Basecamp – online project collaboration tool

Recently we have started using the Basecamp online project collaboration tool to plan live video events and it has been very successful. Here are some questions and answers about that product and how it might fit in to a live video event planning.

Basecamp is an online web service run by 37 Signals. for remote project collaboration and management.
What problem does it solve for you?

Weprovide technical services for live events, using our own equipment, equipment hired from suppliers,
using volunteer crew, working for
clients who also have distributed teams working in their spare time etc.

The normal phonecalls, emails, SMS messages, approach wasn’t really working so we needed a better way of collaborating and communicating and organising ourselves.

What is Basecamp?

It is a project collaboration and project management service based on web 2.0 technologies. It is a synthesis
of stuff you are probably doing in other ways, but it brings it
all together and adds considerable value in the process because all aspects of BC are designed to encourage communication and collaboration.

You get an extranet site with a domain name to log into, and can add other people in your company, suppliers, clients etc and control who gets access to what.

What does it do?

Messages
– Email really sucks for managing projects since there’s no shared viewable
archive, so if you weren’t copied
into the thread you are stuck. Someone
coming late into a project e.g. a graphic designer misses out
on
all the info that went before and is doomed to repeat the same questions, wasting everyone’s time.

In Basecamp all messages are kept and are available to read, comment etc. at any time.

To do lists – do do lists that everyone on the team (including customers) can read, add to, tick off when
completed, add comments to etc.

Say you have a production meeting, you can create a to do list of the actions assigned to the people responsible,
and as they do them they can tick
them off in the list or you can update the actions etc.

File sharing – You can attach files to email, but you lose control. You can put them on a website but that takes longer to do and is not trivial for some people.

Basecamp allows you to attach files to messages or just upload files – either to their server (10MB
limit per file) or to your own ftp server.

You can controlaccess to files So you could upload a draft intro sig,that only the team see, or a proof of a
script for the client to approve.

Milestones – in my day job I am used to cranking up MS project or a similar tool to do full on PM, but that’s just overkill for most live video projects.

Basecamp lets you set milestones, to associate to-do lists, messages and files with those milestones and it lets you know if milestones are approaching, or have passed.

So you could set up milestones for the pre-production meetings, the shoot, the rough draft edit, the first approval version, the duplication deadline etc etc.

Time tracking – if you bill your clients on hours worked, you can use BC to track that for projects. (in the premium version)

Writeboards – These are online editable documents with version control. e.g. they could be scripts for voiceover, or credit list or song lyrics etc.

Dashboard – a quick overview of all your projects, with just your actions if you like.

RSS feeds– You can get RSS feed of all updates on the project.

Chat rooms – they have recently added chat rooms where you can text chat with others who are logged in. It is similar to IM, but the transcripts are all kept and can be added to in non-real time.

Why would someone want to use it?

If you are trying to run ANY kind of project with a distributed team which can be adequately controlled by to-do lists,milestones, messages and shared files and that has client interaction, then youneed to seriously investigate
this
tool.

I like to think of it as ‘just enough’ project management.

How much does it cost?

It’s a service, not a product. You pay a montly subscription (at different levels) and they manage the service
It’s really easy to set up and there’s a free try out mode where you can set up a single project and try it
out.

Are there any limitations that you are aware of?

  • Messages can only be created on the website – you can’t email to a‘mailing list’ for example.
  • No SMS support – can’t get text saying a new item
  • There is Email notification – but it has some limitations – e.g. if you comment on a message you can’t control who gets the comment – everyone on the original to: list is copied.
  • There’s a 10MB file size limit for their server – easy to put in details of your ftp server – any web space provided by an ISP will do.
  • If you stop using it you can extract messages messages out but not to-do lists or milestones.

These are all minor things

Overall we are very happy using it and recommend it.

Finally if you do sign up as a result of reading this post, please use our affiliate code of “room3” and we
will get some money off our fees.

Thanks

Dave
Chalmers

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