Meet Our Product Managers – Krzysztof and Kamil, Creators of External Share

Microphone, sound waves and External Share logo

Welcome to our first product manager spotlight, a series of interviews with the brains behind our apps. In these interviews, we’ll explore what makes a successful product manager tick.

Today we’re welcoming Krzysztof Bogdan and Kamil Zarychta, the clever chappies who created External Share for Jira and External Share for Confluence.

So, let’s get the most important question out of the way. Star Trek or Star Wars? Both/neither? Why?

Krzysztof: Definitely Star Wars. The original movies are okay. I enjoyed the special effects at the time and they have aged fine. But in particular, I have so many good memories of playing Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast with friends and family at LAN parties*. I also have no idea how many hours I put into Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Those games made me really enjoy Star Wars lore. However, the only thing I know about Star Trek is that there were some TV shows, and they greet by making the V sign.

Kamil: None for me. I’m not a science fiction fan. I prefer action movies, but I haven’t watched many lately.

Ah, so you’re a gaming nerd, Krzysztof. And that’s the Vulcan salute you’re referring to. Favourite action movies, Kamil?

Kamil: I think Die Hard is the best action movie of all time for me. Bruce Willis played one of his best roles. The setup is simple: single location, one good guy, twelve bad guys. Lots of explosions, fist fights, blood, violence, gunfights, and loads of great one-liners that everyone knows. I’ve seen Die Hard countless times and it never gets old or boring.

Agreed. Die Hard rocks. Alright. We’d better talk about Atlassian before our readers click away because we’re just talking nerd stuff.

Krzysztof: But what if they stop reading because we’re about to talk about Atlassian?

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Krzysztof: Okay, Darth.

Right, let’s start at the beginning. What drove you both to become software developers?

Krzysztof: Games. I wanted to make games. I learned C++, Allegro and OpenGL**. That was fun. Sadly, I had to earn a living. I knew how to write code and had the option of choosing between game development or web programming. At the time there were not many jobs in game development and web programming is better paid, so I decided to go with web.

Kamil: I started my programming adventure in college. After graduation, I was considering my career choices and decided to become a software developer, mainly due to the opportunities and good earnings in the industry. With time it turned out to be a bull’s eye.

And what else gets your blood pumping, apart from software?

Krzysztof: My heart.

Haha.

Kamil: I have three children, a son and two daughters, and my wife and I are expecting another next year. My family is very important to me, so I devote most of my free time to it. I like to spend the rest of my free time actively, exercising in the gym and cycling. 

Congratulations on the new sproglet, Kamil! What about you, Krzysztof? Anything other than your heart and software?

Krzysztof: I have two toddlers. They take up most of my time. Currently my life consists of reading The Three Little Pigs aloud multiple times a day, driving remote-controlled cars, and watching Paw Patrol. If I have some free time, which is rare, I usually read a book. In another life, before kids, I played Dota 2 a lot, but does that count as software? Also, I played board games and bridge. One day, I will return to that. One day…

What attracted you to develop an app for the Atlassian Marketplace?

Krzysztof: A few things. Working 9-5 in an office was never really me. I always knew I wanted to be self-employed. I didn’t want a boss, I wanted to be behind the steering wheel. Atlassian was often used in companies where I was a consultant. I had plenty of experience with Jira, Confluence, Bamboo, Fisheye, Crucible. I also had experience with building websites and web apps. The business model is fair and square; consumers are paying for productivity tools and that’s what they’re getting. No ads, no spying, no selling customer data. There is not that much competition in the Atlassian Marketplace, so the market is huge. What could go wrong?

Kamil: In addition to what Krzysiek said, the Atlassian Marketplace allows you to easily reach many companies that use Atlassian software to manage their products. That provides amazing opportunities.

Was the process of developing an app for the Atlassian Marketplace harder than you were expecting? What warnings would you give to anyone that thinks it’s easy to make a successful add-on?

Krzysztof: There were bumps on the road. It is hard to make the app compatible with Server and Cloud at the same time. The documentation is sometimes lacking but overall the experience is pretty pleasant. All the technologies are standard. UI extensions are iFrames. Communication is done via http rest. I would advise those who want to develop their own add-on to be patient. Jira and Confluence are very complex tools. There are hundreds of API endpoints and a thousand pages of documentation. It is impossible to know everything. You should start with small steps.

Kamil: The beginnings were difficult, as Krzysiek says, mainly due to the lack of documentation. We kinda had to look for solutions to problems on our own. Patience is definitely the key.

We understand that External Share for Jira and Confluence started as a single feature request that blossomed into a whole new app. Give us the journey from bud to flower, from seed to tree, from – you get the picture.

Krzysztof: We thought about what kind of plugin to create and wrote a list of ideas. We looked at our public list of feature requests and cross-referenced that with what we knew we could do. That led us to this issue: Ability to share a page to an anonymous user with a private URL. We did not have any far-reaching vision about the future of this add-on initially. We created something very small and basic. But from the beginning we knew that we were solving real pain. We did some dogfooding and saw its usefulness ourselves. We learned as we went, continually listening to feedback from our customers, and kept on improving it. The moment I left my job I was able to focus full-time on External Share and at that point I felt like we had a very well-oiled machine, not just a toy in the garage.

Kamil: External Share for Jira was one of the first applications I created for the Atlassian Marketplace. I liked the idea and the possibilities it gives users. After completing the basic scope of application functionality for Jira, we decided to make a similar version for Confluence. Initially, we believed more in the success of the Jira version, but as it happens, the Confluence version is used more often.

How did you meet Chris Cooke and the Old Street team?

Krzysztof: I received a mysterious-sounding email from Tom Harris that he would like to talk about External Share. At the time External Share was a little app with only a few customers. He planned to have a video call once he got back to London from a conference in Warsaw, which is where he was when he contacted me. But what a coincidence that I live in Warsaw, huh? We ended up having a beer at Czerwony Wieprz, which is where I also met Chris.

Kamil: The next day at work, Krzysiek told me about his meeting with the Old Street team. That led to us all meeting and deciding to work together on developing External Share into what it is today.

External Share adoption has gone up a lot in 2021. Why do you think this is?

Krzysztof: I think there are a few factors. There’s the snowball effect; when our users share a link, there is a little footer that says “Shared with External Share”. The more you share links, the bigger the audience and the more potential customers. We also added a few very big features in 2021 that were blocking wider adoption. We added a single place to change the permissions for all your Confluence spaces. We enabled users to subscribe for notifications of changes to an externally shared Jira issue or Confluence page, so that they can stay up to date with what’s happening. We also added a feature that only lets users share issues and pages with selected users who must have an External Share account to access the link.

There’s also the most obvious reason. Now that so many more companies have people working remotely, they need easier ways of sharing and exchanging data. External Share fits in well with this need.

Kamil: I believe that the hard work we did earlier on the development of new functionalities has started to yield results. Our assumptions have been confirmed that the ability to share content is the missing piece in the puzzle of Atlassian products.

Krzysztof: The ability to share Jira Query Language (JQL) results has become a widely used feature. Subscribing for changes to a Confluence page has also become a really big thing. It helps people stay in the loop.

Kamil: I would say that its most basic feature, the ability to share live Jira and Confluence content with users without a license, is what makes it so popular.

What improvements to External Share are you working on that’ll get our users’ blood pumping?

Krzysztof: We have just released custom domain support; users are now capable of sharing Jira issues or Confluence pages under their own domain. This is one of those things that will cause people to forget that External Share worked any other way.

Kamil: Custom domain support solves another problem that companies using Atlassian software have been struggling with for a long time. We believe that this feature will take External Share to the next level.

Thank you for coming along to our first product manager spotlight and talking about films and software with us. We’ll let you get back to making External Share pop!

* LAN parties are gatherings of people with compatible games consoles connected to each other via a local area network. They were at their peak during the late 1990s and early 2000s when broadband internet was either unavailable or too expensive. However, one of my colleagues hosted one just last month and says they’re still very much alive.

** Yes, I had to google all these things too. C++ is a programming language, Allegro is a software library for video game development, and OpenGL is a programming interface for rendering 2D and 3D vector graphics.

Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.