The “Behind The Scenes” series is a chance for us to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of HabitRPG, Inc., the company that makes Habitica. Every so often, we’ll treat you to some silly staff shenanigans or show you the work that goes into your favorite features. Enjoy!
We get a surprising number of questions about how the Habitica team gets stuff done! While we all use Habitica to manage our personal tasks, a lot of what we do is too big for any one person to manage by themselves. Here’s a primer on how staff and contributors coordinate work and collaborate at HabitRPG, Inc.
Remote Work and an LA Nucleus
If you’ve been following the team at all, you’ve probably noticed that while Lemoness and redphoenix are based in Los Angeles, the rest of the team chimes in from time zones across the world. This is in large part because Habitica’s roots are in open source, where non-co-located collaboration is the default. However, we’ve also learned to institute some working structure so that we can keep pushing out improvements on a regular basis! Some of the strategies we’ve found useful are daily standup meetings, weekly updates, and regular in-person meetings.
Daily Standup for Structure: The Full Time Team
Every day at 11 am Pacific (that’s 7pm UTC!) we have a thirty minute “standup” meeting for the full time staff members. Standups are fairly typical in the tech industry, but Habitica does them a little differently. We use the time to update each other on what we’re doing for that day, including flagging stuff that needs intervention or assistance from another staff member, and then finish out the meeting with “picks.” (More on those later.) Basically, we’re each others’ accountability buddies.
As the team gets larger and it gets more difficult to constrain ourselves to 30 minutes or a single time slot, we may start experimenting with a rotating standup meeting or a split standup depending on teams. We’re still small enough that adding a new person to the mix changes the dynamic, so we’re definitely still in the experimental phase as far as figuring what works best for everyone involved!
Of course, Habitica also relies on a core team of part time contractors in addition to full time staff. A weekly check in on major projects helps us make sure that things keep moving forward. As with the Daily Standup meetings, picks are allowed and encouraged!
So what are “Picks”?
Picks are basically show-and-tell–each team member gets to share with the group something that they’re inspired by, excited about, or that they recommend to at least one other member of the group. Because picks aren’t necessarily work related and they happen on a daily basis, occasionally they’ll veer into tentative or lukewarm reviews (“I am not sure about this TV series that I just started watching”) or even anti-picks (“goat milk in coffee is really not recommended”). Over time, picks become a really good way to get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. For example, viirus really likes Legos.
Some discussions are better had in person, even if you’re a team full of introverts. One thing we’re currently trying out is holding team retreats more regularly. Team members can get some face time with each other, not just FaceTime. We try to do at least one afternoon/evening of non-work activity so that we get to know each other outside of a work context, but also have a big project or discussion scheduled that would particularly benefit from being discussed with everyone in a room. So far these have proved super valuable for everyone to get on the same page and air any concerns that might otherwise get swept under the rug during day-to-day operations.
Separately from the team, Lemoness and redphoenix meet in-person at least once or twice a week, along with any team members in town for work or pleasure. We generally host out of our coworking space two blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, nearby some great restaurants and some really good cookies.
…Ok, maybe the questions about how we work aren’t so surprising. Given that we’re a productivity company, people do expect us to set an example for how to be more productive! We also spend a lot of time thinking about how to maintain peak performance, since we’ve learned from hard experience that long term sustainability is more difficult than “just work harder and longer.”Everyone’s a bit different, though, so in future blog posts we’ll be sharing strategies that work for each individual member of the team. Stay tuned!