Backpack Preview #1 30 Mar 2005

82 comments Latest by sool

backpack previewYou’ve been sending us emails and posting comments with your guesses about what Backpack actually is. So, in the spirit of Getting Real and our focus on “Less,” we present the first screenshot of a Backpack Page. Yup, that’s actual size. Don’t forget to get on the mailing list for a shot at an early preview (and to be notified the second we launch).

82 comments so far (Jump to latest)

jankowski 30 Mar 05

When you make a tool to manage collections of really complicated favicons, the least you could do is use a decent sized font!

Or is this your subtle way of getting people to “think like a favicon” (ie, everything is real small) to make better choices?

Matt 30 Mar 05

I can see the screenshot is from a Mac though. Woo! ;)

Foofy 30 Mar 05

I’m guessing it’s Basecamp meets blogs and photogalleries. :)

nowax 30 Mar 05


dave 30 Mar 05

i have to say, a preview at that size is just plain agonizing. 25% larger and we would all have a good idea what it is. therein lies the intrigue i guess.

Brendan 30 Mar 05

A place to hold files and display your photographs while traveling?

Doug 30 Mar 05

Personal file organisation. (And ‘file’ being able to be re-organised into ‘life’.)

Dr. Worm 30 Mar 05

Backpack Preview #2:


Jeremy Flint 30 Mar 05

Looks like it may be something with a blog-type area, photo storage, and file transfer.

The top looks like it says “Gathering My Thoughts”, or something similar, so maybe a “notes/reminder” kind of thing. I can definitely see file icons in the middle.

Chris from Scottsdale 30 Mar 05

I think it’s a replacement for thumbdrives. It’s meant to be a short term storage site for college students or anybody who needs to take files from one computer to another. It obviously displays some sort of preview.

Foofy 30 Mar 05

If you zoom in real close and look at the shape of the letters (compare to bold Verdana) it does look like “Customizing my” or “Gathering my.” The last word has to end in a plural form, and has something like ght near the end.

typeweight 30 Mar 05

The last word has to end in a plural form, and has something like ght near the end.

Gathering my thoughts?

Dan 30 Mar 05

hmm… if it’s complimentary to basecamp (i have no idea if it is) it might be some sort of online project asset management tool

Alex King 30 Mar 05

Very interesting.

1) Directly above the photographs are file icons. They clearly match with the ones used on Basecamp. They include a Photoshop file and an Adobe PDF.

2) I agree with Foofy that the title certianly contains a “My”. I was doing my comparison in Arial, but the shape still look very alike. I’m also guessing that the third word is “Thoughts”. I’m not totally sure about the first however.

Foofy 30 Mar 05

Looking closer the first letter of the third word is too round to be a T. Looks like an S or C, so I’m thinking it could also be Sights, which would fit into the travel-related theme.

Dan Boland 30 Mar 05

LOL… the 37s are probably getting a real kick out of watching us try to figure this out.

But from what I can deduce from that screenshot, it looks as though Backpack is the perfect name for this web application. I think it will perform like a combination thumb drive/PDA for the web.

Keith 30 Mar 05

Actual size eh?

So that would make Backpack either a mobile application or the smallest Web app ever…


jordan 30 Mar 05

It looks to me like there’s a PDF icon in there, and maybe a Word icon…

I’m gonna go with the (somewhat vague) idea that it’s a document organiser/storage thing.

I like the colour scheme you’ve got going with it; orange/umber, grey, and white rarely disappoint.

Jameson 30 Mar 05

Shrunken Verdana? You guys are focusing on the wrong part of the clue. You’ve got six pictures there: forest glade, dusk skyline, distant mountain, footprint in the sand, night-vision close-up of bikini bottom, and baby leopard.

What do those add up to? Backpack is obviously some sort of travelogue/sexcapade/animal husbandry cataloguing tool.

And it’s about time, is all I can say.

(And that’s not a PDF icon, it’s a tiny pink tulip, to symbolize “brotherhood.”)

Raymond 30 Mar 05

People, there are two clues you should be looking at. One, the name: BackPACK. Two, the screenshot, at actual size.

It’s very small.

Clearly this is a tool for shrinking things… some kind of compression utility.

Jonathan 30 Mar 05

Seems like a place to publish files, or maybe references to files, but the key thing seems to be *thumbnailing* the content? Regardless of format?

So, you could upload a PDF (Word document, HTML document, etc), and thumbnail image of it would be shown, and you could click on it to download the full thing. Or, you could upload a screenshot (say, of a new application called Backpackit), and a thumbnail (hence the “actual size” comment) would appear.

I feel right, but I am probably totally wrong.

Marten Veldthuis 30 Mar 05

Gathering my thoughts indeed.

Anyway, I wanted to point to the Basecamp banner at the bottom, suggesting that at least a free form would be available (not that I really doubted that given precedence and the manifesto).

Ryan Schroeder 30 Mar 05

Backback is clearly a wiki/GTD app for thoughts and documents type thing. Notice how DHH’s progress on instiki has stopped?

Kevin Tamura 30 Mar 05

Oh man, you’re killing me.

Marten Veldthuis 30 Mar 05

Also see the rest of my analysis on my own site.

Zelnox 30 Mar 05

I’m guessing the Gathering My Thoughts is a bit like a Ta-da List. Is it possible it works with Ta-da List?

Alan 30 Mar 05

Looks to me like a travel journal. I knew i should have got my finger out and built it when i thought of it :)

sloan 30 Mar 05

Didn’t they do a post here (or maybe it was somewhere else) about how they liked a search engine that returned thumbnails of the pages instead of just links? Is BackPack more like Ta-Da lists and a way to simply have web access to your own personal URL bookmarks?

Images that size only show basic layout and color… pretty much like the photolike icons being used in Mac OS X. What are those good for? Only things that have distinctly different layouts and colors. Otherwise the snapshots start to look the same in a list. But the icon WITH a caption/label makes it pretty effective for things with images. If it is mostly text based… well, one text document looks the same as the next… So if the idea is that LESS is MORE…

joshua 30 Mar 05

boy, you guys are pathetic getting all worked up over a tiny screenshot of a preview screen of a beta version of a mystery application that noone even knows the general concept of yet.

maybe if you squint hard enough at the image you can kind of make out a word or two! you guys remind me of a kid trying to watch scrambled porn on tv in hopes of seeing a wavy color-inverted boob.

how many of you actually subscribed to the mailing list? are you going to stay up all night waiting for the email so you can be the first to visit the new site?

i enjoy and respect 37signals’ work as much as the next guy, but this is a bit ridiculous.

not joshua 30 Mar 05

Ooooooh. Someone sounds jealous that they can’t figure it out!

Alex King 30 Mar 05

BTW - I don’t think the banner at the bottom is for Basecamp. In my opinion it is the backpack logo.

not joshua 30 Mar 05

I think it’s Google. Or maybe Yahoo. Ask Jeeves?

Nick Finck 30 Mar 05

37Signals is now in the business of making postage stamps from screenshots of your favorite web sites.

Alex King 30 Mar 05

Do you think it’s possible that the block of text above file icons might be a comma delimited list? Catagories possibly? I can’t think of what else a block of text would be doing there.

Mark 30 Mar 05

My guess is that this is a mobile version of BaseCamp. For those of you searching for clues, I think you can gather a good one from the name “BackPack.”

In keeping with the camping theme, one generally loads their “backpack” with everything they intend on taking to their “basecamp.”

Maybe…I don’t know.

Mark 30 Mar 05

Sorry for the double post -

That also, of course, works opposite as well. When leaving a “basecamp” one packs what they need in the “backpack.”

Mobile, slimmed down version of BaseCamp - yep.

Peter Cooper 30 Mar 05

Those of you who are Rails developers will know that DHH developed “incoming mail” functionality specifically for Backpack. This would fit in with the whole asset management/transfer idea being thrown around here.. as you could e-mail a bunch of files as attachments to the app using some personal address, and, bam.. they’re available on the Web in Backpack.

A Mink Car 30 Mar 05

Backpack Preview #2

This image file was removed from their server shortly after I posted a comment containing a link to the file. Looks like my comment was also snipped at the tail. If this link “disappears”, take a look at Marten’s analysis. Enjoy! :)

Grant Carpenter 30 Mar 05

People how can you be so blind: Backpack IS PEOPLE.

Don Schenck 30 Mar 05

It’s a “Favorites” site. You can add your Favorites, and it stores the URL and a small snapshot. That’s why the sample image, above, is — in fact — actual size.

Sheesh. Too easy.

Justin French 30 Mar 05

It’s a place to put stuff. Thoughts, files, ideas, lists, you know, stuff. And yes, we’re all very sad for being this excited about a ____ing web app :)

Anonymous 30 Mar 05

Now that everybody is focusing on “Backpack”. Mind I ask if anyone is still waiting for the once “soon to be finished” “Writeboard” from 37signals?

I would sure hope to find out more about that.

CM Harrington 31 Mar 05

Oh, this one is easy. It’s a bookmark “keeper”, where it not only stores URIs but thumbnails of pages themselves. Kinda like delicious/delirious… but probably a lot better.

The idea was probably inspired by OmniWeb’s fantastic “thumbnail tabs” implementation.

You heard it here folks.

Ben 31 Mar 05

Great - a top nav, a right nav, some text, a sprinkling of icons, and a sixpack of photos. I don’t understand why they even pulled the big blurred “preview”

The moral of the story for preview 1: size does matter!. The moral for preview 2: shape/definition matters.

Lee 31 Mar 05

Call that screen shot “in the spirit of getting real” do you.
How silly.

Fred 31 Mar 05

37signals: All hype, hardly any capability. It’ll be yet another “less is more” application which they hype-up, and like Basecamp, turns out to be crap.

It should tell you something that the 37signals homepage hasn’t changed for ages - the “Holiday E-Commerce Ideas” are “newly published”. They also haven’t had any new featured projects for well over a year and on average the homepage changes about once each year. Great stuff.

What a boring company - go get silverorange to do all the work you were going to give to 37s - they’ll do it four times as fast and with much less waffle.

Foofy 31 Mar 05

Well someone’s bitter!

Nick Stenning 31 Mar 05

If this is a personal ‘everything’ app, like some have suggested, I will go wild. 37s (the best web app development house out there) + backpack + one disorganized web developer (me) = happyhappyhappy.

And to Fred - go vent elsewhere - you’re obviously not stating fact, or else all the other commenters would be saying the same thing. Silverorange are a great company, but so are 37s. They each have their good bits and their bad bits.

Chris S 31 Mar 05

Congratulations, guys. I’ve noticed the number of your critics seems to be increasing. I think that’s a good sign.

If you’re not pissing anyone off, you’re doing something wrong.

Jamie 31 Mar 05

Fred, Jason has consistently stated that 37Signals is transforming into a product company. Their focus is moving away from professional services. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve seen from reading this blog. I am sure they will update their homepage soon enough to reflect their new business plan.

Anon 31 Mar 05

JF, Fred I thought you guys weren’t doing client stuff any more?

John Baku 31 Mar 05

I have a funny feeling they are going to find a way for the app to take screenshots though. Call it a hunch.

But then again supporting it would be counter to their philosophy.


Tony 31 Mar 05

I would point out that the Backpack web site says the following:

“Backpack helps you bring life’s loose ends together”

YH 31 Mar 05

What’s with the Backpack logo though? A stack of papers? What does that have to do with a Backpack or tying life’s ends together?

I’m excited about this, and im not another Fred; I was just wondering. :)

Mr.Negative 31 Mar 05

The 37signals philosophy seems to be, create a product that does as little as possible, and then charge extra.

So i’m going to guess, it’s a web application that lets you … *Gasp* upload photos!

To go along with…

a calendar foisted as “project management” tool.
a Guestbook posed as a todo list.

i love the free market.

Mr. Positive 31 Mar 05

Mr. Negative, it looks like you are Mr. Uninformed.

Anonymous Coward 31 Mar 05

Or create thumbnails of images so that anyone on any platform can view them?

Mr. Curious 31 Mar 05

So, I never comment here. I typically get a kick out of watching the fervor build as people try to guess what the ‘signals boys are up to.

But today… I just had to respond to the illustrious, Mr. Negative.

You mention the free market so I have to ask, if Ta-Da delivers no value, why does it have a user-base of 15,000 people in less than a year since launch? What is it that has attracted people to this “nothing” idea if not value? Further, what Guestbook have you used that behaves like a to-do list…? Sounds like a shitty Guestbook to me…

The thing I’m most curious about is this…. if you’re so unimpressed by the work of the 37sigs guys, why are you here? What inspires you to not only read the main page of the blog, but to dig deep into the comments to participate?

Fred 31 Mar 05

I take that back. Everything 37Signals does is art.

(Actually, I’m not really Fred. But I am his conscience.)

dw 31 Mar 05

not to jump off topic, but when i see that 15,000 user figure for ta-da list, it always makes me wonder how many of those users are active. i know i’ve personally created one or two accounts that i don’t use. be interesting to see active vs. dormant users broken down. great work nonetheless.

initialThought 01 Apr 05

It just goes to show that when you have a highly captive audience, you can create buzz about anything. And I have to agree with Lee that previewing a screenshot that small is in no way related to getting real.

On the other hand, hearing the numbers of active users for Ta-da List and Basecamp would be - though it would never happen.

But the more I compare the philosophies that 37s has been talking up to the apps they release, it becomes apparent that a long term strategy for how to promote their philosophy alongside these apps hasn’t been solidified. Discrepancies between the two are there and if 37s obtains more mainstream media coverage, they will start to be called out.

You do have to give 37s props though for putting themselves out there and having been able to establish a small, cult-like following of evangelists.

Chris S 01 Apr 05

I sense a rift in the Force between those who are still nestled snugly in the warm, big brotherish arms of corporate bureaucracy, and those who have the balls to strike out on their own and make something that people actually want.

JF 01 Apr 05

But the more I compare the philosophies that 37s has been talking up to the apps they release, it becomes apparent that a long term strategy for how to promote their philosophy alongside these apps hasn�t been solidified. Discrepancies between the two are there and if 37s obtains more mainstream media coverage, they will start to be called out.

Called out about what? What are you talking about? Do you even know?

initialThought 01 Apr 05

Chris S, if by chance your comment was referring to mine, I have been out of the corporate world and running my own company for the past 5 years.

And to your point of ‘make something that people want’, sure people want a Basecamp-type app. But have you ever thought about how many people are using it only because there’s really no comparable competition at this point. For every person I’ve met that uses or has used Basecamp, not one has been entirely satisfied with the current feature set. And when asked what they thought was missing, 1 to 2 specific features were consistently mentioned.

But who knows, maybe Backpack will be an extension of Basecamp and fill in some of the holes.

I just don’t see why people feel the need to come to the defense of 37s anytime someone isn’t signing praise. Part of running a business is about asking the tough questions. And this is only conjecture after all.

JF 01 Apr 05

And to your point of �make something that people want�, sure people want a Basecamp-type app. But have you ever thought about how many people are using it only because there�s really no comparable competition at this point. For every person I�ve met that uses or has used Basecamp, not one has been entirely satisfied with the current feature set.

There’s plenty of competition out there. Do some Google searches and you’ll find an endless supply of project management applications. Some are better than Basecamp at certain things, and Basecamp is better than others at certain things. Basecamp is Basecamp — if it’s not what you are looking for then use something else.

And when asked what they thought was missing, 1 to 2 specific features were consistently mentioned.

Hey InitialThought, maybe you should build a Basecamp competitor — you seem to know *exactly* what the market wants. Having second thoughts?

initialThought 01 Apr 05

JF, I’m surprised at the defensiveness of your replies as I haven’t posted my comments with hostile intentions. And maybe I have more confidence in Basecamp than you because I’ve done the research and have tried many products, but Basecamp is by far the easiest to use and requires the least amount of ramp-up time for clients. And because of that, I consider Basecamp to have no comparable competition.

Called out about what? What are you talking about? Do you even know?
I’m sure you realize that the more popular your products become, the more attention (good and bad) you’ll receive. All I was saying was that no matter how big or small your company is, if you see that attention coming down the road, you need to have a plan in place so that the philosophies you’re promoting line up with the products you make. From what I’ve seen/read, they aren’t in complete sync yet, but who knows, I’ve been wrong before and maybe you do have a plan in place.

Hey InitialThought, maybe you should build a Basecamp competitor � you seem to know *exactly* what the market wants. Having second thoughts?
Not sure what the purpose of this comment was, but building apps isn’t an offering of my company and we have no desire to start.

But come on, you could easily find out those extra features if you wanted.

Chris S 01 Apr 05


I have yet to find any product in any industry that meets each and every expectation of 100% of its users. That just ain’t reality. In business, anything *can* be done. The trick is in choosing what not to spend time/money on because there’s little or no return until such time that it becomes necessary because the market demands it.

Saying that “productX” is missing a few things and is therefore not all that great is a bit like faulting a Volvo for not being a Ford. Or faulting a 4-wheel drive truck for not being as cheap on gas as a Corolla.

If I wanted a Corolla, I’d have bought a Corolla. If I’d wanted MS Project ( or any of the other stuff out there ), I’d have bought it.

For me, Basecamp does what I need it to do, and the little bit I pay each month for the software+hosting is far less than my time is worth, time I previously spent maintaining and hosting my own project management documents, locally.

In short, it’s there, it works, and I can just use it and forget about it until I need it again, and spend my time making money and taking care of clients.

Benjy 01 Apr 05

And to your point of �make something that people want�, sure people want a Basecamp-type app. But have you ever thought about how many people are using it only because there�s really no comparable competition at this point. For every person I�ve met that uses or has used Basecamp, not one has been entirely satisfied with the current feature set. And when asked what they thought was missing, 1 to 2 specific features were consistently mentioned.

It seems that 37s’s practices and philosophies allow for their applications to evolve as they learn more about how users do use the product. One cannot possibly imagine every possible thing that somebody would want to do with an application, but by listening and refining after launch then it moves closer to that ideal. Have they really set the bar so high that people expect perfection right out of the gate? I seem to remember a post way back talking about people using to Basecamp to plan weddings, etc. How could uses like that possibly be anticipated and integrated, especially without it interfearing with the way others use the product.

Maybe Backpack reflects one of those unexpected ways people used the product, tweaked to add functionality specific to those users?

Michael L 01 Apr 05

I support the principal of less is more that 37 signals also use, and i use Tada eveyday and i like the simplicity of it. So in that respect i support 37 signals, but some of the people commenting in here are defending 37 signals as soon as somebody isnt just saying “yes and amen” to everything that 37 signals does and say. Whats up with that?! Let people have an opinion - 37 signal are not the people who invented less is more and they are not perfect even though they do a good job.

First of all i think its pretty stupid how 37 signals are hyping things - As some other people have said that is NOT get real. It’s just plain stupid and especially just posting a tiny screenshot which is completely useless and the only it does is create a lot of guessing and hype out of nothing. Get real!

With that said the thing that REALLY disapoint me personally is JF and DHH. JF has been acting like a spoiled child in his replies to some of the comments - Saying things like “What are you talking about? Do you even know?” and “you seem to know *exactly* what the market wants. Having second thoughts?” is COMPLETELY unprofessional. I sure hope thats not how you guys are doing customer service in 37 signals because then your future looks pretty bleak to me. I mean alot of these people are potential customers and just because they dont agree with you dosnt give you the right to talk like that to them - You are really being provocative in the uncool way. Often you learn a hell of alot more by listening to the people who disagree with you instead of the people who just agrees with you no matter what you do.

Im sorry to say, but some of the things i have seen lately from 37 signals(JF & DHH mainly) really has changed my oppinion of 37 signals from something really positive to something negative.
At first you guys looked really professional and with some very good ideas of how applications should be built and so on. But seeing the stupid hype created around backpack, the comments from JF and some of the later posts on DHH’s website really gives an image of a bunch of spoiled teenagers who thinks that they are absolutely right in anything they say and do and will never admit that they might be wrong - And even the though of listening to somebody who dosnt agree is completely out of the question.

What the heck is up with that?! Get real!

For instance “initialThought” posted a well written and serious comment and instead of actually reading it and taking notice of the stuff being said JF just talks trash! Maybe it is you, JF, that we should ask “do you even know?”

And before attacking my comment with more trash talk then remember that i actually use the same methodic when developing applications of less is more and so on. And that i actually enjoy using Tada, so im not being all negative. I just dont see how the hell a company of any size can be taken seriously when acting like JF is at the moment, and also some of the posts by DHH is beginning to look very much like the overly zealous linux evangelists which was really bad a few years ago, where EVERYTHING not Linux was stupid and bad - It seems like 37 signals is beginning to take this point of view which clearly shows a lacking ability to act just remotely “adult” or porfessional.

I certainly hope that if a customer should write you and ask a question that they get a better reply.

My question is - Why are you so defensively in your replies? And why do you hype backpack like madmen? It’s almost as bad as the hype for Longhorn and other products. If you are not finished with the product then just “shut up” and if you want to create som excitement then tell people what the product is. And if you are afraid to give out details because somebody might copy it, well then your idea maybe isnt good enough if it can be copied in the short while untill you release. And you could at least tell the basic idea of the application and no saying “bring lifes loose ends together” is not saying anything.
And seeing that none of the other products you have made has been new or revolutionizing in any way that could indicate that this product is “just” a better version(in the mind of 37 signals) of an exisitng service and if thats the case then there is just even less reason to create all this BS hype.

Dont misunderstand me - Im looking forward to seeing what it is and using it if it is anything which i have a need for. But the lack of professionalism is NOT a good thing - And just because you are a small company with ideas and opinions dosnt mean you shouldnt act professional - Thats just even more reason to be professional.

JF 01 Apr 05

Ok, let’s lighten up everyone. We posted the message with a small screenshot so people could have a little peek and so we could have a little fun. Levity is a good thing.

Clearly the shot isn’t actual size. Clearly there’s not much message in the shot. Some people guesses have been way off and other’s have been right on the money.

We’ve certainly enjoyed seeing people’s imaginations run. Everyone should enjoy this brainstorm — there are some really interesting product ideas in this thread. Market opportunities await those willing to explore them.

Developing, marketing, and promoting a product should be fun. We’re having fun now and we hope you’ll have fun using Backpack in a few weeks.

Grayson 04 Apr 05

I’d like to hear a response (RE: Michael L) from Jason regarding his professionalism …

JF 05 Apr 05

I’m the same person I’ve always been. If I’m unprofessional now then I was unprofessional before. Maybe everyone’s finally noticing ;)

Grayson 06 Apr 05

Fair enough …


paul v 08 Apr 05

Hopefully, it is a thumbnail magnifier. Tantalizing :)

Curious Speculator 11 Apr 05

I am almost certain now that Backpack will be a document management thingamajig.

piet 12 Apr 05

I think it’s something like this