2 min read

Early adopters and late arrivals

I like to think of myself as an early adopter of technology. I was a cell phone junkie when mobile phones were still considered a novelty if not a public nuisance. I lived in the online world back before there was a Web. I was running my own little news site on the Internet before CNN went online. I blog. I tweet. I left Second Life before it got really popular.

But in reality, I tend to lag the true early adopters.
My first cell phone fit in my pocket. I didn't have one of those crazy briefcase models. My first forays into online communities were on Compuserve and AOL, not in The Well. And although the inspiration for my first news product was the San Jose Mercury News' Mercury Center on AOL, which debuted in May of 1993, I didn't actually distribute anything until two years later when AOL offered Internet mail for the first time.

All of which is to say that it shouldn't surprise anyone that I only got around to using Basecamp last week.
Basecamp, for those adopters even later than I, is the Web-based, project management system beloved by thousands. It is, to oversimplify, a way to create and organize to-do lists.
But Basecamp and its sister products are also a way to organize editorial workflows.
And it was the quest for a better way to assign and track stories in a Web-first publishing model that finally convinced me to try Basecamp.

In the past few months I've run into a half-dozen newsrooms that are using workflow-tracking software that is based on Lotus Notes. And it's been driving me crazy. More importantly, this old-fashioned method of organizing work is driving the workers crazy. It seems that every time I ask editors to explain where they see barriers to moving to a Web-first model, they begin to complain about the systems they use to track stories.
Now don't get me wrong. Lotus Notes was a pretty remarkable development some 20 years ago. And there are new versions that offer a slew of new and remarkable features. But the stuff I'm seeing in newsrooms is pretty much the same stuff that first appeared years and years ago. It's been altered and rebranded and turned into something that "only works here." But the functionality is the same as what you could get back when I was first playing with AOL.

It seemed to me that in 2008 there must be something better.
So I tried Basecamp.

I'm not alone.
There's anecdotal evidence that publishers are abandoning their existing story-management tools and turning to Basecamp.
Basecamp's site has this testimonial from a Web publisher as well as this one from an executive at the Baltimore Sun who uses the system to track design projects. College publishers such as this one use it too.  This article on the Poynter Institute's site talks about a citizen-journalism site that uses HighRise, a similar product from the makers of Basecamp.
But what I haven't seen are any major publishers using Basecamp to manage story flow.
Which leads me to wonder...am I missing something, or am I more of an early adopter than I give myself credit for?

For more on Basecamp, check out this article by Rex Hammock, the king of the magazine industry's early adopters.
Or click here for a description of the world of collaborative software.

tags: , , , , , , , web-first publishing