Chattin' with HipChat

HipChat – “Built by programmers for programmers”

Coman Hamilton
© HipChat

Atlassian talks about DevOps, gifs, corporate communication and the latest HipChat innovation: HipChat server, which allows companies to use their chat tool behind a firewall.

Last week Atlassian announced its new HipChat Sever together with its plans to triple its HipChat workforce. Bernardo de Albergaria, vice president and general manager of Atlassian’s collaboration group talked to us about HipChat’s new firewall capabilites and why tech teams at Pinterest, Netflix and Dropbox are using HipChat to communicate.

JAXenter: Before we get started, for anyone who hasn’t come across it, can you tell us what HipChat is about?

Bernardo de Albergaria: HipChat provides teams a better way to communicate. It’s more efficient than email and it brings the technology people love to use in their personal lives into the workplace. It combines 1-1 messaging, group chat, voice, video, file and screen sharing on any connected device for teams. It also provides integrations with other apps, allowing users to receive realtime, automated notifications from the software they use every day. All of these features combined make it easier for teams to stay up to date, interact and share content in real-time with co-workers anywhere in the world.

A Californian HipChat billboard that went viral online

That’s why tens of thousands of organizations around the world – from Pinterest, Homeaway and Heroku, to Fitbit, Intuit, RunKeeper and WIRED – use HipChat as the central hub for their team communication. Quite simply put: it’s built for business teams, it works natively in any environment and it’s incredibly affordable. No other product offers this combination.

Atlassian is about to triple its HipChat team – what you got have planned?

We recently launched HipChat Server, an on-premise version of HipChat designed to allow companies to host the software on their own private network. We’re still celebrating this milestone, so as for what’s coming, you will have to wait and see.

But we can tell you that integrations will continue to be a key focus. Currently HipChat offers more integrations than any other similar product, and we’ll continue to add more and improve the ones we already offer.

In what way do you imagine enterprise developer teams will be employing HipChat Server?

We don’t expect the use case to vary much – HipChat Server customers will use HipChat in much the same way other HipChat customers us it: as the central hub for their team communication. And it’s not just developers who use HipChat, teams across all departments within a company need a better way to communicate. What teams need and want to work better is pretty universal.

© HipChat

© HipChat

The key difference with HipChat Server is the type of companies to which it caters. HipChat Server addresses the unique needs of many companies that require a delivery model they control, rather than running it in the cloud. This includes companies in the financial services, government, healthcare and other sectors with stringent security requirements, as well as those in geographies such as Europe that have strict regulations on where data is stored. This opens the doors to one of the fastest growing enterprise software technologies in recent years to companies who have had to sit on the sidelines until now.

For example, OGSystems (OGS), a US-based defense contractor which counts the US Government as one of its biggest contracts, relies on HipChat Server to bring its distributed workforce together. Secure, real-time communication between consultants in the field and developers in the lab results in faster solutions and new business opportunities.

Atlassian is itself a pretty distrubuted company, with offices all over the world. How do your developers keep in touch?

To be honest, we live and breath our own products. Our entire company uses JIRA, Atlassian’s project and issue management software; JIRA Service Desk, our service management software for IT and business teams; and Confluence, our team and content collaboration platform, to track what they do and share and discuss content.

“We have the best gifs”

HipChat is an integral part of this process. Four years ago our founders saw the potential of what it could do to improve the connectedness and efficiency of distributed teams. They knew it had the power to transform the way teams work. Today our entire company uses it internally to communicate in realtime across chat and video every single day – development, marketing, support, legal, all the teams.

Developer teams have taken a liking to Google Hangouts. How does HipChat compare? Is it designed in any way specifically for programmers?

HipChat was, first and foremost, built by programmers for programmers. We offer quite a few features specifically for programmers and the teams they work with:

  • Most importantly we offer integrations with the tools programmers use everyday such as Bitbucket, GitHub, StatusPage.io, etc., and we make it easy to build an integration if it’s not already available.
  • Developers love our API.
  • HipChat is built for teams, which is why it only includes business contacts and not personal contacts.
  • We offer programmer-friendly slash commands to do great things from your keyboard. For instance, /code displays the message with code syntax highlighting (and the language is detected automatically).
  • You can show hexadecimal colors right in HipChat. Simply type in #, and HipChat will render the color into your chat.
  • We have a Standup bot that distributed teams (including ours) use to record their standups.
  • We have the best gifs

And how does it support productivity in an agile development environment?

Agile makes change an asset, rather than a liability to development. HipChat introduces the realtime component–a critical aspect–to the process. Users can create chat rooms clustered around key parts of the project such as hot issues, deployment statuses, Q&A, etc. to keep the team aware of all aspects. HipChat also keeps shared assets like images, files, links from individual conversations and group chats, making it easy for agile teams to look back on prior work. This keeps everyone on the same page and cuts down on time and confusion.

HipChat recently hit four billion sent messages (via blog.hipchat.com)

HipChat recently hit four billion sent messages (via blog.hipchat.com)

HipChat also spans geographies and brings a human component to agile development amongst distributed teams. Team members can share their progress asynchronously and plan for the next day keeping everyone informed. Remote teams can use the included standup bot to do virtual standups. HipChat highlights who’s online and what time zone they’re in, making it easy to find the right person to take action on key issues more quickly.

Speaking of enhancing productivity, Atlassian has been taking a DevOps approach for quite a while now. Can you comment on the changes you have noticed since?

All of our SaaS teams use HipChat to monitor critical alerts from our running services. Monitoring systems are integrated without production servers, and notify the relevant Ops room on HipChat when an issue is detected. Bitbucket, for example, uses an enterprise monitoring solution to keep an eye on the critical infrastructure. We found HipChat to be superior to email for Ops monitoring as its routing means notifications are received sooner, and room-based communication makes it simple to discuss resolutions and bring in specialist engineers.

“HipChat makes it easy to spin up a virtual war room”

In the event of a major incident or outage, HipChat makes it easy to spin up a virtual war room that helps key stakeholders stay informed and allows first responders to coordinate. The ability to scroll back through a room’s history to see how an event unfolded also greatly assists retrospective analysis and Post-Incident Report generation.

Systems like Bitbucket and JIRA are set up to notify the HipChat engineering room when alerts occur, bug reports are created or pull requests are opened or merged. Bitbucket uses HipChat to actually deploy code using an adapted version of Hubot. The team can gain consensus using HipChat before performing a deploy to staging or production. Once a deploy is initiated, detailed logs generated by the deploy process are sent by direct message to the engineer who initiated it so he or she can easily monitor and debug the progress of the build, also limiting the amount of spam received by the rest of the team. Once the deploy is completed, the bot announces the success or failure of the deploy in the team’s room.

Author
Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of JAXenter.com at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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