Signal v. Noise, a publication about the web
What could we be better at?
Asking better questions.
Performance in non-US countries. Specifically, network latency.
@Jason Maybe a simpler version of basecamp, with faster loading writeboards, accessible from anywhere in the app.
At not ending sentences with prepositions.
(OK, that was admittedly snotty.)
Not spamming rss feeds ?
Selfishly, I wish you guys devoted more time to mobile platforms. I’m not always in front of my computer and live and work in Basecamp and Backpack. Having native access (either as an app or a web-optimized version) of those would be killer.
(I know there are third party apps for these, and some are OK, but let’s be honest, they don’t hit the same high marks for design and ease as 37s)
Admitting we’re wrong.
1. Seeking out and hiring people that go by the name “Laidlaw”.
2. Forcing David to spend more time working on getting Rails 3 out the door.
3. Not pestering your users with upgrade messages while they’re using Basecamp.
I know, I know… my insight is invaluable. lol
You Are internet Jesus.
Make your marketing and app sites accessible (and sensible) to screen reader users.
...Adding amazing new features to programs
...Providing fairer price points for products.
Regarding Rails (I know, this isn’t a product you sell or even own, but it does reflect on your company), the month and a half of silence between saying “Rails Release Candidate in days” and the actual release candidate was a little disheartening.
And I know it’s open source, free, awesome, etc. so I can’t really complain, but for a company who prides itself on clear communication, this was disappointing.
We have a large project starting in mid-August that we were debating between using Rails 2.3 or 3.0, so the silence affected us (cue the angry attacks about being ungrateful, and I should be thankful for whatever they give me since it’s free).
Integrating Writeboards in Basecamp, this is currently hard to use, confusing, and messy.
Ha, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to be snarky about ending sentences with a preposition. I thought within the first five comments – glad the readers didn’t let me down.
Related: You could do better updating your /speaks page. Also, I personally would like to see less “X company uses Basecamp to manage Y” and maybe more design/tech posts.
Unrelated: When will the new blog design go live? Is the design company you chose done with it yet?
I think delivering on some of the more often requested features for your products would be tremendous. Otherwise, reassess the pricing tiers.
Not blogging trite “insights”
I would like to see educational offers around best business practices for starting, growing, and running web or service based businesses. Could be taking concepts from Rework, guest lecturers, etc. and presenting in the form of classes at your HQ and or a conference.
I realize this represents a new type of business, and one that probably has a lot of “hair” on it, but if done right, could have significant synergy with your current business and add a lot of value to the community.
Update your web app views beyond just standard PC. Add a mobile and then a tablet viewer.
I’m pretty happy with what I am getting from 37Signals. Currently that is just insight from your blog but at a price of free who can complain?
Many people are mentioning price. I also have canceled 37Signals services because of price (at various times have been a paying subscriber to Basecamp and Backpack). But I am not sure this means you need to change the price. I think it is more likely that my needs just could not justify the price. But for those that can justify the price I think you are offering a fair service for that price.
I wouldn’t mind you extended your iPhone support on Tada-list to other devices (Android, Palm Pre). Seems other phones also using Webkit would be easy to support with your existing code (might be just a matter of changing your user agent sniffer). But in the meantime Google has a nice mobile-ready todo list that works good so if this doesn’t make business sense to you then non-iPhone users at least have other options.
You have an official Highrise iPhone app. Why not a basecamp app?? I’ve tried a few and they were a miserable/broken experience.
I’m with the folks requesting better support for mobile platforms. All the iPhone apps I’ve tried are either really slow (API issue?) or haven’t been updated in quite some time. However, a simple alternative would be to make the pages more readable on smaller screens.
Push the limits a bit.
You might do something unexpected.
As others have said, humility and modesty. You’re successful already, no need for all the braggado.
I would add another: positivity. There’s been a few cases where you viciously attacked others who hadn’t really done anything to harm you (e.g. GetSatisfaction), and it reeked of stirring a mess for pageviews. Many of your posts also tend to be negative, pointing out mistakes and “what not to do” rather than taking the time to offer positive advice.
It’s easy to gain popularity through negativity. It’s harder, but more rewarding, to do so through positivity. Negativity is like the Dark Side of the blogging Force. It’s easier, quicker, but not more powerful in the long term.
I agree with Jason Santa Maria – glad that Ember has become a 37signals app, but both companies share a lot of the same aesthetics. None of the 3rd party Basecamp apps, or worse, Backpack apps, have the same experience as the actual web apps.
If I had experienced either Basecamp or Backpack through these 3rd party apps first, I would have turned around and never looked at 37signals again.
I second Jason’s vote for doing a better job with your mobile offerings (Campfire for iPhone notwithstanding).
synergy, advice for people who don’t work at 37signals
Integrating your products and having them work well together.
Campfire needs better notifications: email, SMS, push, etc.
Soleio: Tell me more via email. jason@37signals… Thanks.
Daniel Tenner: Curious which posts in the last few months (to start) you’d consider negative. I see a few critical posts in there, but a few critical posts are healthy for the mix. Critical posts represent a very slim minority. I see quite a few cool things we’re pointing out, interesting quotes, great design, examples of companies/people doing good things, enlightening videos, etc. You said “Many of your posts also tend to be negative” so I’m curious which ones make up your suggestion of many?
It would be extremely useful to have more options for freelancers in Basecamp. My company hires a lot of freelancers to get projects done and I am sure other business to do this more and more. Time tracking is only available to people in your own company. People in other companies can not track their own hours.
1) More examples of how you guys specifically use your suite of 4 tools. Better explanations of the roles of Backpack, Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire in your work environment so that we get a glimpse behind the idea of the perfect use of the tools.
2) A Salesforce Killer. More specifically, better reporting and user-defined fields in Highrise to finally squash Salesforce’s dominance.
3) Stopping in Milwaukee to hang out with HarQen more! :-) Wisconsin is the bestest.
You could come to Australia and help me present the usefulness of Basecamp and Backpack specifically to my manager and our staff and help us adopt the system.
Just saying, you could totally do that better. haha
Humility should not be confused with mediocrity. Keep up the good work and don’t apologize for it!
One improvement I’d suggest… gear some of your marketing toward non-web clients. I’ve been trying to sell Basecamp to my company forever and they still prefer a color-coded spreadsheet and lots of “status updates”... hmm… maybe your marketing isn’t the problem. :-/
I’d prefer more solid post on this blog, rather then a lot of random post.
I like the business insight and tips.
Unfortunately, they are the least effective aspects of Basecamp. They aren’t integrated well into the main product. They have the bare minimum of functionality for the task… we often switch over to Google Apps to collaborate on documents, simply because everyone finds writeboards to be way too clumsy. Why are they on a separate domain, with all of the Basecamp “chrome” missing?
Allowing users to permanently hide advertising for other services you offer that they clearly don’t want. Please… don’t tell me about Campfire ever again. Thank you!
You sell 6 products that do one thing, facilitate information collaboration. How can you be better at that? I think by integrating outside of the 37s world. Come on guys, make some friends!
I’d have to backup mobile UIs and/or faster API access – although maybe it’s the apps and not your fault. The only reason I mention that is all Basecamp and Backpack iPhone apps I’ve used seem slow to load data. Thanks!
I would like to see another SMS service used for the notifications… The standard US freebie one is ok, but for the rest of the world you should use an api connection… I would happily pay for the credits as well.
For sure an official Basecamp iPhone App.
Hey, has anyone said “humility” yet?
I think the following areas are a little weak (by your own standards)
One genuine irritation I have with Highrise is the notification emails. They’re not just bad, they’re actually shit.
Ages ago I asked for an improvement, and gave you guys this Skitch. Other HR users chimed into agree.
From a long time ago…
Here is another Highrise email from yesterday…
If you could solve that, it’d be seriously useful to me , and others I’d imagine.
I use Basecamp and Highrise for an international development project in Tanzania. The former is $24/month, the latter is $49/month. I know these products evolved separately, but it seems like they could work together better. The common login is nice, but why do they behave differently? Even little things like a date picker instead of selecting month, day, and year from three separate drop downs would be better. I know you are lean and mean, but I can’t understand how keeping the products this way is efficient.
Totally minor – even the way you upload a logo is so different. One suggests a gray background, the other prefers white – it would be nice to use file one for both, and have them behave the same way.
Finally – it seems to me that pricing should reward us for using more than one of your products at once. I wish I could pick and choose features in a different way – if Highrise did one or two more basic things, I could get away with no Basecamp. In my opinion, you guys should sell one product with a lot of different options.
Blank slates in your apps, eg. getting users up to speed; I shouldn’t have to explain the concept of Writeboards to tech-savvy client.
Also – game mechanics, specifically competitive elements.
I know my team would have a lot fun with a lil’ friendly competition, for instance: “Who completed the most To-Do’s off the Bugs-list this week?” in BaseCamp.
Highrise deals/leads obviously lends itself to some internal competitions, within the Sales dep.
That could possibly be leveraged by the Account owner, to measure/calculate KPI’s and commision rates.
Search in Basecamp.
Perhaps consider evolving your company’s tone to one that is not so, “know-it-all”-ish. Off-putting at times.
Using Basecamp for person, daily task management does not work well for me. I love the product, but I wish it was more like Things. Maybe it is time you integrated with a 3rd party -> Things :)
Provide Basecamp pricing for freelancers and solo people!
Here’s a tiny design flaw I’ve noticed in Basecamp…
(I only noticed this because I made the error tonight, just a few hours after reading this question in Google Reader.)
I was setting a milestone and I was in a rush. I clicked on July 2010 and scrolled down and set it to the first August month I saw… Which happened to be 2009. I didn’t notice, set the milestone, and just wasted a bit of time correcting. Could you get rid the ability to set due dates that were more than six months ago?
It’s not a big deal… just one of those tiny little things that you guys are so good at paying attention to; thought i’d point it out.
I love your products and (more importantly) your philosophy on business.
I’m gathering you weren’t particularly asking for feature requests, but I’m going to echo and expand on an earlier mention of better search in Basecamp.
Having the Search feature buried behind a tab is fairly unintuitive in an age where search is taken for granted. In most cases I don’t need to spend time explaining how to use Basecamp to clients (which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong) but Search is something I’ve had to explain often, and make excuses for. I’ve even had to explain it to my employees! Baking a search field into the UI would make me feel a lot more comfortable about having our communications locked in with 37s tools.
Beyond that, search could be much more useful if it was able to dig up closest approximations or variations on terms. Searching by person would be fantastic too.
I’d like to see you tackle a bigger category like ecommerce or crm.
Not being blind with Apple and the iPhone.
When I see that page : http://basecamphq.com/extras
With the list of iPhone only apps, I almost want to go see somewhere else.
Apple is far from being the best mobile system in the market.
And moreover it’s not the most used one.
I second Ahmad… For web applications, performance is perhaps the most important feature.
Our main office is in France, where access times to Basecamp are generally quite good (there are times when it becomes unusually slow, we cannot figure out why, but it is rare).
Our secondary office is in China. They have got a much better Internet connexion than us in France (they are in a big city, while we are located in a rather rural area, too far away from phone centrals to have a fast ADSL connexion). But for them, access to Basecamp is sluggish. Not only download rates for attached files, but also the general reactivity, page loading times, etc…
We are planning to hire some people in Lebannon in a few months… There again, the reactivity of Basecamp is a major concern for us.
Of course, we have experimented with some workarounds… Using 3rd party applications to access Basecamp for example. Problem is, it is constantly much slower than using it directly through its regular website.
I understand this problem is something that can be mostly difficult to address, since it can depend on the ways that the ISPs are routing the traffic, plus there are of course physical limits to the response times when the distance to the servers reach several thousand kilometers.
Maybe this is a situation where it could be useful to find some ways to limit the problems. For example, Google Maps can detect when the page takes too much time to load, then asks the user if he is OK with it or if he would like to switch to a less bandwith-intensive version of the page (for BaseCamp, it could mean limit the number of messages/TODOs/files… to display on a single page for example)
Invest in better audio equipment for podcasts. I think all kind of swearing and strong language by David in podcasts makes you look desperate. If you have clear arguments, there is no need for strong arguments. In fact, it undermines your credibility.
Add and “edit” button. On that note: I meant to write “strong language”.
Syncing. Specifically, syncing Highrise with things like Address Book.app, Outlook, etc.
You do quite well at all kinds of things. If I had to pick one thing, you might do a better job at idea gathering.
You’ve got a captive audience of people like me – people with raw ideas, but little means of implementation. 37s has a ready-made machine for production.
So, asking questions like: ‘what software is missing in your workflow’, ‘what software do you love/hate the most’, etc, could lead to some seriously good business ideas.
1. State things in the positive, e.g. instead of saying “meetings are toxic” or “asap is poison” say “do things in the most direct way possible” or “it’s finished when it’s finished”. Stating things in the positive gives people a vision.
2. Read Dale Carnegie. “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matthew 7:3)
3. Read Solomon’s Proverbs: http://bit.ly/aJpmva
4. Read Henry Ford’s “My Life And Work”: http://bit.ly/9fZkFG
5. Technical fitness.
6. Text as interface.
7. Plain-text email.
reintroduce “Screens Around Town” blog feature
Here’s my two cents: Bring the WYSIWYG text editor to Backpack. In Highrise, address the gap in the maximum number of users between the Plus Plan (15) and the Premium Plan (40). I would humbly suggest bumping the Plus Plan to 20 users or creating a new plan that offers 20-25 users. Could you even consider a not-for-profit discount? Our church depends on Highrise, but our funding is challenging in these tough times. Thanks for asking!
Your products are great. Keep up the good work :D
I’ve also got burned a couple of times by the design flaw “andy drish” has explained.
Planning. I know “Planning is guessing”. However, sometimes planning ahead for something makes sense.
For instance, you and Gary V. came up with this idea to offer an “event” to people who bought a copy of REWORK and CRUSH IT. You then offered to anyone who bought 5 copies of each a “get together” sometime in March 2010. As someone who “bit” and purchased 5 copies of each in the hopes of attending that event, it simply has not happened. Not much of an explanation, or even a “we are sorry but…” I have sent a few emails to someone at Vaynermedia, but I’m writing this one off as not happening.
Now, I think the entire idea was good and fun. I think you “went with it” at the time. But, you did not really look too far into the future and size doing that event with… 1) we have a bunch of stuff going on in March 2) we are opening a new office 3) syncing our schedule with Gary’s may prove difficult.
I just think that before you offer things like that, do a little planning to see if it is going to work.
Love your products, but wish there was a more consistent, easier way to create formatted text in ANY text entry.
I know you guys use Textile (in some entry areas) but I’m struggling with it, especially around nested lists.
Perhaps a proper tutorial is in order, along with ensuring that ALL entry/comment boxes support it?
Sorting of To-Do lists based on related Milestones when looking at all To-Do lists within Basecamp.
Dependencies between different to-do lists or milestones in Basecamp.
Otherwise, products are very solid!
You could be better at integrating your products. I’m not normally a “suite” person, but as an individual, I could really use your products. For a company, the pricing is fine. For me, or a small family, these could be invaluable if combined into a smaller package. Think 10 project basecamp + calendar, tiny file storage, and more ta-da style to-dos, all for about $20-$40/year.
I use a kludge of your free products for my personal use, and I’d rather pay you a little for a better experience.
Writing iPhone apps.
The Highrise one is completely unstable if you have even a medium sized db. Updates to this app are more than overdue.
As a freelancer, if I used Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, and Campfire I’d be looking at about $114 per month (includes the $49 plan for Basecamp with time tracking). Not an insignificant amount of money. I’d be a much more loyal consumer of 37Signals products if they were tightly integrated.
Instead, over the past couple of years, one by one I’ve migrated away from 37Signals apps to other vendor solutions that have better integration. And I have a feeling I’m not alone, I’m guessing you guys have lost quite a few customers due to this one issue.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let us have nested to-do lists, or customisable list categories eg ‘NOTES’, ‘LOG’ etc.
Then BC will be perfect.
Better mobile css/apps, in particualr for basecamp
A ticketing system add on for basecamp. Not going to happen but I can dream!
1) Lower package price but less future. Example: basecamp > $10 for 6 projects & 2 GB storage. Give oppurtunity to micro business who love your products. Your price range is too wide.
2) Add backpack journal on basecamp. I think it is critical. We use yammer.com to substitute it and just to make status ‘what we are working on now’
Regards from Indonesia…
We’re generally happy with Basecamp and Campfire, just two suggestions:
1. There is no pricing that fits a small group for both Basecamp and Campfire. We end up using the free version of Campfire, which is pretty limiting.
2. Writeboards need a whole bunch of TLC. They’re passable for editing, but managing a bunch of Writeboards is really a mess. They need categories or something similar, and linking to them (and to pictures within them) is really awkward.
Otherwise 37s is interesting and generally inspiring.
We use Basecamp and Highrise at our web development company. This is our main feedback.
Basecamp: Add an anchor link at the bottom of Message threads to jump back up to the top of the page where the main nav is. Right now we have to manually scroll all the way back up. A pain when our threads start to get lengthy…
Highrise: The number one item on our wishlist would be a shared Calendar, much like on Basecamp, where we can see when our Tasks are due between all people in our company.
The second thing that would make Highrise more adequate is Reoccurring Tasks. The ability to set Tasks to repeat on set intervals, much like the Important Dates on the Contact cards.
Jason, I think you could be better at graphic design. Take this one: http://drp.ly/1rvFas
Document icons, speech bubbles, clock – they all have different style. The shadows are wrong, and the clock looks like Microsoft Word clip art from nineties. The same weird shadows and gradients are used in Sortfolio logo.
My thoughts are focused on Basecamp and Campfire:
I want to echo the sentiments of JSM and others who desire a mobile experience created and controlled by the 37s crew. We all know that would be a fantastic product and would really enhance my ability to convince clients to better rely on Basecamp.
On the flip site, I have become extremely disappointed with Campfire’s phone recordings. Never has the automatic posting of recordings worked for our account and a reliance on tech support to fix it just takes too long. I’ve had to go elsewhere for conference calling/recording and that just makes me sad! I would rather give YOU guys my money.
I still wish I could get to the sortfolio footer…
Bigger, more humane ‘body’ text input fields; in particular in Basecamp & Backpack. I know in Backpack the field jumps higher to 16 lines but still, that’s not enough.
I can’t think when there are only 6 lines available to work in.
Ditto with comments.
Please, please, let Highrise contacts sync with Google Contacts! This is truly what keeps me from using that. You can check all the times I’ve paid and cancelled service with you on this e-mail address (I think they were all on this address) if you want…
Highrise just doesn’t work when it can’t share information with Google and my iPhone.
It doesn’t bother me (you could call me a kindred spirit in this regard), but a lot of people I know think that 37signals come off conceited a lot of the time.
I agree that you have to be “arrogant” to do great things. If you don’t think your idea is better than why should anyone else? But
I’ve noticed that the “37signals attitude” rubs a lot of my colleagues the wrong way. While they have tremendous respect for the quality of your work they still think you’re kind of jerks.
I have the same struggle personally – how do you tell people your way is better without some people thinking you’re conceited? I don’t know. It’s certainly something I have to work on, and I think it’s something you should think about.
So, I suppose that’s a +1 for humility.
Implementing more features and controls for “power users” and admins. I get and like the simplicity thing and I’m with you there. But the next step to take is to implement some more complicated (but needed) features for those that need them without disrupting the overall simplicity of the product.
A few examples I can think of would be more granualization of privilege controls for admins and an actual working calendar for Basecamp. I am sure there are others but these are the missing features for me.
I know these may be difficult to implement while keeping the oversell product simple but then that is what you guys are good at. I sometimes think 37S hides behind the simplicity mantra to avoid implementing obviously needed features because doing so would be hard work. This may not be the case – it’s just my feeling based on my experience with the company over many years.
The only other thing that worries me is the growth of 37s. Don’t let your success (which you all certainly deserve) change you. Stay true to the values that got you here. Stay small at heart.
Basecamp is amazing, Highrise is amazing, and Backpack is amazing… but they don’t really talk to one another. That is our biggest frustration by far. We’re using three tools for one small company and constantly moving in and out of them. The contacts should be universal across the board, the Backpack pages should be accessible from the related Basecamp projects… I could go on all day.
It’s been said many times but +1 for better integration of Basecamp and Backpack. Basecamp is crying out for Backpack Pages – without them Basecamp feels incomplete as a project management app. Otherwise, thanks for the great products.
I love the Writeboard integration but on a practical basis ietherpad.com is much simpler to use with people because everything happens in realtime. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether somebody else is editing the document at the same time as I am.
redesign the dashboard/overview pages. its 37s-forced as opposed to user-centric/controllable as dashboards should be.
i also think pricing is a bit high – but I haven’t had time to build the 37signals killer yet
Offer your calendar as a standalone app for less than your Backpack prices. Maybe a buck per user per month? An easy to use, low-cruft, web-based calendar with no other functionality is needed on the web. I’m not fond of Google’s or Airset’s calendar.
for us, adding some process to highrise will be invaluable: so if i could have a custom field name status, where I could change the status of a company: from lead, to pillot, to paying, etc. The Deal feature is not as flexible as we need it.
Currently we use tags for that, but it’s not the best way.
Also, the basic account, doesn’t have enough deals : 10 Deals for 6 users? how did you come up to that? all the other paid plans have unlimited deals, even the solo!
Allow searching by address in Highrise (any part of the address).
Multiple clients find this an issue, especially when you have 10 people with the same name, and you are trying to find one of them.
I like your blog, but I don’t use your products.
I agree with some of the comments above, you have too many services. I get it, you don’t want inflated products, but I do not want to sign on to four services to do one thing.
The CRM tool that I use is flexible enough that I can customize everything to the way I work. So I can track new clients, my contacts, to-dos, and project management. One program to guide my business = simple = more time = more happiness.
You hit it big at the right time I belive. Because of your success you have entrenched your ideologies around these silly statements like “less is more”. No more is more, more and simple is like Apple. More and stupid is like Microsoft. Less is just less. Paying more for less is stupid.
And Humility, every time I hear you talk it makes me roll my eyes. You have no idea how pompous you guys sound, and usually what you are saying is decent.
Excuses my English please, it is my second. :)
The translation project, though wonderful in theory, has a lot of rough edges yet to smooth out. I wanted to contribute by adding my native language skills and knowledge to it. Where did the link go to? GOOGLE GROUPS! Excuse-moi?!
What on earth made you guys decide to not use, oh, I don’t know… a Basecamp instance for this? Crank up the options and have every contributor set the interface to their own language. Have a project per locale.
You’ll need something to figure out who wants to be involved, but an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ought to do the trick.
Single-domain integration of writeboards into Basecamp. Copy to code for all I care, but it trips up browser features that treat different domains as different sites.
Going to writeboards triggers a cross-site scripting protection from NoScript. Also, going back and forth opens new tabs in FF with tab-happy settings in TabMixPlus.
All can be avoided be masquerading the domain in some way.
A way for people (from a client organisation, for instance) to knock on a front door. I.e. we would hand a client a link where they can register their details. Basecamp admin for the project gets e-mail with link to ‘confirm a request’ and the account gets created.
There are number of people that think the guys at 37signals are not humble, I totally disagree. I think they are humble. The question “What could we be better at ? ” is something a conceited
CEO would. I think too many people are intimidated by 37signals assertiveness and knowledge. Pointing out mistakes and what not to do is very important in learning how to avoid repeating others past mistakes. If they were not confident in their methodology why should people take them seriously. People who say they could be more humble don’t understand humility.
Humility is not timid.
Humility is not insecure.
Humility is not sacred.
A humble person can be assertive.
A humble person can be confident.
A humble person can be bold.
Arrogant companies are not open to these types of discussion, arrogant companies do not apologize.
I hate when people want to instill their insecurity on others.
I also disagree about the “humility” thing… stay confident.
I’m chiming in on the “integration” as well. Would love to have my accounts work together.
tag your blog posts. it’s almost impossible to find anything from the archive (especially since the search also covers the comments, which often digress).
While Highrise nearly meets all my needs, the one element missing for me is the ability to generate any type of basic reporting or analytics. Keep up the stellar work.
Jason co-founded Basecamp back in 1999. He also co-authored REWORK, the New York Times bestselling book on running a "right-sized" business. Co-founded, co-authored... Can he do anything on his own?
Read all of Jason Fried’s posts, and follow Jason Fried on Twitter.