Next AMA: Jason Fried, Basecamp Founder and CEO

In a previous interview you speak of being deliberately ‘oblivious to a lot of things intentionally’ since you ‘don’t want to be influenced that much’.

Do you think there is fundamental virtue today - an age where information overload seems to be the default - in practicing this kind of selective ignorance? For productivity, sanity and especially considering a lot of the conversation around technology today in the mainstream is about distraction.

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Hey Jason, thanks a lot for doing this. You are inspiration to a lot of Product People and makers.

What is the ideal product launch plan you suggest to young entrepreneurs?

(Posting a few questions back to back)

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Do you believe a product’s name matters as much as what it does?

Ref: Your tweet offering unreasonable price for a 3-5 letter domain name

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What products do you use or recommend for managing remote/lean teams like Basecamp’s?
What is the stack at Basecamp? (Apart from Basecamp itself :smiley: )

What makes you so productive? I am guessing that you are into meditation ? Would love to know your daily schedule.

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Do you plan to stay in Tech and Product businesses forever? What keeps you occupied when you’re not working or writing?

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When you kill a feature like ‘tracking pixels’ - how do you convince your customers of the same? After all, they would expect a system to do to this and be at par with what’s available in the market.

There’s no anxiety. There’s trust. Further, remote or local has nothing to do with it. You can always look at the work regardless of where it’s happening and where you are. We’re talking about design, we’re talking about code, we’re talking about writing - all these things are digital (or can be represented digitally). You can see and evaluate these things from anywhere in the world.

Short Question: How does the product management team at Basecamp work?

Long Question:
For a company which has 50+ employees and a world class product, it always made me wonder that how come you don’t have a team of Product Managers? There is Ryan (who looks after ‘Product Strategy’), that’s it! There is no one apart from him. Considering you have so many modules (and had many products), how does a one member product management team function when it comes dealing with so many things like requirement gathering, writing specifications, wireframes, project management, release planning, stakeholder management, metrics, roadmap, company vision, etc.?

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I don’t think about the future all that much, but I’ll do this as long as I continue to enjoy it. Could be 20 more years. Could be 2. I’m pretty much focused on now, and right now I enjoy what I do. We have some really exciting things happening at Basecamp, so I’m really enjoying it. What keeps me occupied outside of work is life! Hobbies, reading, family, my kids, my other interests. 8 hours a day of work is more than enough. Then I’ve got 8 hours of sleep. The remaining 8 is life in all its forms.

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I don’t think you can convince anyone of anything. I think you can simply make your case and people will make their own decisions. Sometimes you can persuade, other times people won’t be moved at all, but I don’t like to spend my energy actively trying to convince people of things.

So if tracking pixels are a deal breaker, then they’re a deal breaker. But I’m not going to allow people to track people just to fake a few extra bucks. I won’t put my ethics aside for dollars. It’s just not worth it. Same reason we don’t have presence indicators in Basecamp - I don’t believe software should track if someone’s working, not working, away, etc. I wrote about this in detail here: https://m.signalvnoise.com/the-presence-prison/

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What was the strategy behind a flat $100 / month pricing and did it affect your MRR in a negative way considering there could have been a number of customers paying far more than that.

Apart from Basecamp, which other product’s customer service do you like and why?

Same way you’d do it locally. Clear communication, fairness, trust, and a clear sense of direction (without micromanaging the ‘how’). Give people the big picture, point them in a general direction, stay out of their way, don’t distract them, and give them the full autonomy to solve the problem the best way they see fit. Review, work with them when they’re stuck, but don’t do the work for them. We wrote up in detail how we work - I’d recommend checking out Shape Up: https://basecamp.com/shapeup

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We’ve always approached product development the same way: selfishly. We build what we need, and then we find other people like us that want what we’ve made. When you make things for other people it’s really hard to know if it’s any good. When you make something for yourself, you can directly judge efficacy. Once a product is out, we of course listen to customers and make adjustments as we go - absolutely - but the first version is always our version, the version that best fits our internal vision. I believe this is how the best products are made.

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We don’t have project managers at Basecamp, so that’s a tough one to answer. We do have the notion of “Point Person” on any given project. They’re in charge of making the final call. But that’s not a dedicated job title, it’s a role someone is assigned on every project. Could be a different person each time. You’ll find more about this in Shape Up: http://basecamp.com/shapeup

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We just felt it was fair, clear, and simple. One price. Do you want to buy Basecamp? If so, here’s the price. Simple. One decision to make - yes or no - rather than deciding on different tiers, different feature sets, doing the math to figure out how much it might cost if you have 17 employees vs 32 vs 587. Basecamp is $99/month flat no matter how many people you have. That’s how I’d want to buy Basecamp, so that’s how we sell Basecamp. We also just released a Personal version that’s totally free, but there’s only one price for the paid version (although we do offer two months free if you pay annually for $999).

Certainly we’re leaving money on the table - plenty of large companies spend thousands of dollars a month on our competitors - but that’s fine. We’re not interested in making every last dollar, or squeezing every last penny out of a transaction. We feel that overall, a single price is the clearest and fairest.

We also think a single price insulates you significant losses if a big customer was to leave. The worst customer to have is one you can’t afford to lose. We don’t want to lose customers, of course, but we can afford to lose anyone at any time since the most anyone pays us is $99/month. I wrote about in detail here: https://m.signalvnoise.com/a-static-business-is-a-healthy-business/

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What is your take on over-engineering a product? How should a founder or anyone in a position of consequence guard against this tendency?

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Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Have you checked out our follow-up to REWORK called “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work”? If you liked REWORK, you’ll love that one.

Yes, nearly all of our customers come via word of mouth. We’ve dabbled a bit in advertising here and there, but primarily it’s all word of mouth.

We don’t have a content strategy - we just write when we have something to say. We don’t think about this article driving traffic or that article driving sales - we just write, or speak, or Tweet, or make a video, or whatever. We’re here to share, and we think the act of sharing is the valuable part. Not interested in trying to capture people.

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Believe it or not - we are switching to basecamp tomorrow :slight_smile: we have traditionally struggled to get all systems work together - and now, giving up the exploration and settling down :slight_smile:

Thanks for your kind words!

  1. All in house, yes. Most of it is written by me, David (my business partner), or Ryan. Everyone in the company is free to publish on our blog, but most choose not to. No approval is necessary, we want everyone to write freely and openly.

  2. Mostly our blog Signal vs. Noise (https://m.signalvnoise.com/), and on Twitter (@jasonfried, @dhh, @basecamp). As a company we aren’t on any other social media - no Facebook, no Instagram, etc. Just our own blog and Twitter.

  3. 4-day weeks requires you to be great editors. You have to cut out the things that don’t matter. No regular scheduled meetings, no unnecessary large group discussions, etc. It’s critical everyone has a full 8-hours a day to themselves, or 4-day weeks will be really hard to do. 4-day weeks are great practice for cutting out all the stuff that doesn’t matter.

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