[teampractices] Impressions about the switch from Trello to Phabricator

Steven Walling swalling at wikimedia.org
Wed May 14 00:35:58 UTC 2014

Hey all,

I recently completed a bit of work to move my team's current sprint to
Phabricator from Trello. I thought I'd share some of my impressions so far.

- For reference, our Trello board is viewable at:
- The Phabricator instance and our team project is at:

*TL;DR* summary: I think the project management tools in Phabricator are
just fine. They have some strengths and some weaknesses, like all software.
For me the killer feature is having just one canonical place to talk about
MediaWiki development. Consequently, I think embracing the full suite of
tools (i.e. migrating from both Gerrit and Bugzilla) is a blocker for
making it worth my time to abandon Trello.

*Phabricator strengths:*

   - *Task creation:* creating tasks quickly is easy from anywhere in the
   interface. You can also get on a roll by using the "create a similar task"
   function, or creating subtasks. This is on par or better than Trello in
   some instances.
   - *Dependency management*. This is a lot easier than in Bugzilla, and
   definitely so compared to Trello, where the best you get is linking to
   other cards in a checklist. Tasks automatically show all their
   - *Prioritization*: within a Trello card list, you basically have a few
   hacky options for marking priority (labels, order within a list, or
   creating separate lists). Phabricator simply has a field for this, and it
   sorts tasks by priority by default. The colors based on priorities are a
   nice touch as well.
   - *Project overlap*: the nice thing about the Internet is that, unlike
   in meatspace, one thing can live in multiple places at once. ;) Likewise,
   in Phabricator, you can assign multiple projects to a task. So if I want to
   make sure VisualEditor team knows about a bug in the Mobile version, or
   there's a Core-related issue relevant to Growth team work, I can tag it
   with both projects. I think this will encourage collaboration more.
   - *Task assignment:* in Trello tasks can't actually be assigned. You can
   only have card members and subscribers. We work around this by talking
   about it, but it is nice when a task has a clear assignment, especially
   when we need to work more asynchronously.
   - *Reporting*: all the per-user and per-project reporting tools are
   pretty nice, including the burnup chart. Right now I have to do this
   manually in a spreadsheet.

*Phabricator weaknesses:*

   - *Sprint planning:* it's hard to separate out a current iteration's
   worth of work from the entire task backlog. This is one area where the
   workboards could be useful?
   - *The workboard* (i.e. the board that is like Trello or a Kanban board,
   viewable at http://fab.wmflabs.org/project/board/27/ in our case). This
   is going to be the worst annoyance for Trello users who are used to seeing
   an overview of the project via a Kanban board.
      - To expand on this: the big problem is that there is no correlation
      between the Resolved/Open status of a task and the status of the
task in a
      workboard column. For example, I can leave a task at an "In
Review" column
      I made, and also Resolve it. Resolved tasks are then hidden from the
      workboard, and can't have their status updated. Example screenshot:
      https://i.imgur.com/RfQrCMQ.png This means that if you want to keep
      your workboard and task list in sync, you need to first go
manually update
      the workboard, then edit the task status. In other words, maintaining a
      project workboard duplicates effort.
   - *Editing tasks*. It sometimes takes way too many steps to get to
   editing. I immediately missed Trello focus on direct manipulation, e.g. you
   click in to a comment, task description, or other field and you're
   immediately editing it. One simple solution might be "double click to edit"
   or similar in Phabricator.
   - *Attachments*: Trello shows the attached mockups or other materials as
   cover images, and overall is slicker. Phabricator does have annotations
   though they're not super usable.

Steven Walling,
Product Manager
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