Supporting Harvest: Tools of the Trade

I had the opportunity to speak at the fabulous UserConf NYC a few months ago, about how Harvest dropped its support response times. I then followed up with a guest appearance on Supportops Podcast with Chase Clemons from 37signals, where we talked about remote working, Hurricane Sandy, and a some of the tools we use in Harvest support that help to speed up the process. Here’s a quick look at a couple of the tools that I use everyday.

GeekTool

GeekTool is an application that lets you display one of three things on your desktop: an image, the contents of a file (like a log file), or the output of a script. I use it to do a few basic things:

GeekTool Output

  • In the top left corner of the screen is what I’m currently working on, the task and description from my current running timer. You could get this from something like hcl (Harvest Command Line), but I do this server-side and just curl a text file off of my server.
  • Below that are a couple of other stats out of the Harvest API – number of hours tracked in the month, and number of hours tracked in the current day.  That’s for my own interest; it helps me keep an eye on where I’m at in terms of hours I’m working.
  • I ping Google every few seconds for the status of my Internet connection. My ISP can be somewhat unreliable; this shows me whether I can hit the net or not.
  • Top right, I show open (assigned to me) and pending (assigned to me) Zendesk tickets (but this should work with Desk.com or any other ticket service that has an API). The Harvest Experts who are handling the front lines of support also like to see new (unassigned) tickets there. All of these numbers come out of  the Zendesk API.

I like GeekTool a lot. It’s a really versatile tool for providing at-a-glance info right on your desktop. For further inspiration about some of the other cool things people do with it, checkout the Geeklet Repository.

Alfred

Alfred is commonly called a “launcher” in the software world. It lets you do a bunch of different things using a keyboard shortcut. For me, Command-Space brings up the Alfred window:

Alfred commands

If you want to launch an app, just start typing the app name, as the simplest example. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the cool things Alfred can do though. It can also do web searches using the search terms you type:

Search Harvest Help

This Alfred workflow will search the Harvest Help section using the words I pass in. For example, when I’m answering a support ticket and I want to include a link to the help document being referenced (always a good idea — teach a person to fish and all that) this saves me having to click on Chrome, open a new tab, enter the URL, and enter and submit the search query. If you’re doing that several times a day, the time savings quickly add up.

I also have Alfred workflows for “create new bug”, “create feature request” and I even use Alfred to start and stop timers in Harvest (using the aforementioned hcl). Alfred also supports notifications, so I can have it confirm with me when I’ve started or stopped a timer for a particular task.

What are some of your best tricks of the trade when it comes to automating or streamlining your workflow?  Drop us a comment below!

1 Comments so far
  • Hi. We use Harvest a lot. It’s awesome.

    One major issue we have is that we have 2 kinds of project – regular time based projects, and recurring ongoing contracts (like subscribing to a set amount of hours per month). We use the budget feature extensively to see planned versus actual time. This works great where the project is a simple set amount of hours or fees. Not great when we do the same amount of hours for the customer every month ongoing for a long term. Make sense?

    I am curious if you have other customer with long term subscription type contracts that would like to see this feature. Do you know of any ongoing work on the budget that could help me?

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