Heartbeat Beta Launch

Posted by John Barton on January 30, 2018.

Exciting news everyone! We're finally ready to open up Heartbeat to a wider group and start a public beta.

With Dispatch we built tools to make it easier for busy stakeholders of the engineering team keep up with all the code getting released across their teams. Heartbeat lets managers close the loop and keep meaningful records about the work they've seen and engaged with.

As a past engineering manager myself, I've been pitched an enormous number of tools that will automatically tell me if my teams are doing better or worse by magically extracting data from our git repositories. The recurring problem with these tools is that there's not a great deal of overlap between what's easy to count and what matters. Good (or bad) technical work is like art - difficult to define mechanically but you definitely know it when you see it.

Trust your gut (or heart)

Heartbeat tries to sidestep the issue entirely by trusting you (the engineering manager) to exercise your judgment and taste. It uses a chrome extension to add a diary widget to every pull request you visit that let's you record your own qualitative assessment of the work and the collaboration around the work.

Heartbeat Overlay Screenshot

The more time I spent with the problem of surfacing meaningful metrics for engineering leaders the more I was reminded of my last foray into hopeless subjectivity - movie ratings. In between management gigs I worked on a startup called Goodfilms with a couple of mates and we came up with a pretty good system for rating things outlined in the post "Why Ratings Systems Don't Work".

I'll write more dual-axis rating systems in the coming weeks but the short version is that we ask you to give each pull request two scores. One for outcome and one for process.

Outcome score - what's your feeling about the overall quality of the work as it stands alone? Was it a success - does it do what it was meant to? Is the quality of the code up to scratch?

Process score - what's your feeling about how the work got done? Was there good collaboration between the developer and reviewers? Were the automated tools like CI or linters a help or a hindrance? Was everything done in a timely fashion?

Remember to rate the pull request holistically. Software development is a team game and Heartbeat is to help you dial in the team's process more than give individual engineers gold stars.

Take time to reflect

Right now we capture all your rating information in what we call the Journal. It's a daily view of all the pull requests within your organisation and the aim is for it to be a place of reflection. Rate work that crosses your desk throughout the day or week, then before you go into a 1:1 with a team member or your weekly retro, have a look back through your ratings. It's an excellent way to spot trends and fight Recency bias when coaching your team.

Heartbeat Journal Screenshot

We'll be adding more and more pages that combine your Heartbeat data with other team metrics to help you manage your team better all the time. It's worth getting on board now to start rating so that you can get the most out of these new reports by having more historical data available.

How do I get started?

For this initial beta period we're offering Heartbeat access as a free upgrade on top of any current or near-future Dispatch customers. If you're already a user, visit the Hecate app, log in, and then follow the instructions on the Heartbeat tab in the navigation. If not, sign up to Dispatch here for a 7 day free trial, and give it a whirl.

P.S. We decided to make the Hecate Heartbeat Extension open source. Running stranger's javascript inside your GitHub account is dicey business and so we wanted to give anyone the chance to audit what we're doing there.

Photo by Alexander Popov on Unsplash