I posted a message yesterday to our team collaboration tool asking everyone to remember to push me an e-mail when they post a message or a file.
Of course, a big promise of this kind of software is that it will free us from the flood of e-mail that consumes so much of our professional lives.
Apparently, I have become addicted to the flood.
Our software, 37Signals' hosted solution Basecamp, allows message posters to subscribe other users for e-mail updates on threads they start.
In fact, Basecamp sends you a complete transcript of message items. I never read these mails, mind you -- I just glimpse at the folder shortcut I've set up for these mails in Outlook, and if it shows unread messages, off I go to the collaboration site to read up or -- if my team is particularly unlucky -- chime in.
A totally inefficient use of e-mail, I know. But I have, over the last 20 years, become accustomed to "push" communication -- if somebody wants to talk to me, they can tell me. Sounds pretty basic, but like many professionals, I have numerous tasks to shuffle daily, and brainstorming with the team is typically not the most urgent thing on my plate.
Note I didn't say not the most important. I think collaboration is downright vital, and that's led me to hunt around for software to support that initiative, even though I tend to growl when I hear "Web X.0" bandied about every time somebody redesigns a bulletin board system. (In fact, we've upgraded to a more applicable toolset since I last blogged on this topic.)
All in all, I like Basecamp a lot, although I would agree with this PCWorld.com post that it's really more of a nifty collaboration platform than a full-on project management tool. I was introduced to Basecamp by a consultant we are using on a big initiative, and we use it for project manpagement by posting Microsoft Project reports for comment.
All in all, our team -- both in-house and outside contributors -- have warmed up to Basecamp. But collaboration does tend to slide into the background, particularly at SMBs and young companies, like our own.
If I were going to suggest one upgrade to Basecamp, it would be a widget or client of some sort that would blink at me when there is new activity on our projects. Not entirely unlike an IM client running in the background. Basecamp does generate RSS feeds, but the obvious need to authenticate users to what has to be a closed system cuts most RSS readers, most notably Google, out of the picture. So perhaps a dedicated RSS tool would do the trick.
Just something to absolve me of remembering to go check in on the teamsite daily.
I don't ask for much.