Have we jumped the shark? Jason 15 Nov 2005

95 comments Latest by MK

Let’s get it out in the open. Have we jumped the shark? If so, when? If not, how could we and when will we? What’s your prediction?

95 comments (comments are closed)

if you have to ask... 15 Nov 05

…then you probably must have.

Don Wilson 15 Nov 05

With the recent release of Writeboard, that took at least several weeks to congregate a release, I would suggest so. I could easily write an exact copy of the same product within a day, thought obviously with much less new ideas, which Writeboard has lacked in.

JF 15 Nov 05

I could easily write an exact copy of the same product within a day

Don, I think you’ve jumped the shark on that one.

can't resist 15 Nov 05

You could post a song about your products like, oh, say, this one.

Mike D. 15 Nov 05

You’ve only jumped the shark when each product you release is markedly less interesting than the last. As long as there are interesting things to build that you intend on building, then the shark has not yet been jumped.

Don Wilson 15 Nov 05

Don, I think you’ve jumped the shark on that one.

You’d be surprised.

the hoag 15 Nov 05

no - keep on keepin’ on. seriously.

Chris 15 Nov 05

You know, Jason. I gotta hand it to you. Not many companies would just plain out ask their audience if they’re past their peak. Especially on their own blog. That takes courage. Way to go.

anonymous 15 Nov 05

Two words: write board.

Eric Sohn 15 Nov 05

Jumping the shark means devolving into unintentional self-parody. Running into bumps in the road, or even plateauing, does not rise to that level. Being a vocal advocate for yourself is likewise not shark-jumping.

To quote Wikipedia:

The term is also used to describe other areas of pop culture, such as music and celebrities, for whom a drastic change was the beginning of the end. These changes are often attributed to desperate attempts to keep attention, often by making over-the-top statements, or more overt appeals to sex or violence (see Circling the Drain). It is sometimes used as an accusation that a particular statement or action is over-the-top, and that the public will turn against a particular celebrity or commentator as a result.

Now, that’s not you, is it?

Ben 15 Nov 05

That depends… was “Ernest Kim” just a pseudonym for someone else who shares the same initials that really HAS jumped a shark?

JF 15 Nov 05

Over 50,000 Writeboards in just a few weeks can’t be wrong!

Don Wilson 15 Nov 05

Over 20 million AOL subscribers can’t be wrong — can they? ;) But that’s a fantastic number on the other hand, Jason.

Tim Lang 15 Nov 05

Are you talking about your products or this blog? Seems like every time I read the comments someone is suggesting this blog has, and yet you continue to write posts that inspire lengthy discussion.

The “I could write an exact copy” line drives me crazy. I see that all the time and I just have to say why didn’t you then? It’s not about just creating a copy of something out there. It’s about having the idea, and actually following through, and then supporting it, and improving upon it. Not to mention being smart and inventive enough to know how to improve upon it, and humble enough to know when it needs it, and to listen to others about how. Without all of those other steps it’s irrelevant— no one’s going to care about your exact copy.

That said, I think when you stop listening to your critics and you lose your humility is when you jump the shark.

Ed 15 Nov 05

I’m not sure about the whole shark-jumping, but as one of the 50,000 who created a page, looked around for a few minutes and said “ok”… and moved on, I’m not sure that number by itself means anything…

Ethan 15 Nov 05

Well, yeah.

But! The key is: jump it often and regularly. Better to jump the shark than just slowly sink.

Tara 'Miss Rogue' Hunt 15 Nov 05

Erm…the term in the blogosphere is ‘Blogged the Cat’.

ramanan 15 Nov 05

I think Eric Sohn has it right. Your site can be really obnoxious, and at times just plain stupid, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you guys have jumped the shark per-say; it just means your site can be an annoying read at times. There are worse things in life really. You guys still post interesting things every of often, and put out cool little applications every so often.

Now the comments here on the other hand…

Don Wilson 15 Nov 05

The comments really make it a circuis. ;)

Don Wilson 15 Nov 05

The comments really make it a circus. ;)

PJ Hyett 15 Nov 05

My thinking is inline with Ed’s. I wonder how many of those 50,000 tried Writeboard just because it was 37 Signals next release and never touched it again?

Anonymous Coward 15 Nov 05

this is just more of that “i feel low today, so lets have our readers blow smoke up our asses”

your book should be titles
Getting it Done, with a Warm Fuzzy Glove and some Lotion
by 37 Signals

External validation isn’t endearing, and it certainly wont get you chicks in a bar… grow a set

Anonymous Coward 15 Nov 05

Do I look fat in theis blog?

Ad-sensitive 15 Nov 05

The mood did seem to change when you announced that you were creating your own ad network with something called the deck…it appeared to someone looking in as a distraction…not part of the core business…..a shark jumping move.

David Ham 15 Nov 05

What do we know? Some here will say you have, and many others will say no, that they love you. You are better than most at trusting yourselves; I would stick to that. Don’t believe your own press, either the good or the bad. Do your best work and believe in it.

Listen to your customers—not whether they think you’ve jumped the shark, but how they use your products, what they like and dislike about them. Watch your competitors (hearing a *lot* of good things about Joyent) and learn from them. Challenge yourselves. Be ambitious. And keep writing here about it.

Even though I don’t seem to like Backpack well enough to use it regularly (this is true, sadly, of all the list-making schemes I have tried), I have a lot of respect for it, and for you guys for launching it. It is clean and simple and direct, and I know how hard it is to design things that way. You guys bring a lot to the discussion and we’re glad to have you.

P.S. Don’t do so many coupons for Backpack! It looks desperado. There I said it.

John 15 Nov 05

Keeping on topic - which seems incredibly difficult for most people who comment on svn these days - the only time you and/or your products will jump the shark is if/when you make the decision to sell up. I’d be very disappointed. Beyond the excellent tools you guys have built, I really have a lot of faith in the direction you are moving.

I’m hoping the current line of negativity, which seems to have infected both svn’s readership and the Basecamp forum, will settle down. (the core message that you are a “small team” seems to have been lost along the way somewhere). Hopefully the people bleating about shark-jumping and the like will get bored and move on sson enough.

(Is this “blowing smoke” up your unmentionables? I like to call it honesty.)

Justin Reese 15 Nov 05

No, you haven’t yet jumped the shark. You’ve got four apps, and they each work wonderfully.

You’re under the microscope, so any step you make is out of proportion. That doesn’t make it the wrong step, it’s just an artifact of perception. I say ignore the naysayers and keep on keepin’ on.

Chris Johnston 15 Nov 05

In one sense, yes. But only in as much as everything you guys come out with is forced to look and act the same as what you have done so far.

I think what did it for me was when you redesigned Basecamp to look like Backpack and Writeboard. I personally liked it the way it was. I hereby give you permission to actually make a unique looking application instead of the now cookie cutter apps that you are creating.

Yes, basecamp, backpack, and writeboard are all excellent web apps, but do they really need to look the same.

I think for you next move you need to come out with something completely different (both look and functionality) to actually keep from jumping the shark. One more collaborative app that looks just like that last several apps and you guys will just be old.

Colin 15 Nov 05

I use my Backpack account daily. I use Writeboards any time I have collaborative content. I read your blog daily. I am looking forward to the next book!

This is not smoke or sharks; these are signs of relevance. Just don’t expect to be relevant to everyone.

Brandon 15 Nov 05

I don’t think you’ve jumped the shark. I am quite addicted to Basecamp, and you keep updating and improving the service. Backpack is a great idea, as is Writeboards.

Now if we could just get Backpack’s notification features in Basecamp I’d be a happy camper (no pun intended).

Ben 15 Nov 05

I feel somewhat obligated to comment on this post since I probably made the most recent mention of the term around here. Oops, I ended up writing a novel, sorry for all the wasted bytes everyone.

First I will make the classic move of backtracking: I’d never read the exact definition of the term and now that I have I’m not sure it is quite how I’d describe 37s’s “problem”.

But to start with, for those of us who followed 37s as a design company, the transition to products was a disappointment. We saw quite a variety of innovative, interesting, creative things come out of the “design 37s”. (37better, 37express, Defensive Design…, Contingency Design, manifesto, even eNormicom) Now “product 37s” is working on innovative things but there is no room for the creativity and variety.

“design 37s” inspired me to work on clean, creative, effective design in my web dev work, and also ventured to directly educate me on about things that many people don’t think about. “product 37s” inspires me to find a niche product that I could build and get rich from. “product 37s” also ventures to educate, but mostly about project management. I already agree with most of the things you say on that subject. “product 37s” evokes a “hmm, okay, good way to look at it” emotion instead of the “whoa, that’s badass!” or “ah, I should use that in my next project!” that I got from “design 37s”.

So for me personally there was “a noticeable decline in quality,” the definition of jumping the shark… others might have a different take. Another pop commentary term that might apply: you “sold out”.

Unless you’ve screwed up something royally, the transition from consulting to products boosted 37s’s income by probably an order of magnitude, at least. And of course The Building of Basecamp workshops are yet another way to increase the almighty dollars-earned-to-hours-worked ratio. (I don’t know for sure how long you’ve driven S4s and sat at DWR desks, but I hope those are signs that the transition has gone well for you.)

I must hasten to add, I have a lot of respect for that transition. After a few false starts I am following a similar route with my own consultancy (minus the workshops) and it’s hard but worth it. More power to you guys. (Oh and I love the S4.)

BUT, it makes you less interesting to the design-curious followers like me. I am historically a coder who occasionally delves into design, but perhaps a long time designer who is fresh to business/code would be more excited by your project management discoveries.

So I think I have sufficiently qualified my statement of your past shark jumping. The remaining question is the future.

You’ve gotten bigger. Yes, in terms of employees, but more so in terms of the size of your flock of followers. In the “design 37s” days your audience (other than your clients) consisted essentially of peers… fellow designers/coders/consultants where were interested in your ideas. But now your audience includes a much wider variety of people. You have very popular, low-barrier-to-entry apps. And you’ve gotten press of course. Thereby you’ve attracted a more mainstream, less curious audience. Another argument for the term “sellout”. :)

So maybe all I can say is, embrace this. In the comments to the “desk” post, I recommended moving some of the SvN content to a “Jason” blog. Much like David has Louder Thinking where he can theorize and nit pick and whatnot… he still gets slammed in the comments but at least it is rational discussion by people who are voluntarily interested in his personal opinions.

In this vision of mine, SvN would become more of a 37s newsletter. Infrequent posts about new products, asking for feedback, discussion your workshops, etc. Yes, that’s a very “sellout” thing to do, but I am suggesting that that is where 37s fits in. To a large number of people, 37s is not really “some cool people with good ideas”, it is a software company, with software products.

Wouldn’t it be weird if John Warnock wrote little personal stories about his latest neat little ideas on the adobe.com home page? In fact the CEO of GoDaddy does this and it is downright weird and creepy.

Yes, keeping SvN personal is “keeping it real”… trying to maintain the image of cool people worth being excited about. But the influx of egotistical slashdot-esque commenters tarnishes the “just some cool people” image. I like to be open minded and curious about the things you post, but as soon as I start skimming the comments, my blood begins to boil. Sometimes it is in defense of you, but mostly the pointless crap itself annoys me, no matter what it is arguing. After the comments have played out, almost every post ends up reflecting poorly on 37s. Heh, the N of “SvN” might be winning out.

Maybe I’m even suggesting that once you have a separate personal blog, SvN should generally have comments turned off. That would be drastic though, and it would be a big buzz killer I suppose. So you can ignore that idea. (But you are forbidden to ignore the rest of my ideas, hah! :))

But by aligning yourself right, you can probably postpone the real big shark for quite a while. I bet Apple Computer jumped the shark with home-brew hobbyist geeks around the time the Lisa came out? But compared to those days I think they are doing pretty well for themselves, and by the foam in the corners of my friends’ mouths, I think they are quite a distance from their next shark.

Anyway. It’s not a perfect vision, and I realize I’ve made a number of generalizations, but I hope you can see my points: you sorta jumped the chart with your original curious designer followers, and you are doing yourselves more “uncool”, “shark jumping” harm than you need to right now. You probably aren’t all that arrogant in reality, but from way up there on that (somewhat accidental) pulpit you end up leaving an unnecessarily sour taste in some people’s mouths.

I’m rooting for you! Also, I may be in the minority but I’d love to see more on design and little less on getting things done. :)

——

While I was writing this novel, the comments piled up. To respond/expound:

Writeboard: Oh, there’s a duesy. My nit about it is that to this particular long time wiki user, Writeboard is a gussied up, mother-approved almost-wiki implementation. Yes it lacks the instant linking of The True Wiki, but for me, especially for say a corporate intranet, nice pages without HTML, revision tracking/comparison, and per-page comments are bigger values of a wiki. And I think Writeboard is a great interpretation of the wiki. My only problem is your downright refusal to admit this connection in public. Maybe to you a wiki is only about the links, but to many people there is a similarity to Writeboard. Why not be proud of the fact that you made something a bit like the wiki but nicer and handier and more usable and nicely integrated? I like Writeboard. Just don’t tell me I’m stupid for seeing a connection that is obvious.

Regarding “The Deck”, I think since its just a small network of respectable sites that you’ve long been associated with, it doesn’t hurt. Rather classy actually. At least to me.

John: The people picking fights and bleating about shark jumping aren’t going to go anywhere unless something about 37s or SvN changes… it’s a hot thing to hate on.

Do what Chris Johnston says, come out with something completely different.

JF 16 Nov 05

Do what Chris Johnston says, come out with something completely different.

Oh we are. We’re working on something that’s brand new. Success is a long shot (it’s a brand new idea never really seen before on a smaller scale), but we’re giving it a go anyway because we need it. We hope to see it hit by the end of Q1 2006, but who knows. Time will tell.

Kelly Evans 16 Nov 05

You guys are fantastic! Keep it up!

Ben 16 Nov 05

We’re working on something that’s brand new. … never really seen before …

Sounds great… I’m glad you liked at least some part of my novel… to bad it was just my citation of someone else’s good idea though. :) jk

As questionable as my loyalty is, I just realized that your feed is the generally my first click out of the 46 in my reader. And I am genuinely glad when I see an unread post. So I guess I’m not as annoyed with you as I think I am.

Tommy 16 Nov 05

A couple comments on the comments, then a few comments of my own.

“I could easily write an exact copy of the same product within a day.”

Ok, write it Saturday and post the link here for all of us to see Monday. In hindsight eBay makes sense. Generally speaking, good ideas make complete since in hindsight.

“I wonder how many of those 50,000 tried Writeboard just because it was 37 Signals next release and never touched it again?”

And that is a very good question. Exactly what I did. For me a better idea of the success of 37 Signals would be the number of individuals that actually PAY for a product, or the number of individuals that move from using Writeboard to a paid version of Backpack or Basecamp.

Now, has 37Signals “Jumped the Shark.” I don’t think so from a product POV. My gut is Writeboard and Ta-da Lists were released as scale down/free versions so they could go after a wider audience (insert less tech/design/programmer related), with the hope they’d move a small percentage to a paid product.

Plus, overtime as they launch more and more products each can be integrated with each other.

Where I think they are getting close to Jumping the Shark is related to the quality of SNV. The posts seem less focused, disjointed. Almost like they feel they have to post something, anything. It seems like a year ago, or even six months ago their posts were more in-depth, though-out, analytical. The “An idea for phones, voice mail systems, and touch-tone mazes” is a perfect example of why I visit SVN. This was a brilliant idea (in hindsight I should have thought of it of course). It made me think differently about something I deal with each and everyday and which I also (sadly) have simply come to accept. Automated phone systems suck. Maybe they don’t have to!

And finally the “less is more” mantra is getting a tab bit old. I realize this is how you differentiate your firm, but we got it, less is better then more. By trying to tie this mantra into so many of your posts, where at times I think it is a stretch to say the least, I think you actually do a disservice to your firm. You water down your core identity. But heck, that is just my two cents.

marc 16 Nov 05

i still read the feed of this blog, but i’m getting less and less interested in it. so maybe that’s a sign of the jumping shark.

i think you should apply your “less is more”-mantra to your blog as well. especially when talking about “less is more” ;)

Lode 16 Nov 05

Hi JF (and others),

I still like reading this blog, but as others said: asking the question is answering it.

Things that annoyed me over the past few months:

* Posts like the ‘productivity tip’ (https://37signals.com/svn/archives2/productivity_tip_throw_everything_on_your_desk_in_a_box.php)
* The constant whining about Big Google (because it ‘broke’ your web apps.. No need to restart that discussion ,though)
* The whole ‘getting real’ thing. This may work for “simple” apps like Basecamp, Ta-da List, … It does *not* work for “enterprise” products, believe me. While a lot of projects fail because of over-management, you can not use that as an excuse to throw every planning overboard and “just release it today”.

I still “believe” in this blog though, I still regularly find interesting insights here. If I could make one wish, it would be: less hype, more content (less is more, right?) - even though that means half as much posts.

Steve 16 Nov 05

You certainly haven’t jumped the shark. Keep up the good work. And post whatever you feel like to! That’s what made this blog so popular.
P.S.
Lode - I agree with you and posted yesterday a comment about the same idea. Uzish writes about it too.

Sebastián Georgieff 16 Nov 05

Para nada; este blog me parece cada vez más interesante y los productos que lanzaron son un modelo en muchos sentidos. Saludos.

Maxwell 16 Nov 05

You’re close, but to use music industry parlance, you just need to follow-up your first hit album (read: set of apps) with a strong 2nd - and, yeah, you probably need to follow an unexpected path. The apps already released are promising, and those devoted followers of the previous incarnation might be a little disillusioned, but it’s obvious there’s a lot of potential there. Good luck.

Gordon 16 Nov 05

I guess only YOU can decide if the shark has been jumped. What are your usage figures looking like? Rather than the ‘sign up, try it and leave it’ figures the actual ‘use it everyday/regularly’ figures.

I’ve signed up for each of your products, and tried them but the only one I use consistently is Ta Da. Where are the users focussed? Take that product and improve it - keeping your ethos the same will be hard but I’m certain you can at least try.

Is the company making money? Are YOU guys realising that the next round of product updates will take you into some areas of bloatware (hey, it’s natural progression)? Can you live off the current products as they are?

What are the competitors doing, are you still ahead of them?

And finally, what is the purpose of this blog? It’s great but does it ALWAYS focus on company issues?

37signals may have started small but it sounds (feels?) like you are approaching the point where you’ll need to think ahead to bigger things… maybe…

Rahul 16 Nov 05

However you look at it, jumping over the damn shark is a hell of a lot better than heading straight into its gaping maw.

Right?

Jesper 16 Nov 05

If anything is even close to induce shark-jumping announcements, it’s the whole deal with “Less”. You’re using it as if it was a negative term and overusing it would turn it into a positive term. I don’t have any beef with the actual advice - “Getting Real” is some of the best writing I’ve read - it’s the fact that you go out of your way to use the damn word all the time in some posts.

Less Less, please.

Jemaleddin 16 Nov 05

As an official jumped-shark-caller, let me point out that it’s the blog, not the company that’s been jumping. I think we’re all impressed with the products (some more than others - after watching the progress from Basecamp to Writeboard, we’re expecting your next product to just be a log in page leading to a logged in page: “Less, less, less! It’s Less-Board!”) but some of the blog posts have made me long for a nice cat story. Recent shark-jumping:

No, logo stickers aren’t awesome: in which you completely miss the point of Kottke’s post and turn it into some kind of pro-corporation rant. Because, you know, we don’t want to hurt the corporation’s feelings. They’re people too!

Cell phone interface reviews: in which you ask the eternal question, “Hey, I’m not a renowned usability expert or even a cell phone guru, but I’d sure like to play with a lot of cool prototype phones, so if you’re a big cell phone company who’d like to get your interface trashed on my blog, please send me a phone. Thanks!”

Less Car: Because Le Car sold so well. Oh wait. Are you guys blind? Count the number of Aveos you see on the road and then count the number of blinged out Slades, H2’s and Expeditions. Aveos are only selling oversees under the Kia brand, and that’s mostly fleet sales in the third world. I sentence you to 3 months of reading Autoblog.

Software for women? It’s not the topic that bugged me, but the entirely nebulous post. Note to bloggers: unless you actually have something to say, don’t post. The great thing about the lazyweb is that somebody else will think of something to say in a few hours.

Please remember that those of us who have accused you of pulling a Fonzie are still reading. There’s still enough good information that we haven’t yanked you out of our feed reader. Why? In the first place, you’ve given us enough information, inspiration and ideas to expect that more will be coming. It’s just that sometimes you’ve been a little chaff-heavy lately. And in the second place, aggregators make it easy to skip over dull content. =-)

Alan 16 Nov 05

Don’t hire Ted McGinley.

..ak 16 Nov 05

If you continue down the current path I think you have jumped the shark. You have fulfilled the needs of small web development companies by fixing the problems yourself instead of waiting for others. Your consulting work is diminishing (or gone?) and so will your ties with the problems we (your customers) are facing. You could ask us what we want, but we won’t be able to tell you what we need.

How can you reapply your years of user experience design, software development, and company management into a new market? Who is the best person to maintain a proprietary software product? Who is the best person to create the next “idea” by 37Signals?

If you stay the same, you’ve jumped the shark. Suprise us by giving us something we needed but didn’t know we wanted.


Spike 16 Nov 05

I’m with Jemal 100%. The products I find great and use them everywhere — the weblog is in need of a bit of a reshuffle, in my opinion.

I also agree that if you’re not operating as a consultancy at the moment, you don’t know what we need. Fingers on the pulse?

harry 16 Nov 05

here is my problem with you and unfortunately it is a difficult one: you were like the local garage band that I was in love with who made it to the big time.

You went from struggling underdog to popular winner. Part of the reason that I was pulling for you and telling people about you was because you were the “little guy” and I thought you were cool.

But I did too good of a job and know everyone knows about you.

However, it isn’t so much your notoriety specifically. It is your recent willingness to flaunt your popularity that really gets me.

There have been a few posts on this blog where I have really thought you were full of yourselves, and that is one of the worst traits you can exhibit when dealing with customers who are so intimately tied to you. People feel as if they are part of a little community and you are the leaders. Part when you seem big headed, you alienate those customers (who I think in this context should more appropriately be called “fans”).

So for me, it doesn’t have as much to do with your products. I mean, if I don’t LOVE writeboard, so what. I can cut you some slack. I think Google is pretty sweet, and when they come out with a less-than-winner (e.g. Google Reader) I let it go. As long as they aren’t all like “Our Google Reader is the best reader anywhere! We did it with a small team and now Microsoft is using our small team concept (as if we actually invented the idea. We are so cool!”.

I think this is a pretty typical challenge for a small company that is growing larger. Good Luck.

John 16 Nov 05

37s has not jumped the shark. SvN has. I’m not sure this is any fault of your own, but rather a side effect of your increased visibility as your company becomes more successful.

Every day the comments on this site remind me more and more of Slashdot… both in quality and quantity. I love Ben’s idea of splitting up into a couple of separate blogs. We need more S and less N.

Dave 16 Nov 05

Have we jumped the shark?

I’m not sure if “we” refers to 37Signals as a company or just this blog.

I feel that the blog has gone downhill. I know what Basecamp is and where to get it. I don’t need 5 blog entries every week pointing me to it or offering coupons for it.

That said, the non-basecamp blog entries very interesting and that’s why I frequent this page.

Jemaleddin 16 Nov 05

Harry writes: There have been a few posts on this blog where I have really thought you were full of yourselves, and that is one of the worst traits you can exhibit when dealing with customers who are so intimately tied to you.

Since I’ve posted something nasty (but well-meaning!) let me just disagree. I think people are having the same problem here that they have with the 9rules guys (especially scrivs). It’s just hard to tell when people are full of themselves, and when they’re making a joke about being full of themselves.

Mark 16 Nov 05

I do have to wonder sometimes if the productivity tips and Getting Real and Getting Things Done mantras were as realistic when you guys were working with clients instead of building and promoting apps that have been adopted by a group of admirers. Some of us in the real world would love to work that way, but, as is oft-said, it’s not always possible to cut-and-run or “Just do it like [you] do it.”

That said, my two cents:

I continue to admire the apps you produce because, as someone else alluded, you stick to them, support them, make them work (as opposed to tossing out prototypes and betas), and as part of the 37S network they get attention and get used. They also promote Rails. I, as a Backpack user, checked out Writeboard and do use it. It’s not so much a wiki to me as a glorified Notepad, or email to myself, that I can come back to from any computer and link to from my Backpack.

I do think these apps make me more productive.

Someone else cited making all the apps look the same as possible Shark-Jumping.. Funny, I went into my Basecamp account the other day to see if I could make it match the color scheme of my Backpack. The same colors weren’t available as a stock template and I was disappointed. I didn’t play around long enough to customize it to do so.

I don’t often use Basecamp because I’m not handling clients on my own. Were I to, though, I’d want consistency across the apps. I actually wish I could log into Backpack and have access to Basecamp without an additional login. Sometimes you publicly share Backpack pages with users who might be in your Basecamp, yes?

As for The Deck, it made more sense to me when you stated that you’d only be accommodating ads for advertisers you could recommend. So it’s advertorials, it’s sponsoring the content you produce, it’s linking together a network of professionals and options for services that come with an endorsement. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

Jon Vaughan 16 Nov 05

I say no shark jumping - that when things spiral out to total mediocrity. Your products aren’t doing that whatsoever, they’re exciting, innovative and driven by your values. This blog hasn’t had too many juicy posts recently (I’m more a fan of the Will Shipley / Joel on Software type big story than the one liner) - but then hey, you’ve got real work to be getting on with right?

Tom 16 Nov 05

JF said “Over 50,000 Writeboards in just a few weeks can’t be wrong!”

The businessman in me must wonder - how much revenue have you gained from those 50k? WB is mainly free, yes? I used it for a project and found it cumbersome after my document got too long. Neat idea, not sure how much legs it has.

I too kind of miss the “old” 37s version, the less than a software development and more of a user experience guru group type thing. I’d like to see some of that come back, there was value in those things too.

OTOH, you have some fine products. Everything isn’t going to be a hit. Unless you’re Pixar, of course.

Jon B 16 Nov 05

Not sure how this is possible. Use and love Basecamp. IMHO think that the non-design posts would be better served on a separate blog as they are slowly turning me off from SVN.

JF 16 Nov 05

Part of the reason that I was pulling for you and telling people about you was because you were the “little guy” and I thought you were cool.

We’re a 5 person self-funded company sharing office space with another company. We’re still very much the little guys.

Matt Baron 16 Nov 05

I recently started reading SvN, so I can’t comment on whether or not you have “jumped shark.” I was recommended the blog as a source of good design insights, innovative ideas, and intellectual banter. What I do know is that since I have started reading SvN I have been more than underwhelmed at the quality of the posts. Out of five posts, on average I will find one to be interesting, two to be fairly ivory tower, one to be random or uninteresting, and one to be flat out ignorant. A blog with posts like these is not the kind of blog I continue to read.

I am further baffled as I turn to the comment thread to find these posts often followed by a typhoon of “Right on!” and “Preach it, Brotha!” Am I alone on this feeling?

I agree with the posts that call for the blog to be separated. 37signals should have a company blog for news about the products. I love your tools, but I’m not reading this blog to hear about them. Jason should have his own blog for random thoughts and whatever suits his fancy. If there is room left for SvN, then so be it.

Mike G 16 Nov 05

I wouldn’t say you’ve jumped the shark at all. While I don’t agree with every single move you guys make, that doesn’t change the fact that I totally agree with your philosophy and style of software development. Not to mention that 37Signals embodies the “american dream” for web app developers that we all hope to live one day.

There are bound to be bumps in the road. That’s business. Personally I think you guys are just getting started, and your techniques will mature over time. I’m excited to see what you launch in 5 years.

Mike

Matthew Oliphant 16 Nov 05

I realize you linked to a fine description of Jumping the Shark, but to me it describes the moment where “it” is no longer how “it” is expected to be.

If what you are doing is meeting your goals, and you feel no regrets about your decisions, then fuck everyone who says you are a shark jumper. Things change over time, deal people.

Write about what you want to write about. Build what you want to build. Make your own success and failure and take responsibility for both.

We owe a lot to you guys. So thanks.

(And just to point out for any newbies around here, I am not a fanboy. :P)

J 16 Nov 05

The blog’s readership keeps going up. From 2000 readers to 4000 to 6000 to 10,000 to 16,000+ plus. Something’s right here.

John 16 Nov 05

“design 37s” inspired me to work on clean, creative, effective design in my web dev work

And How! I use to read your original 37 Signals Manifesto weekly…Every time I got hung up in a problem, I would take a half hour, read the whole thing, feel refreshed, and inspired. Now I have trouble finding it…to many links…user interface experts, or hoping it will go away? I love the design 37s, I love the products 37s, I just wish I could have both.

I’m rooting for you! Also, I may be in the minority but I’d love to see more on design and little less on getting things done. :)

I couldn’t agree more. While less is more, not in the case of design discussion…More design discussion, less follow my business model.

Note to bloggers: unless you actually have something to say, don’t post. The great thing about the lazyweb is that somebody else will think of something to say in a few hours.

I couldn’t agree more!!! To many people talk about nothing, and waste peoples time. Content is king.

I am further baffled as I turn to the comment thread to find these posts often followed by a typhoon of “Right on!” and “Preach it, Brotha!” Am I alone on this feeling?

“Right on!” and “Preach it, Brotha!”…I mean no, your not alone. I hate to say this because it will piss off a lot of people, but most of these comments are jackasses trying to add a link to their site, with nothing of value to add.

SvN has “jumped the shark”. Splitting it up would be a wise business move. Do you really want potential customers reading all of this?

Robb Irrgang 16 Nov 05

I think anybody that wants to be taken seriously here should not be posting as an Anonymous Coward.

However, I’ll admit, some minor shark jumping has be done in my opinion, though mostly by SvN and not 37Signals.

I vaguely recall a time (I’m horrible with clear recollections) where the post frequency on SvN was lower and the originality and quality of the posts was higher. I’m not sure to what extent this is related to the popularity of 37S as a company that’s increasingly gaining ‘fanboys’. I know Rails has a somewhat scary following. I can’t judge that effect. I’m hoping the 37S people are keeping their heads cool, not letting the success get to their heads, etc.

That’s all I can do, since I don’t know them well enough to be able to pass judgement. Funny though, since passing judgement on people you know nothing about seems to be a popular past-time on the Internets.

Meanwhile, to undigress for a minute - The Google for $5 post rubbed me the wrong way because of the lack of substance — why are you asking? where are you going with this? are you using your “following” for free market research?. The Beef panties post made me wonder if I’d accidentaly hit my BoingBoing link instead of my SvN link. There have been other posts like this lately.

37S has been known to have a solid focus in business - Pick your battles, etc. Maybe the subject matter of SvN should be focussed as well?

Ritz 16 Nov 05

Hmm, seems like you guys REALLY enjoy what you do and you’re not sweating the electric bill.

Everything else is frosting on the cake. And you guys have an ass-load of frosting! Word.

August 16 Nov 05

As a company? Don’t know and have no opinion.

As a blog? Well, I’m pretty sure the minute you starting spouting that “Less” philosophy to the point of skipping details like grammar (and isn’t attention to detail the kind of stuff you guys are supposed to do better than the other guys?) kind of made this blog cross over from “oooh, interesting” to “why do I still come here?”

Jamie 16 Nov 05

I don’t think it is possible for you to “Jump the Shark” when 99% of America still has no idea who the hell you are. It is interesting to note that there are people who have been SvN readers when you were on the consulting side and new ones that joined after the “Basecamp era”.

I think a better question is: Have we sacrificed anything (or do we still have our Usability Mojo) in making the change from consulting to product development?

Mark 16 Nov 05

I think the answer is Yes, to a degree.

You’ve lost a bit of touch with the real world.

I, and I’m sure many others, read SvN for inspiration and aspiration, not for tips that I can put to use in day-to-day real world application.

That said, you’ve also gained in the switch to product development, because you make inspring products.

And perhaps the SvN blog should reorient itself to more focus on user experience and some of the personal observations broken out to content maintained by team members. I do also find great value in David’s “Loud Thinking.”

Matt Baron 16 Nov 05

Some people seem to take issue with the brevity of the posts. I really don’t think that’s the problem. I have nothing wrong with a short, quality post or a question that inspires discussion.

Me 16 Nov 05

Unequivocally yes. I don’t have a single moment to point to but rather a list of items that come to mind. Among others (all my opinion):

- Creating an advertising platform that exudes a velvet-rope, exclusive atmosphere.
- Redesigning your homepage. Enough said here: if anyone truly honestly thinks that the suck.com circa 1996 look is either (i.) “cool,” (ii.) an example of good usability practices, or (iii.) an improvement on any front, please tell me.
- Significantly increasing the ratio between self-hype and critical observation on the blog

From a metrics point of view, though, it is important to note that I still scan the blog: it’s a procrastination habit now.

8500 16 Nov 05

I dunno if you have jumped the shark but I sure miss EK and SU.

Bob Aman 16 Nov 05

Like everyone else said, it’s the blog that’s declining.

The “exclusive stuff” that “Me” referred to above is probably what I would point to. You could have easily phrased the whole thing to sound much less exclusive, and less “aren’t we awesome” while effectively implementing the exactly same advertising model.

Instead of saying, “if you want to reach the influencers, buy a card in The Deck,” you should have focused on how the ads will benefit your readers. For example, we get ads for products that you’re certain don’t suck, as opposed to, say, AdSense where the quality of product being advertised is questionable.

And, frankly, if I cared about getting things done, I’d be reading 43 folders or some such thing. But I do care about good design, and learning how to avoid pitfalls that I haven’t had the bad luck to fall into yet. That’s why I’m reading SvN. Everyone else on the blogosphere is going to mention Google Analytics, or Google This, or Google That. Talk about something unique, something that we’re only going to hear about on SvN.

Basically, if you look at the header at the top of this page:

“This is Signal vs. Noise, a weblog by 37signals about design, customer experience, entertainment, politics, Basecamp, products we like, small business, ourselves, and more. Established 1999 in Chicago.”

That right there is the key to your success. Talk about those things in the order that you listed them in. The majority of your posts need to be design related, because that’s what you guys do best. If you talk too much about the stuff you’re not as good at, you can’t help but dilute your value to the rest of us.

But… all that said… what you get out of your own blog is far more important than what we get out of it. Write about the stuff you really care about. But just don’t be surprised if people walk away if it starts to seem like the thing you care about most is yourself and your own success.

Tim 16 Nov 05

I would bet there’s a lot of people who felt like they were your peers at one time and are now jealous of your success (it coulda shoulda been me!), and might feel talked down to. And i’m getting the impression that older readers are criticising in an attempt to indicate that they’ve been around longer, like the sad high school cry of “sellout!” to their favorite indie band that moved to a major label. They liked your earlier stuff better.

Duuud 16 Nov 05

You know, that whole “less is more” thing really is true — and it applies to blogging.

Post less, we’ll like you more.

Ted 16 Nov 05

the endless self promotion and snide self-congratulating tone about less being more, everybody else is stupid, any company of more than 5 guys has to suck, “TaDa” lists.. it’s all going to seem dated and unfortunate a few months - strike that it already does seem dated and unfortunate

Garrett Dimon 16 Nov 05

“If you are not being criticized, you may not be doing much.”
- Donald Rumsfeld

There are moments where this blog is disappointing, but that’s the case with any site. Things have changed and evolved, but there hasn’t been any shark jumping.

dusoft 16 Nov 05

I like your company and products and the vision, but the truth is this blog’s quiality has been decreasing rapidly in last few months.

You used to write about interesting things, now you write mostly about your products (ok, we know them already), hyping the less (we’ve heard it lot, move on finally) and posting some boring stuff (Fried sticker was plain stupid, are you in need of expanding your ego or what?).

Less is more - less posts ON TOPIC would be welcome.

martin bashir, yes THE martin bashir 16 Nov 05

Post less? No way. I come here like 10 times a day. I want to see something new. Maybe not something like the whole “Get Real: etc, etc” but for the most part I like what’s up here.

A part of me to read all the bashing. Sorry to enjoy something at your expense 37s, but neither I nor my company has the profile to get ragged or praised.

I would say about 90% of the people who come to this site would jump at the chance to work for your company… about 85% wish they would have thought up Basecamp… and nearly 18% still haven’t lost their virginity.

Oh yeah.. Paul Scrivens sucks. F that guy.

Scrivs 16 Nov 05

Martin: *mwah. I’ll see you later tonight sweetheart. Wear that underwear I love so much. Don’t forget the warming gel.

Jon 16 Nov 05

I could easily write an exact copy of the same product within a day

Don Wilson—You are a pompous idiot.

dmr 16 Nov 05

Most of the noise here is from comments, not 37. There are quite a few people posting now (compared with say 2 years ago) and the quality of the comments has been on the decline for at least 8 months.

Jason, I’m glad you posted this question; it’s gutsy and earnest. And that’s the reason I still check SVN 2-5x a day.

All the business moves 37 is making are thoughtful and interesting. There’s solid rationale behind decisions and this blog is a great way to gain insight there.

And spending $1800 on a desk is exactly putting your money where your *good design* mouth is. Well done sir!

And fuck the shark. I just shot one with my shark rocket; holy shit did that piss him off!

jsp 16 Nov 05

Put me down as one who says that the products are good but SvN quality is definitely declining.

I love the design posts, the finding wonder in things like “step drawers”, the calling out Travelocity’s ass-backwards date picker. I LOVED the 37Better series. I like the highlighting of people who get it right and the calling out of those who get it wrong.

All of these posts reveal your values, but in a much less obvious/obnoxious way than the tedious “Less” posts.

So, my Rx for SvN: more examples, fewer edicts.

P.S. Did I mention I LOVED 37Better?

Ryan 16 Nov 05

A better question might be are you humping the shark? Is it possible that you’ve strayed a bit from your original focus? Are you a laser? (Seth Godin reference)

A lot of people are blaming the comments. Personally I think this is the fanboy effect. No one wants to say that perhaps some ego and down talking has crept into this blog…

I think the fact that you would ask a question is telling enough…

You guys are talented, so do what you do best… Be talented.

Just .02 from someone that is no where near as successful as you… yet. :-)

Charles 16 Nov 05

I think this post was a “jump-the-shark moment”… I enjoyed reading the wikipedia entry but what a waste the past 5 minutes have been sifting through these comments… it was almost as bad as visiting asterisk =/

jw 16 Nov 05

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned your most unfortunate shark-jumping error. It must be said, however, that you officially jumped the shark the day you decided to open Antidisestablishmentarianism Industries. I mean, sandwiches is totally incompatible with your interface design expertise.

First apps, now sandwiches. I blame it on the bad influence of those lousy Coudal bums.

Caleb Buxton 16 Nov 05

I just don’t like giant corporations like Sony, Panasonic, NEC … Nike — etc…

My beef with your brand theft beef was bundling up the idea that corporations respect us.

But even saying that — despite my disagreement — is legit.

Honesty, dialogue, sharing — some of the things that help build respect.

Its obvious 37s is genuinely doing that.

Anonymous Coward 16 Nov 05

You have a smart team and passion for what you do. The rest - good and bad - doesn’t matter.

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” -Thoreau

Mike Swimm 16 Nov 05

I tried to not comment on this post but I will put my two cents in since you asked.

I really like rails, thats why I started paying attention to this blog. I have tried your products and they are OK. I don’t really need them. But reading your posts day after day has really turned me off to your company.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Useability.
Constantly discussed here yet this blog does not have a search box. That is insane. Read anything on usability on the web and search is paramount.

2. Support.
I emailed once asking if there was a reason you excluded a search box and received a bullshit answer to the effect of ” because google already has the best search engine”. When I emailed back I received no reply. That’s fantastic service, really makes me want to actually pay for your product. (sarcasm)

3. Know your audience
You post about the design of items most of your readers would consider very expensive (audis, DWR furniture) and then get pissed when they mention the price.
“I didn’t want this thread to turn into a rant on pricing, etc. Can we focus for a second on something other than price? Maybe utility?” Most americans aren’t spending $1800 on a desk Jason, know your audience. That’s business 101.

4. Less is More
Although you have recently backed off a little bit whether you meant it or not your posts about this really irritated people. Your business and similarly software companies are one of the only places this philosophy works. Those principals simply don’t apply to most companies. You are also making your product for an extremely small subset of the population. If you think America on the whole responds to Less is More you are smoking crack. Ever been to Walmart?

5. The Kottke Post & The Google Analyzer Post
These two show me that you really leap before looking. I also was presented with a blank screen on Safari and rather than immediately “blog” about it I investigated and found the answer within seconds. The Kottke post was just plain stupid.

That being said I have found a lot of interesting things on this site. But you asked, and that was as honest as possible. You might want to think about how people will view your opinions before posting some of this stuff. Especially if you want larger businesses to take your company seriously. I really think you might want to disconnect your blogging from the company.

warren 17 Nov 05

not really, but i wish you and other bloggers would stop acting like such fanboys about google, yahoo, and other companies which are the willing lapdogs of totalitarians in places like china. because it’s more profitable. “we’re the flickr of fascism!” fuck commie scum. fuck commie enablers and sympathizers. god i hate communists and the people who put up with their antics.

ruby is pretty nice but not THAT nice.

ruby on rails is too god damn mysql-centric and deployment is a nightmare.

Justin 17 Nov 05

Yes. And here’s the ramp.

Mark 17 Nov 05

Agree with Justin. There’s enough political noise out there, and venturing into political waters is treacherous. Unfortunately the political climate is entirely polarized right now…Do you really want to mix politics with programming & design? And risk left vs. right chatter overwhelming coherent discussion (and discourse!) on what makes a good user experience?

Amy Hoy 17 Nov 05

I miss the 37Better project, too. It’s not that not having it is shark-jumping, but I’d love to see more design posts here, too. The 37Better project was what really made me sit up and go “Wow.”

Nick 17 Nov 05

Jamie said — I think a better question is: Have we sacrificed anything (or do we still have our Usability Mojo) in making the change from consulting to product development?

I’m not venturing to answer that question myself, only you guys can, but I do think its answer is at the heart of this debate.

Holy Cow 17 Nov 05

We’re a 5 person self-funded company sharing office space with another company. We’re still very much the little guys.

Now you’ve lost the ability to count too. Your home page says:

Jason Fried, Ryan Singer, Sam Stephenson and Marcel Molina in Chicago, Matt Linderman in NYC, David Heinemeier Hansson in Copenhagen, and Mr. Jamis Buck in Provo, Utah.

That’s 7 people, dude.

I think you’re jumping more than the shark.

MK 17 Nov 05

Totally agree with Bob.

To me, it’s not that you’ve past your peak, it’s that the blog has shifted focus. I’m a professional designer (never been a 37s user, never will be) that feels like I have less in common with SVN posters and readers now then before. Too bad.

There are still interesting posts, but I’ve moved this feed out of my design folder as it no longer belongs.

Bob Aman wrote:
“Write about the stuff you really care about. But just don’t be surprised if people walk away if it starts to seem like the thing you care about most is yourself and your own success.”