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"Is it too early for me to start a pay-per-click campaign?"

Nathan Kontny
Nathan Kontny wrote this on 8 comments

A Redditor asks:

My SaaS product is done. We have a customer who we reached out to locally. I’ve got a freelance writer (via Reddit!) who is working on creating an email course to educate and inform potential customers. Until that is done there is nowhere for me to collect email addresses and start warming them up. However, I do have pricing and plans and the sign up is fully implemented. Is it worth creating a couple ads to start generating some traffic yet? Or is it going to be a complete waste of time until I have that ecourse and am able to collect email addresses? If I do create ads now is it critical to also have a landing page for each?

For over 12 years, I’ve run paid ad campaigns on popular channels like Google and Facebook, but also less known advertising channels like Reddit and Plenty of Fish. I’ve used those ads to get people to buy software, play online games, even buy flip flops my Mom handmakes. I’ve learned a ton about optimizing click through rates, landing pages, ad budgets, etc.

And those lessons have been super valuable. When we redid the Highrise marketing site I had a ton of lessons and tools at my disposal to help optimize our conversions. By changing layouts, copy, buttons, headlines, and testimonials, we doubled our conversion rate.

Nothing is a waste of time if done to learn a new skill. If you read any of the books on learning, like Talent Code, the trick is to practice deliberately and in small feedback loops that don’t kill you. Do you know much about paid ads and conversion optimization? Then that’s a great way to learn about them. Just time box it. Don’t spend many resources on this step.

See, I’ve also used these same skills to recruit thousands of users to a new business I started in 2011. Optimized the bejesus out of our ads on places like Reddit. We were getting super high conversion rates on our landing pages.

But here’s the rub. How many of those tens of thousands of people whom we recruited are now following what I’m doing at Highrise or Draft? How many of them follow my blog or what I have to say on Twitter? How many of those people whose attention I paid for in 2011, are helping me with my goals today?


Even though I encourage experimentation with pay-per-click ads and landing page optimization, often their pursuit doesn’t get us very far.

Ads for most products in most industries are just way too saturated. It’s become a break even game of advertisers paying so much for a click, that they convert just enough customers and given the lifetime value of the customer, they make their ad budget back. But they look so tempting. It’s a fun puzzle to solve. If you could just find that overlooked keyword+product combo, you could just scale that up and profit.

But these players also know their customer’s lifetime value. They know how many new users each paid user recruits. They get the type of traffic they can use to get significant statistical samples to split test every button, headline, and word. The people winning the ad game can play with a sophistication to make their ad budgets back plus profit, and still the results are usually temporary as new entrants and click fraud push click prices higher and higher.

But many of us who are on our first product or even our tenth product don’t have all these things figured out yet.

So instead of spending much time on optimizing landing pages and ads, I’d spend more time on what Paul Graham would say: Things that don’t scale.

You mentioned having one customer, now go get 10. Call them. Meet at their office. Go give them a demo in person. Review their results with them slowly and methodically. This stuff doesn’t scale. You aren’t going to want to make this the way you get big, but one customer is often not enough. If they are the only one in your ear about features you need, you’ll probably be too inclined to make a specific thing that just fits their needs. I created Inkling as part of Y Combinator in 2005, and we were constantly in this state in the beginning. We would have one big customer paying us a hefty amount of money, but then the requirements they had were incredibly specific and not at all applicable to other clients down the road. Once we started getting that slightly bigger sample size, the commonalities were much easier to spot, and we could focus on those. It became a lot easier to make the right things the next customer needed, and build a product that would actually work as a business.

I’d also focus on teaching. Read everything Kathy Sierra talks about on the topic – actually, just read everything she’s written. Here’s a great place to start: Out teach your competition.

Your email course is a great idea. But you are right, you have no one to email. So where else can you get yourself teaching people. Are you writing a blog? Running a podcast? Doing any interviews with other teachers in this industry? What about trying to get some articles published in magazines? Hosting a meetup?

What’s great is how all this teaching can be repurposed for different places. Turn the email course into a video blog. Turn it into a set of lessons on Vine. Take pictures and use Instagram to share the lesson.

Gary Vaynerchuk does a great job of this. Every lesson can be repurposed and told using the strengths of another channel. Check out how he uses Instagram to teach.

Again, this stuff is often going to feel like it doesn’t scale. It’s a slog. And it doesn’t immediately convert to new customers and automatic wealth. But the payoff is in the long game. Start building an audience. Your product is going to go through dozens of iterations. Maybe it doesn’t even work out. But that audience? They’ll follow you to the next iteration, or the next project.

I wish this was the view I had taken when I was building that business in 2011. The money and time I spent could have been spent building an audience who could be helping me with today’s challenges.

Congratulations on your product. That is an awesome first step. Have fun! And keep the momentum going! Most people can’t even get something out the door. The fact though now is, most of our first products fail. We didn’t make them right. Or they’re missing something critical we didn’t realize we overlooked. Or in two years, you realize you need to pursue something different.

So, I’d be careful about trying to optimize something like pay-per-click ads, and landing pages. Those are often just local maxima, meaning you might improve something about it and it feels like a small win, but there’s probably a much bigger win to find if you open up your gaze on the life of your product and career as an entrepreneur. It’s hopefully a career you are going to be growing for a very long time.

(A version of my answer originally appeared on Reddit.)

P.S. If I can be of service at all to anyone, please let me know. Would love to help any way I can. Twitter is a great place to reach me. You should follow me: here.

A mountain of salt for the Apple Watch satisfaction numbers

Noah wrote this on 1 comment

We’ve talked a lot about the Apple Watch internally, and even thought a bit about how Basecamp might work on it. A number of Basecampers have gotten Apple Watches, and reviews have been mixed; some people returned their watch, others wear it every single day. Our unscientific, non-representative sentiment runs probably 50/50 satisfied/dissatisfied with the watch.

A study reporting high levels of customer satisfaction with the Apple Watch made the round of news sites last week, from the New York Times to Fortune to re/code. The same study was also mentioned by Tim Cook on the most recent Apple earnings call. The study was conducted by Creative Strategies, Inc for Wristly, and you can read the whole report on their website.

I’ve never touched an Apple Watch, and I personally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. Even so, when I see a study like this, especially one that receives so much press attention and that runs contradictory to other data points (such as the reactions from my colleagues), my attention turns to understanding more about the details of how they conducted the study and drew their conclusions. Examining this study in more detail, I find four major reasons to be skeptical of the results that received such media interest.

Are these apples and oranges?

One of the most talked about conclusions from this study was that the Apple Watch had a higher satisfaction level than the iPhone and iPad had following their introduction in the market. This conclusion is drawn by comparing the “top two box” score from Wristly’s survey (the portion of consumers reporting they were “very satisfied/delighted” or “somewhat satisfied” with their watch) against satisfaction scores from surveys conducted by ChangeWave Research in 2007 and 2010.

Without going into the quality of those original surveys, there are two clear differences between the Apple Watch research and the iPad and iPhone surveys that make this sort of comparison specious:

  1. Different panels: in order for this sort of comparison to be useful, you’d need to ensure that the panels of consumers in each case of roughly equivalent – similar demographics, tech familiarity, etc. There isn’t really sufficient information available to conclude how different the panels are, but the chances that three very small panels of consumers gathered over an eight year span are at all similar is exceedingly low. A longitudinal survey of consumers that regularly looked at adoption and satisfaction with new devices would be fascinating, and you could draw some comparisons about relative satisfaction from that, but that isn’t what was published here.
  2. Different questions: the Apple Watch survey asked a fundamentally different question than the earlier work. In Wristly’s survey, they appear to have measured satisfaction using a five point Likert-type scale: they had two positive and two negative rankings surrounding a fifth neutral ranking. By way of contrast, the ChangeWave research for both the iPhone and iPad used a four-point Likert scale (two positive and two negative ratings with no neutral ground) with a fifth “don’t know” option. The question of whether a four or five point scale is a better choice isn’t necessarily settled in the literature, but it’s obvious that the top-two-box results from the two aren’t directly comparable.

Who are you asking?

The conclusions of a survey are only as good as the data you’re able to gather, and the fundamental input to the process is the panel of consumers who you are surveying. You want a panel that’s representative of the population you’re trying to draw conclusions from; if you’re trying to understand behavior among people in California, it does you no good to survey those in New York.

There are a lot of techniques to gather survey panel members, and there are many companies dedicated to doing just that. You can offer incentives for answering a specific survey, enter people into a contest to win something, or just try talking to people as they enter the grocery store. Panel recruitment is hard and expensive, and most surveys end up screening out a large portion of generic survey panels in order to find those that are actually in their target population, but if you want good results, this is the work that’s required.

Wristly’s panel is an entirely opt-in affair that focuses only on Apple Watch research. The only compensation or incentive to panel members is that those who participate in the panel will be the first to receive results from the research.

It’s not hard to imagine that this sort of panel composition will be heavily biased towards those that are enthusiastic about the watch. If you bought an Apple Watch and hated it, would you choose to opt-in to answer questions about it on a weekly basis? I wouldn’t. (Credit to Mashable for noting this self-selection effect).

To Wristly’s credit, they do attempt to normalize for the background of their panel members by splitting out ‘Tech insiders’ from ‘Non-tech users’ from ‘App builders’ from ‘Media/investors’, which is a good start at trying to control for a panel that might skew differently from the general population. Even this breakdown of the data misses the fundamental problem with an opt-in panel like this: the massive self-selection of Apple Watch enthusiasts.

What’s the alternative? Survey a large number of consumers (likely tens of thousands) from a representative, recruited panel; then, screen for only those who have or had an Apple Watch, and ask those folks your satisfaction questions. This is expensive and still imperfect — recruited research panels aren’t a perfect representation of the underlying population — but it’s a lot closer to reality than a completely self-selected panel.

Where are the statistics?

The survey report from Wristly uses language like “We are able to state, with a high degree of confidence, that the Apple Watch is doing extremely well on the key metric of customer satisfaction” and “But when we look specifically at the “Very Satisfied” category, the differences are staggering – 73% of ‘Non Tech Users’ are delighted vs 63% for ‘Tech Insiders’, and only 43% for the ‘App Builders’”.

Phrases like “high degree of confidence” and “differences are staggering” are provocative, but it’s hard to assess the veracity of those assessments without any information about whether the data presented has any statistical significance. As we enter another presidential election season in the United States, political polls are everywhere and all report some “margin of error”, but no such information is provided here.

The fundamental question that any survey should be evaluated against is: given the panel size and methodology, how confident are you really that if you repeated the study again you’d get similar results? Their results might be completely repeatable, but as a reader of the study, I have no information to come to that conclusion.

What are the incentives of those involved?

You always have to consider the source of any poll or survey, whether it’s in market research or politics. A poll conducted by an organization with an agenda to push is generally less reliable than one that doesn’t have a horse in the race. In politics, many pollsters aren’t considered reliable; their job isn’t to find true results, it’s to push a narrative for the media or supporters.

I have no reason to believe that Wristly or Creative Strategies aren’t playing the data straight here—I don’t know anyone at either company, nor had I heard of either company before I saw this report. I give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re seeking accurate results, but I think it’s fair to have a dose of skepticism nonetheless. Wristly calls itself the “largest independent Apple Watch research platform” and describes its vision as “contribut[ing] to the Apple Watch success by delivering innovative tools and services to developers and marketers of the platform”. It’s certainly in their own self-interest for the Apple Watch to be viewed as a success.

So what if it’s not great research?

There’s a ton of bad research out there, so what makes this one different? For the most part, nothing — I happened to see this one, so I took a closer look. The authors of this study were very good at getting media attention, which is a credit to them — everyone conducting research should try hard to get it out there. That said, it’s disappointing to see that the media continues to unquestioningly report results like this. Essentially none of the media outlets that I saw reporting on these results expressed even the slightest trace of skepticism that the results might not be all they appear on first glance.

How an idea comes together for me

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 10 comments

First the idea hits.

Then I think about it some more and it takes a direction.

As I work through the direction, I’ll see another direction. Usually relatively similar, but different enough that it demands its own exploration.

As I dig in into the problem, more layers and possibilities reveal themselves. Sometimes they point in entirely different directions. Some seem like big possibilities, others seem smaller.

As I keep exploring, some more options emerge. Some independent of the ones I’ve already explored, but others branch off from an existing exploration.

As I keep sketching and thinking and mocking and working through variations and conditions in my head, on paper, or in code, a few strong possibilities take the lead. I begin to follow those.

One primary direction becomes the most obvious, but there are still variations on that idea.

As I dig into the variations, I realize they aren’t direct descendants of that primary direction. Instead they’re closely related offshoots, but smaller. They usually fade away.

And finally the solution becomes clear.

Then I check my thinking by going through the process again.

Where it goes from here depends on what it is, but hopefully at the end I’ve enjoyed figuring something out.

Cheesecake, the Chicago Way

Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong wrote this on 1 comment

The latest episode of The Distance visits Chicago institution Eli’s Cheesecake, which produces the equivalent of 20,000 cheesecakes a day. What goes into a Chicago-style cheesecake? How about a 1,500-pound Chicago-style cheesecake? Listen to the episode to find out. And if you like the show, you can subscribe to The Distance via iTunes or the podcast app of your choice. We’ll be back in two weeks with another episode about a long-standing business.

An organization, a social artifact, is very different from a biological organism. Yet it stands under the law that governs the structure and size of animals and plants: The surface goes up with the square of the radius, but the mass grows with the cube. The larger the animal becomes, the more resources have to be devoted to the mass and to the internal tasks, to circulation and information, to the nervous system, and so on.

Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, 1967.

Hiring: Basecamp iOS developer

David wrote this on 3 comments

We’re hiring another iOS developer to help us build great native apps for Basecamp on all Apple platforms. You’ll join an existing iOS team at Basecamp that’s currently hard at work building a next-generation native app, but you’ll also help keep our legacy catalogue of apps humming.

It’s an offering for an experienced developer. You should have multiple shipped iOS apps under your belt (or one amazing one). You should be well-versed in iOS frameworks and APIs, but also be comfortable going off the golden path when necessary.

Our native development approach at Basecamp is hybrid. We combine great native navigation around WebViews and ground-up native features to get the best of both worlds: Productivity through shared codebases on the web, and great fidelity through native.

So while the bulk of the work is in ObjC/Swift, you should also be reasonably comfortable with both JavaScript and Ruby. Enhancing a Rails application to extend the API or tinkering with Turbolinks to make it work with a native-JavaScript bridge shouldn’t scare you.

It’s a great time to join Basecamp and our iOS team. We’ve recently gone all-in on Basecamp. Millions of people have used Basecamp, and our iOS apps are both well-liked and growing rapidly as the way people use the system. The latest work we’ve been doing, and that you’ll help us finish, will make that even more so the case.

We’re looking for someone who’s ready to do the best work of their career – without risking their health, sanity, or life outside of work. Basecamp is here for the long term. We’ve been in business for 16 years (5 before Basecamp, 11 since Basecamp), and we’ve been profitable the whole time. We’re not beholden to or on any venture capitalist timeline. Private and profitable allows us to set our own course given what’s best for our customers and employees.

We believe in taking great care of our incredible team, most of whom have been with us for a long time. This means lovely benefits to help you be the best you possible: fitness and massage allowances, fresh fruit/vegetable subsidies, helping out with continued education, matching charity donations, and of course great healthcare and retirement assistance (401k match in US). When you’ve been here for a year, you’re also in on Fridays off in the Summer. It’s a great package that’s part of creating a great scene.

Since we literally wrote the book on working remotely, we’re of course also open to applicants from both the Americas and Europe (any further away is tough to get enough timezone overlap). We do, however, expect your proficiency with English to be at or close to a native speaker. If you happen to be in Chicago, we have a great office for you to work from as you please. If not, we’ll pay for co-working space or help you outfit a great home office.

Does this sound like you?

Then please write with [iOS Developer] as part of the subject line. We strongly encourage you to kill on the cover letter, but also to include links to some actual code you’ve written. If the code is on Github, you can share a private repo with dhh. (If it’s not possible to share code, that’s not a deal killer either, if you can blow us away otherwise).

Remember, it doesn’t matter where you went to school (or if you even graduated). We don’t care about how many years of irrelevance you have under your belt. The work is what matters as well as your willingness to improve yourself and everything you touch. We look forward to hearing from you!

(This opening has been cross-posted to as well).

Trying out Character Animator with Happy Camper

Shaun wrote this on 1 comment

I’ve been messing around with Adobe’s new Character Animator software recently. It’s a pretty wild program that uses your webcam to track facial movements, your computer’s microphone to do lip sync, mouse inputs for extra animations, a fair amount of physics to make things dangle and sway, applies those to a puppet, and spits it all out into After Effects.

The software, which is still in public preview, comes with a bunch of ready-made puppets to play with, but I figured our own Happy Camper needed a proper treatment.

The puppet comes with all the mouth-shapes you would need to have a nice lip sync, it blinks when you blink, looks surprised when you open your mouth really wide and has mousetrack points on each hand and foot.

So, if you have Character Animator (shows up when you update Adobe After Effects) Download the Happy Camper puppet for yourself!

Because the software is still in public preview there are still a few bugs and workarounds you may need to overcome to get the puppet to work properly, so if you need any help feel free to get at me on Twitter and if you make any fun videos using Happy Camper, show us!

Special thanks to Nate Otto for the fantastic artwork.

This is how Basecampers around the world listen to music

Dan Kim
Dan Kim wrote this on 6 comments

When Apple recently released their new music subscription service, it got us talking in Campfire about how all of us at Basecamp listen to music. So I asked everyone, “What’s your music setup?”, specifically wondering what software and hardware everyone was using, and why.

Turns out the answers were crazy open-ended! On the software side, we had nearly every medium covered. And the hardware side was equally as varied.

Since our resident data pro Noah can literally chart anything, he did. Note: we make no claims on the accuracy of these visualizations ;)

So what conclusions can we draw from that unscientific data?

  • iTunes is still used a lot, but Spotify is close to overtaking it
  • Streaming is the generally preferred method
  • Music is with us everywhere and on just about every device we own – laptop, cars, phones, headphones, set top boxes, you name it

Along with that “data”, there were some unique, entertaining bits from everyone.

Scott U. hates iTunes

“A mix of pure, unadulterated hatred for the iTunes app and a desire to find new music and share it with my kids. Rdio has a nice UI, great selection, and just enough of a social recommendation engine to make it useful.”

Jamie D. enjoys guilty pleasures on Google Play

“I can listen to one track guilty pleasures, radio, mixes, and full albums anywhere.”

Ryan S. prefers things that just work

“I prefer connecting devices by analog signal when possible, e.g. minijack aux cable in the car, because (a) it always works and (b) I don’t have to train guests, friends, girlfriend etc how to use it”

Jonas D. is low-brow

“I hooked up a low-brow setup on my desk so I could use a Bluetooth connection with some excellent (old) Bose speakers I had on hand, using these two little gadgets:,”

Shaun H. thinks the computers at Pandora are sweet

“iTunes Radio is mostly out of convenience when I’m entertaining, but no one beats Pandora’s recommendation algorithm.”

Tom W. is not a fan of his Dad changing his music

“Main downside is my Dad has paired his phone with my system, and has been known to come around and hijack my stereo. Which I think is rude.”

Pratik N. uses a laptop lap thing

“I really love Logitech’s N700. It’s the best laptop lap thing EVER. And the speakers are reasonably good. They are super hard to find these days and I’m scared of not having an alternative if/when mine breaks down!”

Dan K. likes to delete things

“I deleted all my local music and rely 100% on streaming. If I can’t get to something, oh well, I’ll live. I just listen to something else.”

Chase C.’s car is vintage

“I also use an old school tape with an audio cord to my iPhone so I can play music in my car. (Yep – my car still has a tape player.)”

Kristin A.’s music is vintage

“Software: Records?

Hardware: Record player and speakers?

Rationale: Expensive and bulky?”

Allison G. M.’s husband sometimes vacuums things he shouldn’t

“Headphones were my beloved Bose headphones until the husband vacuumed them up.”

Jason F. is a streamer4life

“I’m 100% streaming. Don’t have any MP3s stored locally or any other physical music. Simpler all around. I have access to basically anything I’d want to listen to without having to ‘have it’.”

Noah L. is a mindless Google drone

“I’m a mindless Google drone; if they make it, I’ll use it unquestioningly.”

Tony G. has a serious home setup

“PC: Asus Xonar Essence One DAC + Swan T200B Speakers. Headphones/Earphones are some old Audio Technica AD-900, Audio Technica ATH-M50XBL, Sennheiser IE80. iPhone 4 permanently attached to some Logitech dock for the gym, and bluetooth to some Samsung soundbar for the lounge. Bluetooth to the car.”

Nick Q. loves Phish

“PhishOD: Over 30 years of Phish shows crowdsourced and in one app.

ETY-Plugs: Essential hardware for live audio. Going to 1-2 live shows a month impacted my hearing immensely.

Jam bands are my thing as of the past 4-5 years. I never really had a ‘concert phase’ so I’ve been living it up. It’s great music to just tune out to and get a lot of work done.”

Sylvia C. is a data hog

“I always have data, so I always stream: That way I have room on my phone for all the selfies I’ll never post.”

Conor M. keeps it simple

“Spotify is great at giving me tons of playlists to listen to without me having to do much of any work. When I want to listen to a specific album or track, they almost always have that too. I have no interest whatsoever in collecting, storing, or managing a library of music.”

Taylor W. is all about discovering new stuff

“Youtube – Type in ‘name of band or song’ optionally add ‘live’ or ‘cover’. Discover new stuff all the time by setting the filter to the last month / week, etc. – Because I always want to know the meaning of the lyrics.”

Nathan A. uses a lot of hardware words that I don’t understand

“Sonus Faber Concertino bookshelf speakers running off a Topping TP30 Class T Digital Mini Amplifier with USB-DAC off the laptop, and MEElectronics A151P Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphone with Inline Microphone and Remote for on the road or hangouts.”

James G. takes his playlists seriously

“My playlist of new music to listen to is currently hovering at 3,000 tracks. I need to be able to listen to what I want, wherever I am – no matter where my hard drive full of music happens to be sitting.”

Chris J. doesn’t need your fancy schmancy setup

“I don’t need anything fancy to play it, so stick with iTunes as it makes it easier to add/remove stuff on my phone.”

DHH likes to chill

“iTunes has all my legacy music. It’s available offline, which is great when traveling. But I use Spotify offline as well for that. Spotify is for pretty much everything new. Favorite feature is all the great pre-made playlists. Current favorites: Evening Chill, Tranquility with a Beat, Favorite Coffeeshop, Peaceful Piano.”

Emily T. L. supports the artists

“Artists don’t make anything off streaming services, so I try to make a point of going to live shows and buying a band’s CD (!) or purchasing music from their website. And making your own music is fun. :)”

Merissa D. supports the artists too!

“If I find something I love through Spotify, (or elsewhere) I’ll buy the album on iTunes or I’ll buy the CD for my car.”

JorDanée K. keeps their Airstream bumpin’

“32GB hard drive in the truck with random playlists, and an iPhone 6 Plus wired to the truck or Airstream sound system for everything else”

Jay O. is quite lazy

“I’m quite lazy these days around finding new music and Google Play let’s me quickly pick a mood I’m in and start streaming.”

Matthew K. likes analog knobs

“I’ve got a small component system setup in the office comprised of a dedicated dac, amp, sub, pre-amp, record player, etc – all of which are pretty compact. It was fun to put together and has lots of analog knobs to turn. When sitting I connect the laptop with a mini toslink cable, and when standing I use bluetooth.”

Javan M. is all about the highest quality fidelity

“Rdio tip: Turn the sound quality up to 320kbps in Settings -Advanced. Spotify has a similarly buried setting.”

Natalie K. is not much for rationale

“I don’t have much rationale to be honest. I like Spotify, because I have used it for a long time. SoundCloud is awesome for finding new music.”

Jim M. goes independent

“Soundcloud and Bandcamp are my places to go for music from independent artists, especially mash-ups like”

Eron N. just can’t quit Pandora

“Google Play Music for full albums, Pandora for streaming radio. I’ve tried to switch off Pandora three or four times now and just keep coming back.”

Will J. will take his MP3s to the grave

“I almost exclusively buy and download MP3s rather than listening to streaming services, but I might give Apple Music a try if it’s released in the UK, the family plan looks compelling.”

Jason Z. doesn’t quite believe the Apple Music hype

“Waiting for Apple Music to save the day but not daring to hope.”

Joan S. is too busy kicking ass and taking names

“I can’t really listen to music while I work and most of my non-working awake hours are spent doing judo, bjj or weightlifting. A lot of my music listening is done in the car. I don’t really get to listen to music they way I did when I was younger.”

Michael B. is fully armed, as usual

“At home (or traveling) I typically stream via Bluetooth from my phone to a Bose SoundLink Mini. It offers good sound in a tiny package. Or I’ll play records on my semi-recently purchased Audio-Technica turntable. At the office I use a pair of Sony headphones. One of my favorite accessories for listening in the car is a CD-slot mounted phone holder”

Zach W. has his own radio station

“The vast majority of the time, I listen to ‘Zach FM’, which is Rdio’s infinite station of music tailored to my tastes, with no ads or interruptions. I like not having to think about what to listen to next, but still have the option to listen to a specific album when I want. I think Rdio’s apps have gotten buggier overtime, so I’m looking forward to checking out Apple Music.”

Whew! So there you have it. How about you—what’s your music setup?

Behind the scenes: our staff performance widget

Noah wrote this on 6 comments

Behind the Scenes posts take you inside Basecamp for a look at an aspect of how our products are built and run.

In our quest to make Basecamp as fast as possible for users all around the world, we recently decided to elevate awareness of page load performance for staff users. We wanted speed to be something we always think about, so for the last couple of months Basecamp staff have been seeing a little something extra when they’re logged in to Basecamp: “Oracle”, our performance widget.

Oracle uses the Navigation Timing and Resource Timing APIs that are implemented in most browsers to track how many requests are made in the course of loading a page, how long the page takes to load, how much time was spent waiting for the first byte of content to be received vs. parsing and loading scripts and styles, and how much time was actually spent processing the request within Rails itself. On browsers that don’t support those APIs, we degrade gracefully to present as much information as possible.

Mobile staff users don’t miss out on the fun—we include a stripped down version of the widget at the bottom of every page:

If you need Oracle out of the way you can drag it wherever you want, or just minimize it into a little logo in the bottom corner of the page:

This data for staff users is sent up to our internal dashboard, which enables us to diagnose slow page loads in more detail. When staff click on the toolbar after a slow page load, they load a page in our dashboard that looks like this:

This page shows the full request/response waterfall, including DNS resolution, TCP connection, SSL negotiation, request and server runtime, downloading, and DOM processing. It also shows timing for the additional assets or ancillary requests that were loaded.

One of the most useful features of Oracle is having instant access to all of the logs for a request. Clicking on the request ID under “Initial request” will load the Rails, load balancer, and any other logs for the first request of the page load.

In addition to presenting the raw Rails logs for the request, we also try to do a little bit of helpful work for you—we identify duplicated queries, possible N+1 queries, cache hit rates, etc. In most cases, timing details and logs are available in the dashboard within two seconds of the page load completing.

Oracle is just one of the tools we put to work to try to make Basecamp fast for all users. Read more about other things we do to keep Basecamp fast and available for you.