In a response Stop being clever about it, Rasmus launches into a condemnation of shock and loss of respect:
I am bordering on being shocked that the "active/finished" status has been decided by a algorithm instead of user input... the fact that this feature has only been added post-launch has led to me losing some respect for 37 Signals. It's the kind of feature that I consider so blatantly obvious that I'd expect it from any given amateur software solution.
Rasmus, you're over-dramatizing what happens to be a natural evolution of understanding. Like Jason said, this design came from an intent to make Basecamp the simplest way to manage your projects.
When you're trying to archive such a goal, it's the same as placing a number of bets with varying odds. There's no way we can (or could afford to) asses or even contemplate how every single feature is going to play out in advance. So some of the bets are bound to turn out bad.
Does that mean we shouldn't bet? Does it mean we should be struck by analysis paralysis in order to archive complete information about every bet? What an extremely boring and slow company 37signals would be then.
Being wrong some of time is the price of innovation. That's the inevitable. What separates good designers from bad designers is the ability to accept this fact and the willingness to act once the information is available.
In the case of project activity, the additional information wasn't readily available before months after Basecamp had launched. When projects were going inactive and others were starting.
So now when we have the information available, we're simplifying the design of the application, and we're publically discussing how this bet didn't work as a warning for other designers that might be contemplating the clever road.
The consequences of condemnation
I'm currently reading Gerald M. Weinberg's Quality Software Management. He has a wonderful principle called 'It's not the event that counts, it's your reaction to the event.' In that light, I'm proud that 37signals and the Basecamp has a culture where our reactions to events are one of honesty and humility. I'm disappointed that your second-level reaction is one of condemnation.
Imagine that this scenario had played out within a typical corporation. Imagine you were the manager judging this status report. Now, the consequences of your "loss of respect" would be easily predictable to even first-year students of management theory or psychology. People that are punished for honesty retract and substitutes honesty with concealment.
This concealment slows down single-loop learning and possitively kills second-loop learning at an organizational level (more on loop learning). It furthers the gulf between manager and employee by poisoning the open exchange that's a prerequisite for a healthy relationship and report.
This is what Weinberg would call "typical Pattern 2 behavior". Luckily, this is not your typical organization. You're not my manager appraising my status report. And by being aware of the otherwise natural consequences that would follow if I allowed myself to implicitly internalize your appraisal, I'll turn that energy into an even more ferociously report on the learning that's going on within the Basecamp project.
If I wasn't still limited by my feelings of disappointment, I would have thanked you for unknowingly increasing my spirit and belief in the necessity for transparency in the learning process that is Basecamp.
"Don't have a cow, dude" seems like the appropriate response.
I'm constantly amazed by your grace and continued enthusiasm even in the face of pointless idiocy. I could learn a thing or two from it. =:)
Pointless idiocy? Give me a ******* break. I completely understand Rasmus' expression of surprise; I was thinking the exact same thing (although I have no opinion on 37Signals and therefore cannot lose or gain any respect for them). What I don't get is that David feels so thoroughly violated that he has to write up an excessively wordy rebuttal.
Exactly what information "wasn't readily available before months after Basecamp had launched"? That users want control over whether or not their projects are active? Please, that's a no-brainer. Pointing that out, as Rasmus did, can hardly be characterized as "pointless idiocy". On the contrary, I find it a valid and reasonable observation.
Adjusting your design based on what you learn from watching users interact with your software, is of great value and a sign of a high quality development effort. However, removing an, in my book, obviously broken feature and replacing it with a simpler, more commonsense one hardly constitutes grounds for singing the praise of Less Software and Other Capitalized Design Principles.
well, sourceforge (actually, everything using GForge) does the "this project is XY% active" automagically, I'm not sure that is an idea to reject from the start, in the end there are hundreds of thousands of people using GForge-based tools.
Anyway I don't know if this is good or bad, I never used baecamp.
Sometimes innovative things seem to go against common sense. It was tried; it was rejected. I applaud the transparency of the process and value it far more than I would a company that tries to maintain a perfect image, which I see much too often. Unless the confession that something did not work is the start of many many more, I hold 37Signals in higher respect than I did before.
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