Simple means launching something Jason 09 Dec 2005

61 comments Latest by Jim

We’ve been talking about launching a Basecamp affiliate program for a few months now. I’ll stress talking. Talk, talk, talk. No walk. Why? Cause what we had in mind was pretty complex which means we’d never get around to doing it. It meant research and research isn’t our thing.

So yesterday I said fuck it — let’s make this simpler. I wrote up a brief story describing the feature, designed a few UI screens that were needed, and we got started on it. Now we’ll launch the affiliate program next week. 1 week from idea to launch sure beats 3 months from idea to nothing.

Here’s the exact story posted to our “Storyline” Basecamp project (this is where we keep ideas for features we’re working on):

Ok… Let’s simplfy. Instead of dealing with cash payouts and the related accounting nightmare, I suggest we start simple first. People can earn credits towards their account. That’s good enough to get this started. We can introduce cash later if we want. Cash will have more impact, but I think this is a first good step to test the waters. So, here’s how it works. Everyone gets an affiliate link/code they can pass around. If someone clicks that link or uses that code to sign up for paying plan, the code owner gets a credit towards their account. The credit would be applied at the time that the new customer’s card is charged, not when they sign up for the 30 day free trial (since we need to take in someone else’s money to give someone else a discount). We should show a “pending credit” to the code owner so they can see it “working.” So I’m thinking the credit is 50% of the new customer’s first charge. So, if someone uses a link, signs up for the Plus plan ($49/month), and then keeps the plan and is charged $49 in 30 days, the code owner gets a credit of $25 applied to their account. Credits will accrue so you can build up $xxx in credit and never pay for your Basecamp account again. Simple. Done!

Moral: If you find yourself talking more than walking, shut up, cut the vision in half, and launch it. You can always fill in the gaps later. In fact, you’ll know more about what gaps need to be filled after you’ve launched “half a feature” than if you tried to fill them in before launching anything.

61 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Brad Sorensen 09 Dec 05

the best shit you’ve said.

Delator 09 Dec 05

Those guys will for sure read, but will they launch?

Steve Akers 09 Dec 05


Geof Harries 09 Dec 05

Two letters = OG (as in Original Gangsta). This kind of post is what makes me come back to svn time and time again. Straight to the point, no bullsh*t.

JF 09 Dec 05

Thanks Geof. I’ll be sure to say “fuck it” more ;)

Mark G 09 Dec 05

New line for SamB’s cartoons:

In the future when I say “fuck it”, all will praise me.


Geof Harries 09 Dec 05

Ha. I didn’t mean that cursing made him an OG - I was referring to the contents of the post. Bam! Straight gangsta.

Dan 09 Dec 05

Straight up, nice post. Really makes me think about current projects, and where along the line they got stuck in the mud…

john 09 Dec 05

Definitely need more �fuck it�, and maybe an occasional “motha fucka” too! j/k

In the future when I say �fuck it�, all will praise me.

I can picture it now…LOL

JF, it is a beautiful plan. I wish more companies gave me the credit option instead of the cash out option.

Travis Vocino 09 Dec 05

This could not have come at a better time for me and my team. We’ve been agonizing over some seemingly insignificant details for weeks. Shut up and go.

Thank you kindly!

wdk 09 Dec 05

Yeah, I just did something like that last week. I was working on a personal growth project that I’d been planning for months without headway. I too said “fuck it,” and doled out the cash for a simpler, immediate, and marginally more expensive solution. It was nowhere near as sexy and it cost a little more, but it was actually happening. Yay!

It all goes back to: design for simplicity and mature to complexity, but only that which you need.

Nick 09 Dec 05

It’s funny, the post is more interesting than the idea. Affiliate programs give me the heebies because it implies that the person advocating a particular product (Basecamp) is doing so because they’ll get credit or cash in the end.

Sure, I know that Basecamp, etc rocks. I’ve said great things about it in the past and will again in the future.

However, I’m a little reluctant to take another person’s word at face value when I know that they’re going to get benefit just from my using their specially prepared secret sauce link. It’s the lack of independence on the reviewer’s part that destroys trust.

It’s the old pyramid scheme of marketing in the end, and either it’ll work or not. You can’t really measure the impact of loss of goodwill.

Hope you don’t take this as inflammatory, as the note says below. I’m just telling you why I’d be shy of paid recommendation.

Joe 09 Dec 05

I also appreciate the “fuck it” approach.

I’ve been struggling with an independent study for school for months now….. this my new philosophy in hoping to get something completed within weeks. Thanks for the inspiration Jason.

Jon 09 Dec 05

what about doing the same thing for backpackit?

Tomas Jogin 09 Dec 05

I joined your Simple Does It choir a good while back, so of course I agree with everything. But “simple” isn’t good enough, lots of people do “simple”. Simple, combined with Just In Time problem solving is what makes things happen, because it lets you drastically simplify what others think of as simple. In your example: worry about cash later.

zx 09 Dec 05

“1 week from idea to launch sure beats 3 months from idea to nothing.”�

“You can always fill in the gaps later” ?

*you should strongly consider collaborating with Microsoft…that’s exactly how they made it.�

just kidding;) �

what i am really trying to say is that your advice could be very dangerous!!! to some young entrepreneurs that are reading your blog…research is the foundation for understanding. yes, you can just throw the dice and hope for the best..but going from one extreme to another is not the right answer.

balance is.

pwb 09 Dec 05

But does it scale?

Brandon 09 Dec 05

I think it’s a great plan. I tell everyone to use Basecamp… everyone who could benefit from it anyway. I’d love to get a month free now and then. And I’m not concerned that people won’t trust me when I tell them how good it is. It’s usually customers ON Basecamp who I recommend the service to.

Speaking of that… you guys should have an option in the settings where we could turn on and off a link to Basecamp… small and in the footer. I don’t need anonymity… I love telling my clients about Basecamp.

Hell, using your system saves THEM money because I didn’t have to invest in writing something in house.

Jimmy 09 Dec 05

That’s all fine and good when you’re launching apps that aren’t created for one specific client. You can do whatever the hell you want really.

It’s a different story when you’re developing an app for a specific client. Can’t really just tell them that you’re gonna take the “fuck it” approach and just launch the damn thing regardless.

Jay Small 09 Dec 05

Clients are overrated. ;-)

MH 09 Dec 05

At a former employer of mine, the management decided we needed to completely re-do the website or we were sunk. So we spent from early May through early August making plans, writing and re-writing specs, and debating features before starting implementation for a Sept 1 launch. We worked our butts off. Before I could blink, my summer was gone.

In the end, there were hardly any features (compared to the monster list we started with), and the ones we had were lame and were targeted to the wrong audience.

If we had wanted to accomplish that to begin with, we could have done it in two weeks and had plenty of time to spend on the beach…

andrew 09 Dec 05

There are so many times we sit around discussing a client project and we end up at the “I wish they’d just get the fuck out of the way and give us the rock” moment. Stop talking at me and gimme the rock!

Ryan Ripley 09 Dec 05


**Tougue in cheek comment, not meant to inflamatory, degrading, or rude**

pwb 09 Dec 05

Can�t really just tell them that you�re gonna take the �fuck it� approach and just launch the damn thing regardless.

Sure you can. Why not?

GWG 09 Dec 05

I’d love to see the same approach applied to “Getting Real: The Book.” Publish that sucker!

JF 09 Dec 05

GWG — I hear ya on that ;)

The book is done, we’re just laying it out (which is on the back burner right now while we work on a few more pressing things).

Geof Harries 09 Dec 05

JF - So when can we pre-order? :)

Joel Mueller 09 Dec 05

Sounds fine except that it only targets current customers. I’d be willing to post some things in our MacUpdate newsletters, etc… except that I don’t have these paying accounts with basecamp.

If there was a possibility of using credits to purchase consulting time with you, or design if we really sell a lot, then I’d be all for it.

Ryan Ripley 09 Dec 05

JF: Do you hear “cha-ching” in your sleep? :-)

look 09 Dec 05

i am willing to bet that nobody here is over 25. �fuck it� approach??? do guys really buy that?

JF 09 Dec 05

look, I’m 31!

Brad Sorensen 09 Dec 05

I’m 31

look 09 Dec 05

that’s nice, but you are the Teacher.

JF 09 Dec 05

Ryan, very cool of you. Thanks. I know how hard it can be to take back strong opinions and I admire your ability to do so.

Ryan Ripley 09 Dec 05

I’m 26… So, HA!

I used to be a programmer. Now I spend most of my time in a corporate environment which means planning meetings. And while I cannot jump up and tell my VP:

“FUCK IT! let’s slap this bitch on the ass and roll it out the door…”

I can encourage business owners to get application out in front of users faster. Gather feedback and move forward.

So while the message is different, the idea is the same.

Trying thinking. It doesn’t hurt for long.


JF 09 Dec 05

I thought this would be obvious, but of course you don’t need to say FUCK IT out loud.

zx 09 Dec 05

Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft , Microsoft , Microsoft , Microsoft…

am i the only Mac user on this blog?

Mark 09 Dec 05

I’m 42.

…and good on you Jason for the approach. I got something that I’ve trying to figure out details for way too long as well, so I’ll chime in on the inspiration theme.

Ryan Ripley 09 Dec 05

JF: Was responding to LOOK… I think he is one of those that can’t take an idea and make it their own… Really really hate that…

look 09 Dec 05

Ryan, you are wrong.

Francis Wu 09 Dec 05

I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately this strategy only works with companies that actually talk to their customers.

Alan 09 Dec 05

Now I know what I need for the third slide in my “extreme programming in a nutshell” presentation :-) —Alan

pwb 09 Dec 05

Sounds fine except that it only targets current customers.

“limiting” it to existing customers seems like an OK idea given that they are in the best (only?) position to give a credible recommendation.

I think that is one of the points of the post. They could have tried to implement this for non-customers as well but that would have been more work to figure out. So they said “eff it” and not only does that make it easier to deliver, it even makes good sense.

Rabbit 09 Dec 05

Oi… my heart bleeds.

As soon as I got to J’s “fuck it,” I clasped my hands and was like, “Yes!”

Francis Wu - you rock. You nailed it. Stupid bastard companies that push “products” (I hate that freaking word) to their “consumer base” without actually conversing with them can blow on my furry ass.

To add to Wu’s statement, companies that don’t talk to their customers are actually very limited in what approaches they can take - though it may not seem like it. (What’s that phrase? The sun burns brightest before it dies? Something like that?)

PJ Hyett 09 Dec 05

I second the comments on why I love reading this blog because of posts like this.

jm 09 Dec 05

Excellent point that I’d be willing to wager mirrors the products/projects that 37s has actually shipped during the last year. There is a fine line between shipping a pared-down, working product right away (particluarly one that comes from a creative team) and saying, “shipping is a feature.” Be careful of the latter; it’s bitten more than one company and doesn’t discriminate on size.

Oh, and I’m 30.

Don Wilson 09 Dec 05

Excellent post. I think it’d be even cooler if you scanned in sketches that you do of GUIs so we can see an artist at work. Matt Mecham, the guy who develops IPB, usually always has a video of his current work on his blog and it makes the blog just that much more interesting.

eh 09 Dec 05

a little bit from the extreme programming camp (but not as disciplined) + a little bit from pop management books done up in a minimalist dynamic language marred by dirty perl-type punctuation characters — revolutionary! the internet goes wild.

Stephen 11 Dec 05

Jason, i really do not appreciate you using expeltives in your articles. I did not read the other comments so i really don’t know if anybody else has raised this issue, but this is what i think.

It is unfair to those of us who would want to maintain our sanity and live a life free of cursing to come to 37signals to be badgered by your freedom of speech.

Yes you may have a popular site, but that is no reason to blatantly disregared your target market. There are christians who visit from time to time, and you should know better to respect God’s people.

I’ll still support but you should know better than cussing on the site - just keep it simple.

Joe Bootlicker 11 Dec 05

Excellent point! I couldn’t have said it better myself! Perhaps you could tell me what I should eat for dinner and how to feel about it! The shorter and easier to digest, the better!

eh 11 Dec 05

hi stephen,


goodgord 11 Dec 05

I don’t know what expeltives are, but if they mean cranky christians, then I’m all for them.

Great post.

will 11 Dec 05


I will forever point people to this article. If you let the permalink die, I will forever cry.

As to a coupla of the commenters:
1) I’m 34 or something.
2) And to that other one, we had a priest over to our house for dinner every time we moved to a new town (very a lot much like) and many men of the cloth have a mouth that Redd Foxx could look up to. Words are words. Go complain to some one about the war.

andrew 12 Dec 05

yeah stop badgering us with your free speech and ill.. stop.. uh.. badgering you with um.. my free speech too… because us christians are mentally fragile and we can’t hear certain vowel sounds without uncontrollably expelling our bowels (it’s in the bible trust me) To counter this, instead of being an adult and going elsewhere we need to whine incessantly to impose our views because the pitch of our whining negates the vowels sounds so we can cram everything and the pole back up there.

Atheist Stephen 12 Dec 05

Stephen: “…badgered by your freedom of speech.”

You’re kidding, right?

If not, your comment does much to imply that you’re all for freedom of speech, just as long as people only say what you want them to say, how you want them to say it.

If JF came round to your house uninvited and started hollering expletives through your letterbox, that would be badgering. Expressing a personal view or opinion on a personal (albeit popular) website does not, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute badgering you.

Getting back to the actual post, very good - the best for a while in fact. It’s also a relief to learn that even the 37Signals team procrastinates from time-to-time ;)

Brandt 12 Dec 05

please don’t feed the trolls

JF 12 Dec 05

Come on, let’s stay on topic here.

Arif 15 Dec 05

Good post…bad choice of words.

C’mon Jason…your tongue is worthier than that.

joebart 15 Dec 05

Kick ass post, JF. My first stumble accross SVN. Thank you. You have a new reader.

jrevillini 21 Dec 05

look - i’ll be 26 next month.

jason - i was in the same boat with an intranet solution i developed, tore down, started again. i then repeated those actions 5 or 10 more times. it got ridiculous because of all the what-if’s.

37signals takes the approach that a lot of common application features are just fluff that users can get along without (and rightly so). luckily, 37signals is offering products that can be demoed and then adopted or dumped by the user base. in my case, i have to develop a product that users will pretty much be forced to use, so i better make it work for them if i want to keep working. at the same time, i better roll the mother out before my output gets questionned.

i’m not offering a hard-core stance here, i’m just discussing situations that might influence the methodology of the developer(s). someone way up there said that there needs to be a balance. i think that’s true, and i think that as a developer you should spend 10 or 20 minutes each day figuring out which way you’re leaning, where it’s getting you on the project, and which way needs a little more leaning. is it the “effit” side or the planning/methodical side?

Wu’s comment was also very valid - staying in touch with the users and making it abudnatly clear that they are able to comment on and influence further development will evolve or phase out the project in time.

i’m just about to embark on learning RoR and looking forward to it.


Jim 28 Jan 06

Keep it simple. FUCK IT!