Farewell, Happy Camper

Basecamp has a new website and a new logo. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, it’s because we opted out of the big rebranding announcement that many companies undertake. There should be a post from Jason Fried forthcoming here on Signal v. Noise, but in the meantime, check out the latest episode of the Rework podcast. Jason and marketing designer Adam Stoddard talk about what prompted the new look and the laidback way it came together.

How to motivate employees? Don’t.

Do this instead. Here are 6 ways to motivate your team that doesn’t undermine their intrinsic employee motivation that they already have.

I need to figure out how to motivate my employees.” When was the last time thought that to yourself? It could’ve been the other week, when you noticed one of your direct reports dragging his feet on a project that’s critical to the company. Or, perhaps it was the other month when you felt frustrated that your team wasn’t being proactive about addressing customer issues.

If either of these situations feel even remotely familiar, you’re not alone. I hear this sentiment of “how to motivate employees” frequently from managers we work with who use Know Your Team, and I often am asked countless questions about it.

Keep reading “How to motivate employees? Don’t.”

Troy Toman is our new Director of Operations

Few roles at Basecamp are as critical as the Director of Operations.  This person is responsible for keeping the lights on and the sites fast while managing seven people split across two teams.  All of this while building strategic plans, managing project work and taking the occasional on-call shift. We set an incredibly high bar in our job posting for this position and still received 441 undaunted applicants.   

From this group of very qualified people, Basecamp is proud to announce that Troy Toman has joined the team as our new Director of Operations. Troy has a long history in the tech industry with stints at IBM, Sun and Rackspace. For the past five years, Troy has been working for Planet Labs, which has been providing satellite imaging of the whole world.

Troy brings with him a ton of experience in diverse roles such as management, data center operations, software engineering and cloud infrastructure. We’re all excited to have him on board as we shape a vision for the future of Basecamp infrastructure and operations together.

Welcome, Troy! We’re lucky to have you.

7 ways of giving feedback that encourage change

You’re giving feedback because you want your team to improve. Here’s how to give feedback that precisely helps nudge your team in the right direction.

The reason you’re giving feedback is because you want something to be different, in the first place. You want a direct report to make sure he’s not rubbing the rest of the team the wrong way. You want a new hire to improve how she interacts with clients.

It can be easy to lose sight of this amidst the hoopla of management material that screams “feedback is important” and the day-to-day grind of managing your team and executing on your top priorities. But that’s the point at the end of the day (and in many ways, the most important part of your role as a manager): To encourage your team, constructively.

The tricky part is giving feedback in a way where this becomes true – where your team does feel encouraged to change their behavior. After all, there are so many ways it can go wrong. They can misinterpret your feedback as being aloof and off-the-mark and ignore what you have to say. They can be offended by your feedback and over-compensate in certain areas. They can feel blindsided by your feedback and become demotivated in their work.

Figuring out, “Is there a right time? Is there a right way?” to giving feedback is key.

Keep reading “7 ways of giving feedback that encourage change”

The Cult of Overwork

The Rework podcast is back from summer break! It’s time to get back to work, but it’s important not to overdo it. In this episode, Ty Fujimura, president of web design firm Cantilever, talks about how he escaped the Cult of Overwork; why it’s important to rethink the relationship between hours “worked” and actual productivity; and how establishing healthier patterns in the workplace has helped diversify his staff.

Ty talks more about his experiences in this essay. And remember to subscribe to Rework if you haven’t already! We release new episodes every Tuesday.

Let’s stop shaking people down for their email addresses

When we launched Shape Up, we consciously didn’t want that book trapped behind a sleazy quid pro quo requirement for an email address. And now we’ve gone back to fix the mistake that was asking for one with Getting Real, our free ebook from 2006 about how to build a successful web application.

If you have a mailing list that’s worth signing up for, you don’t need to trick, cajole, or bribe people in other to get them on board. You only need to do that when you know that most people wouldn’t voluntarily join. That’s a pretty weirdly coercive play.

But that’s true of a lot of the industry BEST PRACTICES. There’s a whole cottage industry of bullshit around how CONTENT MARKETING is supposed to work. Ugh. Even just that word: CONTENT MARKETING. I can’t say without a slight gag.

If you have something to say, say it. If you have something to share, share it. Don’t invent things to say or to share just such that you can package up that pink slime as a golden nugget of truth to trade for someone’s contact information.

That’s the same insincere, manipulative logic behind influencer marketing. It’s all about disguising the sale with a thin, flimsy layer of purchased credibility. No wonder we’re all so skeptical and cynical these days. Because we have a million good A/B-optimized reasons to be.

Not everything needs to be tracked. Not everything needs to pay off. It’s perfectly fine to do things because it’s fun, feels good, is interesting, tickles your brain, or just helps someone out.

Enjoy Getting Real! Keep your email address in your pocket.

Marking the end of pixel trackers in Basecamp emails

When Mike Davidson blew the lid off the invasive and appealing read receipts in a new personal email client called Superhuman, it brought about a full discussion of email tracking in general. At Basecamp, this lead to the conclusion that we wanted nothing to do with such tracking.

It wasn’t like we were doing anything as nefarious as those nasty Superhuman trackers, but still, we used the default settings in our mailing list software, which aggregates open rates, and had our own diagnostics tracker, to provide debugging insight for support.

But neither of those two use cases felt compelling enough to justify tracking everyone’s emails all the time. Reading an email shouldn’t leave a long data trail, regardless of whether that trail is used in fairly innocuous ways, like an aggregate open-rate calculation, or in its most devious, like spying on whether a personal email has been seen and from where.

So we killed the diagnostics tracking and turned off the mailing list tracking too. Now the only “tracking” that emails from Basecamp will do is to mark the message you’re seeing in your email as read within the application (and only if you’re a registered user). A feature in service of the recipient, not the sender, not us.

The tech industry has been so used to capturing whatever data it could for so long that it has almost forgotten to ask whether it should. But that question is finally being asked. And the answer is obvious: This gluttonous collection of data must stop.

So we keep taking the steps at Basecamp to examine our use of data, stop collecting it unless its strictly necessary in service of customers, and cut down all the ways we may be sharing it with others (dumping Google Analytics from our marketing pages is next!).

Privacy isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also better business. Discerning customers are already demanding it, and everyone else will too soon enough.

You can heal the internet

The internet is hurting. It’s been colonized and exploited by a small cabal of tech companies. It’s taken most of us a while catch up to the gravity of the situation, but grave it is.

Yet we all sit with the power to ease the pain, even if we can’t cure it in an instant. You don’t have to go cold turkey on everything Big Tech. That’s almost impossible at the moment. Such is the stronghold. But every little bit helps.

So does the perspective that an alternative doesn’t have to give you 100% of what you were getting to be worth the switch. Yeah, so DuckDuckGo might not match Google on every search, but it’s more than good enough to be good enough most of the time.

The world is full of alternatives to the Big Tech offerings that give you 95% of the utility for 0% of the regret. But if you can’t even be bothered to give up 5% to help an alternative along, you also can’t be surprised when the alternatives are so few and far between.

You can heal the internet. One choice – one search! – at the time.

How I Wrote Shape Up

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at the development of our newest book, Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters.

In August 2018, Jason Fried (Basecamp’s founder and CEO) asked me to write a book about how we work. “Sure thing!” I said — having no clue how to go about it or what it would entail.

I didn’t know how to write a book. But I did know how to give a workshop. So I put a call out on Twitter.

The workshop was a prototyping device. It was going to do three things:

Keep reading “How I Wrote Shape Up”

Managing up

5 not-so-often-shared ways to manage up and have a better relationship with your boss.

You want to manage up – but what you really mean is that you simply want to work well with your boss.

Who doesn’t? Especially when your boss is pestering you with questions via Slack after work-hours, or failing to give you enough time to complete projects…

You sigh and think yourself: “How do I manage up effectively?”

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked – and, unfortunately, one of the most common situations that you might face, whether you’re a manager, executive or individual contributor.

Keep reading “Managing up”