I’m actually an admirer of 37 Signals and their web-based collaborative tool Basecamp. However, after many failed attempts to utilize Basecamp with clients, Holly and I decided to turn our back on it and explore other possibilities.
For those that don’t happen to know, Basecamp is a web based application that means to exist as the virtual headquarters for the project you are managing or participating in. It allows you to communicate by posting messages, images, and documents; discuss issues via threaded message boards; and aggregate all the contact information for your team in a single place.
What I’d love to be able to do with Basecamp is coordinate the effort of my own project teams in addition to allowing my clients a degree of online participation. In fact, that is what Basecamp was designed to do. But the problem I’ve found numerous times with Basecamp is that only a select few end up adopting the tool in the intended manner. Basecamp is clearly one of the tools that is only as good as the people participating. If your project team is shunning Basecamp and resorting to email as the primary collaborative tool, then you’ve got a problem.
But what was the problem exactly? After some discussion with our clients, it became pretty clear that Basecamp was trying to do TOO much. What is needed is a lightweight tool to post status updates to and quickly brainstorm ideas. This tool needed to be web-based to take advantage of searching and archiving features not easily facilitated with the Advanced Find window of Outlook.
Being lovers of the WordPress platform, Holly and I both saw the Prologue theme released by Automattic as a potential solution to our problem. In fact, we realized that we could combine it with a deployment of WordPress MU and have the ability to easily launch new web based collaboration sites for each our projects without having to do fresh installs of WordPress 2.5 every time.
In an upcoming post, I’ll describe the modifications we made to WordPress MU and Prologue to make it sing in the intended key.