1. How I Learned to Stop Asking for Private Messages and Love the New Basecamp

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    As a person obsessed with keeping things organized, I spend way too much time in Basecamp. I write articles about it, I talk to project managers, designers and even my wife about it. To this day, I have yet to have a single conversation about Basecamp that does not include someone complaining that the new Basecamp doesn’t have private messages and to-do list templates. I wonder why?

    For many of us that started out with the original Basecamp (Classic), the new version of Basecamp was an exciting development. However, it became apparent early on in the beta testing process there where many features that users considered missing. Even during early beta testing, I remember there were repeated freak-out threads from upset users about the lack of templates, time-tracking, private messages, private to-do lists, and other features standard in Basecamp (Classic). We had become accustomed to the way Basecamp worked, and saw nothing but potential problems with integrating our work-flows with the new version of Basecamp.

    Basecamp is not Basecamp Classic

    From an outsider’s opinion, I believe that when 37Signals started developing the new version of Basecamp, they viewed it as the next iteration of the Basecamp product. However, as they began to redevelop Basecamp, it turned into a totally different tool, resulting in a totally different process for managing your projects; which is — I think — the biggest disconnect that long-time Basecamp Classic users have when they think about Basecamp vs Basecamp Classic.

    With the above in mind, lets explore some other key differences that you need grasp in order for Basecamp to click for you:

    Project Managers are the focus of Basecamp

    In Basecamp Classic, a project manager could go in and assign tasks, but it still required that they then follow-up to ensure that tasks were checked off, or required people to update to-do comments noting that a to-do had been completed.

    Basecamp improves on this old model by automatically notifying a project manager via email, or via the “recent activity” list, when tasks have been completed. This allows your team to focus on the work at hand, and less on looping in their project manager, or sitting through “catch up” meetings.

    Your project may include multiple Basecamp projects

    Yep, you read that right — that new application you are building maybe be considered a single project to you, but in the new Basecamp, you’ll probably want to break it down into multiple projects. The biggest benefit to doing this is that you can provide a more granular level of access to project information to different people and teams, improve search results, cut down information clutter, and reduce communication white-noise for your team.

    Multiple-ProjectsThe Loop-in feature has replaced private messages & to-dos

    Let’s face it, from a development standpoint adding private messages and to-dos features to Basecamp is not that difficult. The 37Signals team appears to be consciously keeping this feature out of the application because it doesn’t fit the project management style of the new Basecamp. Instead, they want you to try to:

    • Use multiple Basecamp projects – If it makes sense to have your clients in Basecamp, but you have a portion of your project that you don’t want them to see, try using another project to organize communication with the client. Basecamp has a fabulous “Move” feature that lets you move tasks, files, and messages from one project to another.
    • Loop in clients when needed – Do you really need your client in your PM system? Sure, it’s convenient at times, but how often have you had a “hands-on” client that when in and started assigning to-dos, or sending messages to everyone on the project when they had a question? I have found that in most cases, using the loop-in feature allowed me to do any client-focused communication without even giving them a Basecamp account.

    Like it or not, Basecamp is designed so that all communication in a project is transparent and if you don’t want people who are on the project to see something, it should be handled elsewhere else. Once you accept this as a reality of Basecamp, you will find that it’s not actually that difficult to change your work-flow to adapt to the new Basecamp.

    Time tracking, and other add-on features probably won’t be back

    With the new version of Basecamp, 37Signals appears to be focusing on providing the best possible experience for the core application and is trying not to add every possible feature. 37Signals has been good about integrating with other services and applications to add advanced functionality that their users need. Remember, Basecamp is not the same as Basecamp Classic, and just because something worked there, does not mean it will work in the new product.

    My Basecamp Experience

    Phase 1: Replicating the Basecamp Classic experience — When I first moved to the new Basecamp, I spent most of my time trying to replicate our Basecamp Classic workflow over to the new Basecamp. It sucked.

    Phase 2: Screaming into a pillow — ’nuff said.

    Phase 3: Searching for an alternative to Basecamp — I realized quite quickly that our workflow was not going to work in the new Basecamp as it had in the past. Since I had already freed up Basecamp Classic for our marketing team to use, I wasn’t able to easy jump back to Basecamp Classic, and spent a fair amount of time exploring other project management tools — but kept coming back to Basecamp.

    Phase 4: Rebooting the Basecamp experience — Once I decided that Basecamp was the best option for us, I wiped the slate clean. I archived projects and rebuilt each one using the new Basecamp process. I did the best I could to throw out the old Basecamp process, and start with a clean slate — using the product in the way that the 37Signals team designed it, trying to understand why they made the choices they did.

    After two or three weeks of real-world use, I found myself understanding why the new Basecamp works the way it does and haven’t looked back.

    My advice for those of you who are still clinging onto the Basecamp Classic way of managing your project would be to re-examine the reasons why you’re still using the old product, and to give the new version a try. You might find that what you think of as “missing features” are actually part of the reason why the new version of Basecamp is so much better.

  2. If the Internet Fails…

    If these startups, websites and apps turn out to be a failure — like all our parents predicted they would — we Blue Sky Solutioneers can say, “No Mom, no Dad, I know I’m moving back in with you at 30, but, it was worth it, because the internet has solved the problem of what to do while on the toilet”.

    I feel so strongly about this sentiment that I’d like to see a study commissioned that examines whether graffiti / defacement of bathroom walls has gone down since the smart phone became prevalent. Think about it Internet!

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  3. Building Things That Matter

    In 15 years, services like Facebook will be as ubiquitous as the telephone, used every-day by a vast majority of people, or gone, the way of Pets.com. However, I do not think that many people will look back on their time spent on Facebook or Twitter and think that their life was made better, or that it helped them overcome a huge life-altering obstacle.

    Before I go on, I want to say that I’m not trying to bash Facebook, Twitter or any application or service that people are working hard to create. I think many of these services have a place, and many of them will prove to be useful communication tools. However, with so much money and focus on these services, I wonder if there are other ideas — ones that could provide a huge impact on people’s lives — that are going unnoticed or are abandoned because of lack of funding.

    Recently, I was watching a video interview of Chris Dixon and he mentioned that one of his favorite startups that he helped fund was Kickstarter, because they were making a real impact — something that stuck in the back of my mind as a great reason to get behind a company. Shortly after, I was involved in a campaign to fund a Kickstarter project called The Diabetic Journal. The project aims to create an easy-to-use app for diabetics to track their blood sugar levels, exercise, and food in a daily log that helps them better manage their disease. This may not seem like a huge thing to you, but as a Type 1 Diabetic, I can tell you that it’s an incredibly laborious process and the existence of apps like this can greatly benefit the lives of approximately 177 million people (mine included) in a very powerful way.

    Being a backer of The Diabetic Journal, and helping to promote it made me wonder what other apps or services are being developed that I am unaware of. What ideas are being kicked around that just need a nudge, or helping hand to get started? Maybe if we can turn our attention to the startups and individuals who are trying to develop products or services that can directly help the lives of people, we’ll see some additional funding and public attention on them — and maybe we’ll see people begin to build things that really matter.

    If you know of a startup that is trying to build a product that genuinely will help the lives of people, I’d love to hear about it. Talk to me on Twitter and even Google+.

  4. Control Multiple Devices with Logitech’s New Bluetooth Keyboard

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    Short version: Logitech has solved the problem of having multiple keyboards for your many computers and tablets with their Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard and I recommend it.

    Longer Review

    Quality (7/10) – I have always used Apple Keyboards. Sure, many people would complain that they are overpriced, but they are high-quality, dependable, and work very well with Apple devices. You can expect that if you are buying something from a non-Apple manufacturer, you’re going to see a step down in quality, but Logitech has done a decent job in producing this keyboard. It is fairly light, and doesn’t feel cheap. The keys are a little taller than Apple’s keyboard, but not by much.

    Price (6/10) – The keyboard costs $100 (pre-tax + shipping). I found that Best Buy does carry the Windows version of the keyboard, but not the Mac version (at least at my store) so I recommend that you look around before you buy. For $100, I would expect a little more solid quality to the keyboard, but you’re paying for the convenience in this situation. If Apple where to come out with a Keyboard that let me switch between 2-3 devices and it costs $100 – $120, I would buy it instantly.

    Performance (9/10) – This is where the keyboard shines. I’ve found in the past with different Bluetooth switches and similar technology that it was sluggish at best. In the case of this keyboard, I found that it performed like you’d want it to perform — very well! The switching was quick, and setup for Bluetooth was easy (if not easier than Apple’s keyboards). The key’s are responsive, and you don’t feel as if there is key-press lag even after switching from one device to another.

    Batteries (9/10) – The keyboard has no removable batteries. It has batteries contained inside of the keyboard, and you charge it via a small USB cable that they provide. It comes with wire-management clips on the USB cable so it doesn’t add mess to your desk and can be easily hidden until needed. I found that the keyboard (when fully charged) actually lasted much longer than my Apple keyboard did, which is very positive. I should note that the on/off switch on the keyboard is much easier to use and much less confusing than Apple’s wireless keyboard.

    Conclusion

    I’d give the keyboard a 7 out of 10 rating – It’s a solid keyboard, and worth the money, that will probably only be surpassed if Apple develops a keyboard with similar features. You can learn more about the product on Logitech’s website: Mac Version | Windows Version.