A couple years ago I purchased a new car. A few days later I got an email from Audi asking me to rate my experience. I clicked the link to the survey and ended up seeing this:
Ok, this should be easy.
“Ease of looking at dealer’s inventory” — great, no problems there. A 10, right? Well… was it OUTSTANDING? How about TRULY EXCEPTIONAL? No, it wasn’t those… I can’t say someone’s inventory was truly exceptional. I can’t put my name on that sort of endorsement. So…?
Comfort in the office where we cut the deal? It was fine — I couldn’t imagine it to be better, but was it TRULY EXCEPTIONAL? No. That doesn’t fit. So does that make it a 6 or 7? No, it was better than that… But… So…?
I see this sort of thing in surveys all the time. A simple 1–10 scale (or 1–5, it doesn’t matter), but the labeling of the numbers is so sensationalized that it turns me off. As far as the number goes, I’m happy to give something the highest rating, but the language overshoots the number and then I don’t know how to respond.
I find these sorts of things great reminders of how important it is to choose the right words. Don’t overshoot, don’t sensationalize. Be modest with language. Find the right fit and leave it alone.
When evaluating a redesign, your first instinct is to compare the new design to the old design. But don’t do that.
The first step is to understand what you’re evaluating. If you just put the new design up against the old design, and compare the two, the old design will strongly influence your evaluation of the new design.
This is OK if nothing’s changed since the original design was launched. But it’s likely a lot has changed since then — especially if many months or years have passed.
Maybe there are new insights, maybe there’s new data, maybe there’s a new goal, maybe there’s a new hunch, or maybe there’s a whole new strategy at play. Maybe “make it readable” was important 3 years ago, while “help people see things they couldn’t see before” is more important today. Or maybe it’s both now.
But if the old design sets the tone about what’s important, then you may be losing out on an opportunity to make a significant leap forward. A design should never set the tone — ideas should set the tone. Ideas are independent of the design.
So, when evaluating a redesign you have to know what you’re looking for, not just what you’re looking at. How the new design compares to the old may be the least important thing to consider.
It’s a subtle thing, but it can make all the difference.
CHICAGO — December 1, 2015–Basecamp is now a $100 billion dollar company, according to a group of investors who have agreed to purchase 0.000000001% of the company in exchange for $1.
Founder Jason Fried informed his employees about the new deal at a recent company-wide meeting. The financing round was led by Yardstick Capital and Institutionalized Venture Partners.
In order to increase the value of the company, Basecamp has decided to stop generating revenue. “When it comes to valuation, making money is a real obstacle. Our profitability has been a real drag on our valuation,” said Mr. Fried. “Once you have profits, it’s impossible to just make stuff up. That’s why we’re switching to a ‘freeconomics’ model. We’ll give away everything for free and let the market speculate about how much money we could make if we wanted to make money. That way, the sky’s the limit!”
A $100 billion value for Basecamp is “not outlandish,” says Aanandamayee Bhatnagar, a finance professor and valuation guru at Grenada State’s Schnook School of Business. Bhatnagar points to a leaked, confidential corporate strategy plan that projects Basecamp will attract twelve billion users by the end of 2016.
How will the company overcome the fact that there are only 7.3 billion people alive today? “Why limit users to people?” said Bhatnagar.
In order to determine the valuation of companies, Bhatnagar typically applies the following formula: [(Twitter followers x Facebook fans) + (# of employees x 1000)] x (total likes + daily page views) + (monthly burn rate x Google’s stock price)-squared and then doubles if it they’re mobile first or if the CEO has run a business into the ground before. Bhatnagar admits the math is mostly a guess but points out that “the press eats it up.”
To help handle the burdens of an increased valuation, Basecamp hired former YouTube exec Craig Mirage as Chief Valuation Officer earlier this month. Mirage hopes to replicate YouTube’s valuation success at Basecamp. “Of course, the investment comes with great expectations. But you should see the spreadsheet models we’re making up. Really breakthrough stuff,” said Mirage.
“Basecamp will lead the new global movement filled with imaginary assumptions on growth and monetization potential,” he continued. “We’re excited to roll out a list of unconfirmed revenue possibilities that involve crowdsourcing, claymation emoticons, 4D touch, in-app garage sales, goofy looking goggles, social stuff, and an app store. Also, everything we make will include a compass.”
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.
Wow! We’re just a few weeks into Basecamp 3 and so far the response has been fantastic! We’re so pleased that so many people are loving Basecamp 3 (here’s a great post from a customer who explains how they’re using Basecamp 3 to run their whole business). This is only the beginning — we have a lot of great stuff coming in 2016.
Since launch, our whole team has been heads down fixing a few things, tweaking some stuff, and generally tightening things up. Once the initial launch dust clears, we’ll be back working on some brand new big improvements to Basecamp 3. In the meantime, we wanted to fill you in on some of the fixes we’ve baked in already.
For those keeping score, since we launched Basecamp 3 on November 3rd, 2015, we’ve made 877 commits to the code base and deployed 400 times. That’s a lot of activity! Basecamp 3 is getting better not just every day, but multiple times a day!
Here are a few of the highlights
Loads of improvements to the sign-up and sign-in process and experience. We’re sorry this was a bit clunky at the start — should be ironed out nicely now.
Google Sign-in now works for customers using IE 11.
You can now reply directly to notifications from the iOS lock screen if you’re using version 3.03 of the Basecamp iOS app (available on from the App Store).
You can now move individual to-dos between lists on different Basecamps. Prior to this update you could only move to-dos between lists on the same Basecamp.
You can now set the first day of the week in your region (some people like the week to start on Monday, while others prefer it starts on Sunday). You can do this from your “Personal Info” page (click your avatar in the top right corner of the web app, or your avatar on the home screen in the mobile apps).
To-dos with due dates will automatically send a reminder 24 hours before its due.
The “What’s coming up or due soon?” report date will always display the next 45 days. This is clearer than the sliding “this month and next” range we had in place originally, which showed 60 days at the beginning of the month and just 31 days at the end.
Added a “+” button to the right of the avatar strip at the top of a Basecamp to help clarify this is where you add/manage people.
We added multiple-account support for Clientside emails. This means that if we match an email you forwarded in from a client, and you’re working with that client on multiple Basecamp accounts, Basecamp will send you an email back asking you to clarify where the email you forwarded should go.
Major improvements to people management on Basecamp With Clients. Separate places/flows to set up your team and who’s on the client side.
Deleted comments will also be deleted from the Latest Activity timeline as well.
Improvements to the text editor on Android. Formatting will now be properly maintained across platforms.
You can now move people between companies/organizations via the Adminland section. Put someone in the wrong place? No problem anymore!
If you reply to a ping or Campfire chat via email, and you attach a file to that email, the file will make it into Basecamp.
A welcome email is now always sent when you add someone to a Basecamp.
We added a My Devices screen for managing and troubleshooting push notification issues across devices. You can do this from your “Personal Info” page (click your avatar in the top right corner of the web app, or your avatar on the home screen in the mobile apps).
Thanks thanks thanks!
Everyone’s feedback so far has been super helpful. Our support team is keeping track of all the key requests, suggestions, and ideas. In the coming weeks we’ll be reviewing this feedback and incorporating it into our thinking as we flesh out our development plans moving forward.
And if you haven’t tried Basecamp 3 yet, please do. Your first Basecamp is entirely free forever, so give it a whirl risk-free.
I was asked to speak at TEDx Midwest by Brad Keywell. Brad was one of the Groupon co-founders, and I met Brad because I served on the Groupon board from 2009 to 2010.
Andrew Mason, Groupon’s CEO, asked me to be on the board.
Scott Heiferman, co-founder of Meetup.com, and a mutual friend of ours, introduced Andrew and me and we had lunch in early 2009.
I had gotten to know Scott over the years after 37signals designed the original Meetup.com site back in 2001–2002.
Scott emailed me back in 2001 asking if he could meet while he was in Chicago visiting family. He liked our early web design work at 37signals. No one had ever asked to meet me out of the blue before — and barely anyone knew who 37signals was — so I was flattered and said yes.
I had started 37signals with two co-founders in 1999. One of those founders was Ernest Kim and the other was Carlos Segura.
A few years earlier, I had interviewed for a job at Organic Online in Chicago. Ernest Kim was the creative director. I didn’t take the job, but Ernest and I hit it off over design and Nike, so we kept in touch.
A few years before that, I was hired on a contract basis by Carlos Segura to help them redesign and rewrite their internal FileMaker Pro database they were using to keep track of their clients.
I made a popular FileMaker Pro-based app in the 90s called Audiofile which helped people keep track of their music collection. Carlos liked the app and the design and found out I was behind it.
I couldn’t find a simple tool to keep track of my growing music collection.
…I can’t remember enough specifics before this, but the chain obviously continues — each link connected to another by a seemingly unrelated event. And I’m sure I’m passing right over a handful of subtle links that made the major links happen.
When you look back on events, it’s pretty incredible how things come together. Nothing happens independently. Everything is tied to something before it. Sometimes the links are more obvious than others, but it’s healthy to take a few moments to reflect on how many things — and people — had to come together in order for another thing to happen.
Osmo Wiio is a Finnish researcher of human communication. He has studied, among other things, readability of texts, organizations and communication within them, and the general theory of communication. His laws of communication are the human communications equivalent of Murphy’s Laws.
If communication can fail, it will.
If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.
There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.
And I particularly like his observation that anytime there are two people conversing, there are actually six people in the conversation:
Radically more powerful than any Basecamp before it, it still maintains — and expands on — the straightforwardness and ease-of-use that people around the world have come to know, trust, and love about Basecamp. Basecamp Just Works.
This combination of power, ease of use, and unique approach is why over 5,000 companies and organizations sign up for Basecamp every week. We’re dedicated to continuing to delight them and to try win over a million more with Basecamp 3.
Basecamp 3 is built around the premise that no matter what kind of work you’re doing, there are a few things every team needs: A way to divvy up work, hash things out quickly via chat, make big announcements, keep discussions on-topic, store and organize key files and assets, lay out milestones and deadlines, and have regular check-ins to make sure everything’s all right. These are the simple truths of working together well.
And rather than have to duct tape together a DIY-suite of separate products by separate vendors with different interfaces, separate user accounts, different billing schedules (and prices), and decentralized storage of information (some stuff in this one, some stuff in that one, end up with stuff all over the place, etc), we’ve built everything you need into a single, coherent bundle. That’s what Basecamp has always delivered. And now it’s delivering more of it, better than ever before. There’s nothing else out there like it!
Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing a lot more about Basecamp 3, but I wanted to start by focusing on a few big new things in Basecamp 3:
A large portion of our customers are client services firms. Designers, agencies, dev shops, lawyers, accountants, you name it. People with clients. Client work is their bread and butter, and we wanted to make them the best damn sandwich they’ve ever had.
So with Basecamp 3 we introduce The Clientside — an entirely new, fresh take on working with clients. It’s built right into Basecamp 3 is it’s available on the Basecamp With Clients package.
Basecamp 3’s exclusive “Clientside” feature keeps client feedback on the record and completely separate from the rest of your project. This means your client never sees anything they shouldn’t, and your team doesn’t have to tip toe around worried about saying the wrong things. It eliminates all the anxiety and fear that are often tied to the client-firm relationship.
Further, the Clientside puts zero demands on your clients. They never have to create an account, they never have to log in, they never have to learn a system or install any apps. Everything they do happens via email so there’s no burden on them whatsoever. They don’t have to change a thing, and it’s so much easier for you since you never have to feel like you have to tell them they’re doing it wrong. They can never do it wrong in Basecamp 3. No awkward conversations about tools! Your clients will love you!
If you’ve used a modern chat, collaboration, or messaging app, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a growing expectation of being available all the time. Someone at work hits you up on a Saturday, you get the notification, and what are you supposed to do? You could ignore them, but what’s the expectation? The expectation is “if you’re reachable, you should reply.” And if you don’t reply, you’ll likely notice another message from the same tool or a tool switch to try to reach you another way. And then the pressure really mounts to reply. On a Saturday. Or at 9pm on a Wednesday. Or some other time when it’s life time, not work time.
We don’t believe tools are at fault for this — tools just do what toolmakers build them to do. But we do believe toolmakers can build tools that help you draw a line between work and life. We’ve baked these good manners into Basecamp 3 with a feature we’re calling Work Can Wait.
Work Can Wait lets you set your own notifications schedule. Each person in Basecamp 3 can set up their own work schedule with their own hours. You can of course choose to to receive notifications all the time, 24/7/365, no matter what. Or, you can say Work Can Wait — only send me notifications during my work hours. Then you can set the start time and end time and also mark off which days you work.
Outside of this range, Basecamp will basically “hold your calls”. Notifications will automatically be silenced until it’s work time again. Once the clock strikes 8am, notifications will start back up again. Of course at any time you can go into the web app or native apps and check your notifications yourself, but that’s you making that decision rather than software throwing stuff at you when I’m going for a walk with my son on a Saturday morning.
The more customers we talk to, the most interesting and unusual uses for Basecamp we find. People are using Basecamp for all sorts of things that aren’t traditional “projects”. Us too — we use Basecamp in sorts of ways that no one would define as “projects”. Yet, we’ve always called things “projects” in Basecamp. It’s just too limiting. Time to change that.
For now on, you don’t make projects in Basecamp. You just make Basecamps. This closely follows the language our customers have been using anyway. “Go make a Basecamp for that”… “Let’s make a Basecamp for that!”… “Kick it off by setting up a Basecamp for the client”, etc. Rather than try to swim upstream against our customer’s vocabulary, we’re going to adopt their language and go with the flow. So “projects” are now simply “Basecamps”.
And now when you make a Basecamp for your company intranet it won’t feel so weird. Or a Basecamp for your customer support group. Or a Basecamp for that event that’s coming up. These things aren’t just “projects” — they’re teams, and groups, and departments, and moments. So calling them Basecamps opens up a whole new set of opportunities for everyone to use Basecamp in new ways. We can’t wait to see where people take it.
Communicating in high and low gears
We’ve been running group chat in our business longer than nearly anyone. Back in 2006 we invented the modern business chat tool when we introduced Campfire. For nearly 10 years we’ve experienced all the pros and cons of different kinds of communication methods. So with Basecamp we wanted to introduce a balanced attack. Not just chat. Not just direct messaging. Not just message boards. Not just threads. But all of the above in just the right way in just the right places.
Chat is fantastic for hashing certain things out quickly, but it’s also terrible for long-term organization. And organization is a very important thing when you’re trying to make progress on something with other people. With chat, stuff speeds by on a conveyor belt, conversations are crossed, and it’s just so easy to lose context. People feel like they need to pile in and pile on just so they’ll be heard before that part of the conversation scrolls away forever. Speak NOW or forever hold your peace isn’t a great way to think things through and give ideas due time to develop. Chat also causes anxiety of fear of missing out — they’re often like being in an all-day non-stop meeting.
And traditional message boards are great for long-term organization and keeping discussions threaded, focused, and on-topic, but they are typically too slow for discussions and decisions that require back and forth real-time speed. They can feel frustrating if you want to move quickly or just “toss something in the ring” to see what people think.
So in Basecamp you get both. Chat (we call them Campfires), and traditional threaded discussions (on the Message Board). The best of both worlds in a single tool. We don’t lean in one way or another — they are both equal since both are equally powerful, depending on the situation. You also get “pings” in Basecamp — our version of direct messaging — so you can reach out to people in a separate, personal backchannel.
So two gears… Use Campfires when you want to shift into high-gear and go really fast. But use the Message Board when you want to shift into low gear, get some traction, put together a complete thought, and give people a chance to respond. Use Campfires when you don’t really care about the past, use the Message Board when you know you may want to refer back to something later.
Further, in Basecamp you can have an organized, threaded, on-topic discussion attached to anything. This is one of the real secrets to why so many people love Basecamp. Attach conversations directly to to-dos, files, calendar events. Keep the conversation in context, right next to the thing you’re discussing. It’s so much simpler, tidier, more organized this way. Because discussions aren’t just for who’s part of them now, but also for whoever comes into the company later. Preserve your knowledge in away you can point back to it later — don’t let it just float away.
Simplified packages and unlimited for everyone!
Basecamp has always been “project-gated”. This means you’d have to pay more the more projects you wanted to manage. We’ve torn down the gate in Basecamp 3! Every package includes unlimited Basecamps, plus everyone gets one Basecamp for free forever. Use that one Basecamp however you’d like. When you want to make another, you can select an unlimited use package.
We’ve simplified down to just three straightforward packages. Basecamp For Us for those who aren’t doing client work. Basecamp with Clients for those who do work for clients (this includes the awesome Clientside feature). And Basecamp Big for enterprise customers.
Prices start at just $29/month. That’s total — we never charge you per user. Basecamp pricing is flat and predictable, never variable depending on how many users you invite. People don’t cost a thing in Basecamp. Find out more about our pricing here…
So that’s enough for now!
There’s so much to check out! Please go and sign up for Basecamp 3 and give it a whirl. It’s free to try it out. No time limit.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped us build, test, and beta Basecamp 3! It’s gotten so much better because of you. Check out all the new stuff!
A couple of years ago, I did an experiment: I kicked sugar for three months. I’d have whatever naturally occurred in foods, but I wouldn’t eat anything with added sugar. The goal wasn’t to eat like this forever. I just wanted to know what it felt like to get all that sugar out of my diet. How would I react? What would be different? Would I like it?
The short answer: I felt great. I had way more energy, more balanced days, better mental clarity. But the most surprising outcome came when I reintroduced extra sugar into my diet. During the sugar fast, I wasn’t eating apples, but I tried an apple again. And wow, did I feel it. A sugar high from an apple? That was an eye opener. Even today, with my just-a-tad-of-sugar diet, I can feel the effects of the sweetener in ways I never could before.
I realize this isn’t a health magazine — so why am I talking about sugar? The food detox inadvertently got me to try cutting back on something else I was unknowingly overdosing on: industry news.
Up until about a year ago, I read industry news religiously. I’d load up Hacker News a few times a day, clicking away on the top-voted stories. I’d head over to Reddit and do the same thing on its tech-news subreddit. If I saw something on Twitter linking up a tech-news story, I’d be all over it. Clickity, click click click. I was a tech-news binger.
Then, last summer, I stopped. Cold turkey — just like when I stopped sugar. I had just reached the point at which I could feel an unhealthy level of toxicity piling up inside of me. I felt myself getting too involved, too absorbed, and a bit too anxious about what I was missing, and about what I knew or didn’t know, but thought I should know. I was checking Twitter too often and reloading sites too often. If someone told me about something I hadn’t heard of, I felt like I should have already known about it. Industry news was becoming an addiction.
The first couple of weeks after I cut the cord were challenging. My mind was craving the latest on tech as if it were a substance. While I could steer clear of the tech-news sites, it was difficult not to get hit by friendly fire. I was still on Twitter reading non-tech banter, but then a tech story would suddenly appear in my stream and that uneasy feeling would strike.
Finally, after a few weeks, I began not to miss the news. Whenever I’d see a headline on Twitter, or see people I follow chatting about some new company or technology, I felt a little disgust. It was similar to how I had felt when I saw people gorging on decadent desserts after I’d kicked sugar: It made me sick. So I came up with a new ritual. Every time friends tweeted about tech, I’d use Tweetbot to mute them for 30 days. Eventually my stream was cleansed of all the content I was trying to avoid.
The incredible thing is that a few months into the industry-news detox, I felt better not only mentally, but physically, too. My mind wasn’t on edge, waiting for the next big thing to hit. I was calmer, I found myself with more time, and I was far more focused on stuff I could control, like my product, my company, my person, rather than stuff I couldn’t, like the next “Basecamp killer” or some hot new startup.
It’s now a year later and I still don’t read industry news. Sometimes I’ll accidentally run into it. Sometimes someone will mention something to me wondering whether I’ve heard of it. I’ll often say no and ask for details. And then he or she will tell me about it in a way that’s actually useful, not sensationalized, as most coverage of new things is. I don’t feel disconnected. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s no longer just empty calories: I eventually hear about what’s really important.
Most of the people I know who are money-making-machines got started really early. Lemonade stands, car washes, lawn mowing, baseball card trading. I think the reason they are money-making-machines today is because they started early. They learned the skills of negotiation, pricing, selling, and market-reading early. They have more practice selling than most people. That’s one of the reasons they’re better at it than most people.
Making money takes practice, just like playing the piano takes practice. No one expects anyone to be any good at the piano unless they’ve put in lots practice. Same with making money. The better you practice the better you get. Eventually making money is as easy for you as piano is for someone who’s been playing for 10 years.
This is one of the reasons I encourage entrepreneurs to bootstrap instead of taking outside money. On day one, a bootstrapped company sets out to make money. They have no choice, really. On day one a funded company sets out to spend money. They hire, they buy, they invest, they spend. Making money isn’t important yet. They practice spending, not making.
Bootstrapping puts you in the right mindset as an entrepreneur. You think of money more as something you make than something you spend. That’s the right lesson, that’s the right habit, the right imprint on your business brain. You’re better off as an entrepreneur if you have more practice making money than spending money. Bootstrapping gives you a head start.
So if you’re about to start a business, or if you already have a business and you’re thinking about taking funding, or if you’ve already taken funding and are considering going back for more, consider the alternative. Don’t raise money, raise prices. Sell sell sell. Get as much practice as you can. Force yourself to practice. Force yourself to learn how to make money as early as you can. You may hate it in the short-term, but it’ll make you a great businessperson in the long term.