A new interview with Jason Matt 07 Sep 2005

34 comments Latest by Joe

Jason gets the Workhappy.net interview treatment and is asked about moving from a service model to a product model, marketing, new product ideas, time management, reading materials, blogs, entrepreneurship, and how to pronounce his last name (rhymes with speed).

There’s too much bloatware out there. It’s everywhere you look. I mean, we all use Microsoft Word, but have you ever heard someone say a single good thing about it? Software shouldn’t be something you feel like you are forced to use, it should be something you want to use.

34 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Anonymous Coward 07 Sep 05

Gosh, that is /exactly/ the kind of fearless, hard-hitting journalism I’ve come to expect from Workhappy.net. Those deep, penetrating questions, that insightful commentary.

And I feel like I learned so much new information about Jason & 37signals: Basecamp, Ta-da, simple, insanely successful, passionate, brilliant marketer, Yellow Fade Technique (tm),

…why, suddenly, do I feel the urge to go hit a large white ball with a bat around a diamond. Hmm - very strange….

JF 07 Sep 05

Anonymous, send over your questions and I’ll answer them.

Jeff Koke 07 Sep 05

Anonymous,
When someone puts a glass of kool-ade on the table, you can simply choose not to drink it. You don’t have to eat the glass and then complain that it tastes like crap.

Mathew Patterson 07 Sep 05

From the interview:
We have spend some money on Google ads which have done all right. Is it worth it? I’m not entirely sure. We don’t spend a lot on them so the cost of analyzing their success would cost more than just tossing a few bucks in a month to see what happens.

Surely it is worth it to find out if a) the money you are tossing in is completely wasted or b) how you could be making it much more successful.

It sounds a bit reminiscent of ‘just put a preference in’ for all those basecamp requests.

SH 07 Sep 05

“And I feel like I learned so much new information about Jason & 37signals…

I’m gonna have to agree with the sarcasm here. Everyone knows I’m a big 37s fan, but the same old questions about the same old things are getting a little…redundant. Certainly a group of young, forward-thinking, progressive entrepreneurs can encourage their interviewers to ask some fun, interesting and unique questions, can’t they?

Chris S 07 Sep 05

I, for one, am interested in some fun, interesting, and unique criticism of the gang at 37S. I’ve heard all of the usual stuff ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Surely we can find some things worse than “gee, those 37signals guys sure make a lot of money and get a lot of attention by working hard, believing in their products, and promoting them at every opportunity. The bastards.”

Aaron Blohowiak 07 Sep 05

Did you do all of the development internally? Do you have plans to start contracting development work out to others? Do you hope to get picked up by a larger company or remain independent? would you forsee adding any more small teams to your company, or keeping it small? What is your hosting situation? Are the members of your group all partial owners, or are some owners and some employees?

-just a few off the top of the ol’ dome.

JF 07 Sep 05

Send your questions, Chris. We’ll post the interview here on SvN.

SH 07 Sep 05

I have a question: When someone offers to interview you, how do you prioritize that, and how do you determine which websites are good enough for you to grant an interview with them? Would you do it for, say, a good friend? Or a complete stranger?

JF 07 Sep 05

Did you do all of the development internally?

Yes, although when we first started David wasn’t part of 37signals — he was hired on a contract basis. But now all our dev and design is done in house.

Do you have plans to start contracting development work out to others?

No.

Do you hope to get picked up by a larger company or remain independent?

Right now we’re thrilled with where we’re at and what we’re doing. The future is always uncertain.

would you forsee adding any more small teams to your company, or keeping it small?

We’ll only expand when we can’t take the pain anymore. When we’re busting at the seams we’ll loosen the belt a bit. We think it’s important to embrace constraints — throwing more people at a problem can often make it worse. Being creative with a solution with less people is what we’re interested in.

What is your hosting situation?

We have a dedicated cluster of servers hosted by our friends at Tilted.com. The cluster consists of redundant load balancers, web servers, app servers, database servers, and network storage devices.

Are the members of your group all partial owners, or are some owners and some employees?

Some are owners, some are employees.

Jeremy 07 Sep 05

How is the quality of the questions being asked the fault of the folks at 37 Signals? Asking softball questions is the fault of the interviewer.

Sure, Jason et. al. could refuse to do interviews, but keep in mind that they’re a business. They’re out to make money, and part of that is marketing. Published interviews are a marketing tool.

Sure, I’d like to see some tougher questions and less of the “golly gee whiz” tone, but as I said it’s up to the interviewer to do that.

JF 07 Sep 05

I have a question: When someone offers to interview you, how do you prioritize that, and how do you determine which websites are good enough for you to grant an interview with them? Would you do it for, say, a good friend? Or a complete stranger?

Lots of variables are involved. Some is time, some is mood, some is mindshare, some is exposure, some is the other surrounding content on the site, some are the questions themselves. Controlling where you appear is a very important part of managing your image and influence.

We’d do it for anyone if we think it makes sense for us.

SH 07 Sep 05

“Lots of variables are involved. Some is time, some is mood, some is mindshare, some is exposure, some is the other surrounding content on the site, some are the questions themselves

So, do you typically accept offers for interviews right away? Or do you wait months and months before accepting one, after the interviewer has asked you repeatedly for an answer? Or, do you put off interviews by saying, “I’m not in the mood right now,” as you’ve done for me for the past two months? Or is that just the exception?

JF 07 Sep 05

So, do you typically accept offers for interviews right away? Or do you wait months and months before accepting one, after the interviewer has asked you repeatedly for an answer? Or, do you put off interviews by saying, �I�m not in the mood right now,� as you�ve done for me for the past two months? Or is that just the exception?

Sometimes we accept them right away, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we say yes now, and then priorities change and we have to shift our attention somewhere else. And when that happens we apologize for saying yes when we should have said “maybe, but not right now.” I’ve made the mistake of biting off more than I can chew at a certain point and letting things fall behind. I don’t like doing that, but it does happen. And then sometimes the interviewer pesters us so much about it that we lose interest because it’s become a chore instead of something we want to enjoy doing.

eds 07 Sep 05

can you elaborate at all on your ideas for rethinking CRM?

Thanks

JF 07 Sep 05

can you elaborate at all on your ideas for rethinking CRM?

You’ll see them when we release that product. We can’t talk much about it right now, sorry.

Rayne 07 Sep 05

Youll see them when we release that product. We cant talk much about it right now, sorry.

Any timeline on when this will be released?

JF 07 Sep 05

Any timeline on when this will be released?

When it’s ready. Hopefully by Jan ‘06.

eds 07 Sep 05

Are you planning to make all 3 new products paid services? Or will one or more be free?

JF 07 Sep 05

Are you planning to make all 3 new products paid services? Or will one or more be free?

There’s a completely free version of every product we make.

Jon 07 Sep 05

Or, do you put off interviews by saying, Im not in the mood right now, as youve done for me for the past two months?

With an attitude like yours, you’re surprised that Jason denies your interview request?

Question for Jason:
I believe you’ve mentioned that you’re working on 3 new apps at the moment and have 3 other apps already out. How do you plan on managing all those projects with such a small team?

Do you plan on hiring more employees then assigning different teams to each product? Or do think the existing team will be able to continue to develop and mange all the apps?

JF 07 Sep 05

I believe youve mentioned that youre working on 3 new apps at the moment and have 3 other apps already out. How do you plan on managing all those projects with such a small team?

It’s definitely going to be a challenge. 2 of the apps are smaller apps more on the Ta-da list scale. Those apps don’t require that much attention. One of the apps is on the Basecamp scale which will require significantly more attention. So, as always, we’ll make decisions just in time. If we need another person, we’ll get another person (we have a few in mind and are beginning to consider that option).

Do you plan on hiring more employees then assigning different teams to each product? Or do think the existing team will be able to continue to develop and mange all the apps?

We’ll see. I don’t know the answer to that other than to say we’re going to keep going as we’re going for now and then we’ll see what we need to do when we get there. I think we’ll probably need another few people at some point, yes, but I don’t know when that point is.

Carson McComas 07 Sep 05

As the interviewer in question, let me respond a bit to the criticism of the “softball questions.”

First: those of you that regularly read SvN are probably bored of the “same old stuff” and if that’s the case, I apologize. But understand that my audience is bigger than folks who already know Jason’s favorite color.

Second: WorkHappy.net is about providing resources, ideas, inspiration to other entrepreneurs. It isn’t WorkBastardly.net so you aren’t going to see me get out the chain saw in an interview. Remember that my interviewees participate voluntarily. I’m not trying to uncover Watergate, I’m trying to learn what works, discover formulas, patterns, philosophies and ideas that lead to success. I’m trying to learn what works for them. I’m not trying to hold their feet to the flames, I’m trying to suss out insights that will help others find similar success. Re-read my questions and you’ll see that is my goal. I’m fully aware of the anti-koolaid backlash against 37s right now, and it sounds like Jason is ready to answer some of those questions here.

Chris S 07 Sep 05

Jason, I was being sarcastic. Sorry that didn’t come through.

My point was supposed to be that you guys seem to catch a lot of heat for doing a bang up job (in my opinion). Sure, valid sincere criticism can be useful, but the criticisms tend to sound more like envy and sour grapes than anything else.

I’ve learned a lot by reading your stuff over the years, and for me, personally, it’s helped my career.

When I was doing more freelance work, everyone I worked with loved Basecamp.

These days I’m getting to work with Rails on a daily basis (and I mean ALL day…how cool is that!) in an “industry” (library technology) where it’s not being used much.

In short, I’m a huge fan.

JF 07 Sep 05

Jason, I was being sarcastic. Sorry that didnt come through.

It’s been one of those days.

Aaron Blohowiak 07 Sep 05

Thanks for answering my questions! Feel free not to answer the next question, but it would really help me out as another small business person looking at offering products.

What kind of support demands are you facing with your flagship, backpack? If you keep stats on such things, how do you track them? Basicly, I was wondering if you could give any insight into how you track, manage (and project, although from the article it looks like most of that is rolling a D20) support costs.

Thanks for all the answers so far!

JF 07 Sep 05

What kind of support demands are you facing with your flagship, backpack? If you keep stats on such things, how do you track them? Basicly, I was wondering if you could give any insight into how you track, manage (and project, although from the article it looks like most of that is rolling a D20) support costs.

Support is the most time consuming thing you’ll face as a developer. Basecamp requires a lot more support than Backpack. We may get about 50-60 support emails a day on Basecamp (which isn’t a whole lot considering there’s tens of thousands of people using Basecamp).

I do 99% of the tech support myself using Gmail. I have some canned responses in queue for common questions, but everything else is answered manually (short, quick, concise answers).

JP 07 Sep 05

Wow that’s crazy. I’m new around here, but is Basecamp so complicated that you can’t hire a part-time customer service person and focus on cranking out new apps? Seems like that’s where your time would be better spent …

JF 07 Sep 05

Im new around here, but is Basecamp so complicated that you cant hire a part-time customer service person and focus on cranking out new apps? Seems like thats where your time would be better spent

We think it’s important for the builders to do the support. It brings you closer to the customer and you’re annoyed when they’re annoyed (which means you’ll fix things faster and learn more about your customers).

eds 07 Sep 05

Are you planning to have paid and free versions for all 3 new apps? Or may one or more be like ta-da, with only a free version?

thanks for answering so many questions

JP 08 Sep 05

We think its important for the builders to do the support. It brings you closer to the customer

Agreed - in the beginning when you are working out bugs, gathering their feedback, comments and suggestions, etc. But I’ve found that once a product is “mature” it usually makes a lot of sense to turn the routine customer service over to another person more appropriate for the job. If yours is like every web-based service we’ve ever offered, there are only so many questions that can be asked and they should be able to use a template reply for 98% of them.

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