Getting Real: Help us put out the Campfire Jason 03 Feb 2006

83 comments Latest by wan hsi

We’re getting really close to launching Campfire, our simple web-based group chat tool for business. We’ve been using it internally for the past month and have been putting it through its paces.

We’ve been load testing it, throwing thousands of requests at it, trying to find out where it breaks under heavy loads. Simulation is one thing, but real world loads are another. So we figured we’d enlist the SvN army to help put out the campfire.

We’ve set up a series of chat rooms. 30 people max can fit into one room at a time. Once 30 people fill a room, new people will spill over into the next room, and so on. We want to see how many people we can handle at once.


  1. This is a test only. You can’t sign up for your own Campfire account yet. It’s purely for load testing purposes. Campfire is not open for public business yet.
  2. Campfire does not work with IE 6/7 at this time — we’re only optimized for Firefox and Safari. We’ll have IE support when we launch the real deal.
  3. Transcripts are not visible to guests (everyone testing Campfire right now will be a guest). Members will have access to full chat and file transcripts (filterable by room, date, and person).
  4. There will be glitches. We may kick everyone out at any time and open the rooms up again. We may close down a room with no notice. We may end the test at any time. We’re going to be watching to see how the system responds to a variety of loads and scenarios.

UPDATE: Test over. Thanks to everyone who helped. We sure learned a lot. Stay tuned while we make some tweaks and prepare for launch.

83 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Timothy Gray 03 Feb 06

Interesting, but give me an example of why I would use this over email, one-to-one IM, Basecamp, etc.

Larry 03 Feb 06


What do you guys use for load testing your rails apps? I use Load Runner at my job, but I’m just not real happy with it as a load testing tool. It may be the industry standard, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have just bizarre bugs that I have no idea how they got past QA.

Nemanja 03 Feb 06

Hmm, can’t “login”. I get “Bye bye Guest” after entering my nick.

Kyle 03 Feb 06

Interesting, but give me an example of why I would use this over email, one-to-one IM, Basecamp, etc.

It’s chimp simple.

No learning curve. No account setup, no firewall hassles, no smileys (^_^).

bruno 03 Feb 06

(tried to send this via e-mail, but got a delivery error)

I noticed the chat room page title updates with the number of new messages when you’re in a different tab, which is cool, but what if I’m in a different app? Do I need to keep switching back to my browser to see if there’s anything new?

Can the browser notify the system somehow (like make
the FF dock icon bounce or something?). Maybe you could use Growl, or Greasemonkey…

jgwong 03 Feb 06


- Simplicity for your customers (esp. the ones who aren’t familiar with IM)
- Deployment costs (you don’t have to install anything. Think huge companies)
- Control
- Easy interface (it’s a web page!)
- File sharing as a bonus
- Integration with Basecamp (I guess)

…and several others which escape me.

Javier Cabrera (CSSelite) 03 Feb 06

It’s ok, but I think Timothy is right. Why should anyone use this if now there is email, IM and even Skype to talk?

I wish you the best with campfire.

Javier Cabrera

phil swenson 03 Feb 06

this chat room works quite well, no load time like applet based chatrooms�

1) you could set up a couple permanent chat rooms: SVN and RoR. I know there is an IRC channel for RoR, but a one click from a browser to get there would be very cool

2) hosted chat room model. I�ve always thought there is demand for more online community chat rooms, but all chat clients suck. Your client is the right idea�you could let anyone on the web create a chat room and do an ad based revenue model based on the chat content.

3) Support for threading in the chats. One problem with chat rooms is you don�t know which comment is being responded to. One way to implement: perhaps clicking the comment you�re responding to (which fills a checkbox) before you submit the comment, and when a comment posts you can roll over the comment to see the parent comment.

Brian 03 Feb 06

Seeing the same error as Nemanja… I just get bye bye after entering name

Jon Maddox 03 Feb 06

Email: Its real time, duh
IM: different services, fumbiling with stupid interfaces to invite a user to a chat. Campfire will have a single link, users clicks and is in the room.

Javier Cabrer (CSSelite) 03 Feb 06

and be careful, because anyone can log in with you guys name right now…
Good app BTW! ;)

Colin Cameron 03 Feb 06

Im getting the error as well.. on another note, I like the logo!

Dan Boland 03 Feb 06

As I mentioned in the chat room, I think it’s very clean and sleek. Well done. But I have a couple of minor suggestions:

1) Regarding the Latest Files section, it might be a good idea to say Latest Three Files or have some indicator that there’s a maximum number of files. Putting the number there somehow would eliminate that question/confusion.

2) I think when you press enter and your message is made live, it should have your name on the left whether you were the last one to type or not. I saw that happening and was thinking “is that still him?”

3) Should the scrollbar be on the far right of the window and not next to the chat?

I also found an issue: I clicked the “See what people said earlier” link (or whatever it said) at the very top of the conversation. (PS - Nice job with that feature.) But there was no way for me to go back to the chat without “starting over” — I lost access to what had been there before I clicked the link. If there was a link back to the chat, I didn’t see it.

All in all, very nice job.

Playa Hata 03 Feb 06

Whatever, you’re so arrogant. Close, huh? So what you really mean is this is just more hype. Jerks. And why do you think i want to help you by testing out your app? What do i get out of it? You guys are way too full of yourselves. I’m unsubscribing. Thank god Richard Stallman doesn�t think like you do, Jason, or else jlv would only support x&p Q. And then where would we be? Oh, and i’m sick and tired of the white that u guys keep using all over your sites.

Stephen 03 Feb 06

Chalk up another person with the “Bye Bye Guest” error. I’m running Camino 1.0b2 on OS 10.4.4.

Paul 03 Feb 06

There really needs to be a maximum length of an inputted message - I was able to consistently crash Firefox ( by posting ridiculously huge messages.

Javier Cabrera (CSSelite) 03 Feb 06

Things go really fast in the chat when there is 20, 30 guys at the same time. Why you don’t make a feature that let every user select (with a click or something) the messages from the users they want to see.

So if I’m in a room, with 15 guys and right now I only want to chat with 5 of them, I click on their names to select those five guys and now I can really see their messages because when they write, it came out in #000 (and maybe bold, or something) and for the rest of the guys I didn’t selected, I will see their messages on light gray, so it can’t distract our current conversation.

My english sucks, I know.
Anyway… glad to see a beta!
Javier Cabrera

Paul 03 Feb 06

I will add that, although I’m not a web chat user, this was the first chat app that didn’t make me angry at how ugly and useless it was. Good show!

Mike Rundle 03 Feb 06


This is a great app guys, I can’t wait to see the finished product!

bernd 03 Feb 06

I got:
Sorry, we can’t let you in right now

The owner of this Campfire chat room has either turned off guest access, changed the guest access URL, or the maximum number of people are already in the room.

If you believe this to be incorrect, please verify this with the person who invited you into the room or ask them for the new room URL.

So it broke already?

john will 03 Feb 06

there are a million of these sites outside of the US

Jeff Martin 03 Feb 06

I’m getting the Bye Bye Guest as well. The login screen looks good though.

Michael Daines 03 Feb 06

Dudes, I can’t log in. Same thing as Stephen and Nemanja.

Jeff Martin 03 Feb 06

I’m getting the Bye Bye Guest as well. The login screen looks good though.

Specs: Firefox

JF 03 Feb 06

All the rooms are full right now.

pwb 03 Feb 06

Or they turned it off like they said they might. Sheesh.

JF 03 Feb 06

We may be adding some more rooms shortly. We’re looking into a few things first. This is a TEST remember.

Jay Jones 03 Feb 06

OK, overall great stuff guys.
One huge issue is the scrollbar. I think this is going to be a huge usability speedbump, let alone being confusing.
Being a browser scrollbar, I expect it to scroll the whole browser window, and not just the chat area.
The chat area should have it’s own scrollbar that is “attached” to it. I’m really surprized you guys chose to separate the control from the associated object.

At 800x600 (I know, I know) the sidebar does not fit in the broswer window, and can only be viewed by scrolling the page down… which you CAN’T do, because the scrollbar doens’t control the page… just the chat area.

At any rate, there’s my two shekels.

Again, good stuff, guys. Just hope you fix that confounded scrollbar issue! :P

jff pmr 03 Feb 06

Trying to access gives you “Application Error (Rails)” …I’m not suggesting you should be able to access the directory, just thought some graceful degredation would be nice.

jff pmr 03 Feb 06

edited room names don’t appear to anyone else unless you refresh.

Scott 03 Feb 06

I had a big problem. There was some javascipt error popup box comming up every few seconds. Made it pretty much unusable. Not sure if it was one of my Firefox plugins or “you guys.” Got a screenshot here:

What’s up with that?

Brendan Gramer 03 Feb 06

Hey guys,

Nice work but not quite there yet. The scroll bar threw me off a bit. I’d suggest flipping the layout so that the Room Name, Chatters, and Upload Files, go on the left side with the revolving DIVs of the chat session being on the right side next to the scrollbar. It’s more intuitive that way.

OTOH, if you’re trying to maintain a common interface across applications with the interface dashboard being on the right and content area being on the left, for consistency’s sake, then so be it.

Just my 2 cents.

Tommy 03 Feb 06

I can’t get in either, but since it is a Friday afternoon at 3:30 PM CST I bet their are more then a few people trying to access the service. Good luck with the test Jason. I’ll try again later.

Mike 03 Feb 06

This polling (I assume it is such) is a rather interesting use of client scripting, and one that the CS major in me can’t help but cringe at. No wonder you want our help load-testing. Please share your performance findings, if possible. In other news, I love the scrollbar… but I only found it by mistake, and I was for a time frustrated by not seeing a scrollbar obviously available for the chat feed.

since1968 03 Feb 06

Slick. I like the way the chat window grokked what should and should not move when I rolled my scroll ball.

I don’t quite see the need for this app, but it might make a nice addition to basecamp. Good luck with it.

confused 03 Feb 06

I have no idea why I would use this instead of a regular IM client. Has that question been addressed yet? I use Adium and it rocks — especially being able to view and search all past conversations. I don’t get this at all.

Erik Ferguson 03 Feb 06

hi. all i get is bye bye guest? what’s the deal! have i missed the test boat so soon?


jff pmr 03 Feb 06

IM is good for one on one, this is made for group messaging

Peter Cooper 03 Feb 06

confused: I think one of the major things will be the ease of use with which files and other assets can be attached and recalled. Eventually I’d love to see something where you can do a one-click upload of, say, a screenshot of something you’re working on.. and bam, a thumbnail appears in the chat. Will make online meetings way more productive.

Emily 03 Feb 06

I like it. We’d use it. We IM all the time, but in separate threads. This would work GeeReat! Kum Bay Yah! Bring it On!

Great simple solution!!!

JF 03 Feb 06

We do plan on having live image previewing, but we may not get in in to the initial release. But it’s near the top of the list.

Rahul 03 Feb 06

Valuable lessons learned from this exercise: even when you expressly print THIS IS A TEST, IT WILL NOT WORK AS INTENDED AND WE WANT YOU TO BREAK IT PLEASE, people will still treat it like it’s a live app and condemn you for the fact that it does not work completely. Real world examples: Google, World of Warcraft, Firefox

Rabbit 03 Feb 06

This rocks. I can start using it as soon as it’s released. My boss doens’t use any kind of IM programs, nor do our phone girls. In fact, this is simple enough they just *might* be able to use it.


Thanks 37S!

Jeff Koke 03 Feb 06

Looking great Jason. We’ll definitely use it if/when it’s integrated into Basecamp. A couple of things that I’d like to see in the final release:

Online status indicators of people in basecamp, so when we’re in a project we can see if a client or contractor is available to chat.

Email chat invitation (I assume this is in there)

New message sound — this is essential as I like to work on other stuff while IMing and chatting with my colleagues and need to know when they post a new message to the chat. Something innocuous and soft would be fine, and of course optional.

Seamless real-time integration with all popular IM clients (okay, I’m just joking).

I didn’t find the scroll bar at all confusing, but agree that it does break UI conventions.

Looking forward to it.


Clinton R. Nixon 03 Feb 06

I got a lot of this:

Error in event messagesInserted: TypeError: rules[rules.length - 1].style has no properties

in Firefox

BillSaysThis 03 Feb 06

“All the rooms are full right now.”

Okay, well then my feedback would be to post a more usefull error message than:

Bye bye Guest
Return to Chat

So people who click on the link the SvN RSS feed have a clue as to what’s happening. Seems like a trivial effort that would improve the first impression.

JF 03 Feb 06

Yes, Bill, we will. This was a test. We don’t have everything polished yet.

Ian 03 Feb 06

Very well done, I can’t wait to use this with our team. The simple file sharing is great.

The hard part will be keeping the meetings “real.”

Yannick 03 Feb 06

It looked pretty interesting. Thanks for letting us take a peek at it.

I did get an error when I tried to leave though.

Application error (Rails)

Other than that, keep up the good work guys.

Travis Anderson 03 Feb 06

I found a strange issue with the scrollbar in Firefox on Windows.

It was nice to scroll up and read the conversations passed, but when I scrolled back down to the bottom, the chat itself went on below the viewable area. So I had to scroll down manually to keep track of the current conversation. This seemed to happen intermittently though, and most often when I was typing a reply of my own.

eric 03 Feb 06

YEAH! Very nice work! File sharing is killer. Some time tracking might be nice…

Bob Monsour 03 Feb 06

Looking forward to seeing how you set one up, invite people, control access, etc. The test was nice. Thanks for having someone in the room to answer questions. It was interesting to see what people tried, html, textile, etc. As a new group came into the room, it seems that similar tests and comments started up again.

Hope it’s soon. I’m mighty curious.


Joshua Bryant 03 Feb 06

Looks like someone has been copying code from a personals agency.

Ashish 03 Feb 06

Just want to share with you folks this study “Defeating Feature Fatigue , By: Rust, Roland T., Thompson, Debora Viana, Hamilton, Rebecca W., Harvard Business Review, 00178012, Feb2006, Vol. 84, Issue 2”

In his own word:

“We ran three studies to examine consumers� intuitions about how adding features to products would affect the products� capability (what they could do) and their usability.”

First Study:
“We simulated an in-store experience and presented participants with three models of either a digital video player or audio player. Each model differed only in its number of features (seven, 14, or 21). We asked the 130 participants (50.8% females, average age 20.5 years) to perform the following tasks:…..

RESULT: Consumers know that products with more features are harder to use, but before they purchase a product they value its capability more than its usability…..But in the end, most participants (62.3%) chose high-feature models.

Second Study:
We asked the 141 participants (55.3% females, average age 21.1 years) to perform the following tasks:

� Imagine that they were about to subscribe to and download a new digital audio player or digital video player.

� Choose the features they wanted from a list of 25 features that had been identified as ones that offer positive value.

RESULT: Even when consumers are allowed to customize a product, they load on the features, worrying little about the learning curve they are setting for themselves.

Third Study:
We created two working models of the digital video player � one with seven features and one with 21 � and allowed some participants (the “after use” group) to use one of the models; they consulted a user�s manual and performed a series of four tasks with the product. The other participants (the “before use” group) only considered features on a virtual product.

Participants� choices of players before and after use suggest a substantial decrease in the share of the high-feature model. The majority (66%) of participants in the before use group chose the high-feature model. But only 44% of the participants in the after use group who had used the high-feature model chose it � even though they had already invested time learning how to use it. Those who used the high-feature model were less confident in their choices and rated the choice as more difficult than those who used the low-feature model.

Once consumers have used a product, their preferences change. Suddenly, usability matters very much.


Rich 03 Feb 06

I enjoyed my time around the Campfire. Thanks for starting the fire guys! I can see using something like this everyday with my coworkers.

JF 03 Feb 06

Thanks for testing it with us Rich! We’ve found it an invaluable tool for our own business so far so we’re really excited to get this in your hands too. Soon.

Rachel C 03 Feb 06

The more I think about it, the more I like its subtle features. Especially no hideous load time like in Java chat rooms.

It reminded me of when I first tried Google Talk, no fancy features but it’s nice.

I noticed that it’s pretty much impossible to highlight text (I’m on Firefox 1.5.01) - it seems to select everything from the end of the chat backwards.

The main thing I wonder about is being alerted to new messages if I’m in a different application. I can see if there’s new messages and I’m in a different browser tab thanks to your page title changing, but I’m not sure how you can get around this.

At work we use MSN Messenger a lot, but I’m not liking the ads and the added features, it’s getting more and more complex and slow with large numbers of people in the group. I’m just wondering how I’d be alerted that people were in a room chatting?

Steve o 03 Feb 06

I’m guessing that this app is more of a goal-oriented chat. In other words, you might be better off using MSN if you want it open the whole day in the background. This seems more like a tool for scheduled chats or “meetings” (*duck*) to get something done.

Bryan W 04 Feb 06

“The hard part will be keeping the meetings �real.�” - Ian

Perhaps a counter that let’s people know how long they’ve been in the chat? Or mabye allow the length of the chat to be scheduled and present a countdown on the chat page.

ChrisH 04 Feb 06

Very nice app. Blows IRC and any other web-based chat away, that’s for sure. Thanks for giving us a sneak peek.

I would like some form of integration with Basecamp, even if it’s similar to Writeboard, where it’s not really part of Basecamp, but there’s a tab for it and it auto links to your Writeboards there and it shows up in the “What’s Fresh” list when a new Writeboard is created. I would think you could do the same for Campfire.

I’d also like to make/agree with the following points:

1. Scrollbar feels “detached”, and can’t get it to start auto scrolling again once you’ve scrolled up.

2. Need some notification of new message if on another app - sound or web browser app icon bouncing/flashing, etc.

3. Would like to see ability to use Textile markup

4. More than 3 Latest Files in the list or at least a way to access all the files that have been uploaded for the last half hour, hour, or something like that so in the course of a chat you don’t have to go hunting for a file someone is referring to.

5. Ability to give a file upload a name rather than just the filename showing.

But other than those 42 things…. :) j/k. It’s a nice app as is, but could be even better without really adding bloat and just bringing over some features from other 37s apps.

Thanks again, and good luck getting Campfire ready for launch.

Bobby 04 Feb 06

The features of this are nice but the interface (look/feel) is terrible. I much prefer the chat look/feel over Campfire. (I believe they use Flash, but the technology shouldn’t matter).

Fabian De Rango 05 Feb 06

very good to see a company go to effort to see how well their software performs under the most dramatical situations.

Philip Wilkinson 05 Feb 06

Ok - but where is this new CRM solution that was promised by end of Jan?

JF 05 Feb 06

Sunrise (the CRM-ish tool) is still a few months out. We’ve decided to rethink a few things.

FredS 05 Feb 06

CRM is tough because when it comes down to it, its still really about making phonecalls and getting contacts. It you can make “less” into more on that front, you’ll get my business.

Matt Carey 05 Feb 06

Damn still got to wait for sunrise. I don’t know how you plan to tackle it but by chance I now have need for ‘something’ crm-ish. Can’t wait to see what it is…

hehe 05 Feb 06


Stop this bloody BETA bullshit 06 Feb 06

stop it with this BETA bullshit, it just means you can’t deliver a STABLE software and you’re using the community as lab rats for free instead of hiring QA people like serious companies are doing.

Gordon 06 Feb 06

“using the community as lab rats for free instead of hiring QA people like serious companies

And “serious companies” (definition please!) will tell you that all the QA testing in the world won’t ever replicate how users use (break) software in the real world.

ohh and since when did BETA mean you can’t deliver stable software? Do you really want a list of applications that were released as BETA but have since gone on to be used by MILLIONS of people (hint: redmond)

Gayle 06 Feb 06

A) Dang, I missed it!
B) The negative comments that have been taking over this blog are making me ache. I’ll never stop checking the blog every day, but the value I used to get out of the comment discussion is deteriorating daily. Blech.

Prophetess 06 Feb 06

Campfire is darn good — clean, fast, and not too much screen clutter. I was on as “ghi def” (if you’re correlating chat names to blog commenter names. I’d be interested in seeing stats on the system performance vs. the number of chatters…

A feature that I would have liked to see: the ability to create tabs or some other way to subdivide the chat by topic. I’d want to create a chat topic for each major discussion area in my company and let them run.


JF 06 Feb 06

Prophetess, the release version allows you to create as many rooms as you’d like. Each room shows up as a tab at the top of the screen. So you could create rooms for each major discussion area.

Brendan Baldwin 06 Feb 06

I love the Troll cap :-)

Andrew 07 Feb 06

Anyone know how this will compete with Google’s new chat system? Or, if it will compete with it at all? I just read TechCrunch’s latest entry on the latest happenings out in Mountain View, so I’m curious.

Andr� Hoogendam 07 Feb 06

Talking about chatting… I use the new Google Talk link with Gmail since today. I love it. Everything you say is immediately in your Gmail.

In my opinion a very usefull feature (especially when you use Google Talk for business as well).

JF 07 Feb 06

Campfire and Google Chat are entirely different products for different markets.

Tom Michlig 07 Feb 06

Is it a good thing to “put out” the Campfire, as the title of the post states? Makes me think of water/sand. Did anyone else mention this?

Please don’t give me the troll cap!

Tom Michlig 07 Feb 06

Ah, just re-read the post. By throwing the kitchen sink at it you’re seeing what it takes to “put out” the campfire.


Tom Michlig 07 Feb 06

…and now I’m realizing that the test is over and my post is painfully late.


Anyway, looking forward to the launch. The premise is great and the comments have piqued my interest (except for my own comments, of course)…

Cadence 07 Feb 06

Photoshop added undo and a few useful features in version 5 but after that it just became so bloated it has become ridiculous. Take note adobe.

wan hsi 22 Mar 06

this looks like a winner