Basecamp (a.k.a. “Basecrack”) in BusinessWeek Jason 11 Nov 2005

18 comments Latest by Brendan

BusinessWeek Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Robert D. Hof was invited to tag along and watch how one design firm (R.Bird) and one client (Chelsea Milling Co, the people behind Jiffy Mix) used Basecamp to collaborate on a project. Some highlights:

Chelsea’s experience with Basecamp illustrates why. Created by the five-person software developer 37signals LLC in Chicago, Basecamp lets groups of people post messages and files, create to-do lists, and set milestones for a project, all on simple, no-frills private Web pages. Items on each page, created by clicking on a button and typing, are listed sensibly in reverse chronology — like a pile of papers on one’s desk, but much neater. That’s it — no manuals, no arcane commands. Like Google’s spartan home page, it’s so simple you can’t do anything wrong — and so addictively easy to use that one customer calls it “Basecrack.”
The doubts soon dissolved. “It quickly became apparent we could do a lot with the Web,” Kennedy says. Instead of hopping a plane every time they wanted to see a new design wrinkle, Chelsea folks could view crystal-clear PDF files of mockups online, often while talking on the phone about tiny alterations they wanted. Such exchanges, which used to take as much as two months, now took minutes.
It all paid off. Kennedy estimates that by using projectpath, as R.Bird calls its in-house version of Basecamp, Chelsea slashed the overall time to complete the massive redesign project from at least two years to about eight months. Says Kennedy: “The Web-based file sharing made it seem like [we] were next-door neighbors.” Moreover, says Bird, “Decisions are made more quickly, and I definitely spend less time managing the communications of the project. We can spend more time creating.”

Read the full article plus check out the Online Extra Interview with me where I discuss “Less” and how “one-downing” instead of “one-upping” is the new way to win.

18 comments (comments are closed)

Jamie 11 Nov 05

Jason, congratulations man. You guys have come a long way from Institute Place.

kev 11 Nov 05

What’s this about an “in-house version?” Was that just a confused reporter, or does R.Bird have a standalone install of Basecamp?!

Jason Fried 11 Nov 05

No in-house version — he just means “their” hosted version.

Steve Akers 11 Nov 05

Congratulations on all the great press. I have recently been using BaseCamp and I love it!

However, I did want to say that your philosphy is NOT the NEW way to win. It just happens to be the way YOU are winning at the moment. In other words, it’s A strategy not THE strategy.

Jason Fried 11 Nov 05

Right, it’s one way, it’s not the only way.

brad 11 Nov 05

Nice piece.

As an aside, does anyone else think putting a link to the stock ticker next to the name of every public company mentioned in an article (e.g., Microsoft and Google in the interview with Jason) is so 1998? Even the New York Times adds gratuitous links like these, it’s a “let’s-hyperlink- for-the-sake-of-hyperlinking” mentality. Someone should clue them in that it’s really not necessary and provides no added value to their readers.

Megan Holbrook 11 Nov 05

The doubts soon dissolved. “It quickly became apparent we could do a lot with the Web,” Kennedy says. Instead of hopping a plane every time they wanted to see a new design wrinkle, Chelsea folks could view crystal-clear PDF files of mockups online, often while talking on the phone about tiny alterations they wanted. Such exchanges, which used to take as much as two months, now took minutes.

I had to laugh! What have these people been using to communicate before this in the, what, ten years that Internet communications have been around? Smoke signals? Tin cans? What could possibly have taken two months, when simply emailing the .pdf and having a phone conversation about it could have had the same effect? Nice article, but really…

Tomas Breen 11 Nov 05

It is amazing how people react to the KISS method tho. I’ve been pushing it here inhouse.

When meeting initially with external clients, they love it when you are passionate about keeping it to a mininum. As a sales method, it definatly is more positive than bells and whistles.

On another level when you push a simplistic approach into solutions, you gain their trust immediatly because you are not trying to push more complexity into a project and therefore the cost is reduced on both ends.

Don Wilson 11 Nov 05

As an aside, does anyone else think putting a link to the stock ticker next to the name of every public company mentioned in an article (e.g., Microsoft and Google in the interview with Jason) is so 1998? Even the New York Times adds gratuitous links like these, it’s a “let’s-hyperlink- for-the-sake-of-hyperlinking” mentality. Someone should clue them in that it’s really not necessary and provides no added value to their readers.

I concur.

Bob 11 Nov 05

What’s great is that much of the PDF sharing, etc, they could have done with email, company sites, blogs, and more (albeit a bit less easily)…but they didn’t. Somehow your solution was the tipping point that got them to change their business practices…congrats.

Brandon 11 Nov 05

Wow, congratulations - this should get a lot more exposure for you guys!!

warren 11 Nov 05

for your next trick, how about you teach corporate america that all of web application development is not j2ee.

kthxu.

Paul Boudreau 11 Nov 05

You’d all be amazed at the number of companies that are NOT using internet enabled communication or collaboration today!

I see it every day. People use what they know. If they never see a ‘thing’, most people don’t know that that ‘thing’ exists.

For many people in small and large businesses, doing their job does not involve researching new technologies, therefore, if IT or upper management doesn’t suggest/implement ‘it’, they never see or know about ‘it’.

Now I don’t want to say this, but I must. I see this as a generational issue as well. Older people who did not grow up with technology don’t know or care much about internet collaboration, in fact, for many; just getting them to use a keyboard is an issue!

Unfortunately, in many industries, particularly ‘low tech’ industries, management is older without much hi-tech exposure. These companies tend to use older, more traditional methods (the methods they know) for years until younger people move into those management positions and introduce newer, more efficient technologies and methods.

So, for all you young knowledge workers out there, pitch in and help educate the older non tech generation. Show them what CAN be done! (In a nice, non threatening way)

Kristoffer Bohmann 11 Nov 05

Congratulations Jason, David & Signals. I am happy to see that BusinessWeek, Tom Peters and the rest of the world is learning about your remarkable achievements. It’s inspiring. :-)

Eric Gockel 11 Nov 05

Actually, putting stock ticker symbols next to company names makes perfect sense depending on the publication. Many financial headline orientated websites do this.

Just as e-commerce/product related sites link to products(SKUs) when their name or manufacturer name appears in some copy, the same goes for symbols (financial SKUs, if you will).

Like the current Ameritrade ads making the rounds for do-it-yourself investors seeking trading ideas, if a name or product sparks an interest, its helpful for them to research the company further and possibly purchase.

brad 12 Nov 05

Actually, putting stock ticker symbols next to company names makes perfect sense depending on the publication. Many financial headline orientated websites do this

I know they do it, but I still don’t think it’s very useful. I would think 99% of the readers have their own tools and preferred sites for looking up a company’s performance and buying stocks. And reflexively providing stock ticker links to the names of big, well-known companies like Microsoft and Google doesn’t add much value; what might be more useful is limiting the links to smaller companies that nobody’s heard of and so therefore wouldn’t necessarily know the stock ticker symbol. It requires a judgement call and inconsistency, but good journalists and editors do this anyway: when citing city names, for example, most good publications don’t write “New York, NY” or “Paris, France,” but they would write “Paris, Texas” to distinguish it from the Paris everyone knows. Intelligent inconsistency is a mark of good style.

Eric Gockel 12 Nov 05

Just because the named company is well-known, you can’t assume that readers will know what the firm’s last price was or when their next earnings call is, that’s where a link to their stock quote page is helpful. I may have my preferred sites for analysis and charting, but closing prices and dividend number are the same across all sites.

And on on a site like yahoo, that’s where I get my quotes and news, so crosslinking (leveraging) their information is helpful and smart as it keeps me on their site and not clicking away to get a quote on GOOG because they figure I could get that elsewhere.

I don’t see the connection in your Paris/France example. If you’re on a travel-related site, should there only be links for more information on smaller cities and lesser known countries when referenced? If I’m reading an article about Paris, wouldn’t a link to a page on France (assumedly on the same website) be helpful if I wanted to learn more about other French cities, culture etc.?

Brendan 15 Nov 05

Speaking of Basecamp monikers, I’d be interested to hear what others call Basecamp internally. We often refer to ours as the “Enabler” which I suppose is along the same lines as “Basecrack.”