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Behind-the-Scenes posts:

WalkaboutNYC, How It All Started

Prior to launching Harvest, Shawn and I were in the thick of operating our web design and development business. During those years, one of our biggest inspirations was seeing how other businesses looked on the inside. The physical office space represented the modern day workshop. Seeing other people’s spaces helped us imagine the type of workspace we wanted to create. How companies divided up their floor, how teams sat together (or not), what they decorated their space with — those were all signals of what the business believed in.

Workspaces continue to inspire us as we build Harvest today. The office is where we spend a big portion of our waking hours, and we want to continue to create the best environment for our team. We still seize opportunities to visit startups and technology companies in NYC and wherever we travel. Seeing photos is one thing but to visit the physical space where ideas come together and speak with the people there — those opportunities are rare.

In 2010, with the momentum of the technology ecosystem rising in New York, we decided to bring that opportunity to a larger audience. What if we organized an “open house for technology companies” so more people can take part in the experience of seeing space and meeting the people behind them? We coined it Walkabout, after all, it’s a journey of discovery and NYC is a fine city for walking. That year, the first WalkaboutNYC event launched with 15 brave, companies opening their doors.

WalkaboutNYC is now in its third year and the event has grown up. Over 55 companies in New York City have committed to the spirit of community and to provide insightful experiences to those that visit. From NYC-rooted companies like Fog Creek Software, Tumblr, Skillshare, Voxel to new transplants like Facebook and Spotify, we couldn’t be more excited about the roster this year.

2012 also marks the year that Walkabout went international. On Friday, May 11th, the first WalkaboutSG took place in the technology capital of Asia, Singapore. It’s tremendously rewarding to see friends latch on and lead this effort in their communities. We are confident that many great things will come out of it for the respective communities.

Hat tip to Karen Schoellkopf, Harvest community manager and the fearless organizer of the event. Without her, Walkabout would not have come together.

On Friday, if you are in NYC, we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to visit technology companies, see how they work, and meet some great people along the way.

Visit WalkaboutNYC

On Craftsmanship

We’re currently navigating through the maze of acquiring a larger office space in Manhattan as we’ve outgrown our current headquarters. One of the interesting things we’ve found during this process is that the owners of large buildings will sometimes want to see our current office to get a feel for who we are. They want to know what kind of tenant they are about to offer a lease to.

We recently had one such office visit by a prospective landlord. After seeing how we’ve built out our current office and meeting some of our people, she became curious about the type of business we operated. While we can throw around terms like web software and SaaS all day long in our community, the reality is that to most people, what we do here is a foreign concept to them.

I took her through our business, showing her how Harvest is used and what types of customers we have. After getting a grasp of what we did, she looked around the room, eyeing the team, and asked, “What’s everybody doing? Are they just monitoring the website?” After all, the product appears to be working, what else might we need to do? The answer: a lot. As any software business knows, the product itself is just half the work.

To see it from her non-technical point of view, it wasn’t an outrageous question at all. I thought briefly how I would best answer this. Then I began:

Everyone here is a craftsman. Whether our craft is through technology, design or words, every person here is a craftsman. Like devoted woodworkers, we believe the back side of a cabinet is deserving of as much attention as the front side. Being craftsmen, we use our hard-won experience to build a trusted set of tools (whether physical, software or tools of the mind) to solve problems in the best way possible. As a collective, we shape the product and ultimately the entire Harvest service.

Our team is comprised of people who believe in crafting beautiful code, sweating the details and pixels, and working hard to find the right words to express our ideas. At the end of each day, we want to take a step back and say, “that’s our best work yet.”

That’s what everybody is doing here. We’re craftsmen (and women).

Harvest Mobile Timesheet, Beta

Since the beginning of this year, we have been working on an ambitious project to re-think and re-imagine the most critical part of Harvest: the timesheet. We’re close to having something to show you. The first piece that will be ready is the new mobile view, which you can now sign up for beta testing.

Overhauling Six Years of Technology

The Harvest timesheet you use today went through a redesign over two years ago. The code is about six years old (as old as our business), improved and patched up over the years. This time we are building a completely new timesheet from scratch.

There aren’t any major problems with the timesheet today. In fact, the most common feedback we hear from our customers is that they love Harvest’s simple and beautiful design. But we’re not satisfied with it. We, as designers and developers, have evolved over the years, so has the web as a platform, and its technology. We are not improving the timesheet just to make it new. We believe we can create an even simpler and faster experience.

Why Mobile?

For the new timesheet, we decided to start mobile. To us, it’s also the most interesting platform to design against: with its small screen and natural restrictions, we are forced to be more disciplined with what we can show and do on screen. We also believe that timesheet should be mobile; it’s an activity that should not be chained to your desktop, and the information should be simple, succinct and clear, at a glance, on a tiny screen.

Mobile is the least intrusive way to experiment with a new technology without affecting our customers. We’re using a radically different way of building the new mobile timesheet (based on Backbone.js) – Dee, our main developer for the new timesheet, will write a more in-depth article about how the new timesheet is built. There is a lot going on behind the timesheet’s deceptively simple user interface. The goal here is to make it super fast and responsive (by that, I don’t mean being responsive with the layout, but responsive in terms of feedback to the users).

Looking Ahead

The plan is to launch the new mobile beta, to test out the new design and technology. Our hope is that once you start using it, you won’t really notice the difference. It should be smooth and mostly familiar. The changes are subtle: lighter, simpler, clearer, with a couple of tweaks to make time entry even faster. The big changes are all happening behind the scenes. We will be writing a few blog posts to share with you what we did and learned.

We are excited about this project and cannot wait to share it with you.

Harvest Playback, Apr 21st Edition

We quietly launched the new WalkaboutNYC site this week. This will be our third year hosting this technology company walking tour. This time there’s going to be a RSVP system for you to plan a walking schedule (coming soon). A huge thank-you to our Walkabout team: Karen, Naama, Kim and Joschka for their good work!

This past week, we refined a project that will be open for beta sign-up this coming week. T.J. published a blog post about the lessons from our recent upgrade to Ruby 1.9.3 and it’s making the rounds in the Ruby community.

Links from the past week, on Co-op:

  • This Ruby Certification looks totally lagit.
  • Our good friend, Saha, launched his new project, CollabFinder this week!
  • I haven’t read it yet, but Patrick said this is a must-read: Forest Service may blow up frozen cows in cabin.
  • Some of us parents at Harvest thoroughly enjoyed this: Planet Earth – Narrated by Kids.
  • We’re not sure what to make of these new Siri commericials with celebrities.
  • And: animated gif of the week.

There you have it. Hope you have a wonderful week ahead, and see you soon!

Harvest Playback, April 14th Edition

Things got done this week: Barry and T.J. pushed through an important system update; Warwick doubled the memory for our primary database servers; Dee, Patrick, Matthew and Samara made great progress for a project that will launch for beta soon; Kim and Joschka are making the final push for WalkaboutNYC‘s new site (coming this week!). On top of all that, our new junior devs are getting started on an important integration. Phew…

Discussed this week on Co-op:

  • Warwick urges us to take 15 minutes to watch this fascinating video about Caine’s Arcade.
  • Our latest project requires testing on several platforms. I count six.
  • Do you like cats?
  • Doug Fales talks about his first program on Tech Time: drawing a clown face on a 40×80 grid using AppleSoft BASIC.
  • Google as a BBS, built with Javascript, HTML and CSS. (via Jon)
  • “Potholes fill themselves when Cory Booker walks by. #CoryBookerStories” Our new, favorite Twitter meme, after Mayor Booker’s heroic act of rescuing a woman from fire. (via Patrick)
  • Our Rdio playlist this week: “The Movies”.
  • We can’t decide which should be the animated gif of the week: Tyson vs Evan.

There you have it. Here’s to a fun and fruitful week ahead. See you soon!

Harvest Playback, April 7th Edition

This was an unusual week. On Wednesday we had a film crew over at Harvest HQ all morning. We were filmed for a video customer story for Voxel, the awesome hosting company Harvest depends on. Work went on as usual, except that we had cameras following us as if we’re in a reality TV show.

Our product team made great progress this week: an important system security update will be deployed this upcoming Wednesday, the Backbone.js project I mentioned last week is going strong (hope to have a beta release this month), and we’re about to begin an exciting integration, which you’ll be hearing soon.

A week’s worth of random findings, from our Co-op stream:

Friday was an important day for Jonathan Lane, who checks into Harvest each day from Mayne Island, BC, Canada (if you plan to visit, he asks that you first watch this video). Jon was a happy Harvest customer, and joined our support team one year ago. These days he leads up the Fireteam and diagnose potential bugs reported by our customers. We’re lucky to have the amazing Jon on our team!

There you have it. Hope your coming week is smooth, interesting and productive. See you soon.

Harvest Playback, March 30th Edition

We know. We’ve been a little sparse on the blog lately. Aside from taking a needed break last week to hack, we have been busy improving Harvest. Our product folks are split into three teams: one working on a big feature that is ready for an internal alpha next week, one pushing through a couple of big system updates (the recent Ruby upgrade and an upcoming security patch), and one team dedicated to squashing bugs and improving minor interactions in Harvest. We believe in continuously improving the application – so you, the customers, can have a smoother and better experience.

One little tidbit to share about the big project we’re working on: it’s using CoffeeScript and Backbone.js, both created by our fellow NYCers. It’s going to be cool, we promise.

Now, a roundup of the curious and interesting from Co-op:

There you have it. We had another fun, interesting and rewarding week. Looking forward to the next! Talk to you soon.

Harvest Playback, March 24th Edition (Hack Week)!

This past week was our first Harvest Hack Week of 2012. Our team took three days off from the normal project schedule to hack on side projects and experiment with new technology. On Friday, we had a one-and-a-half hour presentation on the projects: two mobile web apps using Backbone.js, one Rdio integration, a Chrome extension, an embeddable JS tool, and an experiment with our system logs and stats. We also had a few people who took the opportunity to learn programming on Code Academy.

We’re super excited about the Hack Week projects! In the coming weeks, some of these will be released to the public, some will be in open source form, and some will become “core” projects (as in, made into the Harvest application). We will share some of the lessons learned on Tech Time, our recently released engineering blog.

In between the hacking and fixing small bugs from the recent big Ruby upgrade (for a faster, more stable and secured Harvest), we bantered on Co-op:

There you have it. We’ve had an exhilarating and productive week at Harvest! See you next week.

Harvest Playback, March 16th Edition

March Madness is upon us and we made a special Rdio playlist to go with it!

This week, a bunch of Harvesters travelled back from SXSW, and we have a few more cool comic strips to share with you (by our designer, Kim Ku). Barry, T.J. and Warwick have been working hard to prepare for the big Ruby upgrade this Saturday. Oh, and Harvest for Mac is now the number 1 top free app (in the Business category) in the Apple App Store, and received a 9/10 review on AppStorm!

A roundup of Co-op musings from the past week:

There you have it. Another productive and crazy week at Harvest. Have a great weekend and see you next week!

Harvest Playback, March 9th Edition (Deep in the Heart of Texas)

A bunch of Harvesters left for SXSW this Thursday. Our very own Kim has promised to keep us updated with some comics (more to come). If you happen to be in Austin, TX – come meet the Harvest Team!

This past week, we launched the vastly improved projects section for the newly designed user profile and upgraded Co-op and the Harvest Forum to Ruby 1.9.3 (Harvest, coming next week).

Gleaned from Co-op from the past five days:

That wraps up another productive and fun week at Harvest. See you next week!