July VSTS/VSTF CTP released

The VSTS teams are dogfooding a new drop of Team Foundation to use on a daily basis. I've been writing about this release for a while so it's certainly a relief to have this important milestone behind us. As previously promised, we have also released it as CTP to MSDN subscribers can try it as well. Please let us know what you think.

Several other bloggers have written about this release, including Rob Caron and Buck Hodges so I recommend you read what they have to say as well. Tonight, I sent the following early impressions to my team…thought folks would enjoy reading it:

From: Jeff Beehler
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 10:08 PM
To: Team Foundation All
Cc: Burton Leads; S. Somasegar; Craig Symonds
Subject: early tastes of dogfood

It now appears that we’ve got most of the Team Foundation dogfood system up and running after the recent refresh (we’ve already had nearly 250 check-ins since Wednesday night!). While it was somewhat rocky getting here, I, for one, am finding a number of improvements which I really appreciate. Of course, there are a number of annoyances as well, but on the whole I’m a pretty happy dogfooder at the moment. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed in the past few days while using the system:

Source control GUI perf: in contrast to Beta2, the source control GUI performance is pretty much on par with that of the command line. While I haven’t gotten out my stopwatch, I find myself doing things in the GUI (like a large sync) that I would never have attempted from within the IDE before. These improvements will enable day-to-day usage of Hatteras from the IDE which in turn will help us bring that experience up to par with that of the command line.

Check-in policies: The notion of having to associate a bug with a check-in and the use of the new “fix ready” state in our dogfood workflow is an exciting use of the system. This is precisely the sort of thing our customers will do when they are shutting down active development and dogfooding this approach will certainly help us make it even more useful for customers.

Reporting: As a big customer of reporting and the warehouse, I have been very eager to migrate to this new drop just for the improvements in this area. I’m very happy to have a number of problems fixed which made the use of complex reporting against our df data nearly impossible with Beta2 either because of usability issues or poor performance. I spent a good amount of time in the past day revamping my reports to leverage the data warehouse and while I’ve certainly found problems, I’m no longer blocked from continuing my investigation and usage. The standard Rosetta reports are not yet available on the dogfood system…I’m hopeful they’ll show up this week so I can start pounding on those as well.

Work item tracking: Maybe it’s just me, but the work item tracking system seems snappier and more polished than the beta2 drop. Since I spend a *lot* of time here, little improvements make a big impact. Saving, scrolling, and opening bugs all seems faster. I appreciate the new, ever-present bug title bar and the unified column formatting between query and results view. I especially like how results view automatically updates when I edit a bug in another view. There are still some weirdnesses about how the area and iteration path controls work with the keyboard, but all in all, this drop seems much improved.

Excel integration: This is one of my favorite features of the entire product and it too has gotten better since beta2. First, it’s a lot faster. While I’ve found (and reported) some situations where it’s still a bit too slow, overall it’s a bunch faster. Next, query bound lists are destined to change the way we all use Excel integration since the lists can now be dynamically updated based on the results of a query. Finally, now we can round trip the bug’s repro steps. While I still miss having access to the history control, this is a big step forward. It helps both in the bug review process as well as in creating new bugs from within Excel, my second home. 

I look forward to using the system more and finding additional goodies to try out. Our remote teams in Fargo and North Carolina have installed source control proxies to help further improve performance. In the test lab, this technology delivered huge wins so I’m eager to hear how it works in the field. Also, with this refresh, the eDT team has enabled scenarios for uploading and reporting test results which I know some testers will be using on a regular basis. Finally, the Team Build folks have made the changes necessary to build all of Team Foundation with Team Build on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing all of these and hearing about the improvements to productivity they provide. Please share your anecdotes about the improvements you’re seeing.

I encourage you to find new ways to leverage our dogfood system. Over the past couple of months we’ve had a number of new work item types created and used in ways we hadn’t initially imagined. For instance, I’m excited that the Whidbey release team has taken the plunge and is using it to track the exit criteria for all Whidbey teams. Also, the testing team has created a customized work item type specific for testing. These will undoubtedly be new sources of feedback for us…I can’t wait to hear how things work (and don’t work) for them. If you find issues while dogfooding, please let us know. File a bug, send mail to the support alias, tell your friendly PM, etc. It’s these comments that help us make sure we’re shipping the right product. 

While dogfooding costs our team a great deal in terms of time and effort, it’s an investment in the quality and usability of the product that would be difficult to replicate in any other way. I am 100% confident that the work we’re doing here directly impacts the eventual success of the product. Many thanks to those that put in the extra effort to make sure that we fulfilled the goals of this dogfood refresh. It took longer than we hoped but the end result is certainly worth waiting for.

Keep up the great work…we’re getting there!