Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.
May 28, 2024

Lighten your grip

I recently took up drumming. Again. One of the first things you realize, other than you suck, is that you’re gripping the sticks too hard. A tight grip denies certain degrees of freedom, limits subtlety, and ups the fatigue factor. Plus you give up the gift of bounce the drum heads happily offer. It’s like you’re constantly paying inte...
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May 10, 2024

Separation

In my experience, a key skill to develop is the ability to separate one thing from another. To prevent the small from becoming the all. Take a policy, for example. Could be a government, or a school, or a home owner’s association, or something at work. Whatever it is, you don’t like it. You don’t agree, you don’t like the decision make...
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May 3, 2024

Why am I still doing this?

I’ve been doing this for 25 years, so I’ll often be asked why I’m still in it and how I stay motivated. It ain’t the money, as I’ve been fortunate enough to make more than I’ll ever be able to spend. I enjoy the work and we have a great crew, each a true pleasure to work with. I remain filled with ideas. So that’s part of it. But it’s ...
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April 26, 2024

Osmo Wiio: Communication usually fails, except by accident

Osmo Wiio was a Finnish researcher of human communication. His laws of communication are the human communications equivalent of Murphy’s Laws. Wiio's laws state... • If communication can fail, it will. • If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm. • There is always ...
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April 13, 2024

Surface area vs. Depth in product design

Some of the most rewarding features to add to products are ones that don’t increase surface area, but increase depth. This is how you continue to make a product a whole lot better without it feeling like it got a whole lot bigger. Basecamp’s new References feature is a great example of this. Video + write-up: https://updates.37signals....
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April 4, 2024

Motivation

I can fake enough. I can fake a lot. But I’ve noticed there’s one thing in particular I can’t fake: Motivation. And in the end, at least for me, it all comes down to motivation. I may have the talent, I may know the tricks, I may be able to go through the motions. But if I deeply don’t want to do it, it won’t be good. Simple as that. I...
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March 14, 2024

Avoiding pile-ups

One of the reasons we work in six week cycles, is that it gives us a different definition of later. When you work on really long projects — say 3, 6, 9 month projects — or projects that don’t have any end in sight, “we can do that later” typically means you’ll get to it eventually, as part of the current project. Long time frames give ...
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March 3, 2024

Hooks, towel bars, and software

Strangely, a recent bathroom renovation crystalized my perspective on product development. When being asked to choose between towel hooks or a towel bar, the choice was obvious: Hooks, of course. Hooks take up no space. Towel bars suck up space. Hooks hold towels no matter how you place them. Towel bars require towels to be balanced le...
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February 27, 2024

Do learn

Imagine teaching guitar without putting an instrument in someone’s hands. Or teaching ceramics without having people work with clay. Or teaching tennis without swinging the racket and hitting balls. I’m sure there’s some way to teach those things without doing those things, but come on, we all know you have to do those things to really...
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February 21, 2024

You couldn't know

Have you ever been asked "What do you wish you knew then that you know now?" I have. And I hate the question. It's usually framed in a way that encourages you to pretend to place yourself in the nascent days of your career, or early adulthood. Back when you didn't know much, when you were trying to figure things out. Essentially it's a...
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February 20, 2024

Don't delegate your word

As you build your business, you'll end up delegating plenty. Much of what you did before is now better done by someone else. To make more progress, you release your grip and allow. But there’s one thing you should hold tight and never let go. It’s the thing that should never be delegated. It’s your voice. Speak for yourself. Don’t let ...
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February 7, 2024

The data came from where?

Now you have the data. Thousands of responses from a survey with dozens of questions. You worked hard to come up with questions that painted the picture you felt you needed to make the decision with the data you gathered. And now you've got it. Comprehensively. Quantitatively. You're data driven, and now you have the stuff that drives ...
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February 5, 2024

Making it balance

One of my greatest pleasures at work is trying to find that point where everything feels just right. Nothing more, nothing less, but right there in the pocket. It's almost fractal. It's there in every component, in every feature, in every flow, in every sequence, in every product, in every decision, inside everything across the company...
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February 5, 2024

Basecamp turns 20

20 years ago today I wrote a blog post that changed my life. I'd never really launched a product before, so posting to our blog was only way I knew how to do it. And social media hadn't even been invented yet, so where else was I supposed to put it? In fact, guess what else happened to launch the same day as Basecamp? Facebook. So we'r...
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January 31, 2024

Enough feedback

Enough feedback comes quick. Invite 100, get 10, 5 probably tell you all you need to know. Or at least 80% of it, which is all you need to know. Another 10, 20, 50+ will end up telling you mostly the same as those core five. And you'll find yourself repeating yourself — explaining the same thing you already explained, just to new peopl...
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January 17, 2024

It’s all a judgment call

It's all a judgment call. Every human decision is a gut decision. The decision itself is the messy integration of many disparate pieces of information, experiences, instincts, stories, and unknowns. Data may inform, but as long as a human is making the decision, it's ultimately a judgment call. If you're just going by the data, then yo...
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January 16, 2024

Apple Vision Pro POV

The thing that excites me most about the Apple Vision Pro is the ability to capture someone's point of view. General purpose vision tracking at this scale and resolution, in a consumer device, is entirely new thing. And I think it has the potential to alter the course of the human experience. Cameras can record a scene. Video cameras c...
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January 12, 2024

Swimming the center or the edge

Imagine a vast swimming pool 25 miles long, 50 miles wide, and 25 feet deep. Swimming this pool is akin to running a business. And how you swim this pool is akin to how you run the business. Everyone starts at the beginning, but you decide how close to the center or the edge you swim. There’s only one rule: You can’t turn around, there...
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January 3, 2024

To make

I've consulted. I've done client work. I've advised. I've served on boards. I've invested. I've written books. I've spoken on the circuit. I've blogged for years. I have to say, I've found no greater professional joy than working with a tight group of people to ship and support our own products. And for those products to find people wi...
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December 27, 2023

Cars and business

I’m going to draw a parallel that isn’t quite straight, but it’s close enough. It’s between old (analog) cars and new (digital) cars, simple (analog) businesses and complicated (digital) businesses. Lately I’ve been driving two distinctly different cars. One from 1970, and the other from 2023. They essentially have nothing in common ot...
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November 27, 2023

Live with it for a while

In the course of building products, you'll likely experience moments when you're unsure of a certain screen, flow, condition, label, idea, whatever. Maybe this button doesn't feel right. Or the name of this feature feels unresolved. Or some color is jarring, but kind of interesting nonetheless. Or the way something gets set up seems a ...
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November 16, 2023

Commodities, generics, and software

Once a product category proves popular, it's common for more companies to enter the market. Eventually, many options appear that are essentially mostly the same. Now we've got something that quacks like a commodity. Once we've got a commodity, generics eventually follow. Devoid of fancy packaging, marketing, and advertising, prices fal...
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November 8, 2023

Heard Something, Read Something, Saw Something [#16]

Hey there! Here’s the 16th installment of my popular Heard Something, Read Something, Saw Something series. So, what do we have this time... Heard Something Lately I've been enjoying listening to discussions about free will. Do we have it? If so, how much? Always? Sometimes? Never? Is it real or an illusion? I find the concept fascinat...
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November 3, 2023

Look back less

I have a theory. One of the reasons companies have a hard time moving forward is because they've tangled themselves in the near past. Eyes aimed backwards rather than ahead, staring at the dark, feet in their own concrete. They've trapped themselves looking for certainty where there isn't any. Searching for actionable advice where ther...
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October 23, 2023

An influence or a trap?

Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9NruIjkGEw Roger Smith is a watchmaker, in the most traditional sense. He apprenticed under George Daniels, one of the best there ever was. And for the first few years, he made everything himself — just him, no one else. Even if you aren’t into watches, I bet you’ll be into Roger W. Smith af...
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October 19, 2023

Always cheer

I often hear from people writing in asking for advice about some broken team dynamic. Someone's against them, they're against someone, another group doesn't want them to do well because it'll make them look bad. Management this, team that, individual something or another. People want to know how to handle these unfortunate conditions. ...
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October 18, 2023

Then just say it like that!

Over the last 20+ years I’ve been part of too many discussions where someone goes “I’m having a hard time explaining this or that…” Then they say “I just really want to say this…” And then they say it and it’s clear, concise, and obvious! They nailed it, but… …it’s as if they aren’t even listening to themselves because they’re right ba...
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October 13, 2023

Teaching iteration

I’ve written about the class I’d like to teach, but what I’ve been thinking about lately is the class I’d like to attend. Not necessarily now, but when I was growing up. In the 6th grade, let’s say. I don’t know why people ask me this, but I’m often polled for my opinion on the American education system. What’s my take? What would I do...
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October 2, 2023

No one's complaining

I’ve heard this one before. I’ve used this one before. “No one’s complaining” so it's fine. “No one” really means “no one has complained to you“. It doesn’t mean no one is complaining to someone else, somewhere else. In fact, if the thing you make/sell isn’t meeting someone’s expectations, there’s a good chance you’re the last one who’...
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September 29, 2023

Don't take their word for it

A few years ago, we needed some hardware fast. After some back and forth with the vendor, they promised “expedited delivery”. That sounded like a good thing, but it meant nothing. To us, expedited delivery meant overnight delivery. That’s what we had in our head. Our experiences elsewhere equated expedited as overnight, but expedited i...
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