Behind the Mug featured image: Saad

Meet Saad, AgileBits Test Pilot

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Behind the Mug: Saad and his mug

Hi! I’m Saad :) My name is often misspelt as Sad, Said and sometimes even Salad (thanks to autocorrect!). I’m 25, living in Toronto and I am among the few that have the luxury of working from home and regularly visit our office located in the heart of the city. I’m a technology enthusiast. I enjoy playing around with new gadgets and learning new things on a daily basis. I’m filled with small jokes, and I admit that sometimes I am the only one laughing at my jokes. Haha!

Football, or soccer as we call it in this part of the world, is one of my favourite sports. FC Barcelona is my team and in international matches, I follow Brazil closely. I also play friendly football twice a week and occasionally join my friends in the FIFA video game tournaments.

All my free time at the moment is committed to wedding planning. My lovely fiancée, Megda, and I are planning our upcoming wedding this summer. It is a lot of stress, but we are excited to start our lives together. Megda also loves watching football and she is a hard-core France fan, her birth country. We often butt heads with each other, especially during the World Cup—but it’s all with love and it only happens every 4 years. ;)

What do you do on the AgileBits team?

I come with a Computer Science background and I am one of the developers working on 1Password for Android. My job title, Test Pilot, suggests I test a lot of things—which I do! I make sure what is broken gets the attention that it needs.

Our users are a big help with this process and I appreciate every individual that takes time out of their busy day to provide us with feedback. I am often found in our discussion forums and answering e-mails too. I find that it’s the best way to connect directly with our users.

How would you spend one million dollars? And it has to be spent, so no saving it for retirement with this windfall.

ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Woo! First of all, I would try and figure out how I would split the money for three different things: myself, family/friends, and finally making a contribution to the world. With my personal cut (which I would share with Megda, obviously), I would use the funds to travel around the world.

What is the wildest thing that you have ever done?

While doing Christmas shopping one year, three of my friends and I impulsively decided we needed a vacation to escape the Canadian winter. We literally dropped everything and left a few days later for a long road trip to Miami from Toronto.

The drive there was a lot of fun. We stopped at all the major cities we wanted to check out along the way and had a great time staying in the Miami area. The drive back was a different story, as it always is during a return trip.

This was one of the wildest things I have done to date, because it was a spontaneous decision that was made in a few days. We each had to rearrange existing plans to make sure we could make this awesome adventure happen. It’s hard to find time like that. In fact, I don’t think I could do something similar in the present time! I would really like to do the same on the west coast, some day.

What’s your biggest challenge explaining 1Password?

I thought I was an expert at explaining 1Password, but my recent trip to Bangladesh made me reconsider that thought. Naturally, after visiting my home country after more than 10 years, friends and family were curious about what I did for a living. Now to try and explain our beloved 1Password in Bengali was a challenge! I think I did a fairly good job after a few days of practice. Unfortunately for me though, I still haven’t figured out how to explain it to this goat:

Behind the Mug: Saad and the goat

From the Founder's Desk: Sara

One week in: Slack changes reviewed

It’s amazing how quickly time seems to fly by these days. I’ve been told it’s because I’m getting older, but I’d rather believe it is anything but that :)

Last week, Dave told you about the reasons we decided it was time for AgileBits to take a step back from Slack and really evaluate how we communicate with each other. I have to admit, I was definitely one of the folks dragging my feet, resisting the change. It’s well known around here that I’m not one for new tools, and I have a tendency to overthink potential pitfalls. Analysis Paralysis! It’s real, and can be its own hurdle to jump.

We were supposed to take baby steps, starting up Basecamp and gradually winding down things with Slack. But as Dave said, breaking the addiction was hard, and people didn’t naturally migrate away. So we decided one day that we were going cold turkey, everyone all at once—including me!

Immediately, there were things I loved: the Card view of To-Do lists let the organizer in me instantly see the top items and where my team need support. There were also things I missed: the little-green-dot “here” indicator from Slack, and surprisingly, the emojis. I hadn’t realized how much more satisfying it was having the opportunity to “react” to someone’s statement with a smiley face :) or a party horn :toot:!

I haven’t got a technical background, and I hear Dave say things that often make sense, but don’t always register on a deep level for me. One was his beating of the “Signal versus Noise” drum. I’d heard it before, but hadn’t really thought about what it meant. I was following 97 channels in Slack, and now I have 23 Basecamp groups. Either way you slice it, it’s a lot of communication.

I was very surprised that within a day or two, I noticed a complete change in how I was able to approach my notifications. As someone who regularly clears all the notifications a few times a day, this used to take a longer time in Slack, often resulting in backtracking to see which channel talked about such-and-such, because it was also being chatted about in another channel. I felt that I had to reply to comments immediately, because otherwise someone might not read back far enough to see something, and my voice wouldn’t be heard in the process.

In Basecamp, Messages are focused points for each of the different ‘camps’ and I can easily see whether a discussion is something I need to focus on or something I can glance at quickly. And with its threaded nature, I am able to completely focus on that Message, instead of having other pieces of information hopping in the way, distracting me from the task at hand. I have been able to focus in on the Signal much more quickly with this new setup.

The discoverability and permanence of the Signal have also helped greatly. Having the chance to go back and review, while also providing a place for future planning, gives us the opportunity to combine a few different tools into one. I know I’m in a unique position here at AgileBits, but Basecamp has me using one tool now to see who won the WWDC lottery, discuss plans for the next newsletter, and also track the pulse of each platform’s development.

Speaking of pulses, let’s talk about Heartbeats. We had initially looked at daily Heartbeats for everyone on the team, but decided to stick with Know Your Company and their Monday “What are you up to this week?” email. It gives everyone a chance to reply in one place and receive a nice digest email the next day. Deciding to use a new tool doesn’t mean you have to throw all the things into one package – if you have something that works, and works well, recognize that and keep on doing it!

We found a great use for biweekly and weekly Basecamp Heartbeats for our Developer and Customer Support Leads. Last week was our first kick at the can, and it was definitely a touchdown! It was wonderful having something that summarizes top issues and information, and provides a chance to discuss specific issues, responses, and possible solutions. I found the overview much better at tying all the individual threads together, and it gave the entire team a better opportunity to see the big picture.

Seeing the big picture is often the hardest part. It’s disheartening to hear “communication sucks at this company” when you spend hours emailing, calling, and chatting with people, only to find that your important information has gone through a sieve. Another benefit of quitting Slack entirely was that it ended the safety-net thinking of “if I miss it, I can just ask again”.

Entirely too often, folks would pop into a Slack room and ask a question that needed a quick answer, without first checking to see if we had documentation on it. If we rely on “the little green dots” to answer questions, we will never take the time to make our documentation better. There is now a concerted effort to make sure we are capturing the knowledge of our teammates; we need to be sure we are making things easier for us not only today, but also tomorrow. Growing a company has its challenges, and having solid information that a new person can rely on makes onboarding much easier.

It’s been a very revealing process so far. The move is still a new one, and as folks are getting more comfortable in Basecamp, it’s interesting to watch the spaces get filled in. For those of you following our journey, thanks for being here! Change isn’t easy, but in order to keep growing and making things better, we need to always be looking for ways to improve.

Featured image: Founders' Desk, Dave

Curing Our Slack Addiction

I love Slack. I really really do. So much so I would call it an addiction at this point.

Slowly but surely this addiction has been killing my sanity and sapping our productivity as we simply used Slack for too many things. We decided it was time to try a new approach for communication at AgileBits.

Below is the story of how we started using Slack, the problems that started to crop up, and our plan for moving forward.

How We Got Here

We started as a 2 person company 10 years ago and slowly but surely grew to over 60 people.

As a remote company, group chat felt essential, especially given the flat company we had with no management. It worked quite well at the beginning.

Over the years we’ve tried many chat clients and would switch to a new one every few months. We used IRC, HipChat, FlowDock, Campfire, and test drove many others. And then we found Slack and fell head over heels in love.

Almost everyone loves Slack, and it’s no surprise. It’s incredibly fast, always remembers where you were in every channel, has wonderful integrations, and provides fantastic clients for every platform.

And the notifications are to die for. They are simply amazing and fun to receive. At any moment I can get anyone’s attention and have a quick conversation with them, and everyone can do the same with me.

As a company we’ve never felt more connected.

Channel Inflation

It didn’t take long to realize that having 60 people discussing everything in one channel wasn’t going to work, so we quickly expanded the number of channels.

It started innocently enough: having different channels for Development, Documentation, and Customer Support was an obvious choice and indeed a good start.

In time, each of those channels needed to split into multiple, more focused channels. Development begot iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android channels, and Customer Support spawned new areas for Forums, Twitter, Social, Outreach, and Email.

Then there were all the amazing app and service integrations. We could receive Slack messages whenever an issue was opened, new code committed, or someone said something on Twitter. It was fun and reduced our dependence on email. It felt like we were in heaven.

These integrations added a lot of noise for some of the team, while others felt the notifications were important to their workflows. So we created more channels, allowing people to choose what worked best for them.

In each case we would add more channels in a desperate attempt to allow people to find the important information they needed while avoiding the noise.

Often we would hear jokes about having too many channels, so we created #too-many-channels to help people find the channel that they needed.

You would think adding all these channels would be an administrative burden, but that wasn’t the case. Slack allows anyone in the company to create a new channel so if you need one there’s no need to wait for anyone—simply create it and invite everyone you want. The sky’s the limit!

Our limit ended up being 81 channels. And this did not include private channels nor archived ones.

Using Slack for All The Things!

Slack was simply too good for us to resist and as a result we preferred using it over all the other tools at our disposal.

When you had a question about how 1Password implemented something on Mac, you simply asked. You knew Rick and Kevin did some work related to your question, so you would @ mention them both to make sure they saw it.

If you were on a phone call with a customer and were stymied by a technical issue you weren’t prepared for, you would use use the global @ channel notification to make sure you got an answer in real time.

In the event that you found a bug you would simply mention it in one of the channels and expect that it would be taken care of. After all, there’s tons of people in the channel so surely someone would do something about it.

When you couldn’t remember why 1Password behaves the way it does in a particular situation, your first instinct would be to switch to Slack and ask. And since everyone’s addiction was as strong as yours, you were sure to get someone’s attention.

All of these interactions would happen in Slack, despite there being many other tools that are better suited. Tools like bug trackers and wikis would allow answers to be preserved so future questions wouldn’t even have to be asked but they weren’t as fun.

We all knew how great it would be to have a repository of knowledge for people to find their answers, but Slack was simply too good at providing the quick fix we all needed. Copying these answers from Slack to a permanent location didn’t release the same endorphins provided by Slack, so it seldom happened.

Connectedness vs. Communication

With Slack we were more connected than we ever were before. We had 81 channels where anyone could talk to anybody in the company, and if the person you needed wasn’t in that channel, no worries, you could simply @ mention them and they would be added instantly.

If it sounds like it would be hard to focus, it was. But we were willing to accept this in exchange for better communication.

The thing is, being connected doesn’t magically enable effective communication. If you’ve ever listened to an old married couple fight about how the other one never listens to them, you’ll instinctually know this already. If living together doesn’t help the old couple communicate, how can we expect a group chat tool to do it for us?

But for some reason most of us think that communication is simply a tooling problem and completely ignore the human aspect. In reality people are the most important piece of the puzzle, so we should simply teach them how to communicate better, right? If only it was that easy.

For many months myself and a few others have been trying to make Slack work for us. We would be the bad cops and point out people’s bad behaviour and suggest alternatives.

When someone would report an issue in Slack, we’d point out the appropriate JIRA or GitHub project where that should be reported. When someone would get an answer to their question, we’d remind them that they should copy it into our internal knowledgebase so others could find it in the future.

It got to the point where several of us would answer questions with a Let Me Google That For You link. It was insulting and we didn’t feel good doing it, but we were at the end of our rope and desperately trying to point out how ridiculous things had become.

Unfortunately it didn’t work. The allure of the always on nature of Slack and instant gratification was just too strong to resist.

And even if we had been successful in changing people’s behaviour, the lack of threading made it very difficult to have meaningful, deep conversations about complex subjects anyway. Before you could even fully understand the problem being discussed (let alone find a solution), someone would invariably start a new conversation or reply to a previous discussion that happened earlier in the channel.

Effective communication requires a lot more than amazing connectivity. The fact many ‘Bits complained they had no idea what was happening in the company or why certain decisions were made proves this point.

Sanity Check

It took me a while to realize just how bad our patterns of using Slack had become for my sanity and the health of AgileBits.

Slack forced me to evaluate things very fast and respond quickly, otherwise I would miss my opportunity to join a conversation before it moved onto something else.

Then there was the fact that we had so many channels and direct messages and group chats. It multiplexed my brain and left me in a constant state of anxiety, feeling that I needed to always be on guard.

And I had to read everything. I felt that I had no choice as often decisions would be made in Slack that I needed to know. And in other ways it was simply an addiction that needed to be fed.

For me, things came to a head when one of my awesome team mates asked me something I didn’t expect:

Dave, I feel like you’ve been much more angry as of late. Is there something else going on? Some stress that none of us are seeing?

I was surprised by this question because the reality is I’m happier now than I have been in years. And I had just finished sending out (what I thought was) a very positive and uplifting internal newsletter to the entire team. So where was this question coming from?

Then I realized that this individual was raising this question in Slack, after I had a Slack conversation with them complaining about how they were using Slack incorrectly.

This made me realize that our use of Slack was even more destructive than I had realized. The time pressures forced me to be curt and I avoided taking the time to be playful. Worse, since I was in a constant state of heighten anxiety, I often wouldn’t feel like being playful to begin with.

I had always evaluated Slack from the point of view of “Does it make me more productive?” and “Does it help my team ship a better product?”. I had never considered the more important question “Does Slack make me look and feel like a dick?”.

I think the answer to the last question was yes. In fact, some of the most positive and uplifting individuals I know come off as curt and stressed and pissed off in Slack conversations. And given that I believe the answers to the first two questions are NOT a resounding yes, I don’t think the sacrifice is worth it.

Breaking the Addiction

Breaking up with the tool you love the most is not easy to do.

Indeed, it’s so hard that we talked about changing tools and behaviours for over 6 months. The rallying cry of “it’s just a tool, let’s use it properly” was heard so many times that I lost count.

The reality is we could make Slack work for us but it would require constant policing. I simply don’t want to be that bad cop, and I don’t want to hire a police force either. Furthermore, Slack was not designed for the deep, meaningful conversations that are needed to move 1Password forward.

So we made the incredibly hard decision to break up with Slack. We’ll always be grateful to Slack for all the fond memories and I suspect our paths will cross again someday, but for now we need to be apart so we can remember why we fell in love to begin with.

The next stop on our communication journey is Basecamp. In a future post I’ll share more on how we hope Basecamp will help and how we plan on using it alongside our other tools.

AGConf[6] header

AgileBits Family Gathering 2016

When I joined the AgileBits family last March, everyone had just returned from AGConf[5], the most recent annual company gathering. Throughout the year, I’d see things in Slack (the chat application we use) like, “Last one to join the call owes us all Labadoozies!” But it rang hollow for me because I had never tasted a Labadoozie. A couple of weeks ago, I finally had my chance (and it lives up to the hype)!

Biding my time was well worth it, not only for the Labadoozie, but also to meet the smiling faces behind those avatars I know and love. To accommodate our biggest team yet (along with several of our family members and guests), the conference took place on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest passenger ship!

The reunion

As soon as we got to the ship, it was all about meeting, greeting, and hugging. What a treat to finally chat with my teammates face to face, and to meet their spouses, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other loved ones.

I certainly wasn’t the only one embarking on my first-ever AGConf. We’ve been fortunate to welcome several marvelous new team members over the last year.

What makes AGConf special is the chance to meet (most of) the entire company at once – but can you imagine being invited along for your interview?!? Talk about pressure! It takes a brave soul to pounce on that kind of opportunity, and that’s one of the many reasons we knew that Sonya would be a great fit. It was announced over dinner one night that she had accepted our invitation to join the AgileBits crew, giving new meaning to our customary “Welcome aboard!”

Customers first

Keeping our priorities straight, we all knew we wouldn’t be on this cruise without our wonderful 1Password customers, so we began each morning with all hands on deck for customer support. It was so refreshing to be able to just sit next to a developer to talk about a bug instead of having to type a message!

We also had some excellent presentations on the progress we’ve made with each of our apps over the last year, where we’re headed, and what we’re focusing on now. We even had the pleasure of getting some tips from Dene Cohen of DCODE Communications Inc about how we can make 1Password better for everyone.

The fun is just beginning

On top of helping customers and making 1Password better, another great reason we have AGConf is to spend time bonding with everyone. We made some time each day to relax and have fun together—and eat a lot of frozen yogurt. Dinners together in the main dining room were a highlight for everyone. The food was top-notch, and the company even better. Following dinner with dessert and some awesome games made for wonderful evenings!

Meanwhile, on land

We also had three lovely ports of call; we enjoyed beaches and adventures in Falmouth, Jamaica; Cozumel, Mexico; and of course, our favorite: Labadee, Haiti, namesake of our beloved Labadoozie.

It ain’t over til…

Singing karaoke is one of my most favorite things to do, so I wound up at On Air, the ship’s karaoke bar, just about every night. And there were contests! On the final night, Khad and I competed with eight of our fellow passengers in the Karaoke Superstar Championship finals, for which we had each qualified earlier in the week. Dozens of our teammates packed into On Air to cheer us on. Khad’s incredible performance of Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” brought the house down, and somehow my rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele won me a gold medal, a swag bag and a bottle of bubbly. But better than all that was the room full of hugs and high fives from our fellow ‘Bits. :D

Float on

Working from home certainly has its perks, but there’s something really special about having the whole team in the same room (especially if that room is on a ship). The fact that it only happens once a year means we all make the most of our time together, and I know I’m still cruising on the positive energy and inspiration I took home from our tropical meeting of the minds.

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen header

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen

Hey, I’m Greig, part of the AgileBits UK contingent. I’m 28 and live in Aberdeen, which is in the Northeast of Scotland, a truly beautiful part of the world; it’s home to Scotland’s only dedicated castle trail, several Whisky distilleries and the infamous Rowie. I’ve been married to my wife Lauren since June 2014 and we’ve recently upgraded from an apartment to our own proper grown-up house with a garden (or should that be yard!).

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen - Greig in his native habitat

In my spare time I love playing and watching American football, following tech news, cultivating my new-found love of BBQ and enjoying any local whisky. I’m at my happiest either in my “man cave” surrounded by gadgets, LEGO, and games; or sitting in a field at a festival enjoying music with my family and friends. Music is one of my great passion—our house is always abuzz with the sounds of Ryan Adams and The White Stripes or my guitar, which I’ve played since the age of nine.

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen - Greig and his toys

If you were sent to the International Space Station for 3 months and were only allowed to bring 3 personal items, what would they be?

I’d definitely take some home comforts:

  • My iPhone (for music and photos)
  • Crate of beer
  • Reese’s Cups, in copious quantities!

If you had one chance to travel anywhere at any time, where and when would you go?

Before I tell you where I would go, I’m telling you how I would get there, and that has to be in the DeLorean! I am the biggest Back to the Future fan out there. As for where I would go, it would definitely have to be Woodstock; to be a part of such an iconic event in music would be incredible. Just as a little side note, not to be mushy but I would love to relive my wedding day too!

What is your hidden talent?

My hidden talent, well, if you’ve seen me after a few drinks you’ll understand why they call me “Snake hips Allen”. Give me a dance floor and good music and I’ll dance all night long. It’s maybe not a hidden talent… I’m maybe using the word talent pretty loosely but I sure do enjoy it!

What does a typical day in your life look like?

My wife gets up super early and once that hairdryer gets going, I’m up and out of bed. I set myself up for the day with a bowl of Krave, log on, check the football scores and blog feeds. Once that is taken care of, I’m usually one of the first in the morning to start engaging with and helping our amazing customers (might be something to do with the time difference). I’ll take a break for lunch and get some fresh air, taking a walk down by the burn and listening to Back to work.

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen - Greig's office

Then it is back to offering support to our customers until my wife comes home from work. We really enjoy cooking together so we will usually do that of an evening. In the winter our weather gets pretty bad so we tend to hibernate with a movie but in the summer we will visit family and friends, hang out in a beer garden, or fire up the BBQ!

Behind the Mug: Greig Allen - Interesting


Behind the Mug, Vee

Meet Virginia, AgileBits Day Brightener

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 32 (pronounced “thirty-too-legit-to-quit”) and originally from the Detroit area. I’ve been living in beautiful Portland, OR, for 10 years and counting. I spend my free time in pursuit of fun and adventure! I’m an Associate Artist with an awesome local theater company, Action/Adventure Theatre. I like to sing a lot of karaoke, play pub trivia with friends every week, go out to brunch, see comedy shows, visit my family in Seattle, and generally frolic about. I’m often sporting several temporary tattoos but no permanent ones.

What do you do on the AgileBits team?

Virginia and kitty

I’m proud to be a member of our world-class Customer Support & Social Media teams, answering questions and providing help to our awesome customers. My title is “Day Brightener,” and I strive to live up to that in all my interactions with customers and teammates alike. If I’m not brightening somebody’s day, I’m not doing my job! I get inspiration from my housemates’ two dogs and my boyfriend’s cat; furry little critters always brighten my day.

How did you get your start in the tech industry?

With a BA in Arts & Letters and a background in primarily customer service and admin support jobs, it took a lot of commitment for me to pivot into tech. I started by talking to friends working in tech; poking around in some free online coding tutorials; and attending conferences, talks and meetups here in Portland. This is my first job in the tech industry, and I love it more than I could’ve imagined. :)

What’s your favourite thing about what you do today?

I love the flexibility of working remotely and learning all the ins and outs of 1Password. I’d have to say the upbeat attitude and collaborative environment of this company are my favorite parts. And it’s a great feedback loop: we care so much about our customers and making a product that makes them happy, and they feel that and reciprocate. Our customers love us because they know we love them! My last job was in insurance claims, so this is definitely a happier environment.

What are your geeky aspirations for the future?

The only goal I have for sure right now is to continue learning and growing. Before I started at AgileBits, I wanted to be a developer, and I may yet.  But I love working in Customer Support & Social Media so much that I’m not sure I’d want to give it up!

If you had one free hour each day, how would you use it?

Walk around my neighborhood listening to podcasts and playing Ingress (Enlightened ftw!). Unless it was raining, which it often is here; in that case, I’d probably stay in and read.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation! I almost said flying, which would obviously be really awesome, but flying takes time and I’d rather be able to travel anywhere in the world instantly.

What’s your Patronus?

A unipeg (unicorn pegasus)! If we must stick to the natural world, I’ll say an otter.


from the Founders' Desk

From the Founder’s Desk

Hello Everyone!

I’d like to introduce myself, as I’ve often let Dave and Roustem take the lead. I’m Sara and I’ve been here since the start of AgileBits, in the background running the business side of things. As AgileBits has grown, my role has grown as well. My official title is Minister of Magic, and I oversee the Customer Service team. That’s the team that does a great job connecting with all of you: through Twitter, Facebook, our blog, forums, direct email, and any other way we can.

AgileBits has changed throughout the years, but the one thing we have always been sure of is our goal to make amazing software. As we grew, awesome customer service became a key piece of our philosophy. Being a self-funded, independent company means that we can keep our focus on building secure and convenient software, without having to raise funds to keep doing what we love.

AgileBits: the Early Days

When we started AgileBits 10 years ago, password management wasn’t even on our radar. We were working on other products and had plans to revolutionize the world of app sales. This was back before iTunes or the Mac App Store – It’s amazing to think of the changes we’ve seen!

As with any new business, there are always ups and downs: many ideas that you think are going to take off end up going nowhere. Somewhere along the way, Dave and Roustem found they were always testing new things, and that all of these new things required their own logins. It eventually became such a pain that they figured it was worth their time to spend a month and write a simple little program to manage their logins so they could get back to work. And that is how 1Password was born!

icon, v1Back in those days it was called 1Passwd and we placed it for sale in the app store we were building. Surprisingly enough, people started to buying it. I can remember the day, about 6 weeks after we made it available for sale, when I saw that 10 copies had sold!!! Double digits!!

Sales continued to increase. We received so much love from the Mac community, hearing from many people offering their feedback and suggestions. It was not long afterwards that we realized it was 1Password, not the store, where we should be focusing our efforts.

Growing the AgileBits Family

Along the way we realized we needed some help, and we started bringing people into the AgileBits family. In truth, expanding was scary. I was okay putting my family’s eggs entirely in the 1Password basket. But having other people rely on me for their income was something else entirely. It was a mental hurdle that I had to jump, because we just kept growing!

Hiring the right people has always been a top priority for us. Building a top-notch product requires a top-notch team. One of the most important things we look for when hiring here is personality fit. We are a (growing) family and it is critical that we work well together as a team. And, since most of our folks work remotely, remaining connected to each other is no easy feat. I think we’ve done a great job of collecting some incredible talent to help make 1Password all it can be.

Looking Forward

It’s great to have this opportunity to take a look back and see how far we’ve come. From a small, bootstrapped operation in our basement to a company built entirely on sales, growing the AgileBits family has been an amazing adventure.

I am so in awe of the response we have gotten from you all as we work towards our goal of making security convenient for everyone. With your support, AgileBits is now a company of over 60 fabulous people and I couldn’t love this team more! Being self-funded means that important decisions can be made quickly and we can pursue our passion taking 1Password to the next level.  We’re so proud that we’ve built AgileBits into the company it is, and we are looking forward to continuing to make awesome software to keep you and your loved ones safe.

We have great things in store for you all, and I’m looking forward to being able to share more with you all soon!! If there is ever anything we can help with, please be sure to comment below, reach out on Twitter or Facebook, or find us in the Forums. Our team is always here:)

Make it Magical!!


Staying Connected: Basecamp

When you work with people who live across the country and around the world, you need a special set of tools to collaborate and keep in touch. AgileBits has been a remote company since its inception almost 10 years ago, and we’ve tried a lot of solutions to help keep us on the same page. Today, I want to tell you about Basecamp, a powerful, collaborative to-do app that helps us stay on top of all of our projects.

Basecamp is a web-based project management solution that can be as simple or as complex as we need. At its most basic level, Basecamp allows us to create to-do lists and share them with our various teams, wherever they are. Basecamp’s power is in its ease of collaboration though. We can assign tasks to our teammates, track due dates on the built-in calendar, and discuss items easily. This all happens within the context of various projects, enabling me to stay on top of my things, and remain blissfully unaware of the projects outside my purview.

Basecamp: Favourite Projects

Release, Rinse and Repeat!

Basecamp’s project templates are a feature I only recently discovered, but it’s already one of my favourites. With 1Password being developed across five platforms, we have a fair few releases and app updates that we want to tell our users about. From a social marketing standpoint, each of those releases looks roughly the same: we need to write release notes, update screenshots in our User Guide and press kit, write a blog post, and plan which features we’ll highlight in our various channels over the coming days. Now I’ve got a handy template for releases that includes all the tasks that we know we’ll need to complete, and all the necessary people are pre-assigned; it’s such a time saver!

Basecamp Template: 1Password Update

My world at a glance

Basecamp sends daily, optional emails letting me know what has changed in all the projects I follow, so that I can stay up to date without having to manually look into each project. I can also enable email notifications for tasks to which I’m assigned, so that I know when a deadline is approaching.

Team database

As our team grows, it’s getting harder and harder to know all the things, and we’re working to find ways to keep everyone in the loop. Weekly calls are scheduled with developers and support team members to discuss the top feedback from our customers, and to review progress on open bugs and feature requests. Because not everyone can participate in these calls, we store the notes in a Basecamp project so that we can get a CliffsNotes version of what’s happening on each platform.

We use Basecamp for social media style guides and for collecting relevant internal information. Its integration with Google Docs makes it a convenient place to organize our blog posts: each proposed post is assigned to an author and a Google Doc containing the draft is attached. This means I never have to go hunting through the piles of docs in my Google Drive to find a particular post.

There’s a lot more that’s awesome in Basecamp, but this is how it has made my life easier. See how Basecamp can organize your chaos on their site and let me know what features you love in the comments.


Staying connected: Slack

Did you know that most of us work remotely? We’ve got an office in Toronto and some of us pop in throughout the week to work alongside our amazing co-workers. However, the vast majority of our team work from around the world, in six countries and on two continents (so far).

A photo posted by Nik (@bleepnik) on

We get to see each other about once a year, when we convene for our annual(ish) retreat. The rest of the time, we use a variety of apps and services to collaborate and keep in touch. These tools are so invaluable to us that we thought it was high time we shared them with you and gave them a shout-out on our blog. Today, I’d like to talk about a chat app we started using about a year ago. It’s called Slack, and it helps us do everything but that.

Slack’s no slacker

When we first started using Slack, we had just a few different channels: the “water cooler” channel for chit-chat, one for announcements, one for developers, and one for our CS team. Over time, our team grew and projects diversified. Where we used to be able to have one conversation, now there are a multitude of discussions going on at once. We needed more channels.

Slack has accommodated our needs beautifully. Not only does it handle a large number of channels with speed and aplomb, but it offers us channel-specific settings that help us keep our attention and our conversations organised. For example, everyone gets notified of posts in our #announcements channel; for this reason, there is no chatter allowed there. (Most announcements have a string of emoji reactions, since they don’t generate notifications.)

You can add your avatar as an emoji, and it's rad.

You can add your avatar as an emoji, and it’s rad.

When a team-wide channel isn’t quite what’s needed, we can easily send each other direct messages or create private groups. These are just a few clicks or a keyboard shortcut away.

Speaking of which…

Do :allthethings:

Slack has a number of really useful features that aren’t immediately apparent. For example, it has excellent support for keyboard shortcuts and several built-in / (slash) commands. One of my favourites is /feedback. This special command causes my message to be sent to the Slack team as feedback, instead of appearing in the chat window once I press Return; it’s really slick! /mute is also great, handy for temporarily silencing a busy channel.

Another fantastic feature is integrations. We can easily configure any Slack channel to listen to a particular web service. We have a few channels that listen to a few different services so that we don’t miss anything important. We can see App Store reviews, server alerts, and even tweets that mention 1Password.

Slack encourages customization. It’s so easy to add our own emoji that we now have a rather large library. Slack uses aliases in addition to a visual browser, so instead of searching for that icon I added for “all the things,” I can simply type :allthethings: to make the icon appear in my message. It’s so clever and convenient that I often find myself typing the aliases in other apps; I wish they worked everywhere!


Slack on, Slack off

Whether it’s discussing a new 1Password feature, sharing a funny GIF, or celebrating personal accomplishments, Slack helps us forge real relationships in a virtual workplace. Available on every major platform (including an Apple Watch app) and offering integration of the 1Password app extension in iOS, it’s easy to use Slack wherever and whenever we need it. We are really glad Slack exists, and are grateful for their support of 1Password. You can even catch @SlackHQ and @1Password occasionally bantering on Twitter. =P


Jessysaurus Rex joins the AgileBits team!

An adventure 65 million years in the making

A couple of weeks ago, we introduced you to the wonder women of AgileBits, who make this company and 1Password what they are today. We’re happy to announce that a new member has joined that illustrious team. If you follow the world of online security, you may already be familiar with her (or at the very least with one of her security sign bunnies hopping around Twitter!).

JessysaurusRex - Jessy Irwin

Her name is Jessy Irwin, and she is an influential voice in the world of information security. She also happens to love dinosaurs. A published writer and presenter, Jessy champions online privacy and security and spends much of her time educating people about the need for strong, unique passwords; secure software development; and operational security (opsec). She works to raise security awareness among students and educators, and helps the average Internet citizen learn what they can do to keep themselves, their data, and their online identities secure. She’s an obvious choice and a natural fit for our team, and we’re so glad that she’s here. @1Password and Jessy have been each other’s Twitter boo for a long time, a courtship that culminated in a grand proposal. (Spoiler alert: She said yes!)

Thanks for the Storify and kind words, Matthew!

This week, Jessy was a guest on Threatpost’s Digital Underground podcast. She and host Dennis Fisher had a great discussion about passwords, student privacy, how Jessy got her start in the world of information security, and her new role at AgileBits. You can subscribe to the Threatpost podcast on iTunes or listen to Jessy’s episode on the Threatpost website.

If you’re interested in learning more about online security, I highly recommend following @1Password and Jessy on Twitter. Jessy frequently shares her thoughts on the latest tech developments (such as Wednesday’s Apple event) and how they might impact your security, as well as great articles and blog post written by some of the smartest hackers and security researchers in the world. I enjoy following her on Twitter and having her do the work of curating all those interesting articles for me.