Tools of our trade for remote work - Part 1

Whitesmith, as a consultancy company, has been working at full steam for more than a year now. Along the way, we strived to find and improve our process of building software. The same goes for finding the best tools to run our business.

Tackling everything in one post would make it a very long one, so we decided to focus only on the tools of our trade for this first.

A brief about our journey

We started our Unplugg startup in 2012 - a web platform to track your energy and reduce your bills with advanced data analysis and recommendation. In 2013, we decided to go bootstrap and the Whitesmith brand was born.


Now Whitesmith incorporates Unplugg and other products we are building. We're made of a team with more than 15 awesome people, distributed through countries as Portugal, Brazil and UK.


Since then, we've made different experiments that taught us several things, and that we now decided to share with you.


Team communication

Since we are a remote team, using the best online communication tools is crucial for our work. At the moment we are using:

Slack as our central platform for communication. There we have a room for each project of ours, and we have several open channels for different purposes - as #random for random conversations and link sharing, #devops for provisioning and deploying, #ruby-guild for Ruby discussions, and #mega-parties to plan our epic festivities.

Slack is really great because it reunites in just one place 90% of the conversations we have. This makes it possible to everyone to catch up important discussions even if they weren't online or if they were focused on their work at the time - and this is why we avoid private messaging for most of our communication. Still, Slack also makes it possible to have real-time conversations.

Google Hangouts is used for every time we believe that Slack isn't enough. This means that it's helpful for planning our work sprints, some kind of discussions, and our Monthly Gatherings for who isn't in the office at the moment.

Shiplogr - similar to I've Done This - is used to share with everyone what we've done. With Shiplogr you send what you do each day by answering to an email, and the next morning Shiplogr sends out a digest of what everyone on the team has been working on.

It's a tool that we've built to ourselves. We have the intention of making it open source in the near future.

Trello, besides being our heart for project workflow (more about that in the second part), it's also used to display who is working on which project, and some other details about it (Project status, Github repository, etc).

Lately, we've also been trying Discourse for more long-term discussions, as ideas for next products, the future of the company, and sharing of some of our metrics. To be honest, it hasn't much activity so far - we still tend to discuss these on our Monthly Gatherings.

"What about email?" you may be asking. And the answer is: No, we don't use email for internal communication.

There are a lot of tools on the web for team communication. The difficult part is integrating them with the habits and process of your team. So, even though we have read about the communication tools and processes of several other companies, we have always made a twist on them and tried different things to find what best fits us.


Email and Hangouts / Skype are the default communication tool to communicate with everyone outside the company. Email it's fine for most of the time, but we really like to have a real conversation with our clients every now and then - this gives us a better understanding of our clients, their expectations, and their goals.

Toggl is used for time tracking - specially useful for when we are working with hourly billing. We've already liked it more than we do now to be honest - even though Toggl sells and strives for simplicity, there are some details that make it more complicated and annoying than it should. Still, they're the best tool of the kind that we know.

In the second part of these series we'll talk about the tools we use for code and to run our business pipeline. If you don't want to miss it out, feel free to subscribe down below.

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