Scoble wonders if 37signals is influencing Microsoft 17 Jun 2005

50 comments Latest by Kesava Mallela

Robert Scoble, a.k.a the Scobleizer, a.k.a Microsoft’s most famous blogger, wonders if 37signals is influencing Microsoft. Has our Getting Real message of small teams, no functional spec, and less software slipped through the Gates of big corporate process? Are we going to see more big companies jump on board our Getting Real process by chunking big teams into small, making 24-week projects 24 1-week projects instead, embracing constraints instead of trying to conquer them, and turning permanent decisions into temporary decisions?

Is the swelling popularity of Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da List (and our Ruby on Rails web application framework) disruptive to the point of pushing change in America’s biggest corporation? Or is this just a chance aberration?

50 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Darrel 17 Jun 05

I guess I’d say it’s a chance chance aberration. If MS was serious about it, they would have just bought you out. ;o)

Anonymous Coward 17 Jun 05

Oooh stroke the ego a bit more.

Anonymous Coward 17 Jun 05

What? Delusions of grandeur?

You know, I filled out a Microsoft survey once, so I influenced Microsoft too!

Anonymous Coward 17 Jun 05

Did you read Scoble’s post? Scoble’s the one who says JF is influencing (or, SHOULD be).

sh 17 Jun 05

I don’t get what the big deal is about someone acknlowedging how their business or product may have influenced industry. People call it an ego stroke, but itsn’t it more of an ego stroke for people to comment ANONYMOUSLY because they’re too afraid of hurting their own reputation with their snide little jabs?

This whole pretense of false humility that small businesses people and innovators are supposed to uphold is complete bullshit. No one seeks that kind of meekness from a big power player like Microsoft or Apple, yet if it’s a small team of people producing similarly great things it’s somehow taboo for them to speak of those successes *on their own company website.*

Come on people. This is getting ridiculous. The school girl jealousy you’re tossing around slip-shod went out of style a long time ago. And besides, Jason doesn’t even have a brother!

8500 17 Jun 05

I can dig most of the “Real” messages that the 37s crew espouse but I don’t think it’s a fresh idea.

The 2 Microsoft coders that Scoble refers to in his story, admitted they have no knowledge of 37s. It seems they are just using an Agile Software Methodolgy and those have been around for many years.

I’d like to hear how “Getting Real” is different from most Agile Methods.

Robert Scoble 17 Jun 05

I guarantee you Jason’s thinking and products have influenced MY thinking, and since I’m 1/57,000th of Microsoft, they’ve started influencing Microsoft’s thinking as well.

More to come, I’m sure!

Jason: do you do corporate training?

Randy 17 Jun 05

From what I understand, Getting Real combines agile development methods with agile design methods and agile business methods. Traditional agile development only covered the programming side of the equation. Getting Real seems to be about the whole thing.

Chris S 17 Jun 05

Seth Godin has been writing about those basic concepts for years now…and he wasn’t necessarily the first, but he did combine them in a new way that work in the real world.

So 37s didn’t necessarily invent it either, but it seems they seized on solid ideas, applied them intelligently, and had the guts and ability to implement it successfully.

More power to em.

Randy 17 Jun 05

Re: Seth Godin. He’s a writer, a good writer, but he hasn’t practiced these methods in the wild with real products and real customers. He’s more of a commentator. 37s, on the other hand, is practicing what they preach. I think that’s why they have the cred on this.

Shawn Oster 17 Jun 05

I definitely think 37signal’s “Getting Real” style, as well as Agile/Extreme programming methods, has influenced others and I hope it continues. I don’t think JF really thinks they have come up with anything new but they have put some nice packaging and spin on a process that many people were already doing (myself for one for the last 5 years).

Just to make it clear, there is absolutely nothing new or revolutionary about the “Getting Real” methodology but no one has ever packaged the concept as well and that *really* is what 37signals is good at doing, taking ideas and concepts and presenting them in an easy to digest and use format. I have old magazine articles, personal e-mails and newsgroup threads all describing a methodology exactly like “Getting Real” but they put even me, who usually loves anything programming related, to sleep reading them.

For presenting the existing to the masses in an accessible format is where 37signals deserves the ego stroke. Great job guys!

sh is a tool 17 Jun 05

From here, the only swelling I see is of Jason’s head.

And, “sh,” you know you are the last person to throw stones in the glass house of “school girl jealousy.”
http://www.sarahhatter.com/things/2005/06/kottke.html

pb 17 Jun 05

Pardon my lack of intelligence on the matter, but is “PHP on Rails” conceivable? I realize Ruby is acclaimed but PHP is decent and broadly available.

Carleton 17 Jun 05

Man there are some bitter bitter people here.

Here we have a small self funded company building great products (all of which have a free for life option), building buzz without a marketing budget, getting the attention of the big guys, and all some of you guys can do is criticize them?

They are living the dream, building great simple products tens of thousands of people rely on, and giving away lots of their knowledge and experience here on SvN and all some of you can do is call it ego?

I call it celebration and very smart business. Kudos 37s - you are showing the new way and I’m enjoying watching you blaze the trail.

David Heinemeier Hansson 17 Jun 05

Trying to do “PHP on Rails” was what drove me to Ruby. PHP is just not a great language for writing (or using) frameworks. It’s not impossible, by any stretch, but its certainly not helping out. And why wouldn’t you want to work with a language that’s trying to help you out?

I hear others still in the PHP world are trying to do it, though. Best of luck. But the excitement and buzz around Ruby on Rails is happening precisely because I decided to scrap “decent” and care less about “broadly available” and instead pick something great (Ruby).

BTW, Getting Real and Ruby on Rails has a great overlap in appeal. It’s not because there’s any single, big innovation in either.

Rather, it’s the combination, remix, whatever you want to call it of the best ideas from yesterday put in new context. Such as appplying what the agile software guys have been talking about to business and design.

David 17 Jun 05

Getting Things Done… legit.
RoR… chance aberration.

Britt 17 Jun 05

37Signals has done more than write about Getting Real. They put it into practice. For those who think JF or anyone else is stroking their ego here, I would ask those who post such comments what they have done or given to the web community.

Maybe you’ve just never met JF at one of the many conferences he has attended. If you do meet him, I doubt you would say such things to his face.

dmr 17 Jun 05

Nerds need to stop writing as if they know how to write. The Scobleizer article is sentence hackery with almost no thread between periods. I was completely lost after two paragraphs.

Surely some smarties at large corporations are wishing they worked for agile agencies; the politics get old and make getting things done a process, not simply an item on a to-do list.

I’d sure like to know about the business side of 37 ventures. Just how successful are these web projects? Let’s see numbers to support the talk. Sure the products work, but does the business model work just as well? Backpack is super-useful, but is it making money? Has any of this been covered in an interview or article on 37 already?

..ak 17 Jun 05

I disagree in 37Signals being the influencer. The ideas of focusing on the customer/user and setting a business to support that isn’t new.

I do agree that 37Signals has helped spread the word on user-centered thinking. Their writing, projects, and communication has been helpful in answering questions from old-schoolers. Questions like “how can it be better, this is what everyone else does” or “we don’t need to test this” or “let’s hire another ten programmers”.

37Signals has made it easier for me to explain the virtues of good design to clients, friends, and coworkers. From the first “better” designs to this website.

nick 17 Jun 05

Getting Real seems like a good process for what it is, but don’t kid yourself: it doesn’t scale… Try building (or building a business around) MS Office or MS Windows using a Getting Real-style process and see how far you get.

Not to say that MS has the greatest process or the greatest software, but let’s get some perspective here.

Robert Scoble 17 Jun 05

dmr: here’s what Rick Segal said, just in case you don’t wanna follow the link:

“But in all seriousness, you should read this blog entry [by Robert Scoble] because it’s a very good entry mixing humor, “news”, and the friendly yet semi-serious jab at corporate bureaucracy. It shows some good experience at walking the fine line while being able to make a difference. Well done.”

kmilden 17 Jun 05

Google is very “Get-Real” about their projects and let their employees work on their own projects 20% of the time (After they are approved to do so.) I really feel that they are the catalyst to Microsoft trying to focus on what they are doing and stop trying to do everything (poorly). Apple is also pushing Microsoft into a corner with the OS. I have always said “If Microsoft is at war with everyone (Apple, Google, Adobe, AOL.) They will one day find themselves on a island by themselves.

harry 17 Jun 05

The premise of this SvN entry is ridiculous, and yes, I would call it ego stroking. Why?

The Scoble article clearly states that the two people in question at Microsoft have NEVER HEARD of 37Signals or Jason.

Unless I am missing something, that is a pretty strong indication that they were not influenced by Jason. In fact, Scoble never suggests that Microsoft was influenced by 37Signals. He is suggesting that their happens to be 2 people (out of thousands) at Microsoft who happened to produce a product using some of the techniques that 37Signals happens to also use.

Let’s say you meet me some day and I happen to act exactly like a friend of yours. You ask if I have ever met said friend. I say “no.” Would you or any else ever suggest that I was inluenced by your friend. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. Which is exactly why Scoble doesn’t suggest it and therefore why:

Scoble wonders if 37signals is influencing Microsoft

is what is commonly referred to as a delusion of granduer, and is normally exhibited by either schizophrenics or narcissists. I have met Jason, at a conference, and I would guess that he is not a schizophrenic.

(sidenote - to whomever decided it was cool to refer to Jason as JF - you are super-gay)

Rob H 17 Jun 05

Small agile development may not be a new idea/concept, but the fact that 37signals practices what it preaches.

I think its great that MS is trying to adopt this approach to software development. It’s a matter of time before this becomes common practice in the corporate setting. It will take some time to gain acceptance and become standard practice in orginzations of any size, but I also think it will require the middle managers and decision makers in those organizations to adopt them and put them in place.

Robert Scoble 17 Jun 05

>The premise of this SvN entry is ridiculous, and yes, I would call it ego stroking.

I stroked Jason’s ego.

It was on purpose. His stuff rocks.

And, I’m hoping other people at Microsoft see how much he, and his team, rocks. I hope they pick up on his development methodologies.

Yup, I agree, it will take time. But, I’m a big believer in the small team concepts that Jason pushes at conferences. Jason is changing the world and is showing us the way.

And, yes, he’s being noticed inside Microsoft as well (along with the rest of his team).

David 17 Jun 05

Harry, I’d like to buy you a beer.

harry 17 Jun 05

> I stroked Jasonís ego.

I wasn’t suggesting that you can’t stroke another person’s ego. My issue was with the self-stroking seen in this entry.

hey, I think that most of the stuff 37signals puts out is awesome. But that doesn’t mean that I like it when they are full of themselves. Let’s have a look, shall we…

Robert Scoble, a.k.a the Scobleizer, a.k.a Microsoftís most famous blogger, wonders if 37signals is influencing Microsoft.

Nope. He didn’t even suggest that. He clearly says, in fact, that the people he talked to had never heard of 37Signals.

Has our Getting Real message of small teams, no functional spec, and less software slipped through the Gates of big corporate process?

Nope. See Above. They hadn’t even heard of you.

Are we going to see more big companies jump on board our Getting Real process by chunking big teams into small, making 24-week projects 24 1-week projects instead, embracing constraints instead of trying to conquer them, and turning permanent decisions into temporary decisions?

More companies”? We just decided that the company in question was not “on board” with your process. They don’t even know who you are. Nice marketing material, by the way.

Is the swelling popularity of Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da List (and our Ruby on Rails web application framework) disruptive to the point of pushing change in Americaís biggest corporation?

Nope - see above. We are all on the same page here right? The developers at Microsoft that appeared to be using similar principles as those espoused by 37Signals hadn’t even ever heard of them.

Or is this just a chance aberration?

Yes! Finally, Yes!!! Sweet Jesus, yes.

I agree that your stuff rocks, but just because you are mentioned in the same breath as Microsoft doesn’t mean they are biting your style. Nice try, though.

Randy 17 Jun 05

Hey Harry, ever been influenced by someone you didn’t know? I am every day. Influence is deep and you are often influenced by trends with no clear source.

I think 37s is playing to a little buzz here, but I also think that just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean you haven’t been influenced by them. The premise of that argument is bunk.

Oh, and Scoble posted a comment in this thread. See what he said.

Ryan Heneise 17 Jun 05

Harry and all you other naysayers…

This is the new marketing, my friends. Jason is building a brand, creating a new culture, cultivating a cult following. SVN is buzz, Basecamp is very real, and 37signals is popularizing excellent methodologies that yes, have been around for a while. Meanwhile, Jason is getting his products hijacked (which is a good thing). If you don’t get it track down _Brand Hijack_, by Alex Wipperfurth.

harry 17 Jun 05

@Randy - You are right. To simply say that if you haven’t met someone you can’t be influenced by them is crap. I take it back. However, in order to be influenced by someone you haven’t met means that you were influenced by someone or something in your environment (that at somepoint was influenced by the person in question). Robert is so excited about this because these developers were the first to act like this in Microsoft- in other words, they weren’t influenced by those around them. So then, again, how were they influenced by 37Signals without ever hearing of them? Are you suggesting that the techniques taught by 37Signals are so pervasive in our culture that they were unknowing influenced by the masses? If not, what then?

@Ryan - the “new” marketing? Yeah, people are just now starting to build brands, and create buzz. You are really on the cutting-edge of marketing with those ideas. But that is truly beside the point. Your argument is that Jason is using this to create more buzz. Great. Fine. I agree. But I’m not sure who you are directing that towards? I object to the way in which Jason is doing it. He could have just as easily said “look at the nice things Scoble is saying about us. thanks.” But he didn’t. He launched into the self-aggrandizing, fact-less, rhetoric that - guess what - made me feel a little less excited about 37Signals and what they are all about. Good branding exercise? I think not.

8500 17 Jun 05

37signals 2004-2005 report card:

Software design: B
Interface design: B-
Framework design: B+
Buzz Generation: A+

Ryan Heneise 17 Jun 05

Harry: “Yeah, people are just now starting to build brands, and create buzz. You are really on the cutting-edge of marketing with those ideas.”

I didn’t say it hadn’t been used - I said it was new. Just like Getting Real and Less Software, “new marketing” is only beginning to come into a place where it can be adopted by not-necessarily cutting-edge companies that may or may not be offering breakthrough products. The buzz created by smaller, more agile companies like 37signals is bringing to light some of the more clever methodologies that were formerly reserved only for the fringe.

The point, I think, is that even if the folks at Microsoft weren’t *directly* influenced by 37signals, the fact that these things are being talked about by the public is probably very closely related to Jason’s buzz-making skills.

Carleton 17 Jun 05

37signals’ Ruby on Rails framework has influenced more developers over the past 12 months than anything coming out of the PHP or Java camp.

ODEO is based on Rails. 43things is based on Rails. And many other web apps are based on Rails or will be before the year is up.

Ruby is taken seriously now bc of 37signals and Rails. This is real INFLUENCE that can’t be ignored.

Do you see what 37s has done in the past year and a half? They went from a web design firm to a products company. They launched Basecamp, tada, and Backpack. Oh and they gave away Ruby on Rails too for free.

Keep it up 37. The haters can’t see what’s in front of them.

JF 17 Jun 05

Yeah, we do corporate training. We can present our Building of Basecamp workshop (or a variation there of) on site. Please get in touch if you are interested.

josh Williams 17 Jun 05

dmr - Iíd sure like to know about the business side of 37 ventures. Just how successful are these web projects? Letís see numbers to support the talk. Sure the products work, but does the business model work just as well? Backpack is super-useful, but is it making money?

Given that Basecamp was built on sweat equity and not VC, you’d have to figure that after a year and a half it must be supporting itself somehow. Basecamphq.com says, “Used by tens of thousands of people in over 40 countries!” Backpack probably does alright too.

While that gives you no idea how many subscribing accounts there actually are, you’d have to assume that with a basic subscription price of $24/month that Basecamp at least keeps the lights burning.

Seeing as how 37 is not a public company, I highly doubt we’ll ever hear actually numbers from them. There’s no reason to disclose that… As long as people continue to use the service that’s all that matter to them. I doubt they give a rip if people want to hash the business model…

Thousands of users? Monthly subscription payments? Hello? Doesn’t take an economics major to figure out that there’s a viable product here. Knowing just how viable is probably not the public’s business.

8500 17 Jun 05

So if we assume that all of the 10,000+ people using basecamp are subscribers @ 24.00 dollars a year thats not a lot of dough for a 5 man shop.

The average per employee would be less than 50k a year…

I know they do workshops etc but basecamp is there primary money maker right?

Randy 17 Jun 05

8500, it’s $24/month, not $24/year. And they also have $12/month plans (and $49 and $99/month plans). But I doubt they have 10,000 paying customers anyway. That’s a lot of people.

8500 17 Jun 05

Ahh thas right it’s monthly, not yearly. Cleary I’m not a Basecamp customer or I’d know that. And clearly I’m not an accountant or I wouldn’t try (and fail) to guess at their general income based off of such limited data.

Jason seems to have a powerful business and entrepreneurial streak. If they weren’t making enough money, you’d see a change in the 37s strategy and products (like when they switched from design to product dev).

Douglas 17 Jun 05

“Letís say you meet me some day and I happen to act exactly like a friend of yours. You ask if I have ever met said friend. I say ďno.Ē Would you or any else ever suggest that I was inluenced by your friend. Of course not. That would be ridiculous.”

That’s how patents work though, and there seems to be lots of support for them…

Douglas

Adam 17 Jun 05

I used to read this blog all the time before it became a permanent advertisement for basecamp and backpack.

Ego stroking — yes. The fact that you have to make a post regarding this article proves it so. Quiet confidence is much more attractive.

Anonymous Coward 18 Jun 05

Chalk up another vote for quiet confidence.

Anonymous again 18 Jun 05

here here!

James Archer 19 Jun 05

Come on guys, give Jason a break. He’s trying to build up to a book announcement sometime soon, I’m sure. ;-)

Sean Warburton 19 Jun 05

There is a handful of around 30-50 design/development blogs where the authors are treated like Gods and like it or not, these 30-50 people are becoming influential, as is evidenced by all the hype surrounding Rails and Ajax etc.. (how people that usually preach standards can offer Ajax as a worthy technology is laughable but that’s for another discussion).

What we are watching at work is the internet equivelant to the multi-level marketer. They tell us how enlightened they are and how, if you follow their lead - and in this case buy the book - then you’ll also become enlightened and reap the rewards, whatever they may be.

It works, look at how many of us have felt compelled to reply to this post and how many have felt the need to jump to their ‘leaders’ defence. Where is he, well he’s no doubt sat waiting for the call from Yahoo.

I learned a long time ago that you never trust a man that keeps telling you how good he is but I also learned that jelousy is a terrible thing, I get the feeling that both are at work here.

Sean Warburton 19 Jun 05

And don’t forget …

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind ca….

Yeah right.

BJanz 19 Jun 05

Man you people take stuff a little too seriously. I think JF is sorta kidding. I don’t think he really thinks 37 is influencing MS. He’s just pushing it out there in fun.

Hehe 20 Jun 05

When you write everyday and make Technoratiís top 100 list

OH SNAP!

Michael Ward 20 Jun 05

People, there are lives out there, go get one!

37signals make apps that work well (and are great if you need the kind of app they have made), have a development methodology that is worth knowing about, and they know how to get their message out there - as for the rest, pah, who cares?

Kesava Mallela 21 Jun 05

Small teams and no specs go together. If the team is any big, there are interaction-rules/details-in-scenarios which might not be communicated effectively just thru wireframes. One needs to document them as specs for the benefit of both the developers and QA. Close communication complements this documentation in case of small teams.

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