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Working with Mingle

by Ben Hughes on Jul 05, 2007 |
The 30th of June marked the Early Access release of Mingle – the agile project management tool from ThoughtWorks. Given TW’s experience in the agile space, and history of turning out invaluable software, Mingle’s release has been eagerly anticipated since it announcement in March this year, and may finally encroach on Trac  and VersionOne that have dominated this space for so long.

With the first release focusing primarily on collaboration, InfoQ spent some time with Jay Wallace from TW walking through the different areas of Mingle and its approach to agile project management and team collaboration.

Jay walked us through some of the key functions that are offered by Mingle, most notably:

Mingle is not methodology specific –it comes bundled with 3 templates (Scrum, XP & Agile Hybrid) which contain project properties specific to the type of methodology, however Mingle also offers the concept of user defined project Templates, allowing the user to tailor the tool to the idiosyncrasies of the approach they are using.

Everything’s a wiki – The fundamental units of Mingle are the story cards, which in themselves are small wiki pages. This means that the user can add images (finally - somewhere useful to put those cell phone pictures of drawings on white boards), links to other cards, links to pages on the project dashboard (also a wiki) and anything else a regular wiki has to offer.

Charts – Using its own wiki/SQL syntax MQL (pronounced Mee-Ql), the user can create statistical charts from just about anything that Mingle has stored in its database (including custom properties), displayed as bar charts, pie charts or pivot tables.

Grid View – Story cards a represented in a way that emulates their existence on a story wall or task board, with the ability to drag and drop cards between statuses, but with the benefit of numerous viewing angles, such as by priority, status, functional area and release to name a few, all using user editable colour coding.

History – Each entity in Mingle is version controlled, including cards, wiki pages extending to file revision changes in a linked Subversion repository. This enables tracking changes from requirements alterations right down to code modifications, all within the application. SVN integration includes a file viewer which highlights differences between file revisions. Furthermore, the application allows communication of changes in history via RSS or email, for example enabling the test team to be notified when a story becomes available for testing.

Transitions – a simple workflow engine that enables the transition of a Story Card from one state to another under certain criteria. For example automatically moving a card from ‘Analysis Complete’ to ‘Ready For Development’ – all customizable and user defined.

Tagging - Each card can be tagged with meta-data to enable further views, each of which can be saved and promoted to a project tab if so required.

Search – Mingle provides an all encompassing search engine, which will retrieve all instances of a search term from all entities, Wiki, Cards & Source Code.

Import & Export – Mingle provides the ability to import and export all data from and into Excel for further analysis, as well as the functionality to preview imported data before it is committed.

TW will be releasing the full version of the software for free for teams of 5 people or less and free to Open Source projects. Thereafter it’s paid for. Technologically, Mingle is the first enterprise Ruby On Rails application to run on jRuby, so it’ll run on anything – binary installers are provided for Windows, Mac and Linux. TW recommend a modern processor and 1.5GB of RAM for larger teams.

This is an early access release of Mingle, so the focus is primarily on enabling collaboration and teamwork. As the product matures into releases 2 & 3 (on a three monthly release cycle) it will shift focus to project management and finally team management.

You can register your interest (for joining the early access group), or wait for the full release which is scheduled for July 31st 2007.

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Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Guy Davis

Our team uses XPlanner currently, but I'm looking for a better supported tool. Mingle looks nice, but I also stumbled onto Acunote today. Anyone else considered these two side by side?

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Simon Goldstein

Yeah, I did side by side bake off of several tools including Acunote for client recently. Mingle was not available when I did the eval, but my client just installed it and I have spent the past few days working with Mingle. In a word, "Nice!". You can tell these guys get it...

Can't wait to see what's in the next few releases. I think Ruby gives them a nice edge in terms of pace of releases....

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Jason Carreira

Can you give us a high-level overview of your findings (or even just a list of what products you compared)?

Mingle's $29.50 / user / month seems a little excessive, especially compared to Acunote...

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Gleb Arshinov

I am acting CEO for Pluron, Inc. maker of Acunote, so do read this comment with a grain of salt. Still, I'll try to keep it factual and leave marketing copy for our respective sites. My Mingle impressions are based on TW demos during RailsConf and TW marketing copy.

Firstly, congratulations to the Mingle team on their launch. I think it's a great product. Mingle and Acunote share fundamental philosophy that Agile tools should be, well, agile. We are not your daddy, we are your tool vendor -- we are not here to tell you what to do, we are here to enable you to do what you do better. Chad Wathington from TW has a great post on this.

From the start of Acunote, we aimed to provide a small number of powerful primitives, enabling the user to model complex real-world behavior. For us that means hierarchical tasks where you don't have to commit and can model the hierarchy to your needs. (Acunote "task" is like Mingle "card"). This was challenging to implement, but leads to a superior user experience, so it was well worth it. Good luck to Mingle team on doing it for release 2 :-) Other features, like tags and task ordering also fall into this category. Advantage Acunote.

The other part of tool agility is configurability. If you want to estimate your tasks in bananas/parrots/Fibonacci numbers or call your time-boxes iterations/sprints/quests you should be able to. Not sure about parrots, but Mingle supports this while we have this planned in our backlog. Advantage Mingle.

We both agree that Agile project management is half about project management half about collaboration. Acunote made a conscious decision to start with PM features, while Mingle started out with collaboration. We are now turning our attention more toward collaboration, with comments, email notifications, etc. An astute observer would find MediaCloth an initial cut of our open-source MediaWiki language parser in Ruby. This is not yet part of Acunote, but we don't exactly plan to throw it away :-) We've also integrated with existing tools -- Bugzilla, Mantis, Trac, JIRA. Advantage -- it depends.

Source control integration -- Acunote integrates with Subversion and Perforce, both over network. We have a great code review functionality, I think this is an essential best practice and it takes tooling to actually do it effectively. Mingle has changeset-card linkage and related Trac's functionality. Advantage -- it depends.

Acunote is a hosted application. Mingle is pioneering JRuby-based product approach. We consider SaaS model an esential part of our offering, and we've partnered with Engine Yard for hosting, because our customers deserve the best. The efficiencies of hosted approach are one way we keep our costs down. This model also lets us roll-out new code frequently and in small increments, and provide high level of support. Which, of course, means nothing if your 5 person team wants to deploy the product behind the firewall. Advantage -- it depends.

Inteface -- the reality is that we are not each-other's biggest competition, Excel is. Time and time again we get feedback that a user should be able to enter 10 tasks without switching screens, clicking around and waiting. That's why we've built a powerful AJAX task list interface where you can create, estimate, decompose, edit, complete, reorder and filter tasks on a single page. You can edit task description, status, owner and estimate with 1 click. You can track analytics, completion estimates, work with tags all on the same page. Everything has a keybinding, and if you are used to Emacs/VI/Gmail you'll find yourself right at home. Bottom line -- you can enter and keep track of a full project plan with fewer actions than in Excel. Advantage Acunote.

There are more features to compare, and I'll leave it to others. As both tools evolve and compete functionality gaps on both sides will be filled-in, and new advances will be made. Customers will benefit and with both companies being Agile, also drive the innovation. That's a good thing.

Old hat by Jack Flint

Yawn. redMine does it better... oh and it's free.

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Hugo Palma

Am i missing something or does Acunote only support one project per company registration ?

Re: Old hat by Jason Carreira

Yawn. redMine does it better... oh and it's free.


Thanks for the pointer to redmine... looks pretty slick, and you can't beat the price!

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Gleb Arshinov

Multiple project support is coming shortly. Same pricing. As we support concurrent sprints this has not been urgently needed, but it's often requested now.

Re: Old hat by Ben Hughes

Possibly old hat - as in Redmine has SVN integration, project management functions etc, but does not have project templates, task boards, history tracking (with the same deep integration) . Redmine Seems to me to be lots of technologies bundled into one package, rather than a coherent agile project management tool.

TargetProcess vs Mingle by Nick Coyne

We've been using ProjectCards (www.projectcards.com) for a little while now, but haven't been satisfied with the way it handles multiple projects and resource scheduling for those multiple projects. Currently we're trialling TargetProcess (www.targetprocess.com) which does a very nice job, at the expense of a more complex interface. Mingle seems a little light on project management features right now. Anyone else care to compare these?

Re: Can anyone compare with Acunote? by Martin Bayly

How does Acunote address privacy concerns given that it is a hosted application. Looks pretty good but I'm not sure I want to keep all the user stories for that killer app I'm working on ;) on someone else's server. Anyone could come along and steal my ideas!

Mingle project Management by matt tulum

As we are a team of less than five people we were able to procure Mingle for free for our site project. We found it instrumental in the creation of our Tulum Hotels site and to be honest we would have paid quite heavily for it.
Thanks to the Mingle team and please keep up the great work guys and gals.

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