Overall, our uptime this year was the best it’s ever been in our modern recorded history. All of our customer facing apps recorded 4 9’s of uptime or better (meaning 99.99x% uptime), and each individual app had less downtime than last year.
Our Applications 2012–2015
What About Basecamp 3?
Basecamp 3 isn’t on the list, because it’s had perfect uptime since launch!
Our team will continue working hard to deliver the most stable and performant Basecamp you’ve ever used. We’re looking forward to a great 2016!
Attend enough startup conferences or listen to enough motivational speakers and you’ll hear one piece of advice repeated over and over again: You’ve got to love what you do! If you don’t love what you do, you might as well stay home. No less a giant than Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
I don’t buy it.
There’s nothing wrong with loving what you do, of course — I just don’t think it’s a prerequisite for starting a business or building a fulfilling career, let alone doing great work. In fact, I think it’s disingenuous for really successful people to put so much of the focus on love, just as it’s disingenuous for really rich people to say money doesn’t matter. People tend to romanticize their own motivations and histories. They value what matters to them now, and forget what really mattered to them when they started. It’s human nature, so it’s an easy thing to do.
The way I see it, many great businesses and important innovations are actually born out of frustration or even hate. Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, the co-founders of Uber, didn’t start their ride-sharing service because they loved transportation or logistics. They started it because they were pissed off that they couldn’t get a cab. Kalanick may love running Uber today, but he really hated not having a way to get home. A random brainstorming session one night in Paris turned that frustration into the seed of a multibillion-dollar company.
I talk to other entrepreneurs all the time, and many of their companies sprang into existence for similar reasons — because the founder wanted something that didn’t exist or scoped out an opportunity to do something better than it had been done before. Love for their subject matter may or may not play a role in their stories, but hate for the existing options, along with strong opinions about how things could work, does and is a much better predictor of success.
My own career is no exception. Back in the mid-’90s, I was looking for a simple tool to keep track of my music collection, and all of the available programs seemed bloated and unnecessarily complex. Those are two things I hate, so I set out to make my own tool and eventually released it under the name Audiofile. I didn’t love music collecting. I didn’t even love software development. (I was just learning it at the time.) And I didn’t have any aspirations to run a software business — I just saw a need, and I filled it. Nothing wrong with that. A similar situation led me to start my current company, Basecamp.
Truth be told, even today I don’t always love what I do. The paperwork, the reporting, the day-to-day minutiae that come along with responsibility for a large and growing company — none of those things make me swoon. Yet I’d still rather be running Basecamp than doing anything else. I think I’m good at it, every day I get to do challenging, creative work, and I continue to find making better project-management tools a worthy and rewarding cause. It’s also a real pleasure to work with such amazing people as I do every day of the week.
If I were giving a motivational speech, I’d say that, if you want to be successful and make a real contribution to the world, you have to be intrinsically motivated by the work you do, and you have to feel good about spending your days on it. Love might grow — and it’s a wonderful thing if it does — but you don’t need it up front. You can succeed just by wanting something to exist that doesn’t already.
I can’t code. I can’t design. I can’t dance. I can’t get in shape. I can’t draw. I can’t give speeches. I can’t write. I can’t invent.
When I was 15 I had a friend named Patrick. We met in driver’s ed.
If you looked at him, you’d probably expect to find him in a mosh pit, or playing insanely loud punk music. You’d be right. But the guy had the voice of an angel and sang in his high school choir.
One night, Collin and I pick Patrick up from choir practice. Collin was our 16 year old friend who we often made drive us around. Poor Collin 🙂
As we were driving to who knows where (some cafe to play chess and drink coffee or to Taco Bell) a song came on the radio that I liked. And I sang it a little.
That weird looking, punk rock, 15 year old kid gave me some advice that has helped shape every single thing I’ve accomplished since.
He warned me that, as I sang, I was trying to imitate the musician on the radio, and I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. My voice just couldn’t do what we were listening to.
Instead, I should try to cover the same song but do it in a way that suited my voice. My voice isn’t very strong at those high notes. If I was going to imitate anyone, try to imitate someone’s voice that works at this low pitch.
I tried Patrick’s advice, and I sang the song at a considerably lower pitch that was comfortable to me. I remember it sounded now more like Johnny Cash. The result was surprising. It wasn’t half bad, and it was much better than me trying to sing like that guy on the radio.
I’ve never felt like a “web designer”. I’ve been building websites for 15 years, and I’ve done what I’ve needed to do, but I could never get my stuff to look even close to those beautiful creations I admire.
To get past that, I’d end up buying a template someone else made. Or finding really good business partners who could design all the things I couldn’t.
A handful of years ago, however, running my third software company, I found myself alone trying to create a new project.
I didn’t have a partner, or a designer or anyone else to help me. And I didn’t have any money to spend getting the help. A template wasn’t going to cut it this time. I was in a bind.
I don’t have a Dribbble account full of my work. I don’t have a portfolio. I don’t know what awards designers win. I hear there are awards.
But I had to figure out what I can design. I had to figure out a way to design that suits me.
Since I can’t do a lot with color, or illustrations, or shadows, or logos, I’d have to go with very little of those things. It would have to be the basics.
I still looked at people doing amazing work online for inspiration. But instead of trying to step into the shoes of my preconceived notion of a designer, I started noticing elements of projects that I could actually do myself.
I can’t create an identity or logo like Aaron Draplin, but I sure could use Futura Bold and add a little space between the letters like he seems to be doing.
It has no logo. It has zero images. There’s one color on the homepage. Blue.
Thank god or luck or hard work or whatever, I have stumbled on a large number of people that appreciate and love the user experience and user interface I’ve created. I’ve worked my ass off to accomplish this project. But I didn’t expect this.
Of course there’s plenty of blemishes that you might see (and even more that I do). Mountains of things I need to improve and polish. And I’ll never think it’s as good as anything from my heros who I immediately think of when someone says: designer.
But somehow, along the way of getting here, I have figured out a way to design. I found some way to sing this song but with a voice that suits me.
You might not be able to sing like your preconceived model of how a singer sings, but I’ll never understand when someone tells me, “I can’t sing.”
I love print. I love the feeling of physically holding a book and turning its pages, or leafing through a magazine. As a former newspaper reporter, I never stopped marveling at how I could file an A1 story at 5 pm and by early the next morning, there it would be—my words and my byline, above the fold—on hundreds of thousands of papers landing on people’s doorsteps, a weighty tactile thing that had been physically printed and distributed at great expense.
But as a former newspaper reporter, I also have no delusions about the sorry state of print media. I lived through multiple rounds of layoffs and buyouts at my old job, and the real reason I still get the Chicago Tribune and New York Times in print form is because their Sunday editions are basically free with a digital subscription. I read most of my news online. Even in the digital-only world, high-quality sites have had their share of troubles, indicating that the challenges facing independent media are not just about format, but about finding that elusive mix of good content plus the right audience plus sustainable funding.
That’s why I was delighted to report a story for The Distance on Bowlers Journal International, the longest-running sports monthly in the United States. It is thriving in print—advertising is up! The magazine, founded in 1913 by a Chicago shoe salesman, has a remarkably loyal base of subscribers and advertisers. Of all the stories Bowlers Journal has told, the most enduring one is that of its own longevity and close relationship with its readers. Take a listen:
WAILIN: Print media is dead. Right? We’ve witnessed the long, painful decline of newspapers and magazines and decried their inability to adapt to the digital age. Well, in certain corners of the publishing industry, print is very much alive.
KEITH: For print advertising, we’re already projecting to be up 10 percent. So you know what? The magazine world, it’s about the industries you serve. Now, if you’re broad-based consumer, that’s one thing. But you can’t assume—you can’t associate broad-based consumer publishing with what we do, which is niche-targeted publications. It’s a different world.
WAILIN: That’s Keith Hamilton, and his world is bowling. He’s the president of Luby Publishing, a company whose flagship title is Bowlers Journal International, the longest running sports monthly in the United States. It was founded in 1913, and it’s read by elite bowlers, pro shop operators and bowling center owners around the world. The circulation of Bowlers Journal has been steady at about 20,000 subscribers for the 34 years that Keith Hamilton has worked there.
KEITH: We know who our reader is. We meet our reader at the tournaments. We meet our readers at trade shows. We’re very intimate, probably one of the most intimate magazines with its readership that you can imagine.
WAILIN: The Bowlers Journal audience includes Hall of Fame players like Mike Aulby, who started reading the magazine as a teenager in the late seventies, started on the pro bowlers tour when he was just 18 and made the cover in 1985.
MIKE: You know, it’s kind of the go-to place for anything, especially the higher level of the sport, for us. We kind of kept tabs on it through there and you know, there’s one thing on the pro bowlers tour is you wanted to have a feature article in there because that was the spot where everybody in the industry would see it.
WAILIN: Welcome to The Distance, a podcast about long-running businesses. I’m Wailin Wong. On today’s show: the story of a print magazine and a beloved American pastime, both of which have survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars and more, all while retaining an incredibly loyal fan base. The Distance is a production of Basecamp. Introducing the new Basecamp Three. Basecamp is everything any team needs to stay on the same page about whatever they’re working on. Tasks, spur-of-the-moment conversations with coworkers, status updates, reports, documents and files all share one home. And now your first basecamp is completely free forever. Sign up at https://basecamp.com/thedistance.
KEITH: We publish Bowlers Journal, Bowling Center Management, Pro Shop Operator, Entertainment Center News, Billiards Digest. We can have 42 issues a year come through here.
WAILIN: That’s a lot.
KEITH: It is, because we’re very lean, as you probably noticed. We’ve got six people in the office.
WAILIN: Bowlers Journal has modest origins. It began as a weekly publication, founded by a 56-year-old shoe salesman and avid bowler in Chicago named Dave Luby. The first issue was eight pages long and the back cover had an ad from Brunswick, the bowling equipment manufacturer. The company has advertised on every back cover of Bowlers Journal since that very first issue in 1913.
KEITH: Yeah, Brunswick’s an amazing supporter of this company. Loyal, loyal as the day is long. It’s one of the longest relationships in any industry, I mean, 102 years with one advertiser is pretty good.
WAILIN: When Dave Luby died in 1925, the magazine passed to his son Mort. He was a World War I veteran who loved to bowl, drink and gamble, and he married a Hollywood-raised socialite who once played bridge with legendary actress Mary Pickford. Under Mort Luby’s watch, Bowlers Journal expanded to cover billiards but also lost its beer and whisky advertisers to Prohibition, and the magazine downsized from a weekly to a monthly. To keep money coming in, Mort Luby started a wire service that covered bowling tournaments for newspapers across the country. He also started a tournament, the Bowlers Journal Championships, which are still held today.
In 1967, Mort Luby died in his sleep on a Pullman car traveling home from a bowling industry event in Houston. His son, Mort Junior, took over Bowlers Journal at the age of 25. He still visits the office once a month.
KEITH: Great man. He set out a goal of life and man, he hit it. He hit every aspect of his life. So I got a lot of admiration for Mort. He basically set my life, my career path.
WAILIN: That career path started when Keith was just a college kid looking for a summer job. His sister knew someone who knew Mort Luby Junior and heard he needed help cleaning a Chicago townhouse he owned.
KEITH: Yeah, I remember like it was yesterday. Pulling up to that townhouse and seeing Mort Luby come out. He was driving a white Buick Park Avenue back then, and you knew right away this guy was something special just by his presence. It wasn’t that I had a desire to get into publishing—or bowling. It was just a job, then.
WAILIN: That cleaning job turned into a stint working in the Luby Publishing office during Keith’s breaks from college. He had been a high school athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. He was not a bowler. His interest in the sport — and in the publishing business — would accumulate over time. Luby Publishing helped pay for his MBA program at Notre Dame, and Mort put Keith in charge of advertising when he graduated. As he started working full-time, he set his sights on a bigger opportunity.
KEITH: I saw a path to owning the company. Even when I was green with inexperience, I saw that you know what? Mort’s going to retire soon and there’s not really anybody here with the business acumen to step in and purchase the company.
WAILIN: Keith teamed up with Mike Panozzo, a colleague who worked on another Luby Publishing title, Billiards Digest, and had more editorial and journalism expertise. In the summer of 1992, they took Mort Luby Junior to Lawry’s, a Chicago restaurant famous for its prime rib. They wouldn’t officially take over Bowlers Journal until 1994, but it all started with that dinner.
KEITH: Mort was dropping some hints, you know, when I get outta here, when I get outta here, and Mike and I took him to dinner that night, told him we were interested in the company, and away it went. Now it was a long process because you know, we weren’t wealthy guys. Mort didn’t pay great (laughs). So it took probably two years. It was that type of process to get to a proper price and I tell you what. Sometimes, you just have to go through the process. If we went to Mort day one and said, Mort here’s the deal? He would have said no way. You have to go through the rigors of the back and the forth and the understanding of what this means. What this means from a tax perspective. My MBA? I learned that buying Luby Publishing. It wasn’t so much at Notre Dame. Sorry, Notre Dame. Great school. But it was definitely that process there, taught me more than I ever could have imagined.
WAILIN: Bowlers Journal has always been for the high-end bowler, the person who travels to tournaments and spends money on products. The magazine covers professional bowling competitions and provides detailed ball reviews, working with a testing center in Florida that can control variables like humidity and the amount of oil on a lane.
KEITH: Our readers, I’m not kidding, they can own up to six bowling balls because each ball performs differently on a certain lane pattern. They can have the same ball but drill it differently, you know where you put your thumbs? They can drill in another part of the ball. It has to do with the pin and the center of gravity and all that, stuff that I don’t know but I like to think I do.
WAILIN: Keith is being modest. His specialty may be on the business side of the magazine, but he’s picked up a lot of bowling expertise. It wasn’t until about 12 years ago, though, that he really started bowling. He got into it by joining a super tough league in the outskirts of Milwaukee and a more relaxed league in Chicago.
KEITH: At the good league, the challenging league, they talked about their bowling shoes. They talked about the pins. They talked about leagues. Everybody complained about the lane oil. The casual league, nobody talked about that stuff. They played their card games based on strikes and spares and they were eating pizza.
WAILIN: At the first game he bowled with the serious league in Milwaukee, he shot an 88.
KEITH: Some of the people knew me because of the magazine, so they expect me to be a good bowler. So I’m like apologizing for my bowling because I don’t want them to think the magazine is some hack, okay, because I don’t write instruction. I write about the business side of it or I don’t tell people how to bowl. So don’t judge the magazine because I stink. So I remember getting one of those few times in my life, we’ve all been there, you get that red-faced feeling permanating throughout your entire body from head to toe. That was me. It was awful.
WAILIN: But Keith improved, and for the last eight years, he’s averaged 170. Perhaps more importantly, joining that challenging league helped him better understand his audience. And knowing the Bowlers Journal readers is what’s helped Keith and Mike run the company. They know what their subscribers want to read and how to deliver that information better than anyone else.
KEITH: For example, we cover a bowling tournament. You gotta talk about what happened behind the scenes. Here’s what led to the shot that led to the shot that made him win the tournament. Or here’s what happened in the background. Here’s the friction that was going on in the crowd that you couldn’t see on TV. As long as you deliver original information, original content, you can be in print. Make no mistake about it. And I know our industry right now—it’s still print. We had a great online magazine, great digital magazine for two and a half years, but it just didn’t have the interest, so we had to can it.
WAILIN: This doesn’t mean that Bowlers Journal isn’t looking for ways to evolve. It publishes plenty of online content and has added a podcast featuring interviews with important figures in the sport. Keith thinks the magazine will look much different in ten years. He sees the way his 22-year-old son reads everything on his phone. And the bowling industry is undergoing significant change too.
KEITH: It’s going from a league-organized play base and it’s evolving into more of a nice Saturday night out entertainment. Now instead of bowling centers, they build what we call family entertainment centers, where bowling is an important, significant part of it, but it’s about the martini bar, it’s about the fancy lounge, it’s about the games, it’s about laser tag. It’s so much more than bowling.
WAILIN: These changes put Bowlers Journal at a bit of a crossroads. The growth of these family entertainment centers exposes more people to bowling who might not have otherwise visited a traditional bowling center. But casual bowlers don’t spend hundreds of dollars on balls and shoes, and those are the kinds of people that Bowlers Journal advertisers want to reach. I asked Mike Aulby, the Hall of Fame bowler you heard at the beginning of the episode, if he’d ever bought something after seeing it in Bowlers Journal. He remembered an ad for Ebonite, a bowling equipment company, that featured Earl Anthony, one of the sport’s all-time greats.
MIKE: And there was one where he would wear a trench coat with a Magnum Force bowling ball, and I have an orange bowling ball just because Earl threw it, so through those ads, so you bet.
WAILIN: The challenge for Keith and his staff is to cover the evolution of bowling as an industry and find ways to bring more casual bowlers into the fold, while still providing the kind of deep tournament coverage and ball reviews that will keep their core readers and advertisers coming back for the next hundred and two years.
KEITH: Obviously, we have a proven product, so there’s a lot of value for the 102. But you gotta earn it. You gotta improve. You gotta evolve. You gotta change. You gotta be hungry. You can’t expect business to keep going because you’ve been around for a hundred years.
WAILIN: Readers like Mike Aulby have seen their relationship with the magazine change over the decades. Mike no longer bowls competitively, but he owns a bowling center in Lafayette, Indiana, so he’s interested in reading about business trends. And there are subscribers like Fran Deken, who went from competing on the professional circuit to being a bowling writer, tournament director and high school coach. She started bowling at age 10 and reading Bowlers Journal shortly after that.
FRAN: I was 12 years old. My dad got us a subscription, my brother and myself, and we would argue over who got to read it first.
WAILIN: When Fran was growing up in the Chicago suburbs, she and her brother would drive to the city to attend tapings of a bowling television show, where they would look for the players they saw in the pages of Bowlers Journal. Fran ended up in the magazine herself. The first time was when she won a national intercollegiate tournament as a 20-year-old student at the University of Iowa.
FRAN: I love the Bowlers Journal all these years. Some decades have been better than others, but I save lots and lots of copies of it, although I’ve moved many times so I’ve had to unload some of them. But both of us, my husband and I, we always look forward to seeing what’s in the next month’s Bowlers Journal.
WAILIN: The magazine’s subscribers are remarkably loyal. Mike Aulby buys back issues on eBay and knows people who clip the vintage ads to frame as wall art. Keith Hamilton doesn’t take those readers — or his advertisers — for granted, even though he encourages his editorial staff not to back down from covering issues that might be controversial. He just asks his writers to be fair.
KEITH: Every day when that magazine goes out, three days later, I’m sitting there like waiting, I swear to God. After all these years I’ve been in the industry, you’re always waiting. Was there something in this magazine that ticked somebody off? But you know what? What they need to understand is, first of all, we have to do that. Because if we wrote a hundred percent of the time everything is great, it loses credibility. And the things that we’re writing about won’t have any, won’t matter.
WAILIN: Bowling doesn’t have the visibility of other sports. There are no household names like Tiger Woods. There are no glamorous pop culture references, like what The Color of Money did for billiards back in the 80s, although movies like Kingpin and The Big Lebowski are cult hits. And bowling isn’t an Olympic sport, despite intense lobbying efforts from the industry, including an unsuccessful bid to get it into the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. What bowling does have going for it is widespread consumer appeal, and that’s helped keep the sport alive.
KEITH: What’s great about bowling is that you can be male, you can be female, you can be child, you could be senior citizen. There are no barriers for you to bowl. Now, I can’t go out and play basketball anymore. I pull a hamstring just looking at the court. But I can bowl! Okay? I can bowl. My grandmother bowled up until 90. That’s the beauty of the sport, so that’s the reason that it appeals to everyone. And everybody has a good time bowling. Nobody comes back from bowling and says they had a bad time.
WAILIN: The Distance is produced by Shaun Hildner and me, Wailin Wong. Our illustrations are done by Nate Otto. I send out a newsletter every two weeks where I round up other interesting stories about long-running businesses. To sign up for that, visit https://thedistance.com and scroll down to the bottom to enter your email. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the leading app for keeping teams on the same page about whatever they’re working on. Your first Basecamp is completely free forever. Try the brand new Basecamp Three for yourself at https://basecamp.com/thedistance.com.
Happy 2016! We hope you had a great New Year’s Eve with family and friends. While it’s officially time to leave 2015 behind us, here’s a batch of Basecamp 3 updates from December:
Adminland, the most boringly powerful section of Basecamp, gets an update! Top two requests fulfilled: Now you add new people to the account straight from here (without having to add them to a specific Basecamp first) and bulk change which Basecamp’s someone can see.
We’ve added annual billing options to every Basecamp paid package. Prior to this annual was only available for the Basecamp Big (enterprise) package. Annual billing is great for those who have to expense Basecamp — a single bill once a year is so much simpler than a bill every month!
Improved sorting of the My Assignments menu to group to-do lists by Basecamp. This is more predictable than the old random-order version, and eliminates a situation where the same Basecamp could be listed multiple times in different spots.
You can now turn off the Clientside in a given Basecamp, without having to archive or delete the Basecamp. This way if you were just kicking the tires of the Clientside feature in a given Basecamp, you can keep using Basecamp with your team without having to involve a client.
The Android app now features multi-account support. As more and more people set up additional Basecamp 3 accounts, it’s now a whole lot easier to quickly flip between accounts without ever having to sign out.
Major improvements to sign-up and sign-in flows. We’re continuing to refine and improve these. There’s no reason they should ever be the slightest bit confusing. Sorry about that!
Account owners can now add themselves to any Basecamp in their account. Before people could create Basecamps without the account owner knowing.
Better handling of time zones on signup.
Improved compatibility with keyboard control (tabbing through fields) and screen readers. We still have more improvements to make here, but this is a great batch of initial improvements.
We now include the title of the first to-do list on the To-dos card. Previously, we suppressed the list title until a second list was added to the set. This was confusing because customers were adding lists but not seeing the titles, leading them to think the title had been removed for some reason.
The schedule for sending the “David H. started chatting in All Basecamp” notifications has been changed. Before, we’d send one notification every 12 hours. This meant that busy Campfire chat rooms that never stopped being active just ran on this funny schedule of saying “David H. started chatting” every 12 hours, even though that room might have been active for a long time. Now we’ll only send the notification if a Campfire chat room has been quiet for at least 6 hours. If a chat room is busy 24/7, we won’t send any special notifications. The purpose is to draw attention to a fresh round of discussion after an extended silence.
Live filtering of the Campfire menu so you can jump to any Campfire quickly.
Fixed a bug where users who were removed from a Basecamp still received to-do completion notifications if they were the creator, assigned, or subscribed. Now if you’re not part of the Basecamp you won’t get any notifications from Basecamp.
…and a variety of other fixes, tweaks, and improvements!
We’ve got some great Basecamp 3 stuff cooking for 2016. Just yesterday we started working on a variety of new projects — many of which we hope to have ready for you within the next 6 weeks or so!
Thanks again for using Basecamp 3! Loving everyone’s feedback so far! Keep it coming!
I’ve been doing some archeology through our archives lately. I noticed a few patterns, including discovering a series about what it’s like to spend your first few weeks here at Basecamp. Looking back over the years, it’s neat to see people’s experiences evolve over time as our company as grown.
I thoroughly enjoyed taking a dive through time in these posts and seeing echoes of their experiences from my own trial month. I definitely felt vulnerable and not the most confident in myself when I started 4 years ago. I couldn’t name it at the time, but I was dealing with impostor syndrome as I dropped into a new team that I couldn’t even physically see most days.
Faking it until I made it helped, but that festering feeling of fear persisted. I think my eventual cure was, and still is, a relentless drive to leave the campsite cleaner (and better) than when I found it. Even if it’s a single line of code, a comment, or a little ping saying thanks — it matters.
This insight from my trial month continues to ring true:
One thing I learned really quickly was that our users are creative: If you give them the ability to do anything, they will do everything!
I’m surprised and delighted on a daily basis with how people use Basecamp. Our Everyone on Support days remind me of this on a regular basis! Since that first experience learning about how our users extend our products and their functionality, I’ve been hooked on helping them get even more out of our apps.
My coworkers have also reflected on starting at Basecamp and how it’s impacted their life, craft, and outlook. Here’s a few other highlights from other “first month” posts:
The 37signals community is huge! Every change is noticed — sometimes within minutes of being launched. Receiving instant feedback to your work is great (at least so far 🙂
I’ve been thoroughly impressed by how much everyone genuinely cares about the user experience with the applications they maintain. Everything from page response times increasing by a few milliseconds to minimizing interruptions during deployments or even the impact of the number of http redirects on load times — it’s all constantly being discussed and debated.
I enjoy finding the common threads that weave across everyone’s experiences with their first few weeks. We’re constantly learning how to make this onboarding experience better for our new employees, and we’re not perfect at it still. Out of everyone’s first month posts so far, there’s a few lessons to be learned:
It takes some time to get used to the REMOTE culture, but it’s worth it!
Finding your balance and making your schedule your own is paramount.
Breaking things (sometimes immediately) is OK and expected.
We’re all in this together, despite being so physically apart!
I’m hoping we will have more to share about our first experiences in 2016. If you have something (or someone) that made starting at your job special, I’d love to hear about it.
“How do you juggle it all?” is a question I’m asked regularly. Usually with an undertone that I must have some secret. A trick. Is it sleeping just 5 hours per night? Is it working 12 hour days for months on end? What is it!?!
The common lore of Highly Productive People is that they just work harder. Often superhumanly so. They have a singular focus that turns their drive to 11. The media loves to recount these feats of marvelous stamina and determination.
I don’t fit that mold. I usually sleep a good 8.5 to 9 hours every night. I take pride in making work fit the traditional 40 hour/week constraint. I have no drive for more, more, more.
If I have a trick, it’s a focus on the quality of each individual hour. That doesn’t mean Time Management, in the 1990s sense of the term, slicing each hour to the last minute, and squeezing it for every last second of peak productivity. But it does cover a realization that all hours are not created or spent equal.
An hour haunted by stress, interruption, sleep deprivation, or frazzle is not worth the sixty minutes its allotted. It’s a low quality hour. You’d be foolish to expect that you can turn such dirty input into clear accomplishments. Garbage in, garbage out.
40 hours of work every week is a king’s keep. I contend that almost anything can be accomplished with such a glorious budget. But not if you squander it on meetings, multitasking, or poorly defined problems. There’s no limit to the amount of time that can be wasted like that.
Well, there’s a physical limit. And I suppose that’s where many people find refuge. I gave it everything! You can’t blame me, and I can’t blame myself, for failing to accomplish when every second was spent. I left nothing for myself, so have mercy, they rationalize.
Covering your ass to yourself or others might give you some temporary comfort, but it won’t cover the deficit of ambition in the long run. Resignation is a coping mechanism for the beaten.
What you need is a set of refinement techniques. You need to actively work on increasing the purity and quality of your hours. Here are a few that I use:
Do I really need to be involved in this?
Gluttonous curiosity is the siren song that seeks to loop you into all manners of discussions, decisions, and events that you’re likely not a necessary or even important component.
It’s hard to accept that while your insight or experience might be useful to other people, it equally might not be nearly useful enough to offset the cost of yet another head at the table.
The value of just skimming that email, turning down that meeting invitation, not depositing your two cents in that chat seems abstract in the moment. But diligently refraining from chiming in and collaborating is what gives room for making more important progress on fewer things.
Could this wait?
Some problems need to be dealt with today, lest they compound tomorrow. Best deal with those right away. But they’re in the minority. Most problems and opportunities are just as valuably addressed a day or a week or a month from now.
Putting something on the back burner means it might well have dissipated by the time you give it a second look. Wonderful! That was work that then didn’t need to get done. Or just appeared more important than it really was when you first thought about it.
The longer you delay solving a problem, the more you’ll know about it. Lots of pains just go away by adding idle time.
Can I bail on this?
The road to a day wasted is paved with heroic attempts of throwing good hours after bad. Mistaking the depth of a problem is a reliable error of working life.
The crime comes when you continue digging after realizing the hole needed is thrice as deep as you anticipated, without confirming that the solution is also worth thrice the effort originally budgeted.
Learning to give up is a critical skill for making your remaining hours count. Sunk cost is a sucker’s bet.
Am I ready for this?
Sometimes it’s the problem that needs more time to ripen, and sometimes it’s you. We are not equally capable or fit to tackle all problems at all times.
If my head is in tune for writing this week, it’s a good time to complete the copy for the new website, but it’s probably a bad time to organize the work for the next quarter. If my fingers are itching to code, then let’s solve that bug that’s irked me for a month, not try to redirect the passion to doing 1–1 interviews that week.
Our motivations ebb and flow. Swimming with the tide instead of against it is just so much easier. And as detailed above, most things can wait until the water that needs to carry them comes back up.
Even with a strong repertoire of techniques for making each hour count for more, you will still fail regularly. Maybe all the work that needs doing this week just doesn’t include anything you can muster the motivation for. So it slides and you feel shit.
But there’s great comfort in knowing that this happens to everyone. With far more often than most are willing to admit. Despite a finely-honed perception for high quality hours, I still churn through junk frequently. Leaving me with much less than what I had hoped. So it goes!
What matters is increasing the aggregate quality of your hours over the long term. Not to stress when you fail to turn out a perfect batch.
Once you’ve built an awareness and appreciation of quality time, I doubt you’ll feel the same pull to keep chasing more, more, more. The difference between an uninterrupted string of four quality hours versus a few days of crap hours is a revelation.
Even if you squeeze and squeeze to get more hours, maybe you’ll get another 20–50%? Refine the ones you already have and you might get 200–500% more value. That’s the true 10x.
The trick to juggling it all is to stop juggling.
I spend most of my quality work hours building Basecamp. We just released a brand-new version 3, which has a special Work Can Wait feature designed specifically to increase the quality of your working hours by avoiding interruptions. Give it a try!
Working with people is messy — the more people, the messier it gets. There’s no way around that. And while you may know your own mess, finding something in someone else’s is quite a challenge.
So we wanted to make sure Basecamp 3 made it easy to find what you’re looking for, no matter what fragments of information you may have handy. We’ve got every angle covered — sometimes from multiple angles!
Let me play out a few real-world scenarios below and show you how Basecamp 3 makes it easy to find what you’re looking for — especially when you don’t know exactly what it is.
“I know Jamie said something about that yesterday, but I don’t remember exactly how he said it or exactly where he said it.”
Ever happen to you? You know someone said something somewhere, but you can’t remember exactly what it was or where they said it? Unless you can rifle through your memory for a keyword, A standard keyword search isn’t very helpful here.
In Basecamp 3, just head into the “Find…” section, leave the keyword field blank, and just select “Comments” and then “Jamie Dihiansan” and hit “Go”. You’ll then get results showing everything Jamie commented on across every Basecamp you both have access to.
“Someone told me Ann’s been doing some amazing QA work lately. I’d love to see what she’s been up to.”
I this case I’m not specifically looking for any one piece of content, or even anything specific — I’m just looking to find out where Ann’s been pitching in. It’s more about discovery than it is a traditional search.
So I’d jump into the Reports menu and select “What has someone been up to…”
Then type Ann…
And then I get the “Here’s what Ann Goliak has been up to” report that shows everything she’s done on Basecamp in reverse chronological order. Comments she’s made, to-dos she’s added or completed, files/images she’s shared, deadlines she’s posted, etc. If she’s done it, it’s on this report. And now I know what Ann’s been up to!
“Where are those sketches Ryan posted?”
You know Ryan Singer’s been working on some concept lately, and he mentioned he shared some sketches in Basecamp. You don’t remember where or when exactly, only that they were sketches. Easy!
Head into the “I’m looking for an image or file…” search on the Find screen.
Then just type in Ryan Singer. Now, I could have also selected “PDFs”, or “Video” or “All files” from the “Images” menu, but since I knew they were sketches, and I wanted to filter everything else out, I just selected Images.
And now I see all the images Ryan has shared — no matter where they were shared (in a Campfire chat, in a message, in a document, attached to a to-do, attached to an event, it doesn’t matter). And there they are!
“I have no idea who shared it, or where they shared it, or what they called it, but I know someone put that PDF I need up on Basecamp.”
This one happens all the time. You know it’s in Basecamp, you know it’s a PDF, you don’t know what it’s called, you aren’t even sure of what words to look for, you only know it was a PDF and you need it now! Easy!
From the same “I’m looking for an image or file…” search in the previous example, just select “PDF” and leave everything else as it is. Then hit Go.
You’ll get back a list of every PDF uploaded to Basecamp, most recent first. If you knew more info like who shared it, or which Basecamp it was in, or even a keyword, you could have entered that too to get more specific. But in a lot of cases you don’t know the specifics, you just know the generalities. Basecamp 3 has your covered.
I don’t know what I’m looking for, I’m just looking.
This one sounds kinda silly, but it’s very real and very common. You want to jump into a Basecamp and just have a look around. You’re in a discovery mindset. What’s happened today? What happened yesterday? Who said what? What topics did the conversations revolve around? Was there new work added to do? Was anything completed? Anyone share any visual concept or ideas I might want to check out? Who knows! You only know that you want to know.
Basecamp 3 makes this super easy. For example, let’s say I wanted to see what’s been going on in Team OMG. “Team OMG” is our customer service’s Basecamp. I just visit their Basecamp and scroll down.
At the bottom of every Basecamp is a full history log of everything that ever happened in that Basecamp — all the way back to day one. It’s basically everything flatted by time — new/completed to-dos, discussions, files that were shared, new documents, schedule items, comments, answers to automatic check-in questions — they are all here organized by time.
Now, on top of all this you can of course search by keyword. That’s the easy one. You can also filter your searches just to a specific Basecamp, a specific person, a specific kind of content (“just search the schedule”), etc. But I hope the examples above give you a sense of some of the other ways you can find what you need in Basecamp 3!