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Jason Fried

About Jason Fried

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?

Why Basecamp?

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 10 comments

I’m working on some copy for the new Basecamp 3 marketing site, and I figured I’d share some work in progress here. This needs editing, and it should probably be half as long, but I wanted to share it in its current state. I’ve always enjoyed seeing work in progress, so here’s some of mine:

Why Basecamp? That’s a fantastic question! In fact, it’s the question, in’t it? We’ve got some great answers for you.

1. Basecamp understands what you’re up against

You’re in charge. You’re running something. It’s on you to get it done. You have to pull people together to make it happen. That’s a huge responsibility, and you can use a hand making it all happen. You need to communicate, you need to stay organized, you need to make sense of feedback, you need to share work, you need to set deadlines, and you need everyone to deliver.

And on top of all that, you have to manage people and personalities and different work styles and preferences. People are often the hardest part! Talk about pressure! We get you, and we’ve got your back.

The reason we built Basecamp was because we had the exact same requirements you do. We worked for clients (and bosses and stakeholders and organizations…). They demanded the best from us, and we were paid to deliver for them. Before Basecamp we dropped balls, stuff slipped through the cracks, deadlines were missed, and communication was scattered in too many places. This is why we built Basecamp – we had to calm the chaos. We had to get organized. We had to stay on top of things. We had to reduce the anxiety. We had to get our shit together.

So we made the tool we always wanted. We’ve honed it and – with the help of hundreds of thousands of bits of feedback from customers along the way – shaped it and perfected it over a decade. Today’s version of Basecamp is the best we’ve ever made. If you’re nodding your head at anything written above, then we think you’ll absolutely love Basecamp.

2. Basecamp bundles everything you need together in one place

Any work you’re doing with any group of people requires a few things… You need a place to outline and divvy up the work that needs to be done. You need a place to discuss the work – sometimes quickly (chat), sometimes more carefully (topic-based, organized message threads). You need a place to keep decisions and feedback on the record so it’s official and visible to everyone you’re working with. You need a place to lay out key dates and deadlines. And you need a place to organize key assets, files, and documents so everyone knows where everything is and nothing gets lost.

Basecamp is not one of those things, it’s all of those things presented in the most straightforward way you’ve ever seen. When you use Basecamp you don’t have to use a handful of separate tools, all offered by different companies at different prices with different interfaces and apps and all that complexity. Basecamp is a one-stop-shop. Stop juggling tools and switching back and forth – start using Basecamp instead. We promise you won’t look back.

3. Basecamp gets used because it’s straightforward

Maybe you’ve tried a similar product before. Maybe you’ve tried a dozen. You’re probably here because those other ones weren’t working and you’re still struggling. That usually means that you had a hard time getting other people on board to use the tool you chose. Too complicated, too difficult, too fancy, too much or not enough.

It doesn’t matter what a product says it does – if no one uses it then it doesn’t do anything. Basecamp gets used. Over and over. By hundreds of thousands of teams across the world. And if you ask our customers – any one of them – you’ll likely hear the same thing: “Basecamp is easy! It just works!” And at the end of the day, that’s what wins. And that’s why we’re here, celebrating our 17th year in business in 2016.

4. Basecamp works with people’s patterns, not against them.

We’re thrilled that Basecamp has been adopted in all sorts of places that software is usually rejected. A key reason: Basecamp doesn’t demand adoption from anyone. It doesn’t require people to change their patterns or methods. You can go all-in with Basecamp – logging in, using the mobile apps, etc – while other people you’re working with can just reply to emails that Basecamp sends out. Anyone, no matter where they land on the spectrum of “I love using new tools” or “I don’t want to be bothered by something new” can get a ton of value out of Basecamp.

And what’s great is that you, the person who’s deciding to check out Basecamp, can introduce a product that works with people, not against people. After trying to implement other things that didn’t work, you’ll finally be the hero when people learn they don’t have to “adopt more software” – they can just respond to anything you send them via email and Basecamp will take care of the rest.

5. Basecamp leads to organization which leads to progress

You can make a mess when you work alone because you know your own messes. But the moment you pull multiple people together to work on something, you need to get organized. Shared spaces and common places require extra attention to organizational detail. When we all have different ways of working, knowing where everything is, who’s responsible for what, and when things are due is essential. It’s got to be organized and it’s got to be clear to everyone. Luckily there’s Basecamp.

Basecamp is organized by default. You can’t make a mess. Everything is tidy from the start, and stays tidy as you go. Discussions are organized into topic-based threads so you can always find them later. To-dos and tasks are neatly organized in lists that make sense. Docs and files live in folders that make sense to you. Everything that’s dated – no matter what it is – flows into the Schedule. When you use Basecamp everyone knows what they need to know, everyone knows where everything is, and nothing slips through the cracks.

6. Basecamp is flexible because every person and every project is different

People and projects move at different speeds. Sometimes quick back-and-forth informal chats are perfect. Other times you want to slow down, dig in, make a case, and present yourself more formally. Some people prefer email-style communication, others prefer more texting-style communication. Trying to force everyone to communicate the same way is like trying to fit everyone into the same size shoe. It’s not a good fit.

From group chat to instant messaging to traditional discussion threads, Basecamp lets everyone involved communicate any way they’d like.

7. Basecamp makes the past, present, and future of your work clear

Any chunk of work – a long project, a quick riff, a team huddling up about some ideas – has a past, present, and future. Basecamp lays these out clear for you to see. Knowing where you’ve been, knowing why you’re headed in a given direction, and seeing clearly what’s ahead is such an important part of delivering something great.

The past… With Basecamp you can keep chats, discussions, feedback, and decisions on the record. Basecamp automatically documents the who the who, the why, and the what around anything that’s discussed. This way you can always go back in time, revisit a decision, point it out to everyone who’s curious about how it was made, and remember the details you need to move forward.

The present… With Basecamp you can discuss things quickly, assign work instantly, set or adjust deadlines, keep things rolling, pass documents and files back and forth, track progress, and stay organized as you go. The present – the work that’s happening every day – is automatically documented, organized, and tidied up so you don’t leave a mess behind you as you move forward.

The future… Basecamp helps you lay out the future, know what’s left to do, see what remains, and plot the course to get it all done on time. If something’s falling behind, there’s a report for that. If you need to see what’s on someone’s plate, there’s a report for that. If you want to know if you’re adding more work than you’re completing, there’s a report for that. Getting from now to done is clearer when you use Basecamp.

How’s it read so far?

Introducing Mercedes De Luca, Basecamp's first COO

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 13 comments

Today we’re feeling really good because we get to announce that Mercedes De Luca will be joining Basecamp as our first-ever COO.

Over the last few years, David and I have come to realize that high-level strategy and hands-on product development is what we enjoy doing most. But of course there’s so much more to running a company than just that stuff.

Products are products, but companies are products too. Your company should be your best product, since it’s the product that produces all the others. We should operate the company with as much love and attention and care as we put into building our products. We want Basecamp the company to be outstanding at every level.

Mercedes is going to help us be all we can be. She’s been a CEO, a CTO, a CIO, and a GM. She’s run big groups and small groups – local and remote. She has the right mix of a structured analytical mind and an insightful creative spirit.


Putting on the shipping goggles

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 5 comments

One of the biggest challenges of shipping a product is knowing when to put on the shipping goggles.

The shipping goggles make you less sensitive to little nits and scrapes and things that might be able to be a little bit better, but really don’t need to be right now. Stuff that we could tweak, but really shouldn’t be grabbing our attention given all the other high value bits we need to hit.

It’s sort of like squinting – you lose the detail, but you can still see the overall big picture shape, form, and function. Your peripheral vision shrinks, but the center is still bright. Knowing when to squint is a good thing to know.

It’s not that the details don’t matter. They do, but details aren’t fixed – they’re relative. And of course any time you talk about details mattering, you’re speaking in very broad generalizations. Some matter, some don’t. Some never matter, some matter later, but not now. And some really matter now and can’t wait for later. Like everything, there are varying degrees.

Part of training yourself to ship is to recognize what details are really worth nitpicking and when. There are no hard and fast rules here – it just takes judgement and experience. These are skills that build over time. Once you’ve been around it for a while you tend to improve your sensitivity to what’s worth doing before you ship and what can wait until later.

And BTW, nitpicking may be construed as a pejorative, but I don’t believe it is. Nitpicking is a valuable skill, as long you deploy it at the right time for the right reasons. One of the penalties of nitpicking at the wrong time is that nitpicking often attracts a crowd. Someone nitpicks this which is an invitation for someone else to nitpick that. And before you know it, half a dozen people are spending time discussing tiny details that really don’t demand that level of attention.

Again, there are no facts around when it’s worth nitpicking and what’s worth nitpicking – I’m only speaking to the awareness how situations unfold.

We can all get better at this. I’ve been shipping stuff for years, but I still have to get better at recognizing the right moments to bring up certain things. I definitely fall into the trap of spending time making changes to things in the 11th hour that are really perfectly fine and can be addressed later if necessary. I absolutely find myself regretting going down a rabbit hole that really didn’t need to be investigated. I still find myself distracting others with change requests or suggestions that really didn’t need to cloud their vision and sap their attention. It’s hard!!

As we close in on a big launch ourselves, I’m reminded of how important it is to keep time and place and impact in mind when bringing small things up. Again, it’s not that they aren’t important, it’s that they may not be important now. Everything has a cost and the cost of breaking attention goes up during crunch time.

Can old world be more modern than new school?

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 16 comments

I’ve got two machines on me.

One’s strapped to my left wrist. The other lives in my pocket.

The one on my wrist can tell me the time (precisely in 12 hour format, roughly in 24), the day of the week, the month of the year, which year of the leap year cycle we’re in, and the current moon phase. But that’s its limit. There’s no software, only hardware. It’s programmed in springs and gears and levers and jewels.

The one in my pocket can tell me anything and do just about everything. It knows my voice, it responds to my touch, and it even instantly recognizes my fingerprint out of fourteen billion fingers. This machine even knows the angle, velocity, and distance it travels when I swing it around. And it always knows exactly where it is anywhere on the planet.

But sometimes I wonder which one is more modern.

The one in my pocket can do more, but only for a limited time. And then it can’t do anything. It dies unless it can drink electrons from a wall through a cable straw for some hours every day. And in a few years it’ll be outdated. In ten years it might as well be 100 years old. Is something that ages so fast ever actually modern?

And then there’s the machine on my wrist. It’s powered entirely by human movement. No batteries, no cables, no daily dependency on the outside world. As long as I’m running, it’s running. And as long as one person checks it out once a decade, it’ll be working as well in 100 years as it works today. It’s better than modern. It’s timeless – yet it keeps time.

As time goes by, my pocket will meet many machines. My wrist might too. But when I look down at the machine on my wrist today, and know that in 50 years my son will be able to look down at his wrist at the same machine ticking away the same way it ticks today. That’s a special kind of modern reserved for a special kind of machine: the wonderful mechanical wristwatch.

The difference between time and attention

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 11 comments

I recently realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.

What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”. I may have 8 hours a day for work, but I probably have 4 hours a day for attention.

This summer a guy wrote me out of the blue asking if he could intern for me this summer. His email was great – clear, thoughtful, kind, inviting, confident but not pushy, and not too long (but long enough to say what he had to say without leaving anything out). He was studying at Harvard Business School and was going to be back in Chicago this summer.

He asked if he could swing by and say hi. His email made it easy for me to say yes. So he did, and we had a great session. We spent maybe an hour or so together. I learned about his background, what kind of stuff he was interested in, what he wanted to learn, what he could teach us, etc. Then we riffed on a few ideas. It was natural, flowing, effortless. Really promising.

Then I told him I’d think a few things over and get back to him soon. He checked in a few weeks later, and I said I’d get back to him soon again. And I didn’t.

A month or so after that I wrote him and told him I was really sorry. I’d mislead him – and myself – thinking I had enough time to take on a intern that summer. I wanted to, I really liked him, I thought he’d be great, but I just didn’t have as much time as I thought I had to even consider it more and line up work and spend time with him, etc.

But really, as I thought about it, I realized I had the time. Every day is the same 24 hour cycle. Every workday around 8 hours. Surely I could have found even 20 minutes a day to work with him. But it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the time. I couldn’t find the attention.

My mind fills up with a few key projects and that’s it. I’m absorbed by those. That’s where my attention is. Had I made 20 minutes here and there for him, I’m be physically present in that moment, but mentally I’d be elsewhere. And that’s not fair to either of us.

Time and attention aren’t the same thing. They aren’t even related.

We’ve since talked a few more times, and we caught up again last week. I think I’ll have more attention next year. We’re going to keep in touch, check in from time to time as he finished up school, and then try again.