Fellowstream – a Beta Tester’s view

For the past few months I have been testing a service called Fellowstream.  Fellowstream is a web-based service that allows groups to work together on project, by using a ticket-based system.

If you are familiar with helpdesk-type ticket systems, then you just have to imagine using the same sort of thing for your own internal organisation.

Fellowstream organises the tickets into “projects”, and you can pass the tickets between members of your team, who can then add notes to them or even add attachments.

Rather confusingly there are two main views, the “Workspace”, where you can see your tickets in some form of sorted order, and the “stream”, which is sort of a chronological view of what everyone is working on.

I found the stream confusing and stuck to the workspace view.  This is a bit like the old-fashioned printed sticks at air-traffic control – new items arrive at one end of the list, and it’s up to you to move them to where you want them.

In my case, new tickets appeared at the bottom and had to be sorted by hand.  The ticket I was working on moved to the top of the list, and was displaced if I switched to another one, leaving it on second place.

My general view of the system is that it is an interesting concept, and I was trying to use it in parallel to my helpdesk and move away from lists in Remember The Milk.

However, today came the shock: the beta phase is over, and now I have to pay to continue using the system.

It’s not that I object to paying.  After all, I already pay monthly fees to use other web-based services for my business.  It’s how they are dealing with their beta users that I find is unacceptable.

Firstly, there is no discount for being a beta user.  It would have been nice if we had benefited from our hard work.

Secondly, I only have 12 days to either remove my data, re-organise it to fit in with a cheaper plan, or my account will be locked.  Either that, or agree to $29 per month.

Fellowstream warning - 4th January 2011

Fellowstream warning - 4th January 2011

This is because I have more than 5 projects defined, and the basic plan does not allow this.  To get down to the free plan I would have to go to one project.

Actually, I think the basic plan for $9/month is quite well priced, but they limit the number of users and projects and storage space for attachments.

I find limiting the number of users only fair, and if the $9 is not per user then that really is cheap.  But I want to group my tickets into projects, and once I finish a project I don’t want to have to delete it to make way for a new one.

That said, I think it would have been fair to beta testers to offer an option to move tickets in bulk from one project to another.  That way I might have been able to group my projects together and make them broader.

But they don’t.  You can only delete projects, which moves to tickets to a sort of “unassigned” status.  Except that there is no view for unassigned tickets, so it’s best to re-assign them manually to a single project.

In fact, during the beta stage I lost my unassigned tickets twice.  They were still there, but I had to search for them (knowing what was in them).  I accept it as a beta tester, but that’s something I will not accept as a paying customer.

I also have to make sure I don’t exceed my limit for attachments.  Again, I think making this an absolute limit is a bit unrealistic, and should be a quota per month instead, similar to Evernote.  But at the very least I would like some way to find and delete my attachments to save space before it gets critical (or before my account gets locked), however there is no option for this.

So today I started migrating my tasks back out of Fellowstream.  I have 12 days left to complete that task!

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a blogger from Germany. He has written code for WordPress themes since 2006 and been creating websites since 1994.
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1 Response to Fellowstream – a Beta Tester’s view

  1. fellowstream says:

    Hi Graham,

    Sorry to hear you are disappointed with our beta transition process. We thought to give people a 2-weeks notice so we could identify issues such as the ones you raised. We actually did a lot of back end work to make the transition smooth, but obviously, we weren’t perfect in the transition.

    Your suggestion for a bulk-ticket transfer as been mentioned by several other users. Our engineers are working on it as we speak, but we may not be able to get one out in time for our deadline. In the meantime, we’d be happy to manually merge your projects so you can fit under the Basic plan if that helps you. Feel free to email me at deborah@fellowstream.com with the projects you’d like to merge, and we’ll do that for you in the next few days.

    During the next week, we are carefully monitoring site usage, especially people who are power users of the site. We planned on sending our top 10% beta testers this weekend a special email offering to do behind the scenes services (such as a manual bulk merge) to entice them to stay. We will likely not do discounts, though, because we feel our product is already very reasonably priced in its category (most services start their basic plans at $20/month and more. We know that whenever you go out of beta, you lose a certain percentage of users, but we hope it’s not the people who get the most out of Fellowstream now.

    Even though it’s not easy to hear criticism, thanks for posting your thoughts. Please do email me or continue to post blogs if you have further questions and concerns. We hope to keep you as a Fellowstream user, but we appreciate if our service doesn’t fit your needs at this time.

    -Deborah Fike

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