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Going Rogue With Basecamp

Dan Kim
Dan Kim wrote this on 18 comments

The last company I worked for was huge – roughly 550x the size of Basecamp! Not surprisingly, we had every “enterprise” app in the book. You know, the ones with features that make the procurement department happy, but make actual users miserable.

I’d been a longtime Basecamp user before I got there, so I was keen to get our team using it. I knew from experience that a small team, even in a huge company, could do great work together by using it.

So I started lobbying, pitching, selling, and borderline begging to get a Basecamp subscription. But nobody would listen – it wasn’t on the magical “approved vendor list” (Don’t get me started on what a racket that is!)

Confining myself to the dark ages of enterprise apps didn’t sound like much fun. So as desperation set in, I took a gamble – I signed up for Basecamp anyway. Ask for forgiveness, not permission, right? Within minutes we were setup and no one was the wiser. Until now. ;)

It’d be fair to ask, “why take a risk like that, hacking around the system?” Believe me, it wasn’t because I enjoyed breaking the rules. It was simply this: doing good work was important to me. That meant keeping our team of fifteen people (not a thousand) focused and happy. It meant that the software we used 100 times a day had to be easy, even enjoyable. Procurement-selected software was never going to be that.

That got me wondering. I can’t be the only person who’s gone rogue to use Basecamp, right? I bet there are a bunch of you out there who’ve done the same, bending the rules to use Basecamp when you weren’t really supposed to. And I bet that makes for some great war stories.

So let’s hear them! If you’ve got such a story, shoot me an email at dan@basecamp.com with [ROGUE] in the subject line. Tell us how you’re using Basecamp under the radar, why you’re doing it, and how it’s going. We’ll read them all and share the good ones with everyone – 100% anonymously, and with your permission only of course!

It’s so humbling to hear about our loyal customers going out of their way to use Basecamp. So to all our customers – rogue or otherwise – thanks for trusting us with the things that are important to you. We love how much you love Basecamp, and we’ve got some exciting times ahead of us!

App Store Ratings Mystery

Jamie
Jamie wrote this on 32 comments

All software developers want to get good ratings in the app store. That’s how customers judge the quality of your app. The other desirable metric is quantity of ratings—the number of people who have reviewed the app. It’s hard enough to get good ratings, it’s even harder to get a lot of people to review your app.
Here’s the mystery.
Basecamp for iOS has been out for over a year and has received 578 ratings (as of today).

Basecamp for Android has only been out for a few weeks, yet it has 358 ratings (as of today). That’s over half of the number of ratings we got for the iOS version which has been available for over a year.

Do Android users like to review apps? Do iOS users hate to review apps? Is Google’s Play Store designed so it’s easier to rate apps? I have no idea, but I’m curious about this uptick in Android ratings.
What do you think?

Join our team: We're hiring a product designer.

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on Discuss

We’re looking to add another product designer to our team! We don’t hire for this position often, so we really savor moments like these. We’re eagerly anticipating hearing from you.

Besides design, your job is to make an undeniably positive impact on our company, our culture, our products, and our customers. As long as you make your best effort, and you love to learn, we will do everything we can to support you creatively and help you do the best work of your life.

Product designers at Basecamp are always working on different things. You may be working on polishing up an existing feature, pitching and designing something brand new, or fundamentally rethinking how we do something. You could be working on the web or you could be exploring designs and interactions for a native mobile app. Projects at Basecamp always start with design, so you’ll constantly have the opportunity to lead us in new directions. Challenge us! Push us! Be original and show us the way!

Besides having great visual taste, talent, and the right sensibilities, you must write well-structured HTML/CSS. Basic Javascript or Rails skills are a plus, but not required. Experience designing for iOS and Android is also a plus. Great writing skills are required.

We are not looking for someone who’s already expert in everything they do. We’re looking for someone great who demonstrates the interest, drive, and desire to keep learning new things and continually get better.

At Basecamp you’ll be working with great people. Friendly, talented, original folks from dozens of cities around the world. The people who work here have a wide variety of interests and interesting life experiences. You’ll have a chance to learn from some of the best people you’ve ever met. And we’ll get to learn from you. We’d love for you be part of our patchwork.

Working as a product designer at Basecamp is a unique opportunity. We have a small team, so you won’t be one of dozens. You’ll be one of a few, so your impact will be felt inside and outside the company. You’ll be working on a product that is used by millions of people. You will help drive us in new directions. You’ll help us see things we haven’t seen before, consider things we’ve never considered before, and bring fresh perspective to our team. Brighten us up and put a big smile on our customers’ faces.

You love to write, too. You understand that copywriting is design. The words matter as much as the pixels. Great visuals with weak words are poor designs. You should care about how things are phrased as much as you care about how they look.

We’re open to hiring the best person no matter where they are. If you’re in Chicago we have an open desk for you in our office. But more than half of our company works remotely all over the world, so you’re welcome to be part of the team no matter where you live. If you do want to relocate to Chicago we’re open to that as well.

How to apply

Send relevant work samples, and anything else that will make you stand out, to jason@basecamp.com. Extra effort and personal touches will be looked upon favorably. Show us how much you want this job and not just any job. Please include [DESIGN] in the subject of the email.

It doesn’t matter where you went to school, or if you even graduated. It doesn’t matter if this is your first job or your fifth. Doing great work and being driven to improve yourself and everything you touch is what matters.

If we think you’ll be a good fit, we’ll be back in touch with step two of the application process.

Giving less advice

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 20 comments

I’m often asked for advice. I’ve decided it’s time I give less of it. There are things I used to know that I just don’t know anymore. I should stop talking about those things – it’s unfair to anyone who’s listening.

If you want advice on product design, copywriting, reducing complexity, business strategy for a well-established small business, or building a team – happy to help. I know I can be valuable there because those are things I’m thinking about and working on every day. I’m current.

But if you want advice on how to start a new business, how to get your first customer, how to hire your first employee, or anything related to starting something brand new, I’m not your man. It’s been 15 years since I started my company. I just don’t remember what it’s like anymore. I’m out of touch.

Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh. But advice quickly decays, and 15 year-old advice is bound to be radioactive. Sharing a life experience is one thing (grandparents are great at this – listen to them!), but advice is another thing. Don’t give advice about things you used to know. Just because you did something a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re qualified to talk about it today.

Think you’ll get a good answer from a 30 year old telling you what it’s like to be 15? Or a 20 year old remembering what it’s like to be 5? Shit, I’m about to turn 40, and all I remember about being 25 is that I wasn’t 26. How clearly do you really remember anything from 15 years ago? And how many of those memories are actually marred by time and current experiences? How many of those things really happened the way you recall them today?

If you want to know what it’s like to start a business, talk to someone who just successfully started one. If you want to know what it’s like to hire your first employee, talk to someone who just successfully hired theirs. If you want to know what it’s like to make an investment, talk to someone who just made a successful one.

While distance from the event itself can provide broader perspective, the closer you get to the event, the fresher the experience. If I want to know what something’s really like, I’d take a fresh recollection over a fuzzy memory. I think the same is true for advice.

Google Play Banner Design

Jamie
Jamie wrote this on 3 comments

Apple provides a nice “Smart App Banner” hook for developers to promote their iOS apps from within their web apps. Unfortunately Google doesn’t have anything like this for the Play Store. Now that we have Basecamp for Android, we want to promote it to customers using Basecamp on their phone browsers.
Thanks to GitHub there are a few nice solutions:


These combine both iOS and Google Play designs which we didn’t really need. In the end we rolled our own solution, but I based the banner design on Vitaly Glibin’s Smart App Banner.

I uploaded a working version of the HTML to GitHub. Please feel free to use this design to promote your apps in Google Play. Thanks again to Vitaly’s Smart App Banner for the inspiration.
And if you’re an Android user get the Basecamp app on Google Play!

Prophet: My first commercial web site design project (1996)

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 22 comments

With the big name change from 37signals to Basecamp, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. So I decided to go back to the beginning and dig up some old work. Thank you Wayback Machine!.

Back in 1996, I landed my first web design freelance gig. I was still in college, so this was very much a part time endeavor. I learned basic HTML by viewing source and deconstructing other sites. I knew my way around Photoshop 3 just enough to be dangerous. So it was time to do some selling.

I looked around the web for sites that I thought I could improve. My interest was in finance at the time, so I reached out to a variety of financial sites. I often sent a short email to whatever email address I could find on a given site. Usually it was webmaster@domain.com.

I don’t have any of those original emails anymore, but they went something like this:

Hi there-

My name is Jason. I'm a web designer in Tucson Arizona.

I think your site is pretty good, but I think I can make it better. If you'd like, I'd be happy to put together a one page redesign of your home page to show you what I can do. It'll take about a week.

Let me know if you're interested.

Thanks!

-Jason

As you might imagine, hardly anyone returned my email. But a few did. And one of those folks was Tim Knight, the owner of Prophet Information Systems.

Tim took me up on the offer, so I whipped up a quick redesign idea for him. Unfortunately I don’t have that work handy anymore, but ultimately it was good enough for him to hear me out on a complete redesign.

I pitched him a full site redesign (which I think was a few “templates” and a home page) for $600. He bought it. Tim became my first ever web design client. He was the first person to really bet on me like that. I’ll never forget that.

I can’t remember if I met with Tim in person before I delivered the first few design ideas, but we met a few times during the project. His company (which was just him) was based out in Palo Alto. So I’d find some time to head out there on the weekends in between classes. Or maybe I skipped classes, I don’t remember.

We went back and forth via email and phone and finally we landed on something we were both happy with.

So here’s the big reveal. Here’s my first ever commercial web design project from back in 1996.

The home page / splash page looked like this.

When you clicked enter, you went to a menu page. Remember when web sites had splash pages and menu pages? It was such a simpler, clearer time back then. Here’s what the menu page looked liked:

If you clicked one of the links, you’d end up on a page like this:

One of the things I really miss about that era of web design was the “links” page. Most sites back then linked up other sites that they liked or respected. It was a cool mutual admiration society back then. Companies weren’t afraid of sending their traffic elsewhere – we were all so blown away that you could actually links to other sites that we all did it so generously. Here was the links page at Prophet:

Last, one of the other things I really miss about that era was the ability to sign your work. There was often an understanding between the designer and the owner that you could have a credits page or a link at the bottom of the site showing who did the work. So here was the credits page (“Spinfree” was my freelance name):

You can actually walk through the whole site using the Wayback Machine. Here’s Prophet Information Services as it was in October of 1996.

It’s fun to look back and see where you started, who took a shot on you, how you did, and where you’ve been since. I’m so grateful that Tim saw enough of something in me to give me a chance (or maybe he just saw a cheap $600 price tag ;). Regardless, it changed everything for me.

Tim also taught me a lot about technical trading, so not only did I get $600 and my first client, but I learned a bunch too. I was a finance major, so it was fun to get some real-life exposure to technical trading. They didn’t teach this stuff in school, and Tim was a good mentor. I couldn’t ask for anything more. In the years after, I did a few more site designs for Tim at Prophet. He was a great client.

Here’s Tim today on LinkedIn. He blogs at Slope of Hope. In 2010 he wrote a book on technical trading called Chart Your Way To Profits. And to complete the small world loop, Tim has a show on TastyTrade network which is based here in Chicago. Good times.

So what about you? Who gave you your first shot? Who was your first client? Care to share some (embarrassing) early work?

Big news

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 27 comments

Today, February 5th, 2014, Basecamp turns 10. What an amazing ride it’s been. And since nearly all our business comes from word-of-mouth, we owe it all to our customers. We are so thankful for what you’ve helped us build.

And on this special day, we have a couple very big announcements that will define the future of our company. Click that link to find out what they are.

These are exciting times. Fifteen years into our business, we are so grateful for everyone’s support. It’s been such a blast. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do together for the next fifteen.

Thanks for everything, everyone. Here’s to what’s next.

Bonus link: The original blog post in 2004 that launched Basecamp.

The 5 most common Basecamp workarounds

Emily Wilder
Emily Wilder wrote this on 16 comments

Basecamp can’t be everything to everyone — when you err on the side of simplicity, you have to say no a lot.

But when customers take the time to explain what they’re looking for and ask whether it’s possible, we want to give them something other than “nope, sorry!” So we end up suggesting a number of workarounds. Here are some of the most common.
To-do templates
Users sometimes miss the to-do list template feature from Basecamp Classic — the new Basecamp has templates, but not to-do list templates. So we suggest the following:

  1. Create a new project template that includes the to-do list you want to be able to reuse
  2. Create a new project from that template
  3. Move the to-do list into the project you need it in
  4. Delete the new project you created from the template.

The Email-In feature also lets you add files, discussions, and to-do lists to your project via email. So you can also keep a draft email with the to-do lists you want to re-use, and email it to your new project.
Sometimes folks have already created a project, but they want to apply a template to it. They can use the same create-a-project-from-a-template/move-things-over/delete-the-new-project process to add content from the template to the existing project.
File versions
This is another popular request from customers, especially those who were familiar with Basecamp Classic. That’s something we’ve explored for the new Basecamp, but at this time there still isn’t a way to upload multiple versions of a document.
In the meantime, you can upload the original file like normal to the Files section. The revision to that file can be uploaded as a comment on that original file (along with any notes about the new version). This way, you keep the original file and the latest version is always in the most recent comment.
Moving a single task from one project to another
You can move whole to-do lists from one project to another, but there’s no way to copy an individual task from one project to another (since Basecamp doesn’t know which destination list to put the task in). But you can:

  1. Create a new list in the original project
  2. Drag and drop the task into the new list
  3. Click the new list’s title, then use the Move feature to put it in the destination project.


Assigning a to-do to more than one person
There’s currently no way to assign a to-do to a group, because users have different preferences about what should happen when the task is complete. Should every person to whom it’s assigned have to check it off? Does only one person need to, for it to be marked as complete? We’re still unsure how or whether to approach that one.
So for now, the best solution is to leave the to-do unassigned, then add a comment to it. In the comment, you can notify all the people who need to be involved.
Sub-projects and sub-tasks
People sometimes ask for a way to list multiple small projects under one larger one, or break a single task into multiple smaller ones. For simplicity’s sake, there’s only one level for projects and to-dos in Basecamp, but there are other ways to organize and prioritize them.
For groups of projects you want to keep together, we recommend using a common preface or emoji. For example, we use “BCX” to name any project that relates to the newer version of Basecamp (“BCX: Android”; “BCX: Support”), which helps us group all those projects together for quick reference. (Check out this video for other project organization ideas.)
And while there are no subtasks, you can add a comment to-do, in which you can outline everything the to-do entails. This video does a pretty great job illustrating all the ways you can organize to-dos in Basecamp.

In some cases, we get enough requests that we ultimately make a change. That was the case with Google Docs, Client Projects and the majority of the improvements we’ve made to our products over the years. When the same issues crop up again and again, it forces us to take a look at how things work, ask if there might be a better way, and take the time to fix it.
Do you use any workarounds in Basecamp? Let us know in the comments!

47246719.jpg

The 3 1/2” floppy disk as the go-to save icon gets a lot of play, but I don’t think enough attention is paid to the venerable trash can icon.

First of all, trash cans never looked like this while I was growing up in Denmark — I only knew what it was from American TV. Second, I don’t think there are any of these left even in the US.

Canceling eFax

David
David wrote this on 19 comments
Wish to cancel your account? You may do so conveniently with an Online Chat Representative during 6AM-6PM Pacific Time, Monday through Friday. Or, you may call us after hours at (323) 817-3205.

Interesting use of the word “conveniently”. After days of missing the window, I finally hit it at the right time. Here’s how that convenient chat went:

  • Please wait for a site operator to respond. You are currently number 1 of 1 in the queue. Thank you for your patience.
  • You are now chatting with ‘Mike B.’
  • David Hansson: Hi there, please cancel my account.
  • Mike B.: Hello, David. Welcome to online Fax support. I am Mike Berry, your online Live Support Representative. How may I assist you?
  • Mike B.: I am glad to help you. Could you please provide me your fax number, registered email address and billing zip code for verification?
  • David Hansson: 555555555, david@loudthinking.com, 99999
  • Mike B.: I am sorry, the zip code provided is incorrect. Please confirm the 4-digit PIN or last 4 digits of the credit card on file.
  • David Hansson: pin: 1111
  • Mike B.: Thank you for providing your information. Please give me a moment while I pull up your account.
  • Mike B.: In the meantime, please type the number corresponding to your reason for cancellation:
  • Mike B.: 1) Moving to another provider
  • Mike B.: 2) Bought a fax machine
  • Mike B.: 3) Business or role changed
  • Mike B.: 4) Short term project completed
  • Mike B.: 5) Financial reasons
  • Mike B.: 6) Problems with faxing or billing
  • Mike B.: 7) Dissatisfied with quality of service
  • Mike B.: 8) Too costly
  • David Hansson: no need for fax
  • Mike B.: David, as we’d like to keep your business, I can offer you a discount and also waive your subscription fee for 1 month.
  • Mike B.: The discounted monthly fee would be $12.95 per month. This new plan includes 150 free inbound and 150 free outbound pages monthly.
  • Mike B.: There is no contract and you may cancel anytime. Shall I switch you to this plan?
  • David Hansson: no thanks, just cancel
  • Mike B.: Alright.
  • Mike B.: I completely understand your wish to discontinue. Conversely, May I offer you a waiver of 2 months on subscription fee so that you can re-evaluate your needs?
  • Mike B.: There is no contract and you may cancel anytime.
  • David Hansson: no thanks, just cancel
  • Mike B.: Okay.
  • Mike B.: If you wish to consider the offer, I can set your account to auto-close at the end of the 2-month waiver period, wherein you need not have to contact us again for cancelling the account.
  • Mike B.: However, if you choose to continue, you would need to get back to us so that we could remove the auto-closure of your account.
  • Mike B.: Would that be fine with you?
  • David Hansson: nope, canceling now is what I would like
  • Mike B.: Okay, I will go ahead and cancel your account.
  • Mike B.: An e-mail confirming that your account has been canceled will be sent to your registered e-mail address.
  • Mike B.: Is there anything else I may assist you with?
  • David Hansson: that’s it, thanks
  • Mike B.: Thank you for contacting online Fax support. I hope you found our session helpful. Goodbye and take care.
  • Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.

I hardly need to add commentary to illustrate just how ridiculous and unfair this process is, but I can’t help myself. If you allow a customer to signup 24/7/365, you should damn well allow that customer to cancel their service 24/7/365. If you allow them to signup self-service, you should damn well allow that customer to cancel by self-service. Anything less is just crummy.

(I wish credit card companies would help enforce consumer protection against this: Unless it’s as easy to cancel as it is to signup, chargeback is automatic).

bcx-android-teaser.jpg

We’ve got something cooking and we could really use your help. Grab your recent Android device, Basecamp (not Classic) account, and join the beta.

Jason Z. on Jan 27 2014 9 comments