When Are We?
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it helps to have a few crazy uncles involved to make the birthing process more fun.
About a month ago, Dave Ditges decided he was done spending time figuring out what time zones everyone on our distributed team was in. With nGeneers and clients all over the world, it’s a problem we have to solve several times a day. Once he posted his idea for a solution in Basecamp, everyone jumped in with contributions. Great new ideas kept coming up as people spent time on their own making it better and working out the bugs.
One revelation along the way was the decision to base it on the Basecamp API. (This first version works with Basecamp Classic; we’ll look at integrating with the Basecamp Next API when that’s released.) Doing this instantly ramped things up, taking the idea from a one-page website with a list of our team members to an app that not only included our clients, but could be used by anyone with a Basecamp account.
The result is When Are We, a handy app for keeping team members from being scheduled for a meeting with a client when they should be closing down their local pubs.
The record-setting 360+ comments on the nGen Works Basecamp thread speak to just how engaged in this project we’ve been. Here are a few personal takes on it from some members of the team:
As our team has grown and we’re now located all over the globe, it was common for me to struggle to know where everyone was and what time it was for them. So on my lunch break one Friday, I designed a nice little helper page that I thought would come in handy for the team. I put it up on Basecamp and it was pretty amazing to not only learn that most everyone else struggles with this same thing, but to see how much everyone wanted to jump in and help get it built. Within a few weeks, it was done!
When Dave posted his initial sketch, I was excited — he’d definitely touched on an issue to which I could relate! I said as much and then translated it to front-end code for initial development. Later, I provided a wireframe that sketched out what I thought might work for a second version.
Working on this app has been fun and frustrating. Since it uses an external API, there were some hiccups along the way. Thankfully, the folks at 37signals were willing to accommodate us and add the missing bits to the API. Time zones are still a pain, but it proved to be a fun little challenge and I’m proud of the end result!
Check out http://when.ngenworks.com and feel free to use it with your own Basecamp projects. Consider it our small contribution to world time zone peace.