Amen to Mark’s new outlook on technology Jason 17 Mar 2006

46 comments Latest by Dave P

Mark Hurst just wrote up a gem of an observation based on his time at eTech.

And he stands there showing me this demo, very nice guy, pecking out each - letter - on - the - keyboard - with - one - single - finger. And I thought, you just spent a year of your life creating a tool to fly around information more quickly - and yet you could double your productivity by just learning how to type. (Or triple it, if it’s Dvorak.)… Learn to type! I wanted to tell him. Pursue the technology that truly helps you, even if it seems basic and not new or slick.

And of course you won’t get any arguments from me on…

Sometimes - here’s the real heresy - sometimes the best option for users might be less technology. It’s less cool, and makes for decidedly less exciting press, but it could very well be the more useful option.

Less. Less. LESS.

46 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Paul 17 Mar 06

Less is good but I think also that design (interface, industrial whatever) can provide the feeling/impression of less, providing a user with features while not overwhelming them.

Rabbit 17 Mar 06

Eh… nay, I agree with less.

I think of JF’s Less deal as a song with lyrics. They tell a story, but that story is open to interpretation. To me, when he sings about less, he intends it to mean a less complicated life as a whole. Less features, less meetings, less politics, less rules, less micro-managing.

So regardless how simple that interface is, someone some where will eventually need to crack it open and look beyond the surface.

Less for all, not just the demigod-developers.

Rabbit 17 Mar 06

Oops… I meant to say:

Less for all, not just the users. Developers are users, too.

(I think the “demigod” part came in because often times people who build things are constantly expected to build bigger, better and more complicated things that no “lowly, average” user could be expected to build.)

Phil 17 Mar 06

I use dvorak, and it’s not actually worlds faster. It _is_ a lot more comfortable, and that makes it worth it to me. And yes, more comfortable also means more productive.

Xavier 17 Mar 06

I just noticed that has a graphic that says:

“Over 400,000 people and small businesses use our web-based applications to get things done the simple way”

What percentage of those 400,000 people are paying customers?

Gayle 17 Mar 06

I researched Dvorak for a while and debated switching, but I already type almost 120wpm with qwerty, and my fingers twitch in qwerty when I’m not even at a keyboard… I’m just not sure I’d be able to make the change!

I love that you stick to Less and not Fewer ;)

Andy 17 Mar 06

@Xavier - you must mean this graphic

I’m not sure but am also curious to know.

Carlo 17 Mar 06

alias less=more

JF 17 Mar 06

What percentage of those 400,000 people are paying customers?

We’re a private company so we don’t disclose this information.

Kelly S. 17 Mar 06

What percentage of those 400,000 people are paying customers?

My guess, they probably have around 10,000 paying customers which would equate to 2.5%.

Still not to shabby though.

20,000 * $10 (cheapest plan) = $100,000/mo. = $1,200,000/yr

Jason, please fill free to correct my estimates if I am wrong :)

Kelly S. 17 Mar 06

Correction: 10,000 * $10/mo.

Jim 17 Mar 06

Less isn’t more; just enough is more.

-Milton Glaser

He’s absolutely right. “Less. Less. LESS.” isn’t what people need, they need to figure out what is just enough.

karl 17 Mar 06

And because of the lesslessless mantra, they’re working hard every day to reduce that 400k customer number. In fact, I bet it keeps Jason up at night trying to find a way to curb the explosive growth of the entire product suite.

Less customers, less feature requests, less server traffic, etc.

Trevor D. 17 Mar 06

With regards to the % of paying customers, my guess is 1.5% (6,000 users).

Doing the math like the person above, that would be $60,000 per month, $720,000 per year.

That sounds about right too.

7 employees making approx. on average $70,000 each is $490,000 in employment expense. They probably have about $30,000 per year in misc. legal, accounting, hardware costs per year.

Which leaves about $200,000 in the bank.

scotty brooks 17 Mar 06

Regarding the paying customers:
JF ….i wouldn’t tell either.

Does it matter how many pay ….i would like and hope for the 37 guys that it is 25 % ….but letts look a the other things ……21000 people read what these guys say every day …..4000 of which bought the book …in the first week ….you are cool if you blog about 37s ….. this is a success ……oh yeah ….and there are people begging to throw 895 bucks at them to spend a day in thier presence ……so is it a following or a cult …..if it is a cult …..where do i get my robe ?

I swear that JF could start cutting hair and be the revolutionary who took haricuts to the web……

keep it up boys …..



Anonymous Coward 17 Mar 06

a comment to karl:

does that mean there will be less asses like you ?

Trevor D. 17 Mar 06

scotty brooks: How do you know they sold 4,000 books?

karl 17 Mar 06

I’d guess that the raw number of asses will stay steady, but each ass will be less of an ass.

scotty brooks 17 Mar 06

you know what …..if i was speculative people … is waht i would do …..instead of running the number on how well 37 s is doing …why not start running your own numbers

why not deconstruct something simple …. build a better mouse trap and do it for your selves?

it is for more enjoyable when you start to look at a project and it is your user numbers that you talk about ….and your price per user and your expenses …..and your risk …..

take the getting real book and do it … with your own idea

there are lots left ……

i know i will get back lash for this comment …. so before you ask …yeah i am building my own thing …i am counting my own numbers ….far betterthen speculating on what the guy next door is doing ……..because like it or not whether jf and the crew has 400,000 people paying or wether i am the only paying customer ….i dont care ….because it doen’t help me pay my mortgage or car, or heat my house or take my kid to swimming lessons ……

Trust me your own numbers are the only ones that matter ….

jab me all you want …..



scotty brooks 17 Mar 06

trevor ….just quoting an email from JF

“Getting Real sold over 4,000 copies in the first week and rave
reviews are pouring in. Here’s a sample:”



P.J. Onori 17 Mar 06

I agree on all accounts.

The quote of Milton Glaser is absolutely right - the problem is, many things out there today have too much. Therefore, is those cases, both “less is more” and “just enough is more” apply.

Good read.

Chris 17 Mar 06

Regarding haircuts, they would be simple haircuts. Bowl style like mom used to do.

Chris 17 Mar 06

And after getting that haircut there would be less, less, LESS hair!

Jonathan M 17 Mar 06

“Marketing and Innovations are the only things that makes money. Everything else is a cost” - Peter Drucker

hats off to the guys at 37s. While many companies are struggling to excel in just one of those areas. they’ve managed to accomplish both.

Regardless of the actual number of paying customers, 37s has, it is hard not to be sucessfully when you have that much ‘buzz’ in the marketplace. I agree with Scotty that we should use 37s as a source of inspiration rather than trying to ‘piss on other’s success’.

double cheers

Jonathan M (Beanz)

PS to the guys at 37s, thanks for sharing your thoughts in Getting Real. I have not gotten so many practical business ideas from a book for a long while… actually NEVER!

Bernt 17 Mar 06

Jason, you must think very lowly of the intelligence or memory of the readers of your blog, since you’re repeating the same (by now old and boring) mantra every other day.

We. Get. IT.

Tom 17 Mar 06

Bernt: It’s his mantra, so wouldn’t it make sense that he should, err, repeat and highlight and just generally keep it around? I mean, he’s consistent, and he comes up with new examples that reflect his ideas, so it’s not just rote repitition — it has value.

Anyway, who are you to speak for the readers of this blog? Hell, should he just stop talking about this because you feel like it? That wouldn’t be very fair to people who’ve just started reading, now would it?

scotty brooks 17 Mar 06

I concur tom !

Tony 17 Mar 06

Less. Less. LESS.”

Couldn’t this have just been “Less.” Why do you need more “lesses”?

I think this site would be more if it had a lot less “lesses.”

Anonymous Coward 17 Mar 06

maybe it should be tony less ?

Robert G 17 Mar 06

I don’t know why, but it bugs the hell out of me to see programmers that can’t type, especially the one’s making more than me (which appears to be the good majority)!

At work, we have an Oracle DBA that can’t type. She hunts and pecks and it is so frustrating to watch. What makes it worse is that she still uses sql*plus to do everything, when we have a tool called TOAD that is 10 times more productive.

Tony 17 Mar 06

maybe it should be tony less ?

There’s a lot less of me around here than there use to be.

Bernt 17 Mar 06

Tom, in some ways you’re right; perhaps I was too blunt and I apologize if it seemed so.

But this particular post, as with many posts on this blog these days, felt more just forcing the “less” thing down people’s throats. I’m pretty sure most people here would make the connection between the “less is more” mantra and Mark Hurst quotes without the smug “And of course you won�t get any arguments from me on�” and the unnecessary triple “less” at the end.

The whole “less” thing is starting to border on zealotry. The posts are less about sharing the ideas and more about “see! we’re right! more (famous) people think like we do!” There’s never any counter-example to keep the balance. There’s hardly any reflection (except on the part of readers) on the situations where “less is more” might be, ekhm, less adequate.

jonto 17 Mar 06

@ Kelly S. “Correction: 10,000 * $10/mo.”

$12/mo is the cheapest paying plan. Leave it to a paying customer to get it right. ;)

JF 17 Mar 06

Actually, our cheapest plan is $5/month for Backpack.

Jeffrey 17 Mar 06

What percentage of those 400,000 people are paying customers?

@Jason - I know that you mentioned that 37signals is a private company and doesn’t have to disclose that kind of information. But for us web developers eager to start developing our own product - having an idea as to what % of people actually upgrade to a paid version of a product is invaluable information since it will help me determine whether or not to pursue my idea of a web-based product.

I underand that you don’t want people to know how much money the company makes. Now after reading Getting Real and desperately want to start my own (online) business … Is there any way in which you could give us web developers a sense of how many users upgrade to a paid version of a web-based product.

Even if you don’t use exact numbers, it would greatly help. Something like, below 10% … or … when we (being you at 37signals) first release Basecamp - in the first 6 months we had X%.


Jeffrey 17 Mar 06

@Jason - Also, I understand it all depends upon the product that is going to be sold. Any type of information would be of great help since I’ll use that in my assessment of whether to pursue my idea.


Dan Boland 17 Mar 06

I have the same reaction when I see people not using key commands. I always fight the urge to laugh when I see coworkers using the menus for everything, including copying and pasting.

JF 17 Mar 06

Jeffrey, we’re not sharing any financial information, sorry.

Jeffrey 17 Mar 06

Jeffrey, we�re not sharing any financial information, sorry.

Erik 17 Mar 06

I think Hurst’s insight is important and worth spreading, because many people who live on the bleeding edge of technology often forget that newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sometimes the technorati don’t realize that simple fact. For example, how many people do you know who are so tied to their cellphones/CrackBerries/Treos that they are slaves to the things, to the detriment of their productivity?

Bryce 18 Mar 06

If twenty years ago you’d have told me that the single most important class I’d ever take in high school to further my career was typing, I’d have laughed in your face.

Now…I’d admire your wisdom. W/o my typing class, I’d probably STILL be pecking out my first “hello world”. :-)

Jay 19 Mar 06

Nice article

Thomas K. 19 Mar 06


I thought Basecamps FILE UPLOAD and the API was to be released/updated ast night.


JF 19 Mar 06

Thomas, we had to put it off a few days for more testing. We’ll probably go live next weekend.

Thomas K. 19 Mar 06

@JF - good to know. Thanks

Dave P 20 Mar 06

I think the example used is petty and arrogant. The only person that seems bothered by the lack of keyboarding skill is Mark.

So the guy can’t type, so what? He spent a year working on a tool that would help pay his bills. Learning to type most certainly would not have the same effect.

There are a hundred ways that each person could be “more productive”. The smart ones draw a line at sone point and say “I’d rather have a life.” We’re not robots.

That brings me to my second point: The “Less, Less, Less” mantra, although generally useful, needs to be tempered with basic common sense and not adopted like a religion.

I’m sure all of us appreciate the complexity of having a complete car, and would probably be less supportive of only having access to a wheel, no matter how well designed.