Why Basecamp May Not Be Perfect and How Less can Sometimes be Too Little
I break out in a cold sweat when I consider saying ANYTHING negative about Basecamp out in the open - I have seen others bombarded with hate mail for mentioning 'Basecamp' and 'Not perfect' in the same sentence. However, over here, we're thinking very seriously about web 2.0 applications, what is missing and what holes need filling. So my eyes just got a whole lot more critical.
We have a running joke about how 37 Signals can proclaim 'We just cut features from Basecamp' and have crowds flock to sign-up/pay more. How they have the perfect marketing pitch – 'You can pay us more to offer you less!'. For the most part I love it, but recently I worked on a project that involved 3 seperate businesses and 22 page layouts, and Basecamp left a lot to be desired.
3 Business 22 Pages, Not Huge Right?
But a couple of weeks into it, I had no idea where each page was at, and the only way to find out was to trawl through the messages to locate the last message/comments posted about a particular page. Tim can vouch that it drove me insane. We even resorted to email just to de-clutter our project space!!! It struck me that we weren't so unique. All projects have tasks, and all those tasks need tracking. If you have more than about 5 individual tasks, I'm just not sure how Basecamp caters for you.
So Is Less More? Or is it Just Less?
Maybe this is more of a rant about extreme simplicity in the general Web 2.0 space. Can you seriously use something that just doesn't do much? I'd say Basecamp is one of the more complex of the web 2.0 tools, and it's just managing to balance successfully right on that line between exceptionally cool, and kinda useless. And I wonder if it would be so bad to add a feature or two (I mean, Basecamp is quite well established now as a product), add a little task tracking functionality, even in it's most simple form (ie. Assigning messages/files to an item (task) on a to do list)?
But 37 Signals are so clear on there 'less is more' approach that I can't help but be peer pressured into believing that I'm of the old school of complex software, that I'm just not making full use of the simple, elegant flexibility they offer. And even though I was left frustrated and confused at many points in that particular project, it was still completed on time, which may mean that 'project management utopia' simply means something a little different from what I had imagined?