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Basecamp: A Simple, Elegant Virtual Office for Basic Needs

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices on April 21, 2009

Picking an appropriate virtual office—a place where you can collaborate with coworkers online and share files, calendars, and contacts—is not easy. You need to understand your company’s present and future needs. But equally important is understanding your company’s collective personality. If only there were a Myers-Briggs test for virtual office users.

Lacking that, I created a quiz to see if you’re a potential user of one of my favorite collaborative web tools on the Internet.

  1. Do you love Macs?
  2. When you don’t like software, do you find yourself saying, “It’s not intuitive”?
  3. Do you tend to avoid manuals, wanting things to be obvious?
  4. Do computers scare you or are you someone who finds it challenging or enervating to set up software?
  5. Do you generally prefer fewer options but find it important that the options you have are simple, elegant, and function well?

If the answer to most or all of the questions is yes, go straight to the Basecamp website and watch the demo videos, narrated by the founder of 37signals, which makes the online software. Each demo begins, “Hi, I’m Jason,” and shows you how you can set up a basic, useful virtual office in no time.

There are many reviews of Basecamp already, some glowing, some nitpicking, but if imitation is a sign of success, Basecamp has been an overwhelming winner, spawning numerous competitors in the “simple, well functioning, but with limited features” niche. For many companies, especially those with ten employees or fewer, Basecamp is a gift from the gods, transforming them from disorganized collectors of papers and sticky notes to smoothly operating organizations, companies where each employee is only a few clicks from any file or important information. Basecamp is also an extremely likable service, as displayed in this testimonial video from its website.

But if Basecamp is so great—and I really think it is—then why shouldn’t everyone use it? Simply put, Basecamp’s strengths are its weaknesses. Basecamp is so simple that you won’t get confused, but it’s also so simple that you won’t have many options. Companies that have more than ten employees or those that are looking for more comprehensive ways to store information and collaborate might find Basecamp’s features too limited.

In my next post I’m going to discuss another simple virtual office, one, like Basecamp, that you can set up during a coffee break or while watching a rerun of Friends.


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