Jennifer B. Davis
It is important for companies and individuals to know what they are about. I have written before about the importance of being responsive to customers or clients and that is absolutely true, but it does have to balanced by a discipline of deciding to do some things well.

I had an illustration of this a few weeks ago. I had contacted the support group at 37Signals whose produce Basecamp I have used to manage a variety of projects for myself, my employer, and clients. I highly recommend this tool and I know they are always develping new offerings. I suggested to them that they develop a new interactive, collaborative scheduling service. The idea would be that it would allow a person to set up a calendar of events and allow people to RSVP. However, it would be more than an Evite (which is another tool I love and use all the time). The innovation that I was suggesting was that the tool would allow multiple events to be managed from one interface and that it would include an element of capacity planning. Let's say, a hair studio wanted to use a tool like this to accept online appointments. They could enter the number of stylists available throughout the day and the software would prevent people from overbooking, perhaps suggesting alternates that might work or managing a waiting list. I thought this would be cool for a variety of their small business customers and I knew that I could use it right away for a project I am working on for the Westside MOPS.

But, I digress. I sent the idea to them in some detail. I received a response back that surprised me. I thought that I would get a "thank you and we appreciate your ideas" email that would be that. Instead, I got a personal email back from Jason at 37Signals that read "We will not be building the software you suggested. We only build things we can use and we wouldn't use this."

Needless to say, I was a little taken back. I send them back an equally curt response saying how unfortunate it was that they would not be taking action on this and that I would have scheduled time to talk with them in more detail about the idea, but sadly they don't use scheduling software. But, the whole thing got me thinking.

Here is a company that is very well-respected and builds great tools. They got a suggestion for what would be a great product (in my humble opinion) and they said, "no." No, because it wasn't something they were passionate about. No, because, perhaps, it didn't fit into their vision of who uses their tools and why.

Although their response to me could have been a bit more respectful, I can see and appreciate their point. If they pour their resources into making Basecamp and other tools I use better, then I can't really complain.

So, my "collaborative scheduling" idea is out there. Somebody should develop this tool! If you know of any offerings like this on the market, I am very interested in learning about them. To learn of other product ideas or offerings that I have put on the curb to recycle, see Invention Recycling.
6 Responses
  1. kristi w Says:

    I totally have been wishing Basecamp would add a calendar to their site, so we could have multiple day events and times attached to milestones. I also would like to have the option to have more than one person as responsible for a task or milestone. It's an all company or one person option now - sometimes, like with PUMP projects, we have teams that I would like to list.

  2. Allan White Says:

    I've met Jason Fried before, in person, and I follow his blog. They have been wildly successful and he's sort of a "Business 3.0" guru now, based on his success in design and products like Basecamp.

    He is also known for his strong opinions (what guru isn't?), and while he's open to feedback on existing products, they tend to say no as a default position on any new feature or idea - until it's fully evaluated or a need is clear (to them).

    While he definitely could have been more polite (!), I'm not surprised they said no. They also frown on other things that people really want (like me), like time tracking:

    "...we don’t track time. Tracking time is a waste of time. Things either get done or they don’t. If they don’t, everyone knows about it."

    Ok, whatever. Don't feel bad, Jen - if it's an idea whose time has come, it *will happen* - it's only a question of who gets there first.

  3. Allan White Says:

    Oh, and hi honey! To Kristi's point, I think it's a limitation of 2 things: theys start simple at 37s then build features up, carefully. Second, I think it's a limitation in the WebCal protocol - which buys compatibility at the expense of features. A trade-off. Good points tho.

  4. kristi w Says:

    "theys start simple at 37s then build features up, carefully"

    I have no idea what this means, but I'm not sure I really care. You know how we normal people are - we just want what we want. We don't know how it happens!

  5. Perhaps Jason's gruffness is part of his charm? Who knew I was talking to the "big cheese"?

    So, if Kristi and I both think it is a good idea, perhaps someone will invent the group calendar in basecamp fashion and beat them to it. :)

  6. I found a tool that will work for this purpose by a company called Mollyguard. See my post about it.