Basecamp keeps banging the same drum

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Jason Fried writes, in the foreword to Shape Up:

Over the last few years, there’s been a heightened curiosity about how we work at Basecamp. People often ask us how we get so much done so quickly at such a high level of quality with such a small team. And how we keep our teams together for years and years.

I got a bit irritated by this, and the style of Basecamp’s communication in general. They’re always putting themselves on this pedestal of “we are so awesome”, when in reality their application is severely lagging behind the competition.

When they invent something it’s always the next best thing. I wrote about some of my frustrations with Basecamp before. When I initially read this statement I channeled my thoughts into some tweets which now formed the basis of this blog post.

I am increasing irritated by Basecamp’s communication strategy. I feel like you can’t play the underdog for 15 years. We’ve been a Basecamp customer for a while and over time I saw the product mostly get worse instead of better.

Last year we dumped $900 in the bucket for a year’s subscription to Basecamp but then, Notion happened, and we just moved on to software that is essentially just better. I haven’t touched our Basecamp account for months.

I used to be a big Basecamp believer for a very long time, but the product is stagnant and totally being disrupted. I am writing this blog post in Notion’s editor that is quite awesome, works with markdown, in an app that is lightning fast, that we use to manage our company.

Basecamp is stuck in a reality of 10 years ago and happily chugs on writing blog posts about how they struggled to implement a grouped list within their self-imposed limits.

I just wonder, how long can you hold on to a set of beliefs that is just no longer true? Basecamp is using the same marketing techniques as they did 13 years ago. I read “Getting real” in 2006. Since they formed 37signals have condensed their internal beliefs into content marketing.

I’ve been a big believer and have championed the company as one of my favorite companies in the past. But I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with them banging the same drum. Having access to the kind of resources that Basecamp has you just can’t keep playing the underdog.

I believed their statements about product design when the product was evolving, but over the years they’ve focussed on things I don’t care about (hill chart anyone? The weak chat within Basecamp?), didn’t evolve on what they claim is super important (speed), and even did poorly when it came to basic UI (oh that breadcrumb UI).

Over time, the product got more expensive while the overall experience got worse. The editor is still the same lightweight thing that doesn’t meet my needs. Integrations are nonexistent. The app ignores the 2019 fact that you are also using other apps. Ever tried linking a Google doc to Basecamp? Welcome to the past. Basecamp 3 feels like an app from 2012, not 2019.

I don’t care how many people it takes to build a better product. I don’t really care that they make their feature sprints 6 weeks. What I want is the better product. Not an explanation of how they were “so lean” and only have 1/2 the feature.

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