Basecamp – great for communication, bad for finding information

I love Basecamp. Have been using it for pretty much from the beginning. I would love to keep on using it. But it just is not keeping up with us.

Basecamp is great for short term consulting projects. Sometimes, it was hard to get clients to post to Basecamp instead of emailing. But overall, it worked well for communication. After the end of the project as well, it serves as an archive, letting me go back and get an overview of project, look at associated files etc., whenever I want to.

Basecamp also served us very well in first two years of product development. We had a small team of 4-5 people. There was one major project we were working on – MindCanvas.

Now, our team is growing. We have two active projects (MindCanvas and SlideShare). Some team members have left. Some new have joined. We need some continuity in our projects. A way to point back at work we had done, files we had uploaded, conversations we had. But the findability on Basecamp sucks.

The search is awful. First you have to go to another screen to search. Second when you do that, it takes whatever search you had done last and runs it again (an utter waste of time). When all you need is the search box.

There is a categories system. But no way to create sub-categories. Or to tag. There is no way to search within categories. No way to assign items to multiple categories.

There are writeboards. But no way to assign same categories to writeboard. Or to sort writeboards by date updated or any other way. Any information we put into writeboards (which work great on their own) just disappears into the nethers of Basecamp never to be found again.

Overall, Basecamp serves very well for ongoing communication. But whats in the past is lost forever. I have searched through the Basecamp forums for indications that this is going to change (that findability is going to improve). But so far, it does not seem likely. I understand that 37 signals wants to keep it simple. And maybe the simple fact is that we are outgrowing Basecamp.

So hive mind, I appeal to you – what are the alternatives to Basecamp. Should we look for a wiki? Is there anything that integrates with Basecamp and allows one to find information better? Are there other alternatives?

11 thoughts on “Basecamp – great for communication, bad for finding information

  1. Have you tried Celoxis? Give it a try. It is a web based project management software with lots of collaboration features and a very good search engine. Also check out their workflow module. It’s quite unique.

  2. I feel the same way about tagging and long-term findability! For example, the more stuff that builds up in my Flickr account, the more I rely on developing good tagging habits so that I can find things later.

    So even once we’ve got tagging in place, a lot depends on figuring out how to tag usefully for self and other people. Part of the key to this is thinking into the future, so a way that seems logical to tag today might not make sense anymore three years from now as material accumulates!

  3. I have never come across an off-the-shelf project management software that covers all of my teams’ needs. I have either had to mould our processes around the software or use two-to-three different ones to fulfill all requirements.
    But this was before I came across Drupal. Ungodly powerful and ludicrously flexible as it is, it allows me to do whatever I want and the way I want it—no compromises. It requires a lot of initial tweaking but once set up, it functions extremely smoothly. Although it is touted as a CMS, I think Drupal is capable of almost anything! I have been using Drupal for the past few months both as a knowledge management solution and a project management tool without any complaints. You should give it a look.

  4. There are many great alternatives to basecamp with a wide variety of features and expandability. Check out OnStage, for example. I think you will find that competitors like these offer a greater level of customer service and in some cases can provide more features while maintaining ease-of-use.

  5. I’d like to add that integrating all management tools into one powerful but still easy-to-use and flexible tool (especially in the mind of users) is still rarely achieved.

    You are invited to check Comindwork – project blog, project wiki, milestones, ticketing, file storage and time tracking are linked together for managing projects online. This is human-centric solution which builds work around people and their fun, not around abstract to-dos or tasks!

    http://www.comindwork.com
    a review from webworkerdaily.com
    http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/02/18/comindwork-project-management-features/

  6. Projjex.com is a great new site that does a fabulous job of project management. It’s completely browser-based, really easy to use, and has a free version. Cool videos too – I love it!

  7. There are some nice project management tools mentioned above. But IMHO many have a significant flaw: they have been concieved by developers.

    OK developers are smart people. But they have a limited range of project management needs.

    Sorry guys but software development is only a minority sport ie “real world” projects have different needs. To take one and extend it to the other only works up to a point.

    Our take on this is Dooster an organising
    tool for small businesses and individuals

    Hope you like it ;-))

  8. I have recently switch Basecamp to ProofHub because whatever problem you are facing ProofHub solves it. Now I can manage multiple projects and clients in a center. I can reply there itself, need not to open any other account.

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