You’re reading Signal v. Noise, a publication about the web by Basecamp since 1999. Happy !

Service sunsets aren’t the least bit pretty

David wrote this on 4 comments

Software makers are obsessed with new. And of course we are, that’s our job: making more, newer, better! But as a lot, we’d be well-served to remember this affliction is generally not shared by our users and customers.

Sure, some people love upgrading to the latest version the minute it lands. It’s also a lot easier when it’s a personal device, like an iPhone, where the focus isn’t purely productivity.

But remember all those companies holding on to IE6 for their dear life? That’s the other side of ‘upgrading fun’. Disrupting workflow, processes, and institutional knowledge because the damn fax machine won’t send the important contract until the firmware is upgraded. What possible utility could a firmware upgrade to the fax machine provide that’s worth keeping a document from sending?


Back to Basecamp

Nick wrote this on 7 comments

There’s an entire slew of new features available in iOS9 — but there’s one that you’ll be using every single day. It’s called Go Back to App and it’s all over the place. If you open an app from another app, instead of doing a full “flip” like you tapped the home button, iOS slides the app in and you get right to work. It happens so smoothly that it’s hard to even see happen:

This is going to change how iOS apps are made. Combined with Universal Links for opening up http:// and https:// links from Safari (or anywhere) inside your app, the reality for how apps are opened and work together has forever been altered. I know Apple loves calling features amazing — but this time they’re right.


A rallying cry for the Weird Wild Web

Jonas Downey
Jonas Downey wrote this on 2 comments

This year, 2015, marked the 20th anniversary of the first time I stuck some HTML on a server and put it out for the world to see. (Sorry about that one, world.)

Twenty years! Twenty years is a long time to do anything, especially in tech. Given how fast things churn, it’s rather unbelievable that I’m still gainfully employed to write HTML for anything at all in 2015.

I’ve been reflecting on this recently, as the web’s future keeps sounding rather bleak. It seems that nary a week passes without someone predicting the end of the open web as we know it. Perhaps understandably so — at a glance, the web appears to be suffering a death by a thousand cuts.

Let’s recap a few of the most common arguments for why the web is totally screwed.


Cargo Culting

Nathan Kontny
Nathan Kontny wrote this on Discuss

I've been exploring Medium as a new channel for my writing. It's a pretty place to read and share my thoughts – though still written on Draft :) – and getting more and more popular. Yesterday I shared a post: Poison, which received some nice traffic and shares. A couple people began to comment. And that's where I started getting confused.

There's a comment, what Medium calls a "response", but it's not the full comment. In fact, I have to click Read More just to get to the meat of it. When I read the comment and wanted to respond, that even was a new affair, encouraging me to Publish or go Full Screen:


Making money along the way

David wrote this on 7 comments

Remember the Flip camera? From its premiere in 2006 until the business was sold to Cisco in 2009, the little video recorder was killing it. Lavish praise, booming sales, flying high. And then cell phones got good enough at recording video, and that was the end of that.

If you disregard the acquisition proceeds, was Flip a terrible business? Well, that depends: Were they taking profits along the way?

There’s no natural law that states all products and services must endure forever and always. Some companies are glorious sprints, others are slugging marathons. Both can work, but the former is especially sensitive to making money along the way.

The problem is that everyone thinks they’re going to run a spectacular marathon in technology these days. There’s no amount too great to be invested in future growth, because the future is infinite, and you’d be a fool not to capture as much of that as you possibly can.

But what if the time allotted to your capture looks more like Flip? What if your product is going to have a great, booming run, but not for the next 30 years, just the next five?


How we lost (and found) millions by not A/B testing

Noah wrote this on 8 comments

We’ve always felt strongly that we should share our lessons in business and technology with the world, and that includes both our successes and our failures. We’ve written about some great successes: how we’ve improved support response time, sped up applications, and improved reliability. Today I want to share an experience that wasn’t a success.

This is the story of how we made a change to the site that ended up costing us millions of dollars, how we found our way back from that, and what we learned in the process.


Disruption is better when it's other people’s jobs

David wrote this on 14 comments

Many writers and publishers are freaking out after Apple opened Safari to ad blockers in iOS9. Ad blockers have been around for a long time, but the fear is that this is the move that will take the concept mainstream.

That fear appears well justified. The App Store’s charts have been dominated by ad blockers since the release of iOS9 last week. Currently, the #1 paid app is Crystal, an ad blocker, and so is #3, Purify. Clearly some pent up demand.

Another data point is the following poll from The Verge. It was setup with an almost satirically over-the-top slant, and yet readers pummeled them:


Work in Progress

Nathan Kontny
Nathan Kontny wrote this on 7 comments

Jason and I have now done 18 live chats we've published on YouTube and SoundCloud and we still like each other! :) Just to be transparent, it hasn't been a piece of cake. It's a whole new environment for us to figure out. Not just how to get subscribers. But things like picking topics. Staying interesting. Even things like lighting. Barking dogs. Poor internet connections. Sleeping in-laws. But it's a constant reminder how much work goes into any product. There's always a new challenge or opportunity to learn to get better. It's never done. It's a "Work in Progress". And waiting for perfect is a sure way to fail to get anywhere. Here are some of my favorites of the episodes we've done so far:


Introducing Mercedes De Luca, Basecamp's first COO

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 13 comments

Today we’re feeling really good because we get to announce that Mercedes De Luca will be joining Basecamp as our first-ever COO.

Over the last few years, David and I have come to realize that high-level strategy and hands-on product development is what we enjoy doing most. But of course there’s so much more to running a company than just that stuff.

Products are products, but companies are products too. Your company should be your best product, since it’s the product that produces all the others. We should operate the company with as much love and attention and care as we put into building our products. We want Basecamp the company to be outstanding at every level.

Mercedes is going to help us be all we can be. She’s been a CEO, a CTO, a CIO, and a GM. She’s run big groups and small groups – local and remote. She has the right mix of a structured analytical mind and an insightful creative spirit.


Farm Wisdom

Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong wrote this on Discuss

The latest episode of The Distance features the Jones family, which has been farming in Iowa for generations. They have weathered tough winters, the consolidation of small family farms and the farm crisis of the 1980s. Today, 29-year-old Will Jones is in charge, and he’s melding his own vision for the family business with the collective wisdom of predecessors like his father.

If you’re hankering for more stories about old businesses and professions after listening to the episode, sign up for The Distance newsletter at the bottom of the home page. Every two weeks, when we release a new episode, I share three recent stories that have caught my attention. Recent favorites have included the re-release of an incredible radio documentary about the Sunshine Hotel, one of New York’s legendary flophouses; an episode of the podcast Death, Sex & Money that interviews a sixth-generation funeral director; and a Miami Herald story about some of Florida’s last remaining tollbooth collectors. Sign up to get these goodies in your inbox!