Game Design From Outer Space

Our complicated relationship with 37signals’ Basecamp, since 2007. But also about their Suite and the new Basecamp.

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Project Management 101: Basecamp

This post is the third of a series about project management tools or services we’re using.

So, I wrote about how I organise our work and our love for paper-based tools. Now I’m going to tell you a bit more of our core project management software, Basecamp.

First a few words about the team: Basecamp is a project created by 37signals, a great team I’ve always admire. I think their book Rework is one of the most accurate guide on how to work nowadays: they hate meeting (I do too!), they always say No every time a new feature is required, they choose to design for themselves and for anyone who has the same needs. They taught us a lot about team work, and it’s just because we understood and respect their view that we decided to use their services.

The first time I’ve ever seen Basecamp – now referred as Basecamp Classic – it was 2007 and I had mixed feelings about it. I was looking for a project management tool to collect every type of content and I wanted to manage tasks, milestones and deadlines with my team. At the time, we weren’t a company yet, we didn’t have an office and we worked on gaming project in our spare time with a couple of friends. Basecamp seemed to me too much complex for us without having a task manager. Remembering all the project management services I tried makes me dizzy, so I’ll cut to the chase. Even if I wasn’t sure at first, once we started our company I turned to Basecamp with no doubt.

In 2010 – after a few months since we founded Urustar – 37signals launched their own Suite which included Basecamp, Highrise (a customer relationship management with task management), Backpack (a shared calendar and a collaborative text editor called Writeboard), Campfire (an internal chatroom). We immediately upgrade from our free account to the 37signals Suite.

Each of these services had some fundamental features and some useless ones. I find extremely useful Backpack and its shared calendar, while I have never used the Journal section (where you could update your current status, something like Twitter but with a great amount of flaws). I can easily assign tasks to each member of my team just by using Highrise, but its Cases and Deals are not so good for us. Campfire is ok, you know, it’s just a chat with conversation history and guest access. So at the end we spent a bunch of money, we weren’t super happy but we worked better, so it was worth it.

A year ago 37signals launched a completely new Basecamp built from scratch. And I loved it at first sight. It’s great because it is simpler than the Classic version but – at the same time – it integrated some tiny features that meant a lot to me, like the task and milestones management. Avatars are so cool (read this beautiful post on how they decide to designed them), everything is a discussion (I love this intuition) and you can forward emails. So now we have downgraded from the Suite and switched to Basecamp and Highrise – amazing to collect mail and info about all of you contacts.

Obviously there are also some things that bug me – a lot: files management (because you cannot overwrite versions of the same file) and text documents. Why, oh why you created this silly shared document format? It works awfully, when you have huge texts everything crashes, you cannot format the text aside from bold, italic and bullet list (which by the way doesn’t work well – a bullet list, yes), if someone is editing at the same time and you don’t pay attention, you can add some text but then you’ll lose your changes. In Urustar we all love minimalism, but please make text documents a useful tool. Why don’t you use Markdown to allow formatting? We would love that!

I know, I know. You will always say No to me. And that’s ok.

(But please think about it)

3 thoughts on “Project Management 101: Basecamp
  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our beloved Basecamp: as I told you, we have subscribed to the 37Signals suite for many months, so we were […]

  2. Butler says:

    Hi Marina, Have you ever heard of proofhub project management tool. It is simple, easy to use and feature rich. Try it at proofhub.com

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