Scott Semple asks:

Like crack cocaine, we are using a little more of each of your products each day… Now I’m at the point where I have to pause and ask myself, “Is my next piece of communication best disseminated as an email or a comment on a milestone in Basecamp? An email or a note to staff in Backpack? An email or a note in Highrise? An email or a chat message?”

I’ve also just enabled the global RSS feeds for each of the above, so I’m starting to fantasize that in-app comments and reviewing RSS may reduce the email glut.

Anyway, I would certainly be keen to hear how 37signals uses their own products on a day-to-day, piece-by-piece basis. I suspect that other customers would be keen on reading that as well.

First off, there’s no “right” way to decide what goes where. We keep our products simple in part because it allows people to decide for themselves on a system that’s best for their needs.

One thing I know plenty of customers do is use Highrise as a sales funnel. Any pre-project communication goes there. Once they win the deal, they move communication with that person/company into a Basecamp project.

For us, that method wouldn’t really apply (no sales funnel). I’d say our process is an unstated approach that goes like this:

1) If it’s a comment revolving around an item that’s already posted somewhere, we’ll put it up as a comment to that item.

2) If not, does it relate to one (and only one) project in Basecamp? If so, we’ll generally place the communication within that project.

3) If still no, then we’ll decide between the other apps. If it’s an internal item, it goes in Backpack. If it’s an external conversation with someone outside the company, it goes in Highrise.

Some examples…

Our conversations about the book go in Basecamp:


That way we can share them with our book agent and publishing company easily. If there’s something we want to discuss internally about the book, we post it as a private item so only we can see it.

Backpack is a great home for things that don’t relate to an ongoing project:


When we communicate with someone outside the company, we put that email or note in Highrise. For example, we kept track of the communication with potential subjects for our video customer interviews in Highrise:


And actually, we use Campfire more than any other product. Not sure how we’d be in business without it. We detailed how we use Campfire in the “behind the scenes at 37signals” posts a while back.

one week in CF

In truth, there’s potential crossover for a lot of this, so it’s really up to you. Often, a Case could also be a Basecamp project. A Highrise Task could also be a Backpack To-Do. The correct answer is whichever one works for you.

Related: Which 37signals product should I use?