Interview with 37Signals' Jason Fried


We recently chatted with Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals and a well-known innovator in online collaboration tools and techniques over that company’s Campfire chat tool. We discussed lots of topics, including virtual work forces, and how do you keep yourself motivated when working all by yourself. Here is an abbreviated version of that long rambling chat.

Om M. You are one of the early believers in the concept of distributed workforce. Are you surprised by the number of people now working together in far-off locations?

Jason F. I’m not surprised. People are the most important thing. Why limit yourself to just some people when you can work with *anyone*? If I only worked with people in Chicago I’d never have started working with David. Then there would never have been Rails.

Om M. Do you think this is a trend which will continue to gather steam?

Jason F. I absolutely do, yes. Tools like ours, and other tools like wikis, IM, etc, makes it so damn easy. And I also believe people are more productive when they are father apart. Interruption is productivity’s biggest enemy. We have 5 people here in Chicago at 37signals. And we still work apart. We work from home.

Om M. On the other hand, there is something to be said about spontaneity of working together and bouncing ideas off each other.

Jason F. We use Campfire for this. We’re in it all day long. And if I don’t want to pay attention I can put the window away. Unlike when you are in person with a bunch of people – you will be bothered whether you like it or not.

Om M. I am new to the whole virtual start-up thing, and I find myself getting the cabin fever, and missing the company of colleagues.

Jason F. When you are in a chat all day long with the people you work with you feel the culture. It’s better than the real thing. Campfire is our secret to success.

Om M. You don’t miss the physical proximity?

Jason F. Some people can’t work remotely. And if you are one of those people then you shouldn’t fight it. We prefer getting things done instead of bullshitting all day which is what happens when everyone is “hanging around.” And we’ve gotten a ton of things done over the last 2.5 years. 5 products, a 6th on the way, a book, ruby on rails, etc.

Om M. What other tools do you use to stay connected (virtually)?

Jason F. IM and Campfire are key. IM for quick 1-on-1s, and Campfire for the whole company. We use Writeboard, Basecamp, and Backpack all day long. We don’t build things because other people need them. We build them because we need them and then we realize there are other people like us that can use them too.

Om M. Are you going to do a voice application? I see that as a big part of staying connected.

Jason F. The best voice application ever built is the phone. It still is. When you are forced to write instead of talk you are forced to be concise. Since typing a lot [is] tiring. We think that’s a great constraint.

Om M. What about email?

Jason F. We use email, but rarely.

Om M. Really?

Jason F. We post things to Basecamp so they are centralized and then Basecamp sends out email, but that’s just a side effect.

Om M. Tell me, how long do you work everyday?

Jason F. Normal hours, but they are spread out. We don’t believe in 9-5. I get a few great hours in in the morning, then chill a little in the afternoons, and get a lot of work done at night. Work to personal mode can be tough, but that’s because I like to work. Everyone is different. You need to do what’s right for you (and people around you). I don’t think there’s a secret to that.

Photo by James Davidson.



I use Campfire, paid version. Somethings I like, but some are very annoying. 1) Why can’t I double click a user-name to bring up a chat window if I have something private to say. The need to use a second app for this is ridiculous. 2) Beeps are good, but there should be the ability to trigger them with keywords (eg. my name) so I don’t have to look every time someone posts. 3) Way too little info on a page — things should be squeezed together more without so much empty space. 4) Why only three files at any time? Once they disappear from the top-3 list, they’re impossible to find, unless you happen to remember which date they were posted. Why’s it so hard to delete a file after it’s been posted? The platform is stable and usable, and if it were free, I’d say “take what you get,” but for a paid platform, I think the things I ask for are pretty basic. Jason — if you’re interested, I can show you a different free group chat app I’ve used (but not with the group I currently work) that does all the above and more.

Terence Pua

Working remotely is ok if you have the “right” kind of employees/people. As a result, hiring becomes a key part of getting that kind of right person.

Changing a person’s behavior (who is used to going to an office) to working from home and having milestones is very different indeed.

Perhaps working remotely is cool (and more natural) with twentysomethings (and early thirtysomethings) but will be harder but not impossible for the older folks


Cool jason.

The future of work is dependant on what you done rather than how or howlong you done and in whattime you have done.

May this cult also follow in india.

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