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One of Basecamp's Water Coolers is a chatroom dedicated to pets

Kristin
Kristin wrote this on 8 comments

As you can see from Dan’s post, lots of us are animal lovers. Back when I lived in Chicago, a few of us would take turns hosting a workday that we would call “Bring Your Work to [Pet’s Name] Day.”

When Ann, Sam, and Trevor came to my apartment for “Bring Your Work to Clementine Horsetooth Day,” we worked from my couch and enjoyed the occasional interruption by Clementine, my elderly Siamese cat. She strutted around flirting with the newcomers: stretching and yawning and shaking her tail. At “Bring Your Work to Hector Day,” a bunch of us holed up in Sam’s loft with his sweet tabby and ordered a ton of Indian food. After work, a few of us got drinks at the Skylark before heading home to our own pets.

Online, we got to know everyone else’s pets from our Campfire room, All Pets. All Pets is a place to blow off steam, to take a break from work, and to connect with coworkers who may live on another continent.

And so, when Clementine died last November I knew my coworkers would be supportive, but I didn’t realize how much so. Not only did our office manager, Andrea, send flowers on behalf of the entire company, but I also received a whiplash of IMs from many people expressing their love and support. Ann (who doubles as World’s Best Catsitter for many Basecats) was especially supportive, in part because she had recently gone through the loss of her own Basecats. And then, a week after Clementine’s death, I received a condolence package from Berliner Natalie containing this amazingly succinct mug.

When I think of the average office dynamic, I don’t think of this kind of camaraderie. Maybe it’s because our figurative water cooler is a silent, opt-in chat room filled with adorable animals that we’re able to connect more earnestly than if we were at a literal cooler. Maybe it’s because we’re all abnormally obsessed with animals, but All Pets isn’t our only Water Cooler. There’s All Parents, All Nerds, All Comics & Movies, among others. Nonetheless, there’s nothing at Basecamp, not even an ocean or two, that keeps us isolated from one another.

In Memory of all the pets we lost at Basecamp.

Strategies for getting feedback (and not hating it)

Jonas Downey
Jonas Downey wrote this on 7 comments

Recently my team has been working on core improvements for Basecamp. We planned to move quickly on a range of projects, and we wanted to make sure everyone at the company stayed in the loop. Plus, our company is full of smart folks who know the product inside and out, and we were hoping to use that hive mind to our advantage.

That’s easy when you have 5 or 10 people, but it’s challenging with 45. We had to share a lot of info and avoid pestering everyone in the process, so we began experimenting with a few new ways of working. Some of ‘em worked, others…kind of worked. Here are a handful of the strategies we tried the hard way.

Make screencasts for easier reviews.

No matter how many times you’ve done it, asking people for feedback is a harrowing ordeal. They’re busy working on something else, and you’re requesting their precious time and attention.

We wondered: what’s the most effortless way to communicate what we’re working on? Long written messages or storyboards take a lot of time to wade through. So instead of that, we started making 3-5 minute screencast demo videos for each project-in-progress. We share these videos with everyone at the company and ask them to comment. They’re friendly and easy to watch.

In each demo, we talk about the motivation behind the project and what we’re trying to accomplish. We explain how our solution addresses those things. We also mention weak spots or details we’re not sure about.

Here’s an example:

These videos helped quell broad questions like “why are we even doing this?” because they demonstrate that we’ve thought through the big picture stuff. As a result, the criticism we receive is more specific and actionable.

Sidenote: if you do this, you’ll have to get comfortable recording screencasts. After about 5 of them, you get the hang of it. The first step is accepting that yes, your voice is weird, and your face is kind of weird too, and wow, you’re not good at this at all, are you?

Work in the open.

A few years ago, Ryan wrote about designing in the open. We took that to its logical extreme and left our work wide open for anyone in the company to see at any time. That meant having our ongoing projects (in Basecamp) visible to everyone, and sending out weekly status updates about our work in progress. We call these heartbeats.

For feedback purposes, the heartbeats proved more successful than the open project. The open project is like a dirty workroom — people feel bad wandering in and criticizing what you’re doing while you’re doing it. (Plus we’re a remote company, so the workroom is full of people who aren’t wearing pants.)

That said, it’s still nice to let people peek if they’re curious about what’s going on. It also leaves a chance for the occasional helpful comment you might not have expected.

Seek out people who have different perspectives.

Getting the truth isn’t always as easy as mass-emailing people. You might actually have to talk to them. Sorry, fellow introverts!

We’ve made a concerted effort to chat with people outside our immediate development team, like our customer support people, data analyst, QA folks, and anyone else in the company who might look at the problem from a different angle. Sometimes they don’t speak up on their own, but if you reach out personally, they’ll almost certainly mention things you never considered.

Decode vague comments.

How many times have you heard (or said) stuff like this?

"This one looks more readable." 
"I like how this one is clean and simple." 
"This version makes your eyes jump to the important part of the page." 
"This seems like it’s the most usable." 
"This solution might be too noisy." 

This feedback isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just incomplete. Words like clean, usable, and noisy don’t have much meaning. They roughly suggest something about hierarchy, contrast, and spacing.

When we get feedback like that, we dig deeper and ask for clarification. If something looks more readable, why? What about the design is better? More whitespace? Typeface pairings?

Once you unravel the real issues, you’ll know which direction to go. You’ll also get better at offering suggestions to others. Instead of saying, “hey this design looks bad and weird,” you’ll say, “this doesn’t fit in well with our usual styling.” Details like that give your colleague a hint about what they need to improve.

Emotionally separate yourself from your work during critiques.

If you’re working on a project you care about, you’re invested. Sharing your work puts your ass on the line, and hearing a negative reaction will sting. (Admittedly, it’s even harder in front of the whole company. Your ass is on all the lines.)

But the only way to make something great is to recognize that it might not be great yet. Your goal is to find the best solution, not to measure your personal self-worth by it.

Furthermore, most people are reluctant to tell you what they really think. Got negative feedback? Cool! You just succeeded at finding the truth. That’s a win in itself.

When it’s time to share and evaluate what you’ve done, try to put your emotions and sweat equity aside. If you can manage this, you’ll be able to debate the ideas logically instead of emotionally.

When nobody responds, you probably haven’t nailed it.

We noticed that people rally around an obviously good or bad solution. If a solution is strong, you’ll hear about a few minor nitpicks, usually interspersed with an excessive quantity of happy emojis. If it’s clearly bad, a few honest folks will call it out (with not so many emojis.)

When the team is indecisive, or worse—silent—there might be bigger underlying issues at stake. The best way to move forward is to get the whole team together and air it out. Get on the phone, or Skype, or have a meeting and chat in person.

We did this with a project that wasn’t going so well. We were creatively stuck, but we’d been trying to work through it individually. When we reconvened as a group, everyone had a chance to voice their concerns and agree on what to do next.

Make the call.

What happens when everyone disagrees? You might have multiple viable ways to proceed and no definitive answer on any of them.

Now it’s up to you to weigh everything you heard. How much time do you have left to make changes? Which solution do you feel strongly about? Does someone else feel strongly when you don’t? Is there a compromise version, or another option you haven’t considered yet?

The answers here are always different, but one thing remains the same: it’s up to you. It’s tempting to pawn off these decisions to other people, or wait for a consensus to appear, but it’s better to choose a direction than to keep spinning your wheels trying to please the group. Making the call has the side effect of drawing out people who were on the fence — if it’s the wrong call for some reason, they’ll speak up before it’s too late!

Don’t be embarrassed when things don’t work out.

Not every project is an immediate success…or even an eventual success. Out of our last 10 projects, 2 didn’t go smoothly. The first one shipped after we took a break and regrouped. We shelved the second one entirely, because we tried numerous approaches and there was no clear path forward.

Admitting defeat doesn’t feel great, but it’s far better than trudging ahead with a design that simply isn’t working. Who wants to ship and support something like that?

Return the favor.

Try offering thoughtful critiques of others’ work. Be kind, honest, and specific. It’s surprisingly difficult to do!

If you’ve been in the game for a while, mentor the younguns. Help them improve and share the feedback love. Teach them to screencast so they’ll get used to their weird voices and faces too (eventually.)

Do you have to love what you do?

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 16 comments

Attend enough startup conferences or listen to enough motivational speakers and you’ll hear one piece of advice repeated over and over again: You’ve got to love what you do! If you don’t love what you do, you might as well stay home. No less a giant than Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I don’t buy it.

There’s nothing wrong with loving what you do, of course – I just don’t think it’s a prerequisite for starting a business or building a fulfilling career, let alone doing great work. In fact, I think it’s disingenuous for really successful people to put so much of the focus on love, just as it’s disingenuous for really rich people to say money doesn’t matter. People tend to romanticize their own motivations and histories. They value what matters to them now, and forget what really mattered to them when they started. It’s human nature, so it’s an easy thing to do.

The way I see it, many great businesses and important innovations are actually born out of frustration or even hate. Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, the co-founders of Uber, didn’t start their ride-sharing service because they loved transportation or logistics. They started it because they were pissed off that they couldn’t get a cab in San Francisco. Kalanick may love running Uber today, but he really hated not having a way to get home. A random brainstorming session one night in Paris turned that frustration into the seed of a multibillion-dollar company.

I talk to other entrepreneurs all the time, and many of their companies sprang into existence for similar reasons—because the founder wanted something that didn’t exist or scoped out an opportunity to do something better than it had been done before. Love for their subject matter may or may not play a role in their stories, but hate for the existing options, along with strong opinions about how things could work, does and is a much better predictor of success.

My own career is no exception. Back in the mid-’90s, I was looking for a simple tool to keep track of my music collection, and all of the available programs seemed bloated and unnecessarily complex. Those are two things I hate, so I set out to make my own tool and eventually released it under the name Audiofile. I didn’t love music collecting. I didn’t even love software development. (I was just learning it at the time.) And I didn’t have any aspirations to run a software business – I just saw a need, and I filled it. Nothing wrong with that. A similar situation led me to start my current company, Basecamp.

Truth be told, even today I don’t always love what I do. The paperwork, the reporting, the day-to-day minutiae that come along with responsibility for a large and growing company – none of those things make me swoon. Yet I’d still rather be running Basecamp than doing anything else. I think I’m good at it, every day I get to do challenging, creative work, and I continue to find making better project-management tools a worthy and rewarding cause. It’s also a real pleasure to work with such amazing people as I do every day of the week.

If I were giving a motivational speech, I’d say that, if you want to be successful and make a real contribution to the world, you have to be intrinsically motivated by the work you do, and you have to feel good about spending your days on it. Love might grow – and it’s a wonderful thing if it does—but you don’t need it up front. You can succeed just by wanting something to exist that doesn’t already.

-

Printed in the February issue of Inc Magazine

IMG_0121.jpg

Comparing warning labels on gym equipment. From the 80s on the left, from the 2000s on the right. The one from the 2000s says a lot more, but the one from the 80s means a lot more.

Jason Fried on Jan 18 2015 10 comments

Basecamp is hiring another Marketing Designer

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on Discuss

We’re looking to hire a Designer to join us at Basecamp to work on all sorts of fun, meaningful marketing projects. The last time we hired for this role was when I joined in 2012. The last time before that? It was Jamie in 2008. We don’t often have openings for design positions like this, so we’re really excited to bring someone new to the team.

Note: This is primarily a senior-level graphic design position. Applications were due on February 6, 2015. Thanks to everyone who applied!

Designers at Basecamp are a fun bunch, and we all do a bit of everything. We’re not just setting type, picking Pantone colors, or pushing pixels in Photoshop. In addition to graphic design, designers at Basecamp write tight copy, plan the user experience for marketing pages and apps, and craft the HTML and CSS to bring it all together. We don’t think this makes you a unicorn, or a ninja, or a rockstar. We just think it makes you a well-rounded designer. You may not have all these skills yet, but you’re looking for a place to learn and hone them.
Designers that work on marketing at Basecamp aren’t afraid to sell. Whether it’s getting your coworkers to buy in on a direction you’ve designed, or writing copy that makes it clear why customers should choose Basecamp, you don’t shy away from the role of marketing: selling something worthwhile.

If you were a marketing-focused Designer at Basecamp, here’s some of the work you might have done:

When the new version of the Basecamp app launched, you would have lead the charge on designing a new Help site while teaching the Support team how to write the documentation for it.

When we changed from 37signals to Basecamp, you would have worked on the brand new marketing site for our exciting company change.

You would have suggested that the new name change, along with all of our new coworkers we hired in the last couple of years, warranted fresh business cards. So you made them.

You believed in supporting businesses who have lasted for generations, so you volunteered to design The Distance.

You would have found your own design’s shortcomings and months later, redesigned The Distance to make it faster to update and easier to read.

Over time and if you were feeling adventurous, you’d dive into the world of product design to add useful features including Annual Billing and storage upgrades, because making customers happy and having a positive impact on revenue is a win-win.

You’d go on to create beautiful letter-pressed invoices, because our customers deserve the best in every instance we get to talk to them.

On a whim, you’d swoop in to help Dan and Merissa make t-shirts to hand out at the latest conference we’re sponsoring. Heck, you’d even think of other great conferences and initiatives we should be sponsoring, too.

You’d give our Support team fun ways to write personal notes to customers.

You’d help plan and design the materials that went into Basecamp sponsoring the Pitchfork Music Festival. Dressing up like a camper is both silly and optional. But we’re all fun here, so you wouldn’t have thought it was weird to do so.

Some work you might do once you get here:

You’ll look at billboards like this and ask, “if Basecamp took out a billboard, what would ours say?”

You’ll encounter beautiful wall murals like this and offer, “if donut shops can have great branding and advertising, why can’t Basecamp?”

You’ll also help us make Basecamp.com feel alive and relevant, you’ll learn the ropes of A/B testing and experiment with new designs often for our marketing sites, you’ll craft email campaigns about Basecamp that people actually want to sign up for, and you might even share everything you’ve learned on this blog.

And if you didn’t like anything I just shared with you above, you’d step in to find out ways to do things better and lead with real designs you make and put out into the world.

You’ll have some of the most talented, smart, and funny people all around the world to help you do this work.

If you’re working on a new Basecamp.com landing page and have a question about trends in Basecamp signups, Noah can offer plenty of insights. If you’re curious about what our customers actually want, the entire Support team can give you a top-three list of requests at the drop of a hat. If you think a campaign at Basecamp needs great photography and video to tell your story, our video producer Shaun can be right by your side to film and shoot. We think everyone here is awesome, and we’d love to see you on the Basecamp Team page with us.

About you

You might live in Chicago, and that’s great. But we work remotely, so we’ll give you a fair shake no matter where you live. We want to know that you’ve done this kind of work before. Whether you’re coming from a big tech company or a small mom-and-pop agency, your resume and pedigree don’t matter nearly as much as the real world work you’ve put out in the world.
You may have a copy of Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style laying next to your copy of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. You may also have a stack of design, marketing, and advertising books you’re just dying for us to check out, too.
You have a love for writing, an interest in selling, a soft spot for art, and a fascination with technology. We’re hoping you also have completely unrelated hobbies that will make us love you even more.

Ready to apply?

At Basecamp, we have a long standing history of favoring candidates who put in extra effort in their applications. Whether that’s a video of you introducing yourself or making us a custom website—that’s all up to you. We want to know if you’re qualified, a good fit, and most importantly, you want this job and not just any job.
When you’re ready, shoot an email to me at mig_at_basecamp_dot_com with your design portfolio and anything extra you’d like to send along. I’ll share everyone’s applications with the team. When we’ve narrowed down our list of candidates, we’ll reach out to you.
If this sounds like you, I’m encouraging you to apply. If this isn’t you and sounds like someone you know, please pass the word along for us!
Happy Friday!

Design Discussions: Having fun with Basecamp business cards

Mig Reyes
Mig Reyes wrote this on 3 comments

I’m a sucker for “behind the scenes” articles on how other people made design decisions. They’re usually accompanied with neatly packaged lessons for everyone to walk away with.

Designing—especially during the early exploration phases—is anything but neat. There’s plenty of debates, countless iterations, and drive-by critiques.
I’m starting a new series here on Signal v. Noise called “Design Discussions.” Every so often, I’ll take a page out of our company Basecamp account and share the entire discussion behind a design project we’ve done. They’ll be raw and unedited. They might be full of insight, or they might be incredibly boring and expose the weirdness and silliness of each of our coworkers. That’s fine, too!
Either way, I won’t overly explain the reasoning behind what we were doing, nor will I share a top-ten list of things you should try in your own project. You’ll get an uncut backstage pass to the conversations that took our projects from A to B.
So, let’s start with something we had fun with. Around this time last year, we were Becoming Basecamp. With so many employees, it was high time for us to have a new identity, and that included business cards. (Chances for free lunches via fishbowl drawings, as I like to see it.)
If you happen to come across one of us happy Basecampers, be sure to ask for our card. They look like this.

Designing and illustrating the cards took a day. You can see how quickly other folks in the company chimed in to help me try new ideas throughout the day. The full-sized screen capture of the design discussion follows. Click-to-enlarge it to 100% if you’re on a desktop.

Continued…

Combine

Nathan Kontny
Nathan Kontny wrote this on 2 comments

Some people are destined for mediocrity.

Take this guy for example: A college kid, who, despite a semi-decent college showing as an American football quarterback, was drafted 199th by a professional team. You don’t have to be a football or sports fan to realize how terrible that is.

And he wasn’t drafted for anything near a starting position. He was drafted as a fourth-string quarterback. You’ll hardly find any active fourth-string quarterbacks. In the rare occasion the third-string gets hurt during a game, you’ll sometimes see a random player, like a wide receiver who played quarterback in high school, come in. That tells you how valuable a fourth-string quarterback is: about the same as a high school kid who doesn’t even play the position anymore. Fourth-string quarterbacks are often just practice squad dummies – fresh meat for the real players to pound on, maybe they get a few throws in during the last seconds of a pre-season game.

And sure enough, our bottom-rung quarterback, during his rookie season, got to pass 3 times. 1 completion. For a total of 6 yards.

But then things turned around. He moved up to second-string the following season, and the starting quarterback was injured, which gave him a chance to start.

That season, this mediocre quarterback, Tom Brady, won the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots. And not just a win, but he was their MVP. He went on to win the Super Bowl again 2 years later. In his career, he’s made the playoffs a dozen times, been to the Super Bowl five, and won three of them. He might even be on the way again this year.

Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. And everyone almost missed him.


Photo by Kowloonese

A combine is an intimidating looking machine for harvesting grain. The name is derived from what it does: combines the steps for harvesting – reaping, threshing, and winnowing. Those things are also often metaphors for how we do hiring. Reap the best candidates. Harvest the top prospects. Winnow the resumes.

Professional league sports teams have no shortage of young athletes who want to play for them, so they’ve created their own combines.

For example, the NFL invites about 300 college kids in February for a weeklong trial. They are put through the things you probably assume they are put through: running, jumping, lifting heavy things. They even go through interviews, intelligence tests, and have half-naked photos taken of them for later scrutiny.

That’s why Tom Brady was picked 199th as a fourth stringer. He was terrible at the combine. The 40 yard dash is one of the combine’s tests. Tom Brady ran it in 5.28 seconds – the worst score in the history of the combine. And those photos they take? Here’s Tom in 2000:

Doesn’t scream world class athlete. But fortune would lead to Tom getting a starting job where he could show off his true performance.

Here’s the funny thing, though, Tom Brady isn’t the exception at the combine, he’s the rule. In 2008, Dr. Frank Kuzmits and Dr. Arthur J. Adams from the College of Business at the University of Louisville began publishing their research of the NFL combine. Those physical tests don’t actually predict how athletes perform. Bottom scoring combine players find themselves at the top of the professional world all the time. And top scoring combine players, contain a ton of washouts – top draft picks who you’ve never even heard of because they lasted just a single season.

And it’s not just the physical tests that don’t work. The intelligence tests fail too. Kuzmits and Adams also studied the Wonderlic, which is a rudimentary test of intelligence given to all NFL quarterbacks. NFL quarterbacks have a lot to process. They need to be sharp.

Except, again, no correlation was found for the scores on those tests and the performance of quarterbacks in the NFL. Dan Marino has one of the lowest Wonderlic scores of all time, but Dan Marino is also one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Hockey and basketball scouts have the same problem.

These combines don’t work.

But this isn’t just a problem for professional sports. There’s plenty of other studies showing how tests we’ve created to find top candidates in fields like academic recruiting and finding good teachers fail at predicting anything.

The only way we can judge someone is by observing their actual performance.


Highrise is the small business CRM tool that recently spun out from Basecamp. One catch: As the new CEO of Highrise, I needed to find a brand new team. No one from Basecamp was coming over in the move.

I reached out to some folks I knew, dropped hints we were looking for people in blog posts and Tweets, and the process began. But instead of relying on tests, and multiple rounds of grueling interviews over weeks and months, I just followed my gut and kept what I was looking for simple (inspired by Joel Spolsky):

  1. Do they do the thing that I’m looking for. Ruby developer? Designer handy with HTML/CSS? Experience doing customer support?
  2. Are they nice?
  3. Are they smart?
  4. Do they get things done?

And after about the first 10 minutes of a phone call, I had a pretty good idea if you fit. But I didn’t belabor the decision. I know I don’t have a test that could accurately predict whether you were any of these things. So I didn’t spend time trying. We immediately went into short term contracts to observe real performance. And away we went.

We saw if we worked well together and if we got a bunch of stuff done. And we did. A lot, very quickly. And with that real world evidence, I had the data I needed to bring together the official new team behind Highrise!

Please, let me introduce you to:

Chris Gallo

You’ll hear from Chris if you need help with Highrise. He’s head of our customer support. Chris got my attention when out of nowhere he started doing customer support for a software project of mine when I hadn’t even hired him to do so. Then he sent me a job application, when I wasn’t even looking yet, using my very own software to create the application. Chris knows how to communicate and how to help. He’s been an incredible asset to Highrise.

Michael Dwan

Michael is the new CTO of Highrise. I met Michael in 2011 when we were in Y Combinator together. He was the engineer behind creating an awesome photo application called Snapjoy. Great guy and wickedly smart. We hit it off immediately. Snapjoy was quickly acquired by Dropbox, and you’ll see his handiwork all over what Dropbox has done with Carousel and photo storage.

Wren Lanier

Wren is our lead designer. After a small test project for one week, I knew I wanted to work with her full time. She’s quickly improved and refreshed many areas of Highrise, including a beautiful redesign of the homepage. You should catch one of the talks she’s giving at a design conference soon.

Zack Gilbert

Zack is the first software engineer and resource I brought in to help me at Highrise. We had a ton to learn and juggle instantaneously, but if you’ve noticed the extremely fast pace of improvement we were able to make as soon as we started, it was because I had Zack.


I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found such a talented group of people. But it was also because I didn’t rely on a combine of tests and artificial situations to judge these folks. We got nice, insightful people together to work on actual problems. Our performance in the real world did the rest.

Stay tuned, we’ll be using SvN to share a lot more of the interesting things we discover while we build Highrise. Please feel free to say Hi to all of us on Twitter too; we’d love to meet you. And if you want to follow the fast pace of things we’re getting done at Highrise, you should check out our product updates: here.

What our desks look like - 2015 edition

Dan Kim
Dan Kim wrote this on 31 comments

Nearly three years ago, Nick posted about what our desks look like. It was a fun little peek into how people work and what they like to keep close by. But a lot changes in three years, so we thought it’d be fun to revisit our setups.

Since Nick’s post, a bunch of new folks have joined our team from around the world, and some have even brought new people into the world!

Some have moved into new homes or to new locations, and some are always on the go.

One has called an Airstream home for months, while others have been forced to move…err, “relocate due to circumstances”...to the deepest, darkest corners of their homes (aka, the parents).

These pictures give you just a small glimpse into our team—one built on a wonderful mix of cultures, interests, and personalities. Having such a diverse team is one of the greatest benefits of being a 100% remote company, and it’s a privilege to work with such incredible people.

So, without further ado…


Andrea (Chicago, IL):

Continued…

Bots are boring

Nick
Nick wrote this on 5 comments

Our setup at Basecamp for testing our iOS apps is pretty neat. It (synonymously) involves Xcode’s CI Bots, but that’s easily the most uninteresting part of it. Here’s how we continuously integrate our iPhone and iPad apps at Basecamp and get build results into our Campfire.

Build your bot

This is easily the trickiest part. However, it is pretty boring. Once you’ve followed Apple’s tutorials to setup OSX Server and the Xcode service (which I will skip or lose pretty much everyone reading this for several hours), you just need to head to Product > Create Bot inside of Xcode.

I recommend creating an empty Xcode project first to just make sure everything is working – don’t start with your main iOS codebase. I named it “Placebo”.

We have some specific settings on our bots. Here’s a screenshot for each screen in the bot wizard, since there’s no way to share them outside of the Xcode walled garden. The first screen is the easiest:

Continued…
Request an Invite | Cloudpipes.png

Playful touch spotted on the Cloudpipes invite request page. They keep a list of companies they like and show a little thumbs-up whenever someone signs up from one of those domains!

Michael Berger on Jan 13 2015 1 comment

Forecasting support response times with the Support Simulator 4000

Noah
Noah wrote this on 1 comment

Kristin wrote about our efforts to achieve 24/7 support, and it reminded me of a project I worked on last year. When we started talking about expanding the support team to improve our coverage outside of US business hours, David asked me to take a look at what we’d need to do to achieve a response time of under four hours for every case that came in, and related to that, what response time we could expect with each hire.

Framing the problem

When we talk about “response time”, we’re really talking about about one specific measure—the time from when we receive an email until we send an initial personalized response back (we stopped using autoresponders over a year ago, so every response we send is personalized). That encompasses exactly what we can control — how long we let a case sit in the queue and how long it takes us to answer. We exclude emails that don’t result in a reply (vacation messages sent to us in reply to invoices, spam, etc.), but otherwise include every single email in measuring our response time.

When we look at response time, we usually look at it one of two ways:

  • Median, 95th percentile, and max response time: the point at which half, 95%, and all cases are answered by, respectively.
  • Service level: the portion of cases that we reply to within a given time period.

So the goal that David was asking about can alternately be framed as a max response time of 4 hours or a 100% service level at 4 hours—they’re interchangeable.

There’s a really simple mathematical answer to “what do we need to do to ensure a max response time of no more than 4 hours”: at a minimum, you can’t have any gaps in scheduling that are greater than four hours. In reality you need a slightly smaller gap to actually achieve that service level, because after any gap in coverage you’ll come back to find a queue of cases, but at a minimum, there’s no way you can do a four hour max response time if you have a gap in coverage of more than four hours.

That’s a pretty easy and straightforward answer, and gives you a pretty clear idea of how you need to grow the team: hire such that you can make a reasonable schedule for everyone that doesn’t leave any gaps of more than four hours.

That didn’t answer the question of what we should expect in terms of response time as we grew the team over the course of many months, so for that, we moved to a simulation.

Simulating our support workload

Continued…