Using Basecamp

I’ve been learning how to use Basecamp 3 to do my job better. First I would suggest to turn off emails and tweak your notification settings. Set your work time.

Official Resources:

  • Easy to learn. All in one. Learn how to use message board. You’re good to go. You don’t need to learn 6 different tools to get things done.
  • Everything in Basecamp is commentable. You can discuss everything in context. Every message, event in Schedule, every page can be commented.

A Basecamp account has a HQ. Company HQ is like your Intranet of your company everyone has access to so you can put up company-wide information here. HQ has many Teams (Workspace, Departments for a group of people). Projects can have people from different Teams to do work together. To-dos are ways to get things done within Team/Project. A Project usually started as a To-do in a Team.

You can granularly give people access to team / project.

Team is long term: Half year, a year, forever.

Ideas for Teams: Executives, Android, iOS, QA, Support, Designers, Developers, Ops, Managers, Marketing, Tokyo, San Francisco, Administrations, Product Strategy.

From 2 people to 200 people, every team gets same essential tools!

You can have a les trois mousquetaires team for 3 founders to discuss things before announced to everyone.

Project is short term: 4-8 weeks.

Ideas for Projects: A new CLI, new iOS release, landing page redesign, 2020 End-of-Year off-site planning.

From 2 people to 200 people, every project gets same essential tools!

Each Team and Project has six essential tools:

  • Message Board
  • To-do
  • Campfire (Chat)
  • Docs & Files
  • Schedule
  • Automatic Check-ins—Questions ask automatically on given cadence

These six tools belongs to the Team and Project. You have a central source of truth to find most related things for this project or this team! You can rename/reorder these tools or turn off them if you don't need them.

These six tools are great because they’re all linked together, stay together. You can reference the message from a document. Point to an event from a message. Expand conversation from someone’s automatic check-in.

Message is like a Post.

A must-read for everyone. Stuff everyone has to see. Ideas: Company’s new policy for COVID-19. Announce new hires. Bonus for everyone! Replace internal emails. Email is decentralized between 2 parties. Message Board is a centralized place for everyone to see these email exchanges. Every message got an URL you can share with anyone.

Sometimes communication needs to be synchronous (during an incident, investigating things together).

A To-do list can have due date and assign someone. Can add more items in a To-do list when you discover a To-do has more work to do.

You can have docs from Google Drive / Dropbox. Can have folder to group docs. Can use colors to indicate the status (green for approved / done)

On Basecamp, almost everything is commentable that you can discuss things within context. Everything has a link (URL) to share with someone else.

Questions automatically asked in designated time. It is a tool to build culture in a distributed company. People can share their life. Getting to know someone deeply.

Company-wide schedule. A schedule for a Team or a Project. This currently sucks because the schedule by default loads every events from today til 2 month later.

HQ is for everyone in the company. Things here are for everyone.

Messages everyone MUST read in your company.

For everyone to social.

Date everyone needs to know (off-site, company conference).

Code of Conduct, Benefits, All-hands meeting notes,
Performance reviews, Expenses, Security Checklist, Brand Assets, etc. Benefits could be a folder that has documents for retirement plan, national holidays, life insurance, paternity leave, etc.

  • What did you do this weekend? (Every Monday 9am)
  • Seen any good movie/show lately? (Thursday of each month 9am)
  • What are you reading? (First Wednesday of each month 12pm)
  • What you recently learned / discovered? Show and tell! (Every Thursday 9am)
  • Anything inspire you lately (First Thursday of each month 9am)
  • What did you eat for lunch today? (Every weekday at 3pm)

For Teams, you can add 2 more questions:

  • What will you work on this week? (Every Monday morning 9am)
    In your own words on top of your head, what are you going to do this week? Rough estimation.

  • What have you worked on? (Every day 4.30pm)
    In your own words, what did you do today?

    It’s nice for managers to know what’s going on and individuals to reflect daily. For managers, you don’t need to actually check-in with your reports. Just go read their answers. If you see your report says stuck or missing write-ups for few days, that’s a chance to have a conversation with them. You don’t need to constantly bother them.

    It’s also good so that everyone can get a sense of what other people are working on. This also enables collaborations if someone else from different team happens to read your write-up, and they may have an answer for you. It’s about sharing and reflecting.

Other tools of Basecamp...

Hill Chart

To-dos do not reflect progress. All To-dos checked off does not mean 100% done. 80% To-dos checked off could mean done (because we realized 20% of the To-dos are not important along the way).
Team members moved the hill chart themselves to reflect the real progress.
Great for others to look at the hill chart and know where we are at and the history of hill chart to know how things went.

Team lead write Heartbeats and Kickoffs every 6 weeks.

Heartbeats: Summarized what happened last 6 weeks.
Kickoffs: Summarized what is going to happen in next 6 weeks.

Everyone can read every team’s Heartbeats and Kickoffs so everyone is aligned! Heartbeats and Kickoffs are also great to review what have been done in last 6 month / quarter.

Why not every 4/5/7/8 weeks? Read Shape Up.

⌘ J goto anywhere

Start with a To-do / Message in the team. Discuss and have conversations then you shall see if you need a project.