Under the Bridge

Issue tracking: Lighthouse Keeper

So, now that our first native iPhone app is off to beta testing (and that took quite long enough, didn’t it?) time to sort out what we’re going to do to formalize the issue tracking here at Trollwerks, which in the programming frenzy since our April inception has been … transcriptive, shall we say? … before any external issues become arisen.

We’re not really looking for much in the way of process here (at the moment, anyways) only personal organization, so our feature checklist is, oh look at that, empty. Unless you count ‘as low overhead as possible’ as a feature. But it’s more of a philosophy, really. One we strive to in every area of life, actually; after all, the one and only resource that’s truly finite is time. But we digress. (Oh, the irony!) So, getting back on track, what would low overhead imply for Our Perfect Issue Tracker?

First off, it implies no ongoing cost without clearly compelling justification. So we take your FogBugz and your JIRA and your whatever commercial offerings, and we summarily eliminate all of those, since there is no clearly compelling justification on the horizon.

Second off, it implies that we’re not going to be setting up and managing our own server if at all possible, because that’s a hassle. We’ve tried both local and remote setups of that at various places, and at the very best it’s been only intermittently annoying. So we take your Bugzilla and your Mantis and your whatever open source offerings, and we summarily eliminate all of those. Are we Linux geeks? We think not!

So that reduces our problem space immensely … since it gets rid of all widely used alternatives. Hmmm. Well, let’s look at it the other way then, what do we like in an issue tracker? And, y’know, there’s only one thing we’ve ever used that springs to mind; and that’s over ten years ago now, the Mac OS 7 native program “TestTrack”, which has grown up to become a real company since; but has completely lost the elegance and simplicity of a native Mac application with a single data file. (Multi-user control was “file locking.” Not the most scalable no, but very low overhead indeed!) We liked using that, and we haven’t liked any of the client-server systems we’ve used since.

Well, guess what? It’s not here now, but it’s promised that soon there’ll be a native app that looks like it has a good shot at displacing our pining for old school TestTrack. It’s called Lighthouse Keeper, and if there has ever been an issue tracking client that’s looked as good as this, we’ve certainly never heard of it:

So what is the “Lighthouse” that this is the Keeper of? We’d never heard of that one before. Turns out that it’s a hosted service that focuses on

well, beauty and simplicity, as they say. Now that sounds about right. As does what the Keeper author has to say:

I looked at the usual suspects: Trac, FogBugz, Mantis, Jira etc. None of them really clicked with me, they seemed to do too much or have overly complicated UIs. Lighthouse was different, it was designed to be simple. It didn’t try to be everything to everyone like some of the above. It let you file tickets, assign them to someone and then work your way through them. And most of all, it had an incredibly well designed UI.

Of course, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of web apps. They’re fine to use occasionally, but when it’s something you’re working with all day it’s frustrating to either have to keep logging in, or at least keep a Safari window open. Luckily the Lighthouse developers provided a pretty comprehensive API so I thought that I’d set about making a desktop client to get around this.

So that’s all looking pretty intriguing, and we thought we’d take a look at just what the Lighthouse pricing is, on the off chance that this might rise to the level of “clearly compelling justification” that we mentioned earlier. And guess what? They do have a free offering, not only for Open Source projects, but for private use as well, with restrictions that most likely aren’t going to chafe us in the near future. And hey, you just can’t get any lower overhead than a hosted service, can you now?

So there we are! A new issue tracking system to try out, which we’d thoroughly recommend to your attention as well if you subscribe to the same minimalist aesthetic we do. Once Lighthouse Keeper makes its way onto our desktop, we’ll be sure and let you know how this experiment progresses!


While we still like Lighthouse, if you’re looking for a self-hosted bug tracking system, Bugify sure looks sweet!

17 Bug and Issue Tracking Apps for Developers

  • http://entp.com Will

    We’re really looking forward to Lighthouse Keeper as well (the Lighthouse team @ entp.com). We’re really hoping that it’s going to open up some doors for users who would like the flexibility of a desktop app but a hosted service as well that they can access from anywhere. Martin has been really awesome while working on Lighthouse Keeper, so we have some super high hopes for his project.

    There is also an iPhone interface for Lighthouse in the works, so if something comes to mind it won’t be a hassle. Of course we’re still working on it, but as much as we LOVE our iPhones, it’s something we want for ourselves pretty badly.

    Best of luck with your trial testing. We sure hope you just found your perfect solution!

  • http://www.alexcurylo.com/ Alex

    Well, my first impressions are certainly that Lighthouse has hit dead on the “everything necessary and nothing more” target, and Lighthouse Keeper is nothing short of superlative. And I’m not one to enthuse easily :) We’ll see how I feel by the time I finish off the milestones I’ve just entered!

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