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iOS, the human workflow, and drunken collaboration

As developers, we have watched with knowing and wide eyes as the technological world around us has evolved. Somewhere along the way, a few bright souls realized something crazy – developers are people, just like the users of the software we create. And suddenly, no longer were the trappings of geekdom limited simply to the dark sorceries of the command line. Our tools have evolved, and we along with them.


A month or so ago, I was out with our CTO Ron and our head of marketing, Tom, for a concert. We had been out for some hours, and we were moseying into the concert venue when an alarm was triggered in Opbeat. A DNS lookup was failing on one of our database servers causing some pretty ugly-looking error messages to pop up.

We immediately stopped, and the server team began to assess the situation. With Ron away from his laptop, use of the Opbeat iOS app was necessary to get visibility into the problem and to discuss it with the two on-call developers.


It was during this situation that we noticed a problem in the iOS app. We had neglected to include the last occurrence date on the detail view of an Error Group. This little piece of missing information resulted in the need for increased communication, slowing resolution of the issue.

Fortunately, the problem turned out to be less serious than initially believed, but we relearned an important lesson about the details of an error – they should be complete.

Operating apps comes at considerable individual cost. The time and attention devoted by developers to ensuring their apps are running properly is a weight borne by the entire devops team, twenty four hours a day. The last thing a developer wants is for a tool to get in the way.

The Human Workflow

No software is perfect, and the errors will undoubtedly roll in at some point in the lifetime of your app. One never knows where he or the rest of his team will be, but he may rest assured it is unlikely to be at a convenient time or place.

This is where Opbeat iOS comes into the picture. We did not just set out to build a simple mobile alternative to Opbeat, we set out to truly complement it. We spend countless hours thinking about the best ways to keep our users informed about their apps while still enabling what I call a “human” workflow.

I do not mean “human” in the sense of collaboration. I mean “human” in the sense that we recognize that the process should be geared toward users – humans, not robots. We want to keep you operating, not fumbling around.

Removing Hindrances

One way we have chosen to do this is by supporting Apple’s new Handoff capabilities in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. In the event that you do need to open the laptop and address an issue more directly, simply viewing the error group on the iOS app will enable you to open it directly in Safari or Chrome on your Mac. If you are in the middle of a discussion or reviewing past activity in the error group, you will be sent directly to the activity log.

Handing off an error group to OS X Yosemite

Speaking of discussion, collaboration is a major part of the Opbeat experience. Oftentimes our users will be engaged with team members regarding multiple issues at once. Prior to version 3.2 of the iOS app, notifications for comments only arrived outside of the app, but now, we have added banner-style notifications inside of the app to keep you apprised of the latest information.

In-app notification banners

No searching or digging required. We will take you straight there. Opbeat is the first true ops platform for developers – humans, I mean. Real people with lives to live away from their screens. We will continue doing our utmost to make ops and collaboration simple so you can stay focused on your product. And as always, the devs are listening.

Opbeat iOS 3.2 is available in the Apple App Store now.

Were you looking for Opbeat Android? Sign up for the beta.

Opbeat is now available for Android, more information here.

About the author
Mark Lloyd Jones is Opbeat's resident Mobile Engineer and all-round party man.
If you have any suggestions or feature requests for our mobile apps you can reach him at jones@opbeat.com.
You can follow him on Twitter or GitHub.