Early V-Day Love

In Pakistan there is a big debate every year over whether we should celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. The debauch liberals are all in favor. The enlightened moderate ones (ah Musharraf … you made the term famous) say sure, but only with your spouses. The flag-bearers of our morality, the ones who have sworn to save their brethren from hell-fire are strictly against. Either way, here is 2014’s V-Day just a few days away. And this brings me to my new love.

Basecamp is a co-working space in … wait for it … PESHAWAR! Yeah ok so 2 weird things there. The name, Basecamp, itself. Isn’t that an online project management website? Then second even CRAZIER thing. It’s in Peshawar!!! Isn’t that the crazy city at the Afghan border hit by the worse strain of terrorism of any urban area in Pakistan?

Hang on. Let me get to each separately before I get sidetracked and this post never sees the light of day like so many others.

I asked Muhammad Uzair, cofounder of Basecamp, some very tough questions over our Facebook chat.

Q1. Dude, why Basecamp? Why not “Khyber Goes Cool” or something?

A. “We are Basecamp Pakistan, they are/were 37 Signals. Basecamp is your temporary stay with us before your big startup summit, your next big mountain to scale.”

Q2. Peshawar? Seriously? Are you crazy?

A. “Yes we are are we needed a space to get the rest of the crazies together. At first we were meeting at Cafe’s, organising events in Universities, and brain storming at friend’s drawing rooms. So it made perfect sense to combine all three and get a co-working space of our own.”

Uzair, that was cheesy but OK I will accept.

Happy peeps? The Digital League is also one of the very first of the “crazies” that has made this place home. Got a couple of kids sitting there handling social media and web dev for clients. As a “thank you”, Basecamp gave TDL (and all other registrants) free swag. Check this out and be jaylus.

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I think it’s really cool. It doesn’t matter what you think … at least not on my blog. *grin

OK two more photos so you know how cool it is. All Google-like grunge-garage look (you can’t see the ceiling – that’s where the garage look comes in).

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Oh, yeah, asked one last very important question after which the lazy co-founder refused to answer any more.

Q3. What are the perks of working at Basecamp?

A. “We give you a starter kit to just get you started, and then there’s everything Basecamp offers. Top talent of the region to work with, weekly talks that range from cutting edge research in biology to trends in digital marketing, an acceleration/incubation program is also just around the corner by one of our partners. Not to forget access to world class mentors (and investors!).”

So this February 14th, Basecamp is my Valentine. *what a sad life. I know*

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How to Manage your Projects

So, you have entered the virtual workplace and are cursing me because I never told you anything about managing your projects. Now, firstly, I never told you to get greedy and take on more work than you could possibly handle, and secondly, I was waiting for you to ask me politely through a comment on my blog which you obviously didn’t and am sure never will since no one comments on any of the posts so I’ll tell you anyway – here we go …

Use Excel – dahlin’s – excel is your BFF … trust me. You want to keep track of your invoices, use Excel. You want to put all your projects in one place – use excel. Want to send professional looking invoices – use excel? You betchya! And, if you have a team you need to share everything with then just use Dropbox.

However, if you insist on having something a bit more fancy, then try a project management software. I won’t go into much details of what that means – follow the link to the Wikipedia article and you should be good. However, I’ll give you a few names and the ones that seems to work best.

Basecamp – You could say Basecamp is the most popular online project management tool. People swear by it. I have used it – not bad – you can add multiple projects, assign them to teammates, upload files to projects. Why I don’t like it is because of the vomit-worthy interface and also because it’s pricey. It was for me – $99/month = Rs. 8500/month.

Yammer – This is a serious competitor to Basecamp. Yammer offers everything Basecamp does and it’s FREE! Only catch – whereas BC allows customers and other stakeholders to be included in a project, Yammer only allows people with a @Yammer email address to access it. Sure you could give a @Yammer address to your clients but some clients just don’t like switching between various email addresses so it may cause a problem. But is great for inhouse project management.

Central Desktop – This looks prettier than both BC and Yammer but is lesser known. I kinda like the interface much better than the 2 mentioned above. It’s cleaner! However, cleaner doesn’t mean it’s easier to navigate. BC has that instinctive feel about it where you just know where everything is. With Central Desktop, you have to find your way around. It supports web meetings so you don’t have to pay for another service to manage that. The Basic package is free for small teams but obviously lacks some of the more advance features. Scores over Yammer in that it’s not limited to accounts with @CD email addresses.

Feng Office – Started using this just recently. How do I like it? Eh – it’s OK. Has the features of Basecamp, includes time tracking, and can be integrated into your website/server (sorry, may be using the wrong terms here – am not very techy). BUT – does not offer a free plan, is not user-friendly at all. Am still trying to find a way to send internal emails through it.

Asana – This is still in beta but has got Silicon Valley abuzz with excitement. Like it or hate it, they all know about it. I watched the demo and despite the fact it took me a lot of will power to watch it to the end (I think Justin Rosenstein is cute) it has got me excited. Again – probably because I think Justin is cute. 😛 No, seriously, because both him and Dustin Moskovitz come from big league companies (Dustin Facebook’s co-founder and Justin worked at Google) and built Asana ‘coz of the gaps they felt existed in all other management tools they used. Necessity is the mother of invention (ever since my 32nd b’day I been feeling a bit grandmother-ish) and this is something that came out of their frustration of all the options offered. Has everything Basecamp, Yammer, Central Desktop, Feng Office and a gazillion others offer and then some, and it’s FREE. Hopefully will be launched around end of this year and I’ll be able to give you a better evaluation.

Anyhoo – so now you know how to manage your projects – play around with the tools using their free trials and see which suits your business needs best. Until next time ……

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee