Jason Zimdars

July 8, 2024

Tools for builders

A few years back I made the acquaintance of a couple of local blacksmiths who were kind of enough to teach me the basics of forging over the course of several months. There were a number of things that attracted me to forging metal. The physicality for one. The heat, the feel of the metal under a hammer, and the fascinating glow of steel—white, then yellow, fading to deep red and black as it cooled.

But the moment it clicked for me was when, after a number of rudimentary pieces, we decided to attempt a more complex project. The first thing the blacksmith said was, "We'll start by making some tools." That did it. The idea that we'd begin a project by first making the tools required, that blacksmiths forge the tools for forging, just felt so... right.

We never did finish that piece. COVID killed their business and my budding hobby but I still have the cold forge chisel and punches I made.


At 37signals we're also tool makers. Just like those blacksmiths we use Basecamp to build Basecamp. We track feature work in Basecamp projects, make progress in to-dos, discuss ideas in messages, and use Card Tables for QA and bug fixes. It's very satisfying that making Basecamp better makes our work lighter or helps us to work better.

As the makers of the tool we have the privilege to share in the joy of the incredible things that our customers are able to do because Basecamp is in their toolbox. An urban planner in South America, a skunkworks team inside a Fortune 500, a team of first responders during the pandemic, teachers, ministries, non-profits... the list is endless.

Our newest product, Writebook is maybe the purest tool we've ever made. For one thing, it's free. Our gift to the world of independent publishers who want to create without agents, publishers, contracts, complicated processes, or expensive tools. Open a web browser, start typing, and instantly your book is published on the web.

Writebook has no upgrades, nags, and gamification. It doesn't send notifications. It doesn't need your attention. It has nothing to sell you. I doesn't read or steal your data (it's not even stored on our servers).

Write book is like a blank, white canvas. Simply adding a few words to the page causes it to fade into the background. Like a canvas it provides a stable, sturdy support for presenting whatever you create without taking anything away.

That might be the part of Writebook that I'm most proud of. It required intentional restraint to keep the design from drawing attention to anything but the book. Writebook never calls attention to itself but instead makes the book look great.

Like any good tool it enhances human capability rather than supplanting it. There's no AI here to rewrite or suggest (or distract!). Writebook creates an environment where someone can write and publish without knowing anything about formatting, design, typography, layout, etc. It handles all that so authors can do what they do and look sharp doing it.

Just look at some of the books already out there.






I can't wait to see what YOU make.

About Jason Zimdars

Product designer at 37signals working on Basecamp, HEY, and ONCE since 2009. Illustrator of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work and the Prince Martin Epic series. You can find me on X, Instagram, LinkedIn and at jasonzimdars.com.