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Working with Mingle

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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