At Lincoln Loop, we're big believers in Getting Real. The second chapter discusses the importance of picking a fight and Having an Enemy. Perhaps surprisingly, one of our early enemies was in fact, Basecamp, 37signals' flagship product. While it may be a great project management tool, we found it failed for us as a discussion tool. It inspired us to build something better.
Recently, they've been making their internal Basecamp projects public, so we decided to poke around and see how Ginger could improve their discussions. We chose this discussion. It's a typical discussion of the, "I did this. What do you think?" variety. Here's an example of what that discussion might look like in Ginger (click to enlarge).
The first thing I noticed was how many people were simply saying, "good job" or more succinctly, "+1". It detracts from some real discussion that happens later on in the thread and probably resulted in a bunch of extra email noise for everyone involved (see "Notifications" below).
In Ginger, we solve this problem with voting. Like what you see? Simply click to show your approval. You don't need to worry about coming up with some witty response or contribute to flooding everyone's inbox with "me too" type messages.
The Basecamp discussion actually contains two side-discussions inside it. It's hard to see at first glance and almost impossible to contribute to unless you can do it immediately as they are happening. Once the discussion has shifted gears, it's hard for others to know who you are responding to. You'll see name mentions and blockquotes from the original message, but they break the flow of the conversation and make it difficult to read.
Ginger has a simple fix, threading. Threading makes it clear who and what you are responding to. More importantly, it lets people contribute to any part of the conversation at any time without detracting from the readability. This is great for working with people in different timezones. It also gives people permission to close Ginger and focus on work. They know they'll be able to contribute when they're ready.
Towards the end of the discussion, a few people discuss measuring the processing time of the export feature. It's a tangent that only a few of the more technical folks in the discussion need to take part in. For everyone else, it just serves as extra noise.
In Ginger, when you want to take a discussion in a different direction, you can fork it. Forking is a feature unique to Ginger that lets you spin-off side-discussions while maintaining the focus of the original discussion. Their fork might look like this:
By my calculations, this one discussion generated 806 emails within 37signals (31 people notified
X 26 comments). If it takes 30 seconds for each one of those emails to be processed, that's almost 7 hours dealing with the emails sent on this conversation. If people are context switching (getting out of the flow) to read those emails, it's even worse.
Ginger respects your inbox, letting you customize your notification schedule for each team you belong to. The default is to only be notified once a day of any new activity. For teams that you want to keep an eye on, but not be distracted by, you can turn off notifications altogether.
We think Ginger is a marked improvement over what Basecamp messages have to offer. If you agree or you're frustrated with your teams inability to communicate efficiently, consider taking us up on our 30 day free trial.