Despite having spent years in open-space offices, and no matter how "cool" and "human" architects and designers believe them to be, they are the worst possible environment in which to do technical writing or research work. Being fundamentally fed up with being interrupted every 15 minutes and having people moving and talking all around me, I ended up locking myself into a meeting room to get some work done.
To ensure that this oasis of productivity doesn't go to waste, I've decided to telecommute as much as possible until my current work peak is over, and limit my leisure time at home to non-computer stuff for a couple of days.
And Since I'm Camping Out...
That, however, didn't prevent me from setting up a free Basecamp so that we could keep track of a few tidbits. The guys at 37 Signals are really on to something there - none of the many intranet and web-based CSCW tools I've dealt with over the years were that clean, neat and easy to use.
No, I won't go into the sort of enthusiastic, gushing (nearly blubbering) acclaim you can read all over the Net. And I won't point out any irrelevant shortcomings on what is essentially a SOHO/SME-targeted application that is meant to be run on PCs. But they do bear close watching, and not necessarily for their current offerings or their ties to Rails.
Their product offering is not quite what I had in mind when I described my vision of an enterprise Wiki, but then again Backpack (which is being touted by some of the more enthusiastic - and misguided - critics as "a Wiki without the mess") isn't a Wiki either - it has the easy markup (they use Textile), but not the auto-linking and self-referentiality of a "real" Wiki.
Still, it's a new twist on things. And given the lack truly of interesting web-based workspace tools, they deserve success. But looking at the way they picked and matched features across their products, I'd say these are very clever people both technically and marketing-wise.
My hat's off to them, and to the menagerie of copycats that we'll see during the next year or so.