37Signals reveals the Secrets of How and Why they disappoint me.. for $19.99


Okay so that's a wise-ass title, but it's from the heart. 37Signals impressed me with 43Things, and can claim a string of successes in RubyOnRails, BaseCamp, and Internet Marketing in general. Now they are spilling the beans on how they achieve rapid success in the market with an inspirational how-to-succeed-developing-software ebook. Even the Table of Contents suggests that everytime I was disappointed in one of their products (frequently), it was probably intentional. The table of contents is full of edginess...

The table of contents includes such Internet marketing classics as "Have an Enemy", "Tell Me a Quick Story", "Use Real Words", "Personify Your Product", and "Copywriting is Interface Design". One might argue that they helped define what is now the classic" Web 2.0 marketing page style.

But there are also chapter titles that suggest my experiences with a lack of necessary features (Basecamp), a lack of forethought on product use (TaDa List, Writeboard) and excessive edginess (RonR hype) was also part of the plan to sell product quickly:

  • Build Less
  • Have an Enemy
  • What's the Big Idea
  • Ignore Details Early On
  • It's a Problem When it's a Problem
  • Scale Later
  • Make Opinionated Software
  • Feature Selection: Half, Not Half-Assed
  • Feature Selection: It Just Doesn't Matter
  • Feature Selection: Hold the Mayo
  • Process: Test in the Wild
  • Interface Design: Context Over Consistency
  • Support: Zero Training
  • Support: Tough Love

I have not bought nor read this ebook yet, but I probably will because I believe there's genius in that guy and his homies. I doubt I will ever return to his products though (except for 43Things), because of my initial disapointment (doesn't that define a "branding failure"?). I also recognize the link bait character of the table of contents, but since it's relatively low-key when taken in context, I bite.

I guess I put more faith in my ability to extract value from the genius at 37signals (for $19.99) than their ability to execute in the marketplace. Funny how the ebook is sold as a tutorial for doing just that... executing in the marketplace. Classic irony?


I bought the book and I like

I bought the book and I like it so far, its full of quotes from though leaders to back up their assertions. If you read Signal vs Noise you will recognize a lot of the material.

John you may be interested to know that 43Things is a Robot Co-op project.

My Beef

My big problem with 37 signals is don't expect me to pay for a product that's not fully developed. If they paid a little attention to what people say they want in the forums, they might get a few more customers, or maybe "that just doesn't matter" to them ...

I think when you build

I think when you build enough of a reputation it almost becomes a pride point to care less about work quality and thus screw over many customers. That, and when you focus on the hype you generate such personal wealth and so much demand that quality customer service is also hard to give...especially since most leads do not have much value.

I have come to realize just how powerful the marketing and branding elements are, and they are no doubt well skilled at those.

Please don't tell me that

Please don't tell me that basecamp is any good. I've built a similar product (okay, with a development team, not by myself) and I can tell you that in every sense of the word basecamp sucks. It's all surface and hype. Not one single element that has not been done before by someone else, even better. That goes for their tadalist too, and whatever else they develop.

I also saw a talk from one of the 37signals people (Jason Fried) at Reboot7 in Copenhagen. He basically told us that he just wanted to develop what he thought was fun that day, but not think too much about it, not do it very well, and don't give a damn about users or usability. Then launch. Not even hot air, that's pure and simple bullshit. It does sound like that "book" is just his presentation revamped. And Merrick suggests that what he's done extra is to search the web for quotes. Don't buy it, it will not be worth it.

And 47 things? What's that? Some site where people can post all kinds of stuff? That's a freaking piece of guestbook software, no more than that.

The only thing they've got AFAIK is the RubyOnRails developer. From Reboot7 I seem to recall him saying that he wasn't exactly an employee at 37s but I might be wrong.

With all due respect, AFAIK they had some good graphical design ideas once, I think that was what made them their name - they should have sticked to that and not gone into development.

I have to say im a big

I have to say im a big admirer of the way they do things. Im going to get that book, and probably disagree with a good half of it, but like their blog, it'll make me think, and be worth the effort i think..

a fe wmore things

Claus... 43things was very innovative for its time and continues to demonstrate how a useless social app can be engaging and generate a fell-good factor for participants. I compare it to anonymous dating sites and related... people play while skirting around committment and responsibility. Many, many people look for that.. it seems to satisfy some escapist need that exists out there in the masses.

Come to think of it, isn't that what you report Jason said he liked to do? Play while skirting committment and responsibility (when developing applications?) ... too funny.

in retrospect

I think my general attitude towards 37signals is very much influenced by that talk. Before that I perceived them as a design firm with a name and some me-too stuff on the side, ie. "neutral" - but that talk really changed my perception.

Imagine what would happen if Nike decided they would sell no soles with their shoes. Just because "we don't bother with the details, and we really don't give a damn about features or customers. And besides we don't care. Can I go home now?"

Can you imagine any exeutive from any real world firm saying anything as stupid and arrogant as that? I can't.

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