Tales from Fleep: Estimations and Commitments

I’m sure that most developers reading this post are painfully aware that when building something new from scratch, such as Fleep, estimating things can be quite hard. When you’re doing something for the first time you won’t have the backing experience behind you that would allow you to precisely determine how much time creating a new feature exactly takes.

Three weeks ago, before we launched the Fleep native apps and Android, our presence features in the new client were at stake. Regardless of the fact that making an estimation would have been close to impossible the feature was still required. Andres, our web wizard, committed to delivering it before the end of the week.

“Fine”, said Henn, “I’ll bring you 2 cases of beer and you can gladly go on your skiing vacation if you think you can get the presence features done by the end of the week”. And so a commitment was made between Henn and Andres.

Here’s a picture from yesterday with Andres and his two cases of beer earned fair and square. You can guess how this commitment played out. Well played, isn’t it?  :)

happy-fleep-engineer

Running a start-up can be a tricky business, in the beginning all it takes a slice of free pizza and a few bottles of beer to keep the momentum going. The longer you do it, the higher the stakes, but challenging people still seems to work wonders!

We proudly presence

fleep hiWhen we started Fleep, we decided that we wouldn’t be taking the usual approach to presence with little green and red buttons that show who’s online and offline. Nowadays, everyone is always online, but rarely around, so it makes little sense to have it as a feature. But we noticed some other important presence features to implement that are useful.

From time to time, you wonder if messages written in a conversation have already been read or if someone is already writing a reply on the other end of the line. Sometimes, you just want to know when others were last active!

To solve these sticky situations, we’d like to introduce a couple of new features:

fleep writingWriting Indicator

A dotted animation in the chat window, on top of the message entry area, that indicates that other chat participants are typing a reply. This will be handy when you find yourself in a heated conversation with your buddies.

Seen by indicator

For those moments when you need to know who of your chat buddies is on the same page as you are. The seen by indicator is an easy chat message divider that allows you to see who has already read all the messages in a chat and to what extent.

fleep seen by

Last Seen info

We’ve also added an extra bit of information to the user profiles. When you open a conversation members list, it reveals when members were last seen in Fleep.

fleep members

What if I don’t want to show my presence to anyone?

No worries, we’ve thought about that too. You can turn these nifty little features off any time you like, just open Account preferences and untick the box Show my presence status to other users.

account pref

If you untick the setting, you’ll turn off all notifications for presence: Writing Indicator, Seen By Indicator as well as Last Seen information.

Here’s a quick video guide of the Fleep presence features:

If you feel like we’re still missing something, feel free to give us feedback or share your feature requests. We’ll be glad to chat with you in Fleep Support chat!

Why we are building Fleep?

hennruukelI’d like to kickoff Fleep blog with my thoughts on why we came together as a team and why we are building Fleep.

The start was easy – while working at Skype we used Skype IM as our main collaboration tool. We saw the advantages of chat collaboration over email, at the same time Skype IM had several shortcomings with message delivery so we thought why not to build a better chat ourselves.

When we started to look into market and talked to people we understood that building better chat than Skype is nice but there’s actually much bigger opportunity ahead of us – we should build a viable alternative to email conversations. Despite various IM and collaboration tools being on the market for long time, email is still the main communication channel in work related conversations. So there has to be something in email which drives people back to this 40+ years old technology. We wanted to understand what it is and can we do anything about it.

If we compared email to IM services then above everything else two things stood out:

  • Email is universal – the ability to write to anyone who has an email address makes email de facto standard for work communication
  • Email is built for sending letters not to host conversations – while email apps try to present the letters in a conversation-like view they can’t do much about the underlying technology. IM is built from ground up around conversation metaphor, where membership, topic, messages and files are all combined together and it has clear advantage here.

So our conclusion was – there is a gap in the communication market between open but technically limited email and IM services – we should close this gap and become viable alternative for your work conversations. That’s why we are building Fleep.

founders