Hey, 37signals…

Can I first say how much we admire you, the things you’ve written, and the work you’ve done? Full Stop Interactive would not be here today were it not for your example. Your dedication to building tools that work well, tools that aren’t complicated, tools that enhance collaboration and productivity has allowed us and many others to be better at servicing our clients than we could otherwise be. The advice you’ve dispensed on simplicity, usability, usefulness, flexibility, organization, and more has not fallen on deaf ears. Your principles resonate with us.

Which is why it pains me to say,

The requirement to tweet a pre-packaged message announcing our entrance in the competition to re-design the venerable Signal vs. Noise blog is beneath you.

I wish I could assume this was a mere oversight on your part, but by this time we know you too well. This was a conscious decision made with full awareness of the backlash it would provoke. 37signals would not be where it is today without proving time and again its ability to effectively market itself.

Let me be clear: we understand and approve of the contest rules. Requiring Pro memberships is your right. We respect that. The budget is fair and the Sortfolio product is worth the price of admission. We’re proud to have our little company listed amongst such giants as Happy Cog and Unit Interactive.

“Word of mouth is sacred.”

When I endorse something, whether it’s explicitly or implicitly, people assume I have no ulterior motives. By way of example, I can’t get enough of NFL RedZone, and I can count half-a-dozen people who have purchased Settlers of Catan because I can’t stop talking about it. There’s no kickback in it for me, except for the joy of a good board game or the communal celebration of an impossible 4th quarter comeback.

Like it or not, Twitter is the new water cooler, particularly for those of us who work outside a normal office, and what you’re asking contest entrants to do is spam their friends.1 We’re sacrificing our good name to have a chance to win a job. That’s not right.

We are hereby petitioning you to remove the tweet requirement. A simple email to 37signals along the same lines should suffice. Your company deserves nothing but the most genuine, authentic Twitter word of mouth. Please don’t reduce your followers to soulless robots.

What happens on the Internet, …

We know you’re not trying to hide anything here, so we’ve decided to publicly track the success of your experiment. For those entering the competition, here’s a list of everyone who’s tweeted their desire to re-design Signal vs. Noise.2 We’re also monitoring the number of Pro accounts on the site. Per your comment on the announcement post, there are “already around 170 paid Sortfolio members.” We’ll all be interested to note the final tally. As of this writing, I count around 183 Pro accounts. We wish you every success in signing up new members.

We want in, kind of.

I want to re-iterate that we have tremendous respect for 37signals, and nothing would please us more than the opportunity to work with them on the SvN project. In fact, we signed up for a Sortfolio listing shortly after finding out about the contest.  But we’re just not willing to participate until 37signals re-thinks their entrance rules.

Either way, we encourage you to follow along with the results. It ought to be a good marketing case study, at least.

  1. Nathan Bowers, “Word of mouth is sacred (what’s wrong with 37signals’ job post)” []
  2. I am keeping this list up-to-date via an RSS feed for a custom Twitter search. If you find a tweet more than 24 hours old that I don’t have listed, feel free to email me. []

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