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Summary:

Espousing the productivity benefits of web tools and services is something we at Web Worker Daily do often because we experience it firsthand every day. We hope our numerous product reviews and articles about Choosing Your Tools Wisely help you navigate the often overwhelming landscape of […]

Espousing the productivity benefits of web tools and services is something we at Web Worker Daily do often because we experience it firsthand every day. We hope our numerous product reviews and articles about Choosing Your Tools Wisely help you navigate the often overwhelming landscape of the web and lead you to greater productivity.

Choosing a product for team use presents an entirely different set of challenges than one for a single user. Implementing a web tool or service that isn’t compatible with the working style of the people expected to use it is shortsighted and counterproductive. If your chosen product or service doesn’t work like you do to serve the needs of your whole team, perhaps it is time to consider if you have made the right choice and just whose needs is it serving?

Basecamp LogoEarlier this week, 37signals announced implementation of one of their most oft requested features to their stalwart Basecamp project management service. Users now have the ability to reply to messages or comment notifications directly by email rather than requiring a visit and log in to your project site. One could almost hear the collective sigh of relief in the user forums and across the blogosphere as folks praised this feature.

I noticed amidst the buzz a significant number of people who said that their clients and colleagues weren’t using the service and participating in the collaborative process prior to this point because this particular feature was missing.

I’m a big fan of Basecamp (which we cover frequently) and appreciate them responding to their users and adding such useful functionality to their product. It really will allow a lot of us to use the service more productively.

But this brings to light some questions that should be asked about any service or tool that you are looking to implement in a multi-user environment.  Are we forcing our clients and teammates to communicate in a fashion that is incompatible with their work style? Are we limiting the participation of the very folks we are looking to engage?  Have we made the right choice?

How would you answer these questions? Have you done a review of the effectiveness of your chosen products or services?

  1. Often tools like Basecamp are not the perfect solution, but they can still be a lot better than the alternatives.

    I persuaded my current company to use Basecamp and the results are mixed, but before we got on to BC everything was done through email. It was clumsy and prone to problems as many folks just have the tech-dumbs. There is a learning curve to BC and it’s an easier fit for some than others, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

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  2. I find it depends on the clients basic internet skill level. Experienced users immediately embrace Basecamp. Novices need a little nudge.

    Our web development company relies heavily on Basecamp to keep everyone accountable and in check. Once our clients understand this – 99% of them LOVE the online collaboration.

    Donna Payne, Chief Web Goddess
    http://thewebcoach.net

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  3. Absolutely – I’m not knocking Basecamp at all. It is a wonderful product and I have managed some successful projects with it.

    If you do a review and find that it is working and providing value then you have probably made the right choice.

    I think that the folks at 37signals would agree that even their service isn’t a good fit for every situation – and being aware of how your teams are (or aren’t) using it is critical to getting the best results.

    Thanks for the comments,
    SB

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  4. I have used Basecamp in the past, definitely nice interface.

    I have to say though that Central Desktop http://www.centraldesktop.com (the tool I use now – Basecamp competitor) has had this feature for a long time. You can virtually reply to all their emails and the stuff gets logged in the application.

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  5. One of the best, and undervalued features of Basecamp is that it has an extensive API. If Basecamp’s missing something that you NEED, you can build it (assuming time/skills to do so).

    I’ve heard a lot of talk from people wanting better e-mail input into Basecamp, aside from just commenting. I started Mailmanagr.com as a side project, and 37signals caught wind of it and posted about it on their product blog.

    I’m basically building off of the Basecamp API, and making it so that people will be able to e-mail their projects (create new messages, to-dos, milestones).

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  6. I was re-inspired to try backpack and with 20 others in an international project.

    There was a mixture of excitement and embarrassment.

    Excitement was there because the core of time and notes is as silky as you could wish – swish and tasty. Where I am the pageloads drag and the edits freeze. 37S haven’t upped the servers enough to beat plodding old ruby.

    - Writeboard is still very unusable and the buttugly textile fundamentalist approach hides all the nice versioning – no concessions even to a Markitup type panel. Boxnet and Huddle are wiping the floor with 37S on this and there *is* a halfway

    - Support is pretty diabolical too. Forums seem to be there to be ignored and there are stocks of unanswered topics. International support is less than non-existent while arrogance seems to seep through the posts.

    I am sorry and embarassed that 37S is marginalising a keen userbase with some huge dirty stains marring and impeding a great suite.

    DK

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  7. I’ve used Basecamp, and I think that it might be a good tool for web-designers. But all the other people out there will miss some really important features in it. Recently, I’ve found and interesting post at About.com. The author recommends Wrike. I’m going to try it. It looks like something I was looking for.

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  8. The best part about these tools is that companies can try it out and see if it fits their teams and clients. We have had firms that actually do not want the tight integration – use email only for notifications and the rest is on the system for people to login and check. Though I can see why the email integration could speed up the efficiency.


    DeskAway.com

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  9. I think the primary crime of this thought pattern is that we force developers of tools that product the most perfect tool for a certain audience to produce a lowest common denominator tool for the world.

    The problem is primarily a signal to noise issue. The right tools for different groups exist, we just need better filtering technology to help every business get the solution that’s right for them.

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  10. [...] If your folks are really that resistant to logging in though, you may want to consider if you have made the right choice to accommodate the work style of our clients and [...]

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