Fly on the Wall: “Noodage” Matt 28 Aug 2006

35 comments Latest by Bob Satori

Some of the activity this week at our internal 37signals Campfire chat room:

Focused Tiger

Jason F.
a little sidebar…
Jason F.
Last weekend I went to the PGA Championship in Medina, IL
Jason F.
Seeing Tiger Woods in person was incredble.
Jason F.
The guy is *so* focused.
Jason F.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
Jason F.
Hits the ball, crowd goes wild, head down, walks to the ball, takes his next swing, crowd goes wild, head down, walks.
Jason F.
TOTAL AND COMPLETE FOCUS. It was really an amazing thing to watch. He is so mentally tough.
Jason F.
Only at the end (after he won) did he acknowledge the crowd. Said “I know I walk with my head down alot, but that’s because I’m focused on the game. I do hear everyone and I thank you for your incredible support.”
Matt L.
the level of fan/player interaction in golf seems pretty unique. people close enough to talk to ya + lots of waiting around. maybe that helps develop the ability to tune things out.
Jason F.
ML, no one else is able to tune it out. Even the other great players. It gets to them.
Jason F.
It was really incredible to see.
Jason F.
Tiger was entirely focused on the task at hand which was winning. One shot at a time being the best he can possibly be with no distractions. It’s like his brain power is 100% focused on the task.
Jason F.
Pretty amazing.
Matt L.
yeah, i’ve heard writers say mickelson is really just as good but doesn’t want it bad enough.
Jason F.
Yeah, sports is mental (*especially golf*). Lots of guys have the physical skills, but they don’t have the mental focus.
Jason F.
That’s what separated Jordan from the rest too
Jason F.
But man, Tiger is so much better than everyone else. It’s incredible to watch.

Ryan on YouTube
Gillian Carson asked Ryan some questions about the Revver and YouTube home pages and how they compare. An excerpt of his response:

I don’t think of YouTube as a site per-se. The sites are blog posts, IMs and emails. That’s the primary thing. Then, when you end up watching a video on YouTube’s site, you realize there are more cool videos there, and you branch out. In this way the root of each visit is a permalink, a particular video, a certain experience — not the home page. In 37 parlance, the video is the epicenter of the perma, and the perma is the epicenter of the whole site. Everything revolves around the videos you love, not the farm that feeds them.

Based on this view, the home page is secondary to the permas. The home page should show me permas I’ve recently visited, recommendations based on those, and so forth. It should provide history and continuity of experience after all the time jumping from lilly pad to lilly pad.

Nood it up
There was a typo where “mood” showed up as “nood.” Kinda cool word. Ryan decided to make use of it: (:name => ‘nood’, :definition => ‘Interface element serving aesthetic rather than functional interest’)

E.g. nood it up, needs nood, noodage, etc.

Be reasonable
Jason commented on a job applicant who seemed reasonable: “I’m such a fan of reasonable people. I think it’s my favorite quality in someone.”

Attention deficit disorder
Jamis and Ryan talked about how it sometimes feels like Google and Amazon are companies with ADD. That led to this:

Matt L.
re: ADD. i don’t get it. this disease didn’t even exist 20 years ago yet now *everyone* has it. isn’t it just a reflection of changes in culture/technology and our brains response to those changes?
Matt L.
the whole concept is ridic to me…
Matt L.
“i have a difficult time paying attention to things that aren’t interesting to me.”
Matt L.
!? who doesn’t???
Jamis B.
I agree, ML, totally
Jamis B.
I think people demand a diagnosis for everything these days, and doctors have delivered
Matt L.
it’s fine until we start medicating children because of it. that’s just sad.
Jamis B.

JF doppelganger
We opened up a chat room last week. An impostor “Jason Fried” showed up and claimed Sunrise would be released by the end of the week. That’s not true.

Jamis B.
that bogus Jason F just gave me a heart attack by announcing Sunrise release at end of week ;)
Matt L.
JF’s about to have a Malkovich scene.
Matt L.
A roomful of JFs!
Matt L.
(scary thought) ; )
Jason F.

Jamis and Pearl S. Buck

Jamis B.
btw, Pearl S. Buck (no relation) rocks
Jamis B.
my wife and I read “The Good Earth” together, a year ago
Jamis B.
and I’m reading the sequel, “Sons”, now
Jamis B.
she has such a minimal style—using only as many words as are absolutely necessary
Jamis B.
and yet she conveys so much without the words
Marcel M.
i read The Good Earth in middle school i think
Marcel M.
or at least, I was supposed to
Jamis B.
really really good stuff
Marcel M.
can’t remember anymore whether i did
Jamis B.
lol :)
Jamis B.
I think you’d really like it, Marcel
Marcel M.
her middle name is Comfort. can’t beat that.
Jamis B.
really? didn’t know that
Marcel M.
pretty interesting biography…family went to china when she was three. she learned chinese.
Marcel M.
and this is all in the late 19th century mind you
Marcel M.
going to china is like months of travelling
Jamis B.
Jamis B.
she definitely knows Chinese culture, though
Jamis B.
the books breathe it

We got an email from someone named Eoin. Interesting name so we did some checking and found this explanation:

Eoin was the original form John (from Greek Ioannes) took in Ireland. When the Normans arrived in the early Middle Ages, they brought Jean, their own form of John. In Ireland, Jean became Sean. Eoin became the name reserved for the saints named John (while Sean was the form used in everday use).

The pronunciation is surprising though: “oan” (sounds like Owen).

Tech testosterone
Our open chat had a bit of locker room humor (e.g. jokes about wives and to-do lists) and seemed to be populated entirely by men…

Matt L.
this open chat just reminds me again that 98% of people who are into what we do (and tech stuff in general) are men.
Matt L.
at least it seems that way.
Jason F.
Matt L.
feels like a huge market (of women) is out there waiting for people to speak THEIR language
Jason F.
I do hear from women re: backpack in support. Def a nice balance with BP.
Jason F.
Matt L.
good to hear. apple prob reaches out to women better than any other tech brand but i bet it’s still a huge tilt to guys.
Jason F.
Jason F.
that’s one of the reasons I used wedding photos and plan your wedding on the backpack marketing home page
Jason F.
and “call babysitter” as a to-do item
Jason F.
BP is popular with women
Jason F.
and want to keep it that way

35 comments so far (Jump to latest)

lincoln 28 Aug 06

Golf is a great sport for learning how to become mentally strong and focused, as tiger represents. It also teaches you quite a bit about how to be competitive with yourself, which surprisingly not a lot of men and women have or don�t display enough (that internal drive to take it to the next level). That�s what I like about Tiger: he brings it everyday, even when he was having an off day on Saturday, his body was out of it, but his mind kept him in it. At 28, I never thought I’d play golf, but I’m glad I started.

Andrew Dupont 28 Aug 06

I’m the first one to admit that AD(H)D is overdiagnosed, but please do a bit of research on it before you dismiss it entirely. It’s incredibly easy to have an uninformed opinion about.

k8 28 Aug 06

not all girls need weddings and babysitters dangled in front of them to appreciate a good product, guys. sigh. cheers to the other ladies who were at the open chat.

ML 28 Aug 06

k8, we certainly don’t think girls need weddings and babysitters or pink to appreciate products. Give us your perspective…what’s the best way for tech products/companies to reach out to women?

SH 28 Aug 06

“Give us your perspective�what�s the best way for tech products/companies to reach out to women?”

I think you should consider hiring a woman for your team, or including more women (and non-web savvy women and men) in your preview releases. There’s an intuition there that is probably bested not addressed by simpy guessing what you think the audience might prefer.

Erin 28 Aug 06

I’m with k8. I’m a woman, I use your products all the time, and I use them for the same reasons men do: to keep my job organized. To hear that you use “wedding planning” and “babysitting” examples for your marketing makes me feel like you perceive all women as barefoot and pregnant, rather than as sentient users of your products. :) As an aside, I just planned my own wedding and briefly tracked it on Backpack, before deciding that a computer-based solution wasn’t efficient, since most of the planning happened away from my computer, and entering the details onto my laptop was an extra step I rarely took. This is not to say I don’t love your products for my work - I do - and I think that’s the realm where they’re most useful. I think most women would agree.

JF 28 Aug 06

To hear that you use �wedding planning� and �babysitting� examples for your marketing makes me feel like you perceive all women as barefoot and pregnant, rather than as sentient users of your products.

Oh come on, that’s not fair.

Wedding planning is a billion-dollar industry targeted squarely at women. And lots of women use our products for wedding planning. We know this because they tell us. There have been articles written up in major publications about how women use Backpack for wedding planning. So we make a note of that on our home page.

And plenty of women use our products for the same reason men use our products — people are people — but we’re making some suggestions on the home page based on current usage. We’re saying what’s being said.

Nathan Ostgard 28 Aug 06

The talk about Tiger’s single-minded focus has lovely parallels to simplicity in application design. Do what you can do best at a point in time, and do that only — worry about the noise later on.

Entscheidungsproblem 28 Aug 06

So, first I’ll say that I’m a man. I’d like to discuss software that appeals to women. I don’t get what it would mean for software to “speak women’s language.” What special language do women have that’s being referred to here?

It’s generally believed that Sims games are very popular with women - about 70% of the users are female. Was that especially designed for women? Not that I know of.

Continuing with games, I can see how women are turned off from first-person shooters and other stuff with lots of violence, but this is largely a cultural thing concerning whether it’s appropriate or not for women to engage in aggressive, asssertive behavior (ignore the fact that games like Counterstrike are full of 14 year old pottymouths). Thus, maybe real-time strategy games (which are usually based around control, strategizing, and micromanagement) don’t appeal to women because of cultural norms abotu women being assertive, or in leadership positions. I don’t know.

From a BBC story on the Sims: “The Sims is really a game about relationships - and that’s what girls want - they want relationships, they want to be able to chat.” (

Basepack emphasizes communication and collaboration over useless make-work like Gantt charts - maybe that’s why it has a strong female userbase?

Dan Boland 28 Aug 06

My interpretation is that Matt was suggesting that the fact that everyone claims to have ADD is ridiculous (though I can’t speak for him). It certainly seems that the majority of children diagnosed as AD(H)D only suffer from lazy parents who won’t pay attention to them — negative attention is better than no attention, right? Government incentives aren’t helping, either. There’s just no way that six million kids have it.

ML 28 Aug 06

Robert, I understand ADD is a real problem for some people. I do wonder if it is overdiagnosed though. The link you mentioned says, “the prevalence of AD/HD in adults is thought to be around 4.4%” I feel like the percentage of people who are either diagnosed (or describe themselves) as having ADD is way higher than that percentage.

Lisa 28 Aug 06

Just so you guys know — ADD DID exist 20 years ago. My husband was diagnosed as a child about 35 years ago. Maybe its ADHD that didn’t exist — I don’t know.

Josh Charles 28 Aug 06

ADHD is just a new term for ADD

ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD - Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder

According to the DSM-IV, they are the same thing.

Lisa 28 Aug 06

Thanks, Josh for clearing that up.

Jack Shedd 28 Aug 06

The biggest fan of Backpack you’ll ever meet is my girlfriend. Earlier this year, we had to put together a trip to Europe together. There was a metric ton of little tasks that needed to be done, many of them by me. Flights to arrange, hotel stays, rail tickets, passports, etc etc. Everyday, I’d get a new AIM with an updated list of things we had to do. To ease the pain, I just created a Backpack page that let us sync up and get things done.

Course, now she uses it as her own personal honey-do list manager (as in “honey, please do this”). We have a shared page where she sticks random things she feels I need to get done, notes on how awesome she is, and various products she thinks I may someday want to buy her.

So there’s your market 37signals: “Backpack - how to get your nerd boyfriend to take out the damn trash and remember your birthday”

JF 28 Aug 06

So there�s your market 37signals: �Backpack - how to get your nerd boyfriend to take out the damn trash and remember your birthday�

Bam! I’ll forward that on to so they can put together a viral campaign for us.

Jack Shedd 28 Aug 06

I look forward to seeing them “live the brand.” The idea of 15 marketing schmucks living on your couch is irresistibly funny.

Robert Simplicio 28 Aug 06

Matt, thanks for your reply, it helps clarify in my mind how you feel about it, and that’s important to me. I have no doubt that many, many people off-handedly refer to themselves as “ADD” even though they have no clue what it actually is; it’s become sort of a pop-culture excuse for being lazy, and in that regard I totally agree with you guys.

I’m not able to easily find statistics on over-diagnosis of ADD, but I’m absolutely sure it happens. I’m also sure that some people who have it are never diagnosed, and many famous people have been noted to have the disorder.

Matt, the fact that you read the link encourages me, and again, I thank you guys for great things, and for being good human beings who happen to run a kick-ass company that produces kick-ass products.

Des Traynor 28 Aug 06

I agree with Jack Shedd, with maybe less of the comedy.

I only use BackPack Free, but even that is really handy for communicating with my girlfriend. She writes down all the crap that I don’t want to do (e.g. goto blah for dinner party, shopping for holidays, all that shit), so that I don’t forget. As a result I despise visiting the application, but appreciate how it has make things easier relationship wise. Every now and then I hit a zen-like calmness when I check the page and there is nothing there.

k8 28 Aug 06

“What�s the best way for tech products/companies to reach out to women?”

Honestly, I tend to respond poorly when something is marketed specifically to/for women. Or marketed specifically to men, for that matter — both tactics make me a bit suspicious. What I like about what you’ve done so far is that you present a nice balance of different users suiting their own purposes, regardless of girliness (the wedding planning aspect of Backpack didn’t register with me until you mentioned it here — it was just one of several examples that I took in all at once, none of which individually resonated but that overall presented a product that I was keenly interested in trying out, etc.)

I really don’t feel that I speak a separate language — like Erin, I use several of your products, and my organizational and general user-interface needs seem to be the same as many other people’s, male and female. I’ve got my entire office using Backpack and Basecamp for daily organization and project management. We happen to be a mostly female staff (we have one guy), and not once has a gender issue arisen — we all love what you’ve made, and we greatly appreciate that none of it is pink.

The bottom line is that you create well-built foundation products — how people choose to act out any gender-based psychological differences is up to them. I think targeting niche markets (as you’ve done with the wedding industry with Backpack) is probably the most effective way to continue marketing, regardless of gender and without you changing the product to try and cater to the seriously conflicting circus of ideas about “what women want”.

My two (female) cents, anyway.

Hilarie 28 Aug 06

It’d be great if a female *with* ADD posted next.

Nicole 28 Aug 06

The problem as I see it is that, generally speaking, no one can bring up designing for women or marketing to women without a big batch of overly sensitive responses popping up. Only the most brave of heart are going to keep bringing it up — which means the discussion never progresses.

I’m not in the market to create wedding to-do lists, but I’m also not in the market for keeping track of which heat sinks I’ve tried in my non-existent gaming PC. But, the point is that one can use Backpack for either (and anything else).

I’m with k8 — “The bottom line is that you create well-built foundation products � how people choose to act out any gender-based psychological differences is up to them.”

Joe Ruby 28 Aug 06

Regardless of how focussed and good Tiger Woods is, I still think he comes across as a jerk. Phil Mickelson doesn’t. People generally don’t like rooting for jerks, especially in something as pointless and frivolous and vastly over-paid as golf.

Jamis B: Are you aware your web site ( is MIA?

Anonymous Coward 28 Aug 06

People generally don�t like rooting for jerks, especially in something as pointless and frivolous and vastly over-paid as golf.

Well, Joe, you’re either mistaken or you’re wrong because more golf fans cheer for Tiger woods than any golfer today. They recognize that when he’s playing golf he’s playing golf.

Mathew Patterson 28 Aug 06

Tiger seems like the least jerk-like sports star around - compared to boxing and basketball and athletics stars he is totally mute!

JF 28 Aug 06

Wow, Joe, I’m surprised to hear you say that.

Tiger is very respectful, courteous, and kind to everyone I’ve seen him speak to and speak about. He even takes his hat off (literally) to the other players when he shakes their hands. He respects his opponents and game like few sportsmen today.

He’s certainly determined, and if you only see him in small doses you may think he’s ignoring people or being a jerk, but really he’s just very focused when he plays the game.

Mike G 28 Aug 06

Tiger is my hero :)

We’ve only had a small taste of how far beyond the pack he really is.

Erin 28 Aug 06

Jason, you’re right, your marketing just reflects the way people are using your products, and doesn’t reflect a bias on your part.

What bothers me - and I apologize, because this is off-topic - is that, if a marketing campaign mentions “wedding planning” or “baby sitting,” then it’s automatically assumed to be marketing to women. But gee whiz, planning a wedding and scheduling a baby sitter are both *direct products* of relationships between men and women. So why, when the ad mentions wedding planning or babysitters, is it intended only for one half of the population who actually have weddings and need babysitters?

Again, as Jason said, that’s just the way it works in this world, and the Backpack marketing just reflects the status quo. But I also believe it’s a reminder that there are still things in this world that we consider - consciously or not - to be “women’s work.”

It’s a problem with no solution.


Anon Female 28 Aug 06

“But I also believe it�s a reminder that there are still things in this world that we consider - consciously or not - to be �women�s work.�

Here’s the deal, plain and simple: We all want to believe that “wedding planning and babysitting” is a dual responsibility, but we all know that the majority of the time only one person is doing the bulk of the planning. Recognizing that, marketing to it, pointing it out isn’t the problem, in fact it’s just acknowledging what history has already proven. So get over it.

Second, as far as designing for women vs. men, it’s not a matter of gender equality, nor is it a matter of gender taste or “betterdom”. It’s just appealing to biological instinct. On a very grand scale, nature influences our tastes certainly, but so does biology, so does our intricate innerworkings that dictate what we’re drawn to and what we’re not.

Women always say “Don’t make things pink and purple and market them to us!” But what do women click on when they’re surfing around the internet? What books do they buy when they’re at the airport on a layover? What colors are the mastheads of every major women’s magazine in the US? Pink and purple. Women aren’t drawn to black and flames and reds and silver, so if you want to draw them in, *what would you use*?

Men and women are different. They’re made differently, their needs and tastes are different because they see things entirely differently. They prefer different colors schemes and themes and fonts and pictures. It’s just that simple. Why is this so horrible a fact?

SO GET OVER IT. Stop complaining that companies are being demeaning when they’re really just keenly identifying people’s natural appeals and stop blaming them for sexist disfunction in society, and if it’s so important to you quit perpetuating the cliche by being with a guy who’s not helping you pick out a babysitter FOR GOD’S SAKES!!!

Ben 29 Aug 06

Anon Female: I think the argument is that perhaps the difference is at least partly CREATED by the differing marketing and cultural influences. Of course that hypothesis is rather hard to test. But yeah. I don’t think anyone would argue that on average women click on pink stuff. The only question is why? Some believe it is primarily because women are brought up to click on pink stuff.

Erin: I am currently doing most of the work planning my own wedding right now, with my fiancee advising on design issues that are important to her. But I am doing most of the vendor interaction. And in all cases the vendors start out expecting to talk to her, not me. And when I go places, the invitation shop, the linen rental place, etc, I am the only guy there, except perhaps a bored guy being dragged along unwillingly by his bride to be. The nature/nurture origin of this tendency is of course debatable but that’s the way it is. Weddings are planned by women.

(In fact, I would hazard a guess that weddings are perhaps the single largest market of female-controlled money. If you want to get as much money as you can from women, marketing to people planning weddings would be a good bet. :) (Marketing to men is a bit easier of course. Put a glimpse of a woman’s skin on your product, or your billboard, or your business card, or the bottom of your shoe, and we’ll throw money at you hand over fist. Yay for “biological instinct” :)))

Anon ADDer 29 Aug 06

As has been said, thanks for following up your comments on ADD with some research at that link.

Yes, it’s overdiagnosed, no doubt about it. Medication isn’t any more of a babysitter than Barney or Elmo. But for those of us with the disease, the diagnosis can be an eye opener and a godsend.

Imagine learning something about yourself, about your physical being (because ADD/ADHD is physical, not behavioral), and then having to re-examine your entire life through this new view. Imagine being nearsighted for 25 years, but not realizing it. And then someone gives you glasses.

So, anyway, others have said it all before I got here, but I wanted to thank you for at least acknowledging the disease in the comments, if not in the post.

And, of course, thank you for all you so, etc, etc, BP rocks, yadda yadda yadda, much noodage to all.

JoJo 29 Aug 06

Matt L,

Re: ADD, have yourself tested here: :-)

The one diagnosis I think is rediculous is Sudden Wealth Syndrome. They actually have a symptom list on WebMD!

One of my favorites: You feel like you don’t quite deserve the money and you can’t believe it’s really yours.

Please, give me some pills!!!

James McKinney 29 Aug 06

Wally Wood (from your sunspot, “22 panels that always work”) used the word “noodling” to describe anything that broke his motto:

“Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.”

I’m surprised no one caught that.

Bob Satori 31 Aug 06

In regards to Wally Wood’s usage of the word. Wood was a country boy and knew where it came from — his usage of ‘noodling’ in this sense was a variation on “fishing for ideas.” Thus the whole “22 (stock) panels” collection of reusable composition ideas.