This document is intended for new hires to summarize norms for working at Mattermost, Inc. including:
- Getting Started Checklist - Getting ready to work here
- Meetings - When we get together and why
- Mindsets - Shared toolsets we have for solving problems
- Terminology- Shared vocabulary to convey ideas quickly
- Training - Material available to help us ramp quickly in different areas
- Getting Started Checklist
- List of Terms
- Mattermost Avatar
- Never sign any agreement on behalf of the company. The CEO is the only person authorized to sign an agreement on behalf of Mattermost, Inc. The only exception is that you are authorized to sign a non-disclosure agreement to enter a physical space. If you have questions, please check with your manager.
- (People Ops & New Hire) Offer letter accepted via click-sign
- (Logistics) Mail track jacket & socks
- (People Ops & New Hire) People Ops should find out new hire’s preference for laptop, either to be purchased or taken from stock and shipped by People Ops or purchased locally by new hire and expensed. Windows laptops generally cost less than Macs so budget is based on Macs. For non-developers, budget is cost of a Macbook in your local area, for developers budget is cost of a Macbook Pro. Since these items are company property, you do not need to buy insurance or extended warranties for them, but you do need to report any loss or damage to People@mattermost.com as soon as it occurs.
- (New Hire) Read the entirety of Onboarding page for info on meetings, mindsets, terminology and training materials.
- (People Ops) Send email invite to New Hire to set up an @mattermost.com email address. New Hire should use this email address on pre-release.mattermost.com (replace personal email with company email if already registered there). FIRST_NAME@mattermost.com is the standard naming convention.
- (People Ops & New Hire) Set up payroll.
- US FTE, receive email to complete TriNet sign-up, payroll, benefits enrollment, I-9 form, banking information, personal information, tax forms.
- Non-US Employee/Non-Canada Employee, complete bank info form for monthly wire transfer.
- Non-US Resident Contractor, complete W8-BEN form.
- US Contractor, complete W-9 form.
- (Manager) Posts welcome message in stand-up channel.
- (Manager) Meets New Hire for first 1-1 meeting.
- (Buddy) Meets New Hire for first 1-1 meeting.
- (CEO) Meets New Hire for welcome meeting.
- (New Hire) Confirm with Manager all HR paperwork is completed by end of first day (should have been sent in advance).
This section summarizes norms for public and private meetings for the Mattermost community and for Mattermost staff (people paid by Mattermost, Inc.).
When proposing meetings use famous cities as references for time (e.g. 9am New York time), since it’s clear and easy to web search. Avoid using “UTC”, as it has been shown to cause confusion.
When selecting a timezone city, use the most well-known city in a country where at least one team member is located. Exception: When possible, use a city where we have an official mailing address, e.g. In Western Americas use Palo Alto, instead of San Francisco. In Eastern Americas use Toronto, instead of New York.
Recurring meetings with more than two people should have one or more regular slots on the calendar reserved so that meetings can be coordinated in a straight-forward way.
- Meetings with internal colleagues should be coordinated by checking everyone’s availability in G Suite Calendar.
- Meetings with external colleagues should be coordinated manually with one internal person coordinating everyone’s G Suite Calendars
For efficiency, when Mattermost works with advisors and consultants who engage with 2 or more internal team members, we aim to schedule meetings in regular slots (or a collection of regular slots) 2-4 weeks apart.
Open to the public - (Developers - 1-2 hours/week) Wednesdays 10:00 (San Francisco Time)
- Goal: Discuss developer issues across Mattermost staff, key contributors and the contributor community.
- Attendees: (required) Mattermost staff developers, (optional) key contributors, contributors and anyone who would like to join.
For confidentiality of customers, internal process meetings are limited to Mattermost staff only.
Mattermost staff only - Each team is responsible for its own sprint planning process. Sprints are currently one week long, and start on Tuesdays. Note that teams also share demos and short updates with the whole product team in the “Platform Meeting” (see below).
- Goal: Share demos, reflect on previous sprint, and lock on tickets for next sprint.
- Attendees: Development team members (typically developers and product manager).
Mattermost staff-only - (Triage team - 1-3 hours/week) Tuesdays and Thursdays at 09:30 (San Francisco Time), or daily when a release is upcoming.
- Goal: To provide consistent review, prioritization and ownership assignment of all tickets.
- Attendees: One dev representative from each team (ABC, XYZ, ICU), one PM, QA team, Release Manager during release, and optionally leads and other Mattermost staff.
- ONLY TRIAGE TEAM should set or change the Fix Version of a ticket.
- When tickets are first created, they go to triage to be reviewed for clarity and priority and assigned a Fix Version, Mattermost Team and Sprint. Unclear tickets may be assigned to their creator for more information.
- The Fix Version determines the sequence in which tickets are addressed and triage team is accountable for that sequence. It is the responsibility of the triage team to make sure tickets are clear before they’re assigned a Fix Version.
- When assigning a ticket to a Mattermost Team, it gets assigned to a dev and put into current sprint if the ticket is time-sensitive for release. Otherwise the ticket is assigned to a team (e.g. ABC) and is later prioritized and assigned to the appropriate people within that team.
- The Sprint determines the time frame in which a dev is responsible for fixing the ticket.
- If you’re ever unsure about a ticket (if it’s not clear, or doesn’t seem appropriate) add a comment and add triage to the Fix Version field, which will trigger a review by the triage team in 1-2 working days.
- Note: if the ticket is already assigned to a team and/or sprint, it will not appear in the triage query - easiest is to let the triage team know about the ticket so that it won’t be missed.
- ONLY TRIAGE TEAM can close a ticket resolved as Won’t Fix or Won’t do.
- These tickets resolved in such a way are reviewed by triage team.
- Only resolve a ticket as Won’t Fix or Won’t Do if you’re highly confident it’s the correct decision, otherwise, add “triage” to Fix Version for review. In either case, include a comment with your reason.
- (Attendees): Join Zoom meeting link in calendar invitation at scheduled time.
- (Attendees): Review query for tickets needing triage and assign a development team, sprint and fix version.
Mattermost staff-only - (Leads - 1 hour/week) Wednesday (13:00 San Francisco Time)
- Goal: Address leadership and process topics.
- Attendees: (Required) Leads from R&D, Marketing, Sales, and Operations.
Decisions should go to Leads meetings when there is lack of clarity or ownership, or to discuss special case topics where process is not well defined.
- When possible, decision-making should belong to the people closes to details.
- Individual developers or PMs should make most decisions, and raise to developer or PM team if things are unclear, and go to Leads if lack of clarify persists.
To queue an item for Leads ask the dev or PM lead.
Leads is also used for cross-discipline Q&A.
- Rather than randomize individual contributors, cross-discipline discussion (e.g. marketing to PM, community to dev, etc.) can happen in leads.
- (Leads): Queue items in Leads channel for discussion.
- (Leads): During meeting discuss agenda items in sequence.
Mattermost Inc-only - (Product Staff - 1 hour/week) Thursday’s at 10:00 (San Francisco Time).
Regular team meeting for product staff team at Mattermost Inc.
- Goal: Increase team output by effectively reviewing priorities and finding blindspots.
- Scope: Mattermost Inc-only meeting given confidential customer issues discussed.
- Attendees: Mattermost Inc colleagues working on mattermost-server and mattermost-webapp.
The meeting includes presentations and demos, controlled agenda items (e.g. queued items) with an “open session” where staff can bring up anything they want. Staff should arrive at decisions during the meeting or schedule further discussion for the next meeting.
- (Vice Chair) the day before the meeting, post a reminder in Platform Meeting private channel (Mattermost Inc only)
#### @channel A reminder to prepare your items for Platform meeting [DATE]: 1. @[name], @[name] & @[name] - you're up for ice-breaker [Question](https://docs.google.com/document/d/1A0D96O4t4GS33- yaHvLQBdtgIScmwzVo15c2vSFeYis/edit#bookmark=id.q182tvgkdewa) 2. If you'll be giving a demo, please queue it [in the meeting notes](link) ##### Everyone is encouraged to bring up items for discussion. If the discussion is `time-copped` during the meeting, please be sure to add a `next step` to the notes and post a link to where the conversation can be continued. ~platform channel is usually a good place to continue discussions.
- (Team) At time of meeting:
- Join the Zoom link in the header of the Platform private channel.
- Open the Notes link in the header to see the agenda.
- (Vice-Chair) Post meeting notes template into Platform Meeting Notes.
- Add Follow-ups from previous meeting.
- Add New items queued in Platform private channel (Mattermost Inc only).
- Ice-breaker - Currently: “Questions”
- Roadmap check-in - Review of roadmap status in current and next release
- Demos (optional) - Team members show highlights of what’s been completed this week. Relevant follow-ups noted
- Team updates - Each development team gives a short update on their current top priorities
- New items - New queued items are discussed
- Blind spots, Inspiration, Knowledge Share - Colleagues share areas of concern and ask questions
- If there are follow-up items, these are posted to the Platform private channel (Mattermost Inc only).
Here we summarize meeting elements that can be re-used for meetings across teams.
2-3 minute exercises designed to learn more a colleagues at the start of a recurring meeting
Typically rotates alphabetically by first name, three colleagues per meeting
- “Hobby talk” - sharing about an interesting hobby, past or present
- “My home town” - sharing something interesting about where you grew up
- “Two truths and a lie” - share two true facts about yourself and one lie, team guesses which is the lie
- “Questions” - e.g. “What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?”
Mindsets are “tool sets for the mind” that help us find blindspots and increase performance in specific situations. They’re a reflection of our shared learnings and culture in the Mattermost community and at Mattermost Inc.
To make the most out of mindsets, remember:
- Mindsets are tools - Use common sense to find the right mindset for your situation. Avoid using ones that don’t fit.
- Mindsets are temporary - Try on a mindset the way you’d try a tool. You can always put it down if it doesn’t work.
- Mindsets are not laws - Mindsets are situation-specific, not universal. Don’t use them to debate.
When you read about great leaders, they share mindsets relevant to success in their specific situations, which differ from their peers. Remember that “advice is personal experience generalized” so be mindful about what you apply.
In this context, here are mindsets for Mattermost:
Learn a new topic quickly, develop mastery (be the smartest person at the team/company/community on the topic), then teach it to someone who will start the cycle over.
If you’re a strong teacher, their mastery should surpass yours. This mindset helps us constantly grow and rotate into new roles, while preventing “single-points of failure” where only one person is qualified for a certain task.
When you rush to get something done quickly, it can actually increase the time and cost for the project.
Rushing means a higher chance of missing things that need to be done, and the cost of doing them later is significantly higher because you have to re-create your original setup to add on the work.
Consider when two rational people disagree, the cause often comes from one of three areas:
- Emotion - There could be an emotion biasing the discussion. Just asking if this might be the case can clear the issue. It’s okay to have emotions. We are humans, not robots.
- Assumption - People may have different underlying assumptions (including definitions). Try to understand each other’s assumptions and get to agreement or facts when you can.
- Priorities - Finally people can have different priorities. When everyone’s priorities are shared and understood it’s easier to find solutions that satisfy everyone’s criteria.
While the emotions, assumptions, priority mindset won’t work for everyone in every case, it’s helped resolve complex decisions in our company’s history.
An easy way to check in with team members about how things are going.
- What do you like about how things are going?
- What do you wish we might change?
Use these one-on-one or in a group as a way to open conversations about what to keep and what to change in how we do things.
When a new owner takes over a process or a project from a previous owner, there are a finite number of “blindspots” of which the original owner is aware and the new owner will need to understand.
Using the analogy of changing lanes while driving a vehicle and learning to do a “shoulder check” for information that is not visible from standard controls, we have a process for the new owner and previous owner to jointly review processes until the transfer is complete.
This process is similar to Mini-boss, End-boss, except that the mini-boss is also the new owner of a process, and not only a reviewer. Shoulder checks should be requested by new owners to avoid “crashing”:
- Making changes to systems that break existing processes and may lose data and hurt the productivity of others downstream without notice and without a replacement system in place (behavior known as “Dead Tarzan”).
- Repeatedly investing in mis-prioritized projects due to a misunderstanding of requirements from project stakeholders and insufficient confirmation of intended outcomes.
Even when not crashing, as part of our Self Awareness value, top team members will constantly be seeking feedback and review from people around the company.
After completing the initial draft of a project, there may often be more than one reviewer to approve changes. This may be for different disciplines to review the work (for example, both development and design teams reviewing code changes to the user experience) and it may also be for reviewers with different levels of experience to share feedback.
When reviewing significant user interface changes, code changes, responses to community or customers, or changes to systems or marketing material changes, it is ideal to have at least two reviewers:
- Mini-boss: Reviewer less experienced in domain or Mattermost standards for the first review
- End-boss: Reviewer more experienced in domain or Mattermost standards for the final review for the discipline (e.g. development, design, documentation, etc.)
This system has several benefits:
- The Mini-boss provides feedback on the most obvious issues, allowing the End-boss to focus on nuanced issues the Mini-boss didn’t find.
- The Mini-boss learns from the End-boss feedback, understanding what was missed, and becoming a better reviewer.
- Eventually the Mini-boss will be as skilled at reviewing as the End-boss, who will have nothing futher to add after the Mini-boss review. At this point, the Mini-boss becomes an End-boss, ready to train a new Mini-boss.
The naming of this term comes from video games, where a person submitting material for review must pass a “mini-boss” challenge before a “end-boss” challenge for different disciplines.
A “brown M&M” is a mistake that could either signal dangerous oversights in the execution of a project, or be a completely innocuous and unimportant error. When a brown M&M is found, aim to rule out a dangerous error as quickly as possible. Do fast drilldowns and systematic checks to see if more brown M&Ms are found, and if so, an entire project may need to be reviewed.
Examples of brown M&Ms may include:
- Significant mistakes in process, consistency or documentation suggesting lack of review or lack of understanding of the pre-existing system
- Ambiguous definitions that would make completion of a procedure difficult or unpredictable
The name brown M&M comes from a safety technique used by the American music band Van Halen, who had to set up large, complex concert stages in third tier cities, where few local workers had experience with the safety standards vital to construction. In the contract rider with each venue, Van Halen required a bowl of M&M candies with all brown M&Ms removed. Failure to provide the bowl was grounds for Van Halen’s stage crew to inspect all of the local vendor’s work for safety issues, because it meant the vendor had not paid attention to detail, and safety could be at risk.
When making project investment decisions, we optimize for high impact in the context of customer obsession, empowered by ownership, while being constrained by “be proud of what you build”.
The failure case is over-investing in processes and infrastructure, stealing mana from higher priority work, reducing speed and agility for the company and unnecessarily increasing cost and bureacracy.
The objective of optimization is to invest at minimal levels for efficiency and safety while maximizing impact.
In making these trade-offs, consider the following mindsets:
Correct Minimum 1: Medic
Safely fix something that is important, broken and dangerous as fast as possible. Speed is critical - do not worry about “leaving a scar” in our architecture or business process, just own it and get it done. Solve the problem, do not overbuild.
Example: Something incorrect on our public website with more than 100 page views a month should be fixed immediately and not delayed to be done with a longer term project, such as a website re-design. If the staging server cannot be pushed, this means manually fixing production and duplicating that change on staging, rather than trying to fix staging.
Correct Minimum 2: Field Surgeon
Triage tasks that are important and broken but not dangerous, and fix the most important things with a minimum time and cost. Scarring should be a low-priority consideration–it is fine to leave scars and it is fine to spend a little energy to avoid big ones. Solve the problem for the next stage of growth, but don’t solve it in two to three stages ahead.
Example: In Mattermost, spend 2 mana to enable automated messages over 4000 characters to be broken into multiple posts instead of being rejected, which is a problem every developer hits when they attempt to output log information via curl commands.
Correct Minimum 3: Plastic Surgeon
Fix and optimize critical, high volume flows in our customer experience and product with heavy investment if needed to make high impact changes. Scars can be avoided and removed to produce a high impact result.
Example: Click-tracking traffic on about.mattermost.com and optimizing flows to direct visitors to learn about the product and downloading it is a flow that should be continually optimized.
Designing world-class software means bringing people together across disciplines and cultures. We want to create a limited amount of shared terminology to help us work better together, while being careful not to make it difficult for newcomers to follow our conversation.
Perhaps in future we’ll have a bot that helps teach newcomers about the terminology in-context. Until then we have this guide.
We use Mattermost terminology to achieve specific benefits:
For example, “0/5” and “5/5” help convey the level of conviction behind an opinion. Also, a precise classification of tickets as “Bug” or “Improvement” is critical since it affects scheduling and decision making, and so forth.
Naming specific repeated mistake helps us find patterns, avoid repeated mistakes in future, and helps newcomers avoid making similar mistakes as they learn our organization’s terminology.
We use “x/5” to concisely communicate conviction. 0/5 means you don’t have a strong opinion, you are just sharing an idea or asking a question. 5/5 means you are highly confident and would stake your reputation on the opinion you’re expressing.
An obvious error in Mattermost software. Changes required to accommodate unsupported 3rd party software (such as browsers or operating systems) are not considered bugs, they are considered improvements.
Discarding an imperfect solution without a clearly thought out and working alternative. Based on idea of Tarzan of the Jungle letting go of a vine without having a new vine to swing to.
A term for shipping something that is below quality standards. This term is used by mountain climbers to describe falling off the side of a mountain, which often involves a series of failures, not just one.
A specific type of mana for developers similar to “points” or “jelly beans” in an Agile/Scrum methodology. On average, full time Mattermost developers each complete tickets adding up to approximately 28 mana per week. A “small” item is 2 mana, a “medium” is 4, a “large” is 8 and any project bigger needs to be broken down into smaller tickets.
“Extended Support Release”, a version of Mattermost maintained for a longer period of time that will receive security fixes.
When documentation or on-screen text is written for someone with considerable knowledge or expertise, instead of being designed for a new learner. In general, try to state things simply rather than speaking to just the “experts” reading the text.
If something is extremely difficult to understand, and yet still justified in the mind of the writer, we call it “Crimson Force Field”. This term is intended to evoke the emotional response of coming across something that is difficult to understand, so writers of Crimson Force Field material can empathize with the readers. Crimson Force Field is drawn from an esoteric episode of Star Trek and it is unlikely anyone but the originator of the term understands its complete meaning. Crimson Force Field is itself Crimson Force Field.
Help Wanted tickets, which are vetted changes to the source code open for community contributions.
An estimate of total energy, attention and effort required for a task.
A one-line change to code can cost more mana than a 100-line change due to risk and the need for documentation, testing, support and all the other activities needed.
Every feature added has an initial and on-going mana cost, which is taken into account in feature decisions.
An attempt to add functionality through a massive, complex one-time re-write hoping to improve the architecture, but which likely ends in repeated delays, wasted effort, buggy code and limited architectural improvement (compared to re-writing the architecture in phases). This tempting, high risk approach is named after Microsoft’s “Windows Vista” operating system, one of its most famous examples.
At Mattermost, “Learn, Master, Teach” cycles are core to our culture. You should be constantly growing and cross-training into new skills and responsibilities, developing expertise, and then training your replacement as you prepare to take on new challenges.
Cross-training creates a culture of constant growth, protects against single-points of failure, and challenges each of us to rise to our fullest potential.
The “Learn, Master, Teach” cycle happens in the context of roles. Roles are sets of responsibility needed to achieve objectives. Roles aren’t necessarily job titles, for small projects, a developer might take on a product manager role, or vice versa. Each team member has a “primary role” and training should move people to mastery and teaching in that role, before moving to the next role.
Developers are responsible for architecting and delivering software improvements, and for technical leadership among the Mattermost community.
- Developers are responsible for researching, analyzing, designing and reviewing technical solutions to achieve functional requirements. Solutions should thoroughly consider trade-offs and be evaluated based on the effectiveness of the end implementation.
- Based on technical designs, developers estimate, implement, test, maintain, review, debug and release software improvements in collaboration with teammates. This includes working closely with product managers to validate requirements and the output of designs and making appropriate adjustments. The success of implementation is judged on the end results achieved by the changes.
- Technical Community Leadership
- As leading experts on Mattermost technology, developers support and engage constantly with the broader Mattermost community to accelerate adoption and to discover new ways to improve Mattermost software and processes. This includes investigating and supporting issues from users and customers, reviewing and providing feedback on projects from contributors, and understanding priorities, trends and patterns across the community.
Product managers are responsible for aligning teams to strategic priorities, leading and managing the product development process, and working effectively with marketing to bring the full benefits of Mattermost solutions to users and customers.
- Every project and every team needs to align to strategic priorities and focus on intended outcomes developed through a deep understanding of the market, user, customers and competing products and services. Amid a flood of compelling suggestions, opinions, and data, product managers must find what’s vital, and rally teams around a shared vision.
- Product development
- Product managers lead both the functional design process (user, customer and competitor research, analysis, ideation, prioritization, functional and user experience design, functional specification, user and customer validation), and the software development process (ticketing, prioritization, roadmap design, scheduling, sprint planning, triage, functional verification, implementation validation with users and customers, documentation, and release logistics).
- It’s the product manager’s responsibility to see features shipped predictably and at high quality through planning, attention to detail and thoughtful persuasion.
- Marketing connection
- Delivering benefits to users and customers based on product features is a core responsibility of product managers, working in conjunction with marketing to shape messaging and positioning and delivering collateral, events, and user and customer discussions to support sales.
The following is a list of recommended resources for developing skills “the Mattermost way” in different areas. For the ones that require purchase you can message @matterbot to request an order, whether as physical books, digital books, audiobooks or other formats.
- Code Complete, Steve McConnell - Best practices and guidelines for writing high quality code.
- Design Patterns, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides (aka “Group of Four”) - Fundamental reading on design patterns. Other design pattern books work too, this is one of the most popular.
- Monetizing Open Source (Or, All Enterprise Software) - Required reading for business roles
Papers & Course Materials
- Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. National Institute of Standards and Technology - Standards for internal Mattermost security processes and safeguards.
- Computer Security in the Real World. Butler Lampson - Fundamental challenges with system security.
- Course notes from CS513: System Security (Cornell University). Fred B. Schneider - Well written introduction to system security from one of the leaders in the field.
Recommended training materials are recommended by role at three different levels of priority:
- P1 - Required - Complete within 30 days of starting in role.
- P2 - Priority - Complete within 30-90 days of starting.
- P3 - Supplementry - Complete within 180 days.
The following chart outlines training materials by category, with notes on which materials are relevant to which disciplines by P1, P2, P3 priority:
The following table summarizes abbreviations used in the above table:
To advance the skills of senior and functional leaders, we bring in experts to advise on key functions, including sales, operations, product, marketing, strategy, general management, and other specialized topics.
- As an example, Jono Bacon–a leading author, speaker and consultant on open source community advocacy–meets with our community team regularly to refine our processes and understanding. There’s a range of similiarly adept company advisers that help advance our thinking and capabilities in critical ways.
Many thought leaders and conference speakers are open to consulting projects with the right clients, and Mattermost is a flexible client. There’s no travel involved, we meet over video conference, our consulting process is straight forward, we’re easy to work with, and we take advising seriously.
When hiring, we are also open to bringing in a leader’s personal mentors as consultants and company advisers when skill sets are appropriate.
When becoming a core committer to the Mattermost project we create a “Mattermost Avatar” for you as a fun way to recognize your new level of contribution.
Mattermost avatars are caricatures of core committers in the costume of a popular culture character (e.g. Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Luke Skywalker, etc.) created for personal use, and which may be potentially used in team rosters, demonstration sites, “group photos” where avatar images from the team are collected in one image of all the characters together, and other public uses.
To have a Mattermost avatar created, you’ll be invited to create a Mattermost avatar via email:
- Please use the email subject “[YOUR_FULL_NAME] as [CHARACTER_NAME]”, for example “Corey Hulen as Han Solo”.
- Attach a clear image at least 600 pixels high and 600 pixels wide showing your character’s full body in a standing pose.
- Send a clear photo of your face at least 600 pixels high and 600 pixels wide facing the same direction as your character image.
- Character should be human-sized (no giant characters).
- Character’s appearance should be family-friendly. For example, no gory or provocative costumes.
You should receive your digital Mattermost avatars by email in 6-8 weeks.
In special cases, a Mattermost avatar may be created for someone from the Mattermost community who has made an extraordinary contribution to the open source project.
- Example of photo from core committer: Corey Hulen, co-creator of the Mattermost open source project
- Example of reference image for popular culture character: Han Solo from the movie Star Wars
Example of finished Mattermost Avatar: