Fly on the Wall: “Other people’s data is extremely boring” Matt 14 Jul 2006

15 comments Latest by Stephen

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

Updated circles of hell
Jamis had to do some troubleshooting at someone else’s home leading to this comment: “Windows + MSN + Dial-up = HELL.” Ryan uploaded an image of the circles of hell. Jamis: “Lol, it’s definitely there in the very pit.” So it goes a little something like this:


Print styles in Basecamp
It feels like we hit on something with improved print stylesheets. “It looks as good on paper as it does on screen” is a great way to differentiate a product from competitors.

Jason, who massaged the styles, got a kick out of the whole process: “Man, print stylesheets are fun…it’s really about removing all sorts of shit…a lot of trial and error…did that go away? YES!…No? FUCK!”

Some light was shined on the oft-overlooked “pt.” “One thing I learned about print stylesheets is that we should use “pt” font sizes,” said Jason. “Not px or em or %…pt is consistent across platforms…12pt font is 12pt font.”

I changed the room’s topic to “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” -John Cage

Inbox management
Marcel and Ryan discussed inbox management…

Marcel: “i used to have a bunch of different mailboxes in my mail reader… after a while i would just ignore the boxes…now it’s all one continuous stream…and i delete the stuff that doesn’t matter to stay afloat.”

Ryan: “i use one mailbox. if there’s a special project with emails coming in, for example content for a website i’m making, then i’ll create a temporary folder named after the project…the temp folder allows me to collect and procrastinate on those. and then when i get around to using them, i let the temp mailbox dissolve into the mother mailbox.”

Sentences that numb responsibility
A dissatisfied Basecamper wrote to us that “Real project management requires the determination of the critical path.” I thought that sounded zen…but I had no idea what it meant. Ryan said it reminded him of a bit from Tufte’s latest book: “it’s about how sentences like the above numb you to responsibility…”project management” doesn’t require things…people require things…so who requires it?…and the “critical path” to where? etc…or “a decision was reached between parties.” — who made the decision? who’s responsible? etc.”

Other people’s data
Ryan: “Everyone thinks their data is so special. Other people’s data is extremely boring.”

Car design
After looking at some photos of curvy old roadsters, Marcel commented on the lack of cool design in current cars: “i wonder why no car designers look back to some classic body styles and try to revive those shapes and styles…it seems like there is this huge homogenized set of cars that are all converging toward the exact same body shape…years ago, whether expensive or cheap, body styles seemed so much more distinctive.”

David drove out to Vegas and dropped in to say hey: “Just drove 2200 miles since Chicago ;)…We have an insect graveyard on our front bumper to prove it.” Some advice ensued…

Jason: PEER PRESSURE: Please please please do check out the grand canyon.
Marcel: PEER PRESSURE: Please please please check out Death Valley :)
Matt: PEER PRESSURE: Please please please check out the craps table at The Palms. ; )

15 comments so far (Jump to latest)

FA Jones 14 Jul 06

Re Car Design:

I dunno, Chevy has the 2009 Camaro Concept which looks like it will be produced. A very nice restyling of the late 60’s Camaro. And Dodge has he Challenger which again is a nice restyling of the early 70’s Challenger. And the new Mustang certainly looks a lot like the Middle 60’s Mustang. As well as the Ford GT.

A lot of us who lusted these cars in high school are getting to the point where we can afford a car that looks good and burns a lot of fuel but we were never interested enough to maintain a used one. So the Auto Companies are making cars that look like the ones we wanted but perform like new ones.

It does seem to me though that cars do tend to look a lot a alike. The 80’s were filled with those hard angular styles of the stealth jets. The 90’s we had those rounded bubble shaped cars. Now BIG WHEELS and I guess a nod to the late 60’s early 70’s restylings.

Luis 14 Jul 06

�Real project management requires the determination of the critical path.�

I feel that sometimes people like to spew out rediculous strings of words to make themelves feel smart. I say speak, simple, speak clear, speak honestly.

Critical Killian 14 Jul 06

Critical path is a scheduling term that looks at which task should be completed next for efficencys sake (Can i start Task 2B before I finish Task1?).

From my experience this is a good idea that usually does not require a Gantt chart to figure out.

Consultants love the concept but since most projects are basically complete Task1 then Task2 then Task3 the ‘critical path’ is pretty trivial.

matt Carey 14 Jul 06

how dare you let david take time off when we are waiting for sunrise to arrive! :)

Guy Naor 14 Jul 06

Don’t send him to Death Valley now if you ever want him back. Temps there are in the mid 120 this week!

Jon Maddox 14 Jul 06

RE: inboxes

Thanks to’s smart folders, i can keep everything in my inbox, while using folders with filters to aggregate certain emails. For example, a folder for a specific client.

This is much better than a rule. A rule takes the email and MOVES it to the specified folder. You then multiple folders to have to check for new mail, all with a number of *NEW* attached to them.

My ‘checking new email’ process doesn’t change.

curious 14 Jul 06

John… could you take a screenshot of what your looks like and post it someplace?

--Josh 14 Jul 06

I don’t know about the cars comment. Especially with regards the roadster category. The Miata is very reminiscent of the Lotus Elan form the ’60s, the Solestice and Sky are certainly unique, the Z4 isn’t bland, the SLK is quite different, the Boxster is retro-inspired, and the Elise is anyhting but plain. It would seem to me that the roadster category is the least boring out there.

meh 14 Jul 06

i thought this would interest people. PBwiki, which hosts easy to use free and for-pay wiki services, recently had some downtime (12 hours, with about 3 hours during normal business hours) due to factors beyond their control. their damage control is pretty impressive:

they clearly explained what happened, why, and concrete, specific actions they’ll be taking to keep it from happening again (rather than just promising “it won’t happen again, i swears it!”). they also sent out email discussing this as well to their users. they reassured users that there was never a problem with losing data, just connectivity. and they’re giving 25% increases in space to the users to make up for it, including to free accounts.

this kind of thing seems like the right way to deal with unexpected problems. the guys who run PBwiki are all recent college grads but they seem to know how to run a business better than most business owners 20 years older than they are.

matt Carey 14 Jul 06

John — be careful having everything in your inbox. if you get to near 1gb in one single mailbox then has problems. much better to split everything out into individual folders.

Steve 14 Jul 06

Get a MINI.
Distinctive & Fun, and Retro without looking like an Edsel.

elv 14 Jul 06

�Real project management requires the determination of the critical path.�
I guess it sounds greater than “Do stuff in the right order”…

Grant Hutchins 15 Jul 06

The master outlines of fonts are designed to look right at particular point sizes: 8, 10, 12, 24, 48, etc.

Sure, the other sizes are interpolated or just zoomed, but why not let the font design masters allow your output to look great?

I think it’s a travesty that Firefox only lets you specify default sizes in pixels. I know that every single bit of unstyled text I’m looking at is at a size the font wasn’t designed for. But then again I use Safari now so it’s nice again.

Stephen 15 Jul 06

About Inbox Management: if you’re keeping everything in one continuous inbox stream, you’re G-mailing.

About Car Design: while there are exceptions to every rule, is it possible that the trend to one uni-car design has anything to do with better understanding of aerodynamics? I have no formal experience in this field, but I’m curious if that’s the motivation rather than uninspired design plagiarism.