You know about Basecamp, everyone does. I, unfortunately, haven’t even had the pleasure of using their software since nowhere I’ve worked has ever made it their tool for communication and productivity. The great thing about Basecamp is that you don’t need to use its products to enjoy its methodologies and operations.
I like to think of myself as a very productive and extremely efficient person. I’ve sometimes spent hours creating keyboard shortcuts or Alfred workflows that might only save me three or four seconds at a time. In a few years, however, that will add up to saving me hours if I use these shortcuts enough — which I do, and will.
I’m an avid reader of Basecamp’s blog, Signal vs. Noise. I feel enlightened and motivated every time I get to peek inside the mind of someone who’s involved in one of the best companies. I sometimes feel inefficient after reading a post, however. Being a student and working part time as a web developer is bound to sound inefficient yet productive right away — commuting, juggling between schoolwork and personal side-projects, work, it’s a mess. But, you don’t realize how much better things can operate if only you took the time to rethink your strategies. That is exactly what Rework helps you do.
What is Basecamp
Basecamp, previously 37 Signals, has brought the world a few different products. I have been lucky enough to use DHH’s Ruby on Rails quite extensively. In the opening pages of Rework, we’re told exactly what Basecamp is — a small company. This is a key to their success.
I’ve heard horror stories about how difficult it is to get in the doors of Basecamp; how resumes are just thrown away (because they’re ridiculous), how you’re shunned if you wear a suit and can’t pull it off properly. Though, once you’re in the mindset of how they operate, all these things seem reasonable.
Being a small company does not mean you’re a small company. A great example from the book compares big companies hiring people left and right and how this makes them seem more successful while top universities stay the same size while not hiring professors left and right and they’re still considered the top universities. Surely, it’s not the quantity but the quality of your staff. Basecamp is very sure to keep its people at that very high quality with the culture and employee benefits as well.
Working Hard or Working Smart
Jason Fried and everyone at Basecamp are very passionate about the amount of time they work. They lay out examples of these people who spend all day at the office and work because they’re practically addicted to it. The worst part is that these same people could be getting all their work done in a reasonable amount of time, but don’t always know the most efficient method because they’re blinded by the current task at hand.
Making a Difference
One of the most important things for me is that I’m making an impact on something and someone. I worked at Verizon over one summer, and at first I didn’t feel like I was doing much. “Oh Verizon.com doesn’t have my picture on it with a link to my GitHub. What’s the point!?” This is selfish and although an intern doesn’t have too much impact on the whole company, what I did mattered. I hope to make even more of an impact at the next place I decide to work. Basecamp would make sure of this, even before hiring.
“This makes my life better.” — Customer after using your product (via Rework)
We all have billion dollar app ideas. I have about twenty a day. Of course, Rework tells us what we already knew when saying having an idea is useless unless you act on it. I’m pretty sure I had the idea of a social blogging platform a few years ago, that doesn’t mean I would’ve created Medium.
Once I thought up a great app to help keep track of the books I’m reading. It would download the cover art automatically, it could keep track of the page I’m on, I could sync it to a back-end so I can always keep track no matter the device I’m on — it would be an awesome app. I did some digging to find a few book tracking apps and I downloaded a few. Most of them were good, some did some of what I wanted while others did the rest. Surely, it’d be a waste to make my own since it basically already exists.
Rework teaches to scratch our own itch. Software development is here for us to solve our own problems. Even if you don’t like coding, you might be obligated to make an app that you need. I’m currently working on that very reading app that I hope will solve all my troubles.
Building a Startup
I dream of one day building a startup. I like to think I have the chops to do it and do it right. Startups are glamorous and sexy. Ping Pong tables, beer on tap, free food — there’s nothing like the startup environment. Rework explains that the startup buzzword is really just that — a buzzword. Businesses are what matter and starting a business is what you’re really trying to do. DHH explains in RECONSIDER how all these companies try to take over the world while Basecamp is happy with the revenue they have and the products they launch. This is an admirable mentality and really shines light on the idea that I can start a business right now and be successful without being the next Facebook.
Rework also jabs at the popular exit strategy. I once attended a 3 Day Startup, we had a pretty good idea, a nice product, and dreams of turning it in to something. That hope still exists, of course. One of the members on our team mentioned an exit strategy, “If we get enough users we can definitely get someone to buy us out”. Even I, someone with barely any startup experience, was confused by this. Why worry about that now? Live in the moment with your business and do what is right at that time.
Building what you can
Agile is another popular buzzword; break things fast and early. This is pretty true and the book teaches that building something half-assed is much worse than building half a product. I was once redesigning a website for a nonprofit. The client knew what he wanted, right down to the pixel and it turns out he wanted an exact replica of another popular company; this was difficult but doable. Once it was finally finished and ready for launch, that company completely rebranded and changed the website; we had to, too.
“Build half a product, not a half-assed product”
You don’t need to read Rework to understand how inefficient this is but it did help me understand how inefficient it was having to implement an entire blog before we launch. The web is a place for iteration. The site was perfectly designed and ready for the people’s eyes. A blog will be great after a little work, but not crucial to the entire launch.
This was a very enjoyable, motivational, inspiring, and easy read. Sometimes I get so caught up in my workflow and my productivity apps I forget about what I’m trying to be productive for. Rework was able to fill my need for learning about the system but still teach me about the bigger picture as well.
There were many examples and comparisons to big companies we see every day. I was able to stay very engaged the entire time and I never really wanted to put the book down. In fact, I got through the entire thing in only two sittings.
I suffer from Imposter Syndrome quite a lot. I don’t have many software developer friends and I currently work at a company as the only person who understands what the internet is. Many of the examples in Rework are going to stick with me for a while as I think about how I want to spend the rest of my professional career and how I overcome these things that might simply be in my head.
Thank you for reading. I found Rework very relatable so I apologize if you weren’t expecting so many of my personal stories. I trust they added something to this write-up.