Introducing Boosts: an all-new way to show your support in Basecamp

We gave up on Likes and invented a totally new form of tiny communication.

If there’s one thing you can’t avoid on the Internet, it’s Likes. They’re in nearly every software platform where people post photos or write text messages.


Sometimes Likes are called Faves, Hearts, Reactions, Claps, or something else, but the basic idea is the same: they’re a small, quick way to express your feelings about something, usually accompanied by a count of other people who had that same feeling.

Until today, we had exactly this sort of feature in Basecamp 3. We called it Applause. If you liked a post, you’d clap for it. Everyone who clapped was shown in a row.

Basecamp’s applause feature.

This was fine, of course—it worked just like all the other Likes.

But a couple months ago, we started thinking more deeply about this pattern, and we noticed it has a lot of insidious problems.

  1. Likes are vague, especially in a professional setting. Let’s say your boss liked someone else’s post, and not yours. You might start questioning what happened. Was she just busy and not paying full attention to everything? Or did she do that intentionally? What does it all mean!? There’s no way to know, because there’s not enough information — just a bunch of digital grunting.
  2. Likes are obligatory. How many times have you felt obligated to SMASH THE LIKE BUTTON because you didn’t want to seem like a jerk, or because everyone else was liking something? There’s a subtle peer pressure and herd mentality hiding behind those thumbs up.
  3. Likes are vanity metrics. Whenever you post something to a social network, do you obsessively check to see how it was received? That’s because those little Like counts are a drug for your brain: you get a dopamine rush by observing your own mini-popularity contest. It’s a psychological trick to keep you coming back for more.
  4. Likes are thoughtless. Has there ever been a more mindless form of communication than merely tapping a button? Liking something requires almost no effort or consideration whatsoever. Here’s what you’re really saying: “Thank you for spending your precious time posting this. In return, I have clicked a button. It took me less than one second. Bye.”
  5. Likes are canned. In most apps you have to pick from a predefined set of acceptable symbols (or in Basecamp’s case, just clapping.) That’s not great for addressing the infinite range of nuanced human emotions, and it’s also totally impersonal. Why should some software company decide which 3 emotions you’re allowed to have?

Now, it’s not all bad. There are some good things about Likes too:

  1. Sharing support for others is wonderful. We want to encourage that, of course!
  2. It’s nice to respond to something without making a fuss. You might not have much to say, but you still want to let someone know you appreciated their ideas. Notifying a bunch of other people on a thread merely to say “good job!” is overkill.
  3. It’s helpful to know that people saw your posts. When you see that 10 people liked your post, you’ll know they received it and thought about it (at least a little.)

With all of these ideas in mind, we went back to the drawing board and came up with a fresh new approach that’s never been done before. We’re calling it Boosts, and it’s way better than all of those crummy digital grunts.

Here’s how you boost something in Basecamp.

In various places in Basecamp, you’ll see a new rocket icon:

Boost button!

Click that, and it’ll morph into a small text field.

A field in which to boost

You’ll notice there are no predetermined options or smiley face buttons to choose from. That’s on purpose. You have to make it up yourself!

Add some emoji or write a tiny text note, up to 16 characters max. Then click the green check mark to save your boost (or the red X to cancel.)

You can add more than one boost if you want, and they’ll collect into a little bundle like so:

Boosting twice

Your boosts won’t notify anyone other than the original poster. So if you’re on a comment thread with 10 other people and you boost Dave, only Dave will get a notification about it. This is in contrast to comments, which send a notification to everyone on the thread. So if you just want to say “Great job!” or “I agree” or “👍”, but you don’t want to bug everyone with a notification, boosts are best!

If you messed up making a boost, click on it and a trash icon will appear. Click the trash to delete it. (If you’re an admin, you can delete anyone’s boosts in the same way.)

Deleting a boost

After a lot of people have boosted someone, you’ll see a sweet block of small supportive comments, where everyone’s message is totally unique! There are no vanity counts or anything like that.

Here’s how it looked when I announced that we’d be launching Boosts:

A block o’ boosts

Other times, boosts work like a silly mini-conversation.

lol juice boosts

When you’ve received some boosts, you’ll get notified about them every 3 hours as long as there’s something new to report—otherwise Basecamp won’t notify you.


Why every 3 hours? We think it’s the perfect amount of time: infrequent enough that you won’t be bombarded about little responses, but frequent enough that you won’t miss anything for too long.

When you click on that notification, you’ll see all your boosts, ordered by date:


You can also unsubscribe from the boosts notifications, if you prefer. Just hit the button in the top-right corner of the page above.


What happened to applause?

Applause is no more (it’s been replaced by Boosts.) But old posts that had applause will still show it—those claps have simply been turned into boosts instead.

Clap Boosts.

So that’s Boosts — we hope you like them! (Pun intended)

We’ve been using boosts for over a month, and we’ve found them to be a much richer form of communication than our primitive old applause system. They’re far more contextual, freeform, and creative: perfect for posting short, thoughtful responses.

After a few days, you’ll notice you won’t feel obligated to boost something unless you genuinely have something to say. Boosts are far less susceptible to vague interpretations, since every little boost is unique to the conversation at hand. And with no buttons to smash, there’s no more mindless button smashing!

Give boosts a try and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you on Twitter or in the comments on this post.

🚀🚀🚀


New to Basecamp and want to see what it’s all about? Sign up for a 30 day free trial over yonder.

Please Don’t Like This

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bd8SCAAHyqd/

In the summer of 1962, the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould performed an all-Bach concert at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. The second half of the program was devoted to The Art of Fugue, and Gould did something radical before he started playing the piece—he asked the audience not to applaud.

This wasn’t the first time Gould publicly expressed his discomfort with audience applause. Earlier that year, he published an essay in Musical America called “Let’s Ban Applause!” He argued that the best way to consume art was to internalize it and reflect on it in a quiet, deliberate way, instead of making a flashy public response in the moment.

In the essay, he jokingly proposed something he called the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds, or GPAADAK. Under GPAADAK, applause would be allowed only at weekday family concerts, where “the performers, naturally, would be strictly second-team.” For the no-applause concerts, Gould suggested that solo pianists be conveyed offstage on a giant lazy Susan while still seated at the instrument, to prevent any awkwardness over having to walk off the stage in silence.

For Gould, who ultimately retired from concert life in 1964, audience applause was distasteful for a number of reasons: It evoked a gladiatorial vibe that was at odds with the reverence he felt the music deserved, and it didn’t give him any real feedback. I see this today with standing ovations—I can’t remember a single classical concert I’ve attended or performed in (I play violin in an amateur community symphony) where the audience didn’t automatically rise to their feet at the end. Surely not every performance deserves a standing ovation, yet concert-goers feel compelled to do it. I can see why Gould found the whole business kind of annoying and meaningless.

In the latest episode of Rework, we start with Gould as a way to frame a debate we’ve been having at Basecamp about the Applause feature in Basecamp 3. DHH wrote previously about the red flags that the feature started to raise for him and others at the company, and how we decided to kill the feature (internally) as we decide its ultimate fate. You’ll hear more from DHH, as well as iOS designer Tara Mann, in this episode, which covers the broader theme of seeking validation on social media.

The Intimidating Zero

How a small zero actually feels when you’re just getting started

Back when we started this blog — I think it was in ’99 or 2000 or something like that — we had no idea how many readers we had.

Early publishing software was about publishing, it wasn’t about audience counts, it wasn’t about measurement or reach or engagement. It seemed like a miracle that you could just write something and have it show up on a web page! And that someone might magically find it! That was enough!

And it was great not knowing!

There was no pressure back then. You wrote because you wanted to, not because you had to create content. Could anything be more banal than “creating content”?

And most importantly, you didn’t have a big fat zero staring right at you. Go sign up for a new Twitter, Instagram, of Facebook account today and you’ll be rewarded with a ZERO. No one’s there. Say something and no one will hear it. Did we tell you that you have ZERO followers? ZERO friends? An audience of ZERO? Enjoy!

And as it’s been said, comparison is the thief of joy. It’s hard to feel good when you see numbers like 681 or 1.3k on similar articles and yours says 6.

What a welcome, eh?

It’s so intimidating for newcomers today. Even though it’s so much easier to publish today, publishing tools keep reminding you hardly anyone’s reading. So technically easier, but emotionally more difficult.

I like that Snapchat doesn’t share follower numbers. You just do because you like to do. It’s fun to do.

I wish other publishing platforms would hide subscriber numbers for the first handful or articles, or the first 30 days. Or something like that. Give people some time off stage before they begin performing. Let them write or share in the shadows — getting the hang of it, feeling it out — before they start telling you who’s out there listening or watching. Just encourage creation without thinking about who’s in the audience.

Just a thought.

Basecamp is looking for interns for summer 2017

Basecamp is looking for talented interns to join our team this summer. We’re excited to work with you, and the things you work on will impact millions of users at the world’s leading online project management tool.

The deadline for applying for a summer internship at Basecamp is February 10, 2017.


About the Basecamp summer internship program

Interns at Basecamp don’t fetch coffee. They don’t file papers or book meeting rooms. They work on real projects that have a real impact on our company, our products, and our customers. You’ll leave Basecamp with new technical, creative, and business skills and having accomplished something significant.

As an intern, you’ll work with a mentor in the company. That person will be your go-to for questions and guidance about your project, about Basecamp, and about the industry in general. You’ll participate in our Campfire rooms with the entire company. You’ll say “good morning” in All Talk, discuss ideas in Building Basecamp, and post pet pics in All Pets.

Internships at Basecamp are remote — you can work from anywhere you want, provided there’s some overlap in time zones with your assigned mentor. We’ll fly you to the Chicago office once during the summer to get together with your mentor and the rest of the intern class, and you’ll talk regularly with your mentor via phone, Skype, or Google Hangouts.

All internships are paid and require a commitment of 8–12 weeks of full time work between May and August 2017 (we’re flexible on start/end dates, planned vacations, etc.).

You can read about the experiences of some of last year’s interns for inspiration!

About you

We’re hiring interns across the company — we have openings in programming, product design, operations, support, and data. Regardless of role, there are a few key things we’re looking for in interns:

  • You are independent and self-driven. Basecamp is built on the concept of being a team of “managers of one”, and that applies to interns as well. You’ll get plenty of support and guidance from your mentor and the rest of the team, but no one will be telling you how to spend each minute of your day, so it’ll be up to you to make sure you’re making forward progress.
  • You are an excellent communicator. We write a lot at Basecamp — we write for our products, we write for our marketing sites and initiatives, we write to our customers, and most importantly, we write as our primary way of communicating internally (using Basecamp, of course). Clear and effective communication is essential to being successful at Basecamp.
  • You have fresh ideas and you’re willing to share them. We don’t know it all, and we actively want to hear fresh ideas and perspectives that we haven’t considered.
  • You’re eager to learn. You’ll dive right in to new technologies, new approaches, and new concepts and apply them to your work.
  • You’re not a computer science or design student? That’s not a problem. Past interns have been philosophy majors, poets, improv comic performers, and gelato makers, as well as computer science and design students. We’re not sticklers for traditional education.

How to apply

We’ve deliberately kept the application simple so you can tell us about yourself the way you want to. We want to know why you want to be an intern at Basecamp, what you’re interested in working on, what work you’ve done in the past, and why we should hire you. Give us the URL to your portfolio, blog, GitHub site, etc. Add a resume if you want, but remember, we’re always impressed by a great cover letter.

Oh, and while we love Basecamp, inviting us to a Basecamp project isn’t a great way to apply for a spot here. So please don’t do that.

You can fill out your application here. We’ll accept applications through Friday, February 10th. You’ll get an email to confirm your application shortly after you apply.

The projects

You’ll be working on a real project that matters to the company and the team that you’re working with, and you’ll be expected to own and contribute to the project. You’ll have the opportunity to shape the project with your mentor to meet the needs of the company and the things you’re interested in working on. We’re looking for interns on the following teams:

Data: We’re looking for someone who loves data. Someone who gets a CSV file of new data and can’t wait to dig in and start exploring. Someone who is excited to write great SQL queries and discover new R packages. We believe that data science is mostly about basic arithmetic, business judgement, and problem solving, so we value foundational skills more than machine learning experience.

You’ll spend your summer conducting independent analyses to answer important questions we have. Recent questions you might have answered have been about customer demographics, usage of Basecamp on mobile phones, conversion rates over time, or A/B test results. You’ll identify the data you need to answer the question, perform analysis, create visualizations, and write up a compelling story. You’ll also participate in peer review of other analyses, weigh in on other team data projects, and contribute to our daily chart habit.

iOS: Have you created an app that runs on your phone? We’re looking for a programmer who displays ingenuity and the skill to create software for iOS that considers the user as well as the code. If you have a product in the App Store, we’d love to see it! We’re also impressed with projects built for personal curiosity or coursework. We’re more interested in seeing that you have the aptitude to make something real than seeing what classes you’ve taken.

Examples of the kind of work you’d be doing include: Create a media viewer with gesture based controls and the ability to browse uploads of different types; Provide a way to quickly add To-do items from the home screen or a Today widget; Examine analytics data and use it to inform improvements that can be made in the app; Create a presentation mode that shows an alternate view over AirPlay for in-person meetings.

Ops: We’re less concerned with how much ops-specific knowledge you have and more interested in your ability to problem-solve and adapt, and most critically, learn. Familiarity with the command line and bash/zsh/git etc is a big plus, as is an interest in the Ops arena of problems and how systems are put together.

We’re in the middle of a huge transition from on-premises to cloud-based infrastructure, and we’ve always got something that we are interested in exploring, whether that’s alternate container runtimes, better blue/green deploy methods, better access-control and authen/authz systems (LDAP?), smaller, more efficient container strategies, or better local development methodologies.

Product design: Projects at Basecamp always start with design first, so you’ll have a unique opportunity to learn how we turn nascent ideas into real, working software that’s used by hundreds of thousands of people. We value experimentation, good writing, rapid iteration, and getting real. Our designers are a talented bunch — they’re responsible for everything from concepts to copywriting, prototypes, visual design, and production-quality code.

We’ll work on a handful of projects intended to give you a wide range of experience with our design process at Basecamp, including exploring a new idea from scratch, learning how to manage and scope work, and building a product feature all the way to production.

This position will involve working with web technologies. We’d like you to have some previous experience with visual design, and any experience with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript would be helpful too. (We’ll also be working in Rails but we don’t expect you to know it.) Beyond specific skills, we’d like you to bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the team. If you’ve done weird side projects, drawn comics, written a blog, made an app, knitted a scarf, or invented anything else under the sun, tell us about it! We’d like to see examples of your curiosity and how you approach solving problems.

Programming: We’re looking for a generalist with experience working in full-stack development. Our environment is Ruby, Rails, and JavaScript, so you should be familiar with the ‘rails way’ of doing things. We’d love to hear from folks with experience in similar environments like Python or Django as well. You should have experience working on a real app. That could be something for a college class, a bootcamp project, a contribution to an open source project, etc.

Past intern projects have included the implementation of a strong password check across all apps, adding endpoints to the Basecamp API, and helping launch an update to the Basecamp files section.

Support: We’d like to see an intern who can help out in our social media sphere. We’ve tried to get more active on Instagram, we answer questions through Twitter, and we answer a small amount of questions from users on Facebook. How can we get better at those social media channels, and are there other social media channels we’re missing out on?

Tell us about a great social media experience you were part of. What was your role in it? What was the goal, and what was the outcome? Can you give us an example of a company that uses social media exceptionally well? What makes it so great? If you’ve worked with customers anywhere (doesn’t have to be in tech — could be in fast food or retail), we’d love to hear about it. Tell us about your experience working with people who had problems that you helped solve.

Is “content marketing” dead?


Felipe Barbosa asked a question on Inbound.org recently that generated a lot of great conversation, “Do you think content marketing will become so competitive that people will just ignore it?Reposting my answer:

Every time someone visits the Facebook News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see.

That’s a 3 year old stat Buffer reported in their article: We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months

Buffer has suffered at their content and social game, and they’re one of the best ones doing it.

It’s inundated. It’s getting harder and harder to play. It’s clear there’s a problem if you wanted to make a dent in your business with “content marketing”. Now what do we do about it? Two big things come to mind.

1) Get better.

Most of us are still pretty poor at creating content. Afterall, most of us do it part time while we do other things like make products, customer support, HR, do sales, etc. etc. So we don’t commit to creating things like articles, lessons, whitepapers as if it were a craft we were committing our whole lives to. Then we’re inundated with garbage content anyone could have written. Listicles that are recycled over and over from one publication to the next.

So instead of treating it like a hobby, hire people who do it professionally. Of course if you’re still in the early phases of starting a business and it’s just you wearing a dozen hats, we really need to commit to become better creators ourselves.

Want to write better content? Become a better writer. Study how writers have excelled at their craft. Especially storytelling. How do storytellers keep people rapt with attention? How do movie makers keep people in their seats for 2 hours? How do novelists break through the clutter? They’ve been working at figuring it out far longer than we have on the internet.

Take a writing class. Attend a Moth event. Study film like a film student rather than a consumer trying to turn off their alpha waves.

I think most people struggling with making better content really need to take a step back and figure out how to become better students.

2) Find new channels.

One big hint: kids want to become YouTubers. They aren’t reading PDFs or sharing whitepapers.

What makes that so interesting, is that most of us as people running businesses and creating content just really don’t understand it. Yet.

We see YouTube and it’s like oh we can post a video of us talking about our business or sharing business advice. That doesn’t really cut it. The next generation has far different expectations of what they want out of the video they consume.

Pranks, visual effects, action sports, makeup tutorials, vlogging. Snapchat is a form of communication. YouTube is now a serious career goal. There are so many lessons in how those folks record and create content.

It’s a big reason I’ve moved so much time from my writing schedule over to video production and editing. I used to spend a considerable chunk of my time writing what I think is fair to say some decently interesting articles. But as time has progressed, I see they get less traffic and less and less engagement.

So at the risk of stopping what works, I’ve now started making terrible YouTube videos, like filming myself talking to my cell phone camera in my bedroom. Turned out terrible. Terrible lighting. Terrible sound. Terrible image quality.

But I noticed people still seemed to enjoy them. So I upped my frequency and attempt at getting better. I invested more time in learning how people take interesting shots, how they talk to the camera, how they set up lighting. What kind of equipment produces what results.

It’s been a fascinating journey. I made a fairly quick jump to about 700 subscribers and I can see engagement improving. Still, a far cry from the millions of subscribers and views the top YouTubers are getting, but I still remember only have 50 Twitter followers once too and I know I was able to change that.

I think we need to take some risks at experimenting with these new channels. And not just a “let me install Snapchat on my phone and try it for a few minutes” kind of experiment. But treat it like a craft. Treat it like a 14 year old girl who snaps hundreds of times a day, every day from first thing in the morning until she falls asleep. There’s gold in them thar hills we just have to go deep exploring some new hills.

And of course, YouTube and Snapchat is going to feel like next Twitter (or even MySpace) one day. Then something will be next. There’s always something next.

Here’s an interesting resource. Alison, an employee here at Highrise, runs an awesome program called Girls to the Moon, running some neat events for teenage girls to explore science, engineering and business. Alison also interviews these girls in a podcast on what’s important in their worlds. Fascinating lessons.


P.S. You should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us create better businesses. And if you find yourself overwhelmed while starting your own small business or handling customer support, check out how Highrise can help!


Look and Feel and Feel

Designers often talk about the look and feel of a product, an app, an object, etc. These are good concepts to be talking about, but how the thing feels isn’t really the important feel. The important feel is how it makes you feel. That feeling isn’t usually covered by look and feel discussions.

This has recently come into focus for me. The trigger? Instagram.

I’ve been on Twitter (@jasonfried) for years. Since I don’t have a Facebook account, Twitter has been my only social networking outlet. I mostly use it for sharing novel or interesting things I’ve seen or read, the occasional quote, or a point of view, perspective, or epiphany about something business related.

I follow just under 200 people. Some of them I know personally, others I’ve never met, some are brands, some are individuals, some are because of hobbies or special interests, some are dead serious, others funny or silly. It’s a healthy mix, and I try to pay attention to everything that shows up in my feed.

Twitter’s an amazing thing, no question. I think it’s one of the most important products ever, and it’s absolutely changed the way ideas, news, insights, complaints, and casual communications happen.

A few months ago I signed up for Instagram (@jason.fried). I started following a few people — some of the same people I follow on Twitter. Almost immediately I felt something — I felt good! Instagram makes me feel good. I enjoy thumbing through Instagram.

Since then, every time I’ve gone back to Twitter, I’ve noticed I’ve felt anxious, unhappy, uncomfortable. I didn’t notice this before I started using Instagram, because I didn’t have anything to contrast it with. It was just the way it was, and I didn’t think much about how it made me feel.

Every scroll through Twitter puts at least one person’s bad day, shitty experience, or moment of snark in front of me. These are good happy people — I know many of them in real life — but for whatever reason, Twitter is the place they let their shit loose. And while it’s easy to do, it’s not comfortable to be around. I don’t enjoy it.

Every scroll through Instagram puts someone’s good day in front of me. A vacation picture, something new they got that they love, pictures of nature, pictures of people they love, places they’ve been, and stuff they want to cheer about. It’s just flat out harder to be negative when sharing a picture. This isn’t a small thing — it’s a very big deal. I feel good when I browse Instagram. That’s the feel that matters.

So now I have a choice… When I have a few minutes to kill, and my phone is in front of me, I almost always reach for Instagram. I never regret it. I come away feeling the same or better. When I occasionally reach for Twitter, I discover someone’s pissed about something. I often come away feeling worse, feeling anxious, or just generally not feeling great about the world. Twitter actually gives me a negative impression of my friends. I know it’s not Twitter doing it, but it’s happening on Twitter. that’s how Twitter feels to me.

None of this has anything to do with how the apps look or feel. It’s not the buttons, it’s not the animations, it’s not the interface or visual design. It’s not the colors, it’s not the font, it’s not the transitions. It’s how using the apps make me feel before, during, and after. The sense of anticipation (am I about to see something wonderful vs. am I about to get a dose of someone’s bad day?), the things I experience as I scroll through (a butterfly vs. an injustice), and how I feel once I’m done (that was nice vs. fuck that — ugh).

The Twitter vs. Instagram experience is really reinforcing what matters when designing a product. What kind of behavior can we encourage? What kind of moments can we create for people? What do people anticipate before they use something? How does it leave them feeling when they’re done? These are now some of the most important questions for me when working on a design.

BTW: You can follow me on Twitter at @jasonfried or on Instagram at @jason.fried. I promise to keep both positive.


Originally published at signalvnoise.com.