We gave up on Likes and invented a totally new form of tiny communication.
If there’s one thing you can’t avoid on the Internet, it’s Likes. They’re in nearly every software platform where people post photos or write text messages.
Sometimes Likes are called Faves, Hearts, Reactions, Claps, or something else, but the basic idea is the same: they’re a small, quick way to express your feelings about something, usually accompanied by a count of other people who had that same feeling.
Until today, we had exactly this sort of feature in Basecamp 3. We called it Applause. If you liked a post, you’d clap for it. Everyone who clapped was shown in a row.
This was fine, of course—it worked just like all the other Likes.
But a couple months ago, we started thinking more deeply about this pattern, and we noticed it has a lot of insidious problems.
- Likes are vague, especially in a professional setting. Let’s say your boss liked someone else’s post, and not yours. You might start questioning what happened. Was she just busy and not paying full attention to everything? Or did she do that intentionally? What does it all mean!? There’s no way to know, because there’s not enough information — just a bunch of digital grunting.
- Likes are obligatory. How many times have you felt obligated to SMASH THE LIKE BUTTON because you didn’t want to seem like a jerk, or because everyone else was liking something? There’s a subtle peer pressure and herd mentality hiding behind those thumbs up.
- Likes are vanity metrics. Whenever you post something to a social network, do you obsessively check to see how it was received? That’s because those little Like counts are a drug for your brain: you get a dopamine rush by observing your own mini-popularity contest. It’s a psychological trick to keep you coming back for more.
- Likes are thoughtless. Has there ever been a more mindless form of communication than merely tapping a button? Liking something requires almost no effort or consideration whatsoever. Here’s what you’re really saying: “Thank you for spending your precious time posting this. In return, I have clicked a button. It took me less than one second. Bye.”
- Likes are canned. In most apps you have to pick from a predefined set of acceptable symbols (or in Basecamp’s case, just clapping.) That’s not great for addressing the infinite range of nuanced human emotions, and it’s also totally impersonal. Why should some software company decide which 3 emotions you’re allowed to have?
Now, it’s not all bad. There are some good things about Likes too:
- Sharing support for others is wonderful. We want to encourage that, of course!
- It’s nice to respond to something without making a fuss. You might not have much to say, but you still want to let someone know you appreciated their ideas. Notifying a bunch of other people on a thread merely to say “good job!” is overkill.
- It’s helpful to know that people saw your posts. When you see that 10 people liked your post, you’ll know they received it and thought about it (at least a little.)
With all of these ideas in mind, we went back to the drawing board and came up with a fresh new approach that’s never been done before. We’re calling it Boosts, and it’s way better than all of those crummy digital grunts.
Here’s how you boost something in Basecamp.
In various places in Basecamp, you’ll see a new rocket icon:
Click that, and it’ll morph into a small text field.
You’ll notice there are no predetermined options or smiley face buttons to choose from. That’s on purpose. You have to make it up yourself!
Add some emoji or write a tiny text note, up to 16 characters max. Then click the green check mark to save your boost (or the red X to cancel.)
You can add more than one boost if you want, and they’ll collect into a little bundle like so:
Your boosts won’t notify anyone other than the original poster. So if you’re on a comment thread with 10 other people and you boost Dave, only Dave will get a notification about it. This is in contrast to comments, which send a notification to everyone on the thread. So if you just want to say “Great job!” or “I agree” or “👍”, but you don’t want to bug everyone with a notification, boosts are best!
If you messed up making a boost, click on it and a trash icon will appear. Click the trash to delete it. (If you’re an admin, you can delete anyone’s boosts in the same way.)
After a lot of people have boosted someone, you’ll see a sweet block of small supportive comments, where everyone’s message is totally unique! There are no vanity counts or anything like that.
Here’s how it looked when I announced that we’d be launching Boosts:
Other times, boosts work like a silly mini-conversation.
When you’ve received some boosts, you’ll get notified about them every 3 hours as long as there’s something new to report—otherwise Basecamp won’t notify you.
Why every 3 hours? We think it’s the perfect amount of time: infrequent enough that you won’t be bombarded about little responses, but frequent enough that you won’t miss anything for too long.
When you click on that notification, you’ll see all your boosts, ordered by date:
You can also unsubscribe from the boosts notifications, if you prefer. Just hit the button in the top-right corner of the page above.
What happened to applause?
Applause is no more (it’s been replaced by Boosts.) But old posts that had applause will still show it—those claps have simply been turned into boosts instead.
So that’s Boosts — we hope you like them! (Pun intended)
We’ve been using boosts for over a month, and we’ve found them to be a much richer form of communication than our primitive old applause system. They’re far more contextual, freeform, and creative: perfect for posting short, thoughtful responses.
After a few days, you’ll notice you won’t feel obligated to boost something unless you genuinely have something to say. Boosts are far less susceptible to vague interpretations, since every little boost is unique to the conversation at hand. And with no buttons to smash, there’s no more mindless button smashing!
Give boosts a try and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you on Twitter or in the comments on this post.
New to Basecamp and want to see what it’s all about? Sign up for a 30 day free trial over yonder.