Fly on the wall (week of March 10) Matt 10 Mar 2006

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

Jason, a watch hound, noted the Frank Gehry-designed Negative/Positive Display watch that appeared at Productdose. I received this binary watch (you add the top row for hours, the bottom row for minutes) for my birthday. Jamis called it “the epitome of geeky.”

A feature request came in that told us: “Programming wise it is fairly simple.” Jamis responded, “Some people have no clue.” A blogger said, “37signals could easily enable rich text editing in their Writeboards.” More steam came out of Jamis’ ears. He commented, “sigh…let me just pull out my magic wand here.” A forum poster wrote, “We might just use one of our coders and designer to make a clone of this project manager to be used on our own servers. It would just save us the hassle.” Jamis: “hahaha…yah, just whip out basecamp in an afternoon…how hard could it be?”

Took a look at this nice review of SproutIt. Jason said, “Def a cool product. really nice idea. very niche and very useful.”

We talked about how this SvN post is an oldie but goodie: Revealing hidden assumptions in estimation.

We liked that Birnham Designs wrote, “Microsoft could learn a lot from 37signals. Instead, they seem to have added gadgets, doodads, and gizmos just for the sake of showing off. Popup info boxes, scrollbars, scroll arrows, expanding boxes, and moveable panels litter the page.”

Part of an email received by 37signals: “We intend to offer a success-driven set of services that allows our community the ability to get their ideas out there. I see your tools as a clear match for this audience.” Marcel wondered, “what does success-driven mean to him and what is the alternative to being success-driven?…who would claim that they are failure-driven?”

There was some debate about web app accessibility. Ryan said, “Accessibility is for documents…totally unreasonable to try and make a web app that works for blind folks…you’d never expect a desktop app to.” Jamis disagreed, “I would never suggest that BC and such ought to be accessible but there is a place for it.”

Jamis fixed a problem for a customer. The customer posted about it and put it this way: “…which the Jamis quickly took care of for me…” The Jamis said, “it’s not my name, it’s a title…I wear it with pride.”

Treehouse magazine interviewed Jason in the latest issue (Jason says the PDF is “just beautiful”). Sam liked this Daniel Burnham quote that Jason brought up in the interview: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.”

Ryan pointed to the Guy Kawasaki interview in Treehouse and said this show-me-the-real-thing quote is kinda get realish: “I want to see a demo. I could care less about all the lies you can tell me. I’ve heard them all a hundred times. If your demo entices me, then you can tell me your lies.”

Jamis realized he’s been with 37signals for over a year and received a round of chat applause.

Ryan placed an order for an espresso machine from Whole Latte Love. (Note: Why are coffee shop and hair salon names the only place where it is acceptable to make puns that are worse than those made by my dad?) After the order was placed, they actually phoned him to verify the different billing and shipping addresses. “So nice to hear from a human after ordering online,” he said.

We discussed the new enterprise features at MovableType. Ryan asked, “Man, why don’t they just make it fast instead?”

David was at Etech and said the multitouch demo was “SOO COOL.” Ray Ozzie’s demo about making copy/paste work on the web was “interesting.” Also: “There’s some interesting thoughts cooking here around APIs and microformats…I’m trying various experiments in Rails right now…To make APIs ‘first class’…Basically the (potentially ‘pipe’) dream of getting the API for free…We’ll see how it goes.”

Jason and Jamis discussed audio feeds of TV shows. Apparently ads rely on visuals more than programs do. Jason said, “I have XM Radio in my car and I can get CNN and MSNBC and ESPN TV stations, but of course they just play the audio. The weird thing is that the shows sound fine but the ads are really weird cause the ads assume you can see the TV too…but the TV shows work pretty well.”

We’re happy to see more people are starting to “get” Campfire. For example, this post at Agile Evolved: “I know you’re probably thinking ‘heck I could do that with IRC’, but no you couldn’t. Really you couldn’t, I’ve tried it.”

We’re still searching for the right analogy for why we don’t accept all feature request and why customers shouldn’t expect us to do so. My recent fave: “You can’t go into an Indian restaurant, order a hamburger and fries, and then get upset with them if they don’t give it to you.” Y’know, cows are sacred to Indians Hindus and simplicity is sacred to 37signals. Um, anyway…

David thought this “Web 2.0 Lottery Winner” post/image by Russell was funny. On the other hand, Ryan read the infinite scroll bar post at the same blog and said a scrollbar that doesn’t tell you how far down or up you are is “so, so, so wrong.” David agreed, “Yeah, scrollbar without feedback of position or size is not a scroll bar…it’s just next/prev without any scrollbar at all.”

The hectoring we get is balanced by nice notes like this (from the Treehouse/Wufoo guys): “…On a side note, without sounding too cheesy, I wanted to thank you for a few things. Last year, we saw you speak at SXSW on doing big things with small teams (or something like that), and the three of us were just guys who had really done nothing. We could program and design, but all of our work was done (and ruined) in the corporate environment. After that presentation, we decided to start actually doing something, and started and a new software project that night. That site led to Treehouse Magazine. And last October, were accepted to Paul Graham’s winter founders program because he had seen particletree and Treehouse. Right now, we no longer work for boring corporations, live in Silicon Valley, and are about to launch Wufoo, our first web app. Basically, that speech altered the paths of our lives. So, I sincerely thank you.”…

…And support emails like this: “37 Signals Team: Nothing wrong - Just want to say: I love Backpack. With all the things going on in my life — I finally feel I got my shit together. Bravo — Great product. That’s it.”

And finally, we’re coo coo for birds! Jason shot a photo of this cool cardinal outside his place (top) and Jamis thinks he had one of these Hammond’s Flycatcher guys (bottom) at his feeder.

21 comments so far (Jump to latest)

FredS 10 Mar 06

Someone should make a birdwatching google maps app - maybe I will.

FredS 10 Mar 06

been done. of course.

Anonymous Coward 10 Mar 06

I have nothing to say of much value, but I really enjoy getting inside your minds once a week. I hope you plan to keep it up!

Jim Jones 10 Mar 06

I agree with AC. Without working at 37, this is as close as I’ll ever get to getting inside your guys’s brains.

brad 10 Mar 06

Jamis, I kinda doubt you’d have a Hammond’s flycatcher at your feeder — flycatchers don’t eat seeds (at least I’ve never seen them do it)…they eat bugs, and typically bugs that are in the process of flying. But maybe it’s coming for a drink of water or to catch insects that maybe flying around your feeder?

Jamis 10 Mar 06

Brad, it wasn’t actually at the feeder, it was down on the ground below the feeder. There may very well have been insects around there. I’ve not seen that bird before or since, but the brown head and back with black and white wings were very distinctive, and I’ve not been able to find any other birds with those markings. (I’m totally amateur, though, and still learning—feel free to set me straight.) At any rate, it could have been any of several different flycatchers that are found in Utah—they all seem to look quite similar.

Gstfssn 10 Mar 06

I really like this kind of posts. Feels like we all get to know you a little better. There’s only one thing I’ve wanted to know since i first discovered your apps and got all geeky about 37signals - what does it look like at your office? Please, it would be really fun to see some photos of the 37s office and you guys “in action”! Have a great weekend!

brad 10 Mar 06

Jamis — sounds totally plausible to me, and Utah is definitely within that flycatcher’s range (I’m an amateur when it comes to western birds, having spent all my birding time in the East, although now I’m back to being an amateur here too because I moved to Qu�bec and am learning all the bird names over again in French!)

dagny 10 Mar 06

for those who like bird photos, I recently put a bunch on flickr that show birds in flight at my feeder. my user name there is dagnyg

indi 10 Mar 06

aah, punny hair salon and coffee shop names … one of my faves is the ubiquitous Curl Up and Dye

RS 10 Mar 06

Please, it would be really fun to see some photos of the 37s office

You can see the office in Coudal Partners’ short film Copy Goes Here.

chris 10 Mar 06

Cow are sacred to Hindus, not Indians.

Adam James 10 Mar 06

Curl Up and Dye is a good one.

I thought the same thing while reading this blog post, that I find it’s a little more entertaining/valuable/whathaveyou.

Nursegirl 10 Mar 06

Copy Goes Here was awesome!! I can’t believe I had missed it.

Chris Boulton 11 Mar 06

Jamis: “hahaha… yah, just whip out basecamp in an afternoon… how hard could it be?”

Why not?

I pretty much did.

All I haven’t done is milestone functionality. But i’ve included things like subversion integration and a backend to access our bugs system.

All you have to know is what you are doing and use the right tools for the job.

Of course, the only reason I did this was because we need a decent project management system but as an a non-profit group of developers (me who is actually forking out money for the project), we can’t afford Basecamp.. especially with the limitation of not being able to add to it when we need to.

Of course, this will be completely private for MyBB developers, as to not interfere or “steal” customers.

It’s not a particularly hard type of application to write..

Don Wilson 11 Mar 06

“You can see the office in Coudal Partners� short film Copy Goes Here.”

I believe that pictures would do the 37s/Coudals office much more justice.

marvinlewis 12 Mar 06

a friend of mine is a bird freak. he paints birds. please look for yourself.

Gstfssn 13 Mar 06

Oh, I just have to tell you there is a great interview with Jason Fried in the march issue of Treehouse Magazine. (

MMI 13 Mar 06

“We�re happy to see more people are starting to �get� Campfire.”

I have a feeling, even though Campfire was made for business, it’s real strength will be shown when coupled with blogging. I’ve seen a few bigger name blogs, like Gizmodo (or maybe it was Engadget… eh, is there a difference?) use a Campfire room to discuss an important post, or to provide coverage of a live event right from the browser. Way better experience than opening up an IRC client or something similar. 11 Jul 06

Hi, I’m not a bird freak, and I’ve encountered this page by accident, however I’ve decided to leave a not in order to say that I admire people that dedicate themselves to some good ideas. Keep it up and good luck!