after that.

Subversion fail: No care about old customers

If you are stuck with Assembla and old-school SVN+Trak repository (like we do), you cannot add a new nice Subversion repository — you are supposed to kill the old one first. You cannot do that without having your code gone.

One work around is to stop development for a few hours, export the old repository to a file, cross the fingers, kill the old one, add a new Subversion feature, then import the repo file.

Another way is to start with a new fresh space, although, might be not an option for those who has a simple plan.

Time feature fail #1: Date filter

Filter by one date (starts and ends the same day), and as result you’ll see time tracked for a day before that. Very “useful” when you half way finishing to make a report in a spreadsheet and realize that dates are wrong.

So, to check what you did today so far, you have to set dates in the future (so called “tomorrow”). If you set the dates wrong, you get this self-explanatory error message:

assembla wrong date message

Time feature fail #1: edit a time entry

Filter your time entries, then edit or delete a time entry — and voila, your filter is lost! Nice how this application “cares” about your time.

The main question I would ask Assembla dev team — do you guys use your own tool for the project management?

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