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Behind-the-Scenes posts:

Behind the New Invoices Overview

Ever wonder about the inner-workings that make Harvest tick? There are a lot of continual updates to our codebase that our users never see. In the lull before our next update to Invoices Overview, we thought it a good chance to give you a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes work our developers do to make Harvest run better and faster. In this post, our developer Pez gives you a first-hand glimpse into his work to improve the code for Invoices Overview.


Here at Harvest, we like to ship new features, but also take great care to continually improve existing functionality.

We launched Harvest back in 2005, before Rails had hit version 1.0 and Ruby was still at version 1.8. That means we have our fair share of legacy code. Recently some of the legacy code had started to become a blocker to our aim of continual improvement.

When we decided to update the Invoices Overview screen, we had a choice: develop new functionality on top of the existing code, potentially making the problem worse, or rewrite our code.

We decided to take a step back and re-architect this section of Harvest. This meant we could bring the area up to modern standards with feature parity, and then start implementing a few new features to make the section even more useful.

What’s the Problem with Old Code?

Why is legacy code such a bad thing? If it isn’t broken don’t fix it, right?

While it’s true that features written in legacy code will work, legacy code can eventually become a barrier for improving existing functionality for a few reasons:

  • It often has less test coverage, meaning it’s easy to break things without realizing.
  • It’s usually harder to understand, having drifted from the originally engineered design.
  • The additional complexity makes it harder to debug and more complex to add functionality to.

But why does “legacy code” exist in the first place?  Continue reading…

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. Continue reading…

RSVP to WalkaboutNYC Tech Edition

Today, we’re proud to announce our 4th annual WalkaboutNYC Tech Edition. Since organizing our very first WalkaboutNYC in 2010, we’ve nurtured and grown this behind-the-scenes event to showcase the vibrant tech movement in New York City.

WalkaboutNYC Has Grown

  • We’ve created an RSVP system, so that you can better plan your schedule, and your day. About 1500 people RSVP’d for sessions at last year’s event, and many used our mobile-friendly view while they were on the go.
  • We created a new version of WalkaboutNYC, the Agency Edition, where we invited NYC’s independent creative agencies to join in the Walkabout fun.
  • For the second year in a row, we’re happy to see WalkaboutSingapore happen!
  • For those who don’t live in NYC but want to throw their own Walkabout, we made Walkabout available as an open source project, so that you can share your own behind-the-scenes look at your own city’s tech movement.

Why Do We Do This?

Harvest co-founders Danny Wen and Shawn Liu have always enjoyed taking tours of workspaces. Whether it’s a loft or shared co-working space, they’ve always been inspired to see where companies are born, people spend their time, and products are launched. WalkaboutNYC enables us to share that experience everyone.

Join Us

RSVP now to join us on Friday, May 17th, and meet the entrepreneurs, designers, and engineers who are shaping tomorrow’s technology.

2012 – The Year In Work

2012-the-year-in-work

Over the last 7 years, 95 million hours were tracked in Harvest. With each passing year, we’ve labored behind the scenes to change the way you work. Our goal with every Harvest update has been to streamline your workflow, so you can focus on the work that matters most and get more done.

2012 was no different. Whether it was through redesigning the timesheet to make time tracking even faster from any device, or launching a developer platform to provide the ability to track time from any application — we pushed Harvest further last year to make your life easier. To recap, we put together a little story of what we accomplished for our customers in 2012 — The Year In Work.

2013 is already off to a great start with another integration made public, and updates tailored towards helping you communicate better with clients. As always, we invite you to send us feedback on what else you’d like to see this year. For any time tracking integration requests, why not send along the Harvest Developer Platform to the team behind your favorite application? They’ll be able to add Harvest time tracking to their application in 15 minutes.

We look forward to providing you with another stellar year in work.

WalkaboutNYC Agency Edition: The Recap

For the past three years, we’ve been organizing WalkaboutNYC for technology companies, as a way to give people a behind the scenes look at how these companies get work done. Last month, we organized our very first WalkaboutNYC Agency Edition. We invited 28 independent creative agencies to open their doors, and share how they work with the public. We held a kickoff event in downtown New York’s SoHo, to bring together some of the participants, share lunch, and have some interesting discussions related to design and getting work done at an independent creative agency, with sponsorship from Mailchimp and Behance.

During the kickoff, Sam Potts, Communications Designer at IDEO, discussed his circuitous path through the world of design. What may, in retrospect, look like a master plan, was really an unplanned route that included publishing, superhero supplies, travel in China, and now IDEO. Hear why he made the decisions he did, and how he traveled from A to Z.

Continue reading…

Behind the Scenes with Harvest: Kaizen

While working on a different post today, I realized that we’ve never formally talked about Kaizen, our internal project management/bug tracker/feature request tracker. Sure, we’ve mentioned it in passing a number of times, but we’ve never given you a behind the scenes peek at what Kaizen looks like.

“Kaizen” is a Japanese word meaning “improvement” and refers to a philosophy of continuous improvement of process. It’s the perfect name for a tool that contributes so deeply to the improvement of our products, ourselves and the work we do. In a lot of ways, Kaizen (app) is the embodiment of The Harvest Way: listen to our customers, make it simpler, make it faster, be honest and keep improving.

Kaizen as a project/task manager:

Continue reading…

Bringing Awareness and Focus into Your Work

A few weeks ago I downloaded MyFitnessPal to my iPhone. During the 2 weeks that I actually used it (don’t judge!) I noticed something about my behavior. Specifically, being hyper aware of my choices, actually changed the way I consumed food and the way I chose to spend my down time. I started bringing lunch and started exiting the subway a few stops earlier in order to lengthen my walk to work.

If you’ve ever used Mint or any other budgeting apps, you may have experienced the same phenomenon. Understanding where your money goes makes you much more aware before you spend it. You end up being more focused. It might even inspire you to create a budget for yourself and stick to it.

While using MyFitnessPal, I realized that the relationship I was developing with this fitness app was similar to the one I have with Harvest. Since joining Harvest more than a year ago, I have found that entering time as I go has a huge personal benefit. Sure, it’s faster and it ensures that the time data is accurate, but the real benefit for me is that it helps me manage my time more efficiently. The act of starting a timer makes me more focused. It is the equivalent of making a declaration about what I’m about to do.

Even though Harvest has more than 10 ways for you to enter time as you go, many of you still enter at the end of the day, week or even, month. If you’re one of those people, I’d recommend you give track-as-you-go a try. It may seem awkward at first, but it becomes second nature rather quickly. Give it a day. And if you take me up on this challenge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Go Pink in October

A few weeks ago after lunch, Matt and Paul started talking about the fact that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They wondered if there was something that Harvest could do to support the cause. As others joined in the conversation, it became obvious that almost everyone in the office had been impacted by breast cancer in one way or another. We decided to make something happen.

This month Harvest is donating $10,000 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF). We decided on BCRF because 91 cents of every dollar spent by the organization goes directly towards breast cancer research and awareness programs. This is an impressive statistic for such a large organization; one we can get behind.

But this isn’t about the money. What we really care about here is awareness. With that in mind, we’re letting our customers change their Harvest color scheme to pink during the month of October (company admins will see a message on their dashboard). We hope that seeing the pink navigation bar will encourage you to ensure that all the people in your life follow the appropriate protocol for early detection.

We hope that during this month you will take some time to think about your health and how you can detect and prevent all forms of cancer.

What’s It Like To Intern at Harvest?

Earlier this year, we decided to provide internships to students who were interested in working in a technology company like ours. We saw it as a way for us to give back to the next generation of technologists and as a way for us to mentor bright young minds. We wanted to show them another option to use their craft beyond the usual campus tech-related recruiters like large businesses, consulting firms and banking institutions.

Our goal was to provide a program where interns would have a real-world problem solving experience. They’d learn how to work alongside our full-time team and gain exposure to the real challenges we’re solving.

In May, computer science major Anthony Chen joined us in New York. In August, Anthony put together a summary of his experience in the Harvest Academy, an internal blog where we share learnings and ideas. With Anthony’s gracious permission to repost, here’s what he had to say:

Continue reading…

DIY Walkabout

We’ve just come out of our 3rd WalkaboutNYC, and with 3 years under our belt, we’ve learned a lot. For those that don’t know, WalkaboutNYC is a citywide open house event for technology companies. This year’s WalkaboutNYC was our most successful yet, and we’ve had many inquiries from people in other cities who would like to host their own Walkabout. I wanted to share some points about what we did, what we’ve learned, and where we’re headed.

We’re excited to announce that Walkabout is now an open source project.

We’ve had many inquiries from folks around the globe that would like to organize a Walkabout in their own cities, and we couldn’t be happier to hear it. To support these efforts, we have shared our experiences and knowledge about Walkabout on GitHub, to get you started on hosting your own events. Go forth and bring Walkabout worldwide!

We learned that people like structure.

For this year’s WalkaboutNYC, we took a more targeted approach. We set a goal to include about 50 companies (down from 80+ last year), driving traffic to 5 main neighborhoods (sorry Brooklyn), and requiring companies to create an experience led by founders, or lead designers or developers. This framework, utilizing timed events, allowed companies to know what was expected and what to expect. The same is true for attendees with RSVPs — giving them a schedule to follow was loads easier to follow than “go wherever you want.”

Be forewarned, Walkabout is a lot of work. And a lot of time.

We spent 873 hours on WalkaboutNYC this year.

What did we spend so much time on?

  • We built a new mobile first website, with a front- and back-end RSVP system and database, and Facebook/Twitter authentication for attendees. This was our intern Joschka’s very first Ruby on Rails project, and led to his first open source project, Harvey.
  • Kim did some great design work, from the site, to wall signs, limited edition tote bags, to stickers. The goal this year was to bring a stronger tie between Harvest and WalkaboutNYC, so that people actually know that we organize and support it.
  • The rest: outreach and back and forths with companies, sponsorships, press and PR company involvement, and general inquiries.

Coming next: WalkaboutNYC for creative agencies.

Despite the time commitment, we find the experience WalkaboutNYC provides for companies and participants to be a very worthwhile endeavor for the community. Previously, WalkaboutNYC has focused on the technology product community, and we’d like to shift focus to creative agencies this fall. Email us at info@walkaboutnyc.com if you work at a creative agency that is interested in hosting walkabouters this fall, we’d love to hear from you. And keep exploring!