What would you ask Jason Fried of 37signals?


Pat and I have almost scheduled an interview with Jason Fried of 37signals on 3/18 about their new brand book, ReWork (http://37signals.com/rework/ ).

I wanted to get this Question up now even if the interview is delayed so we could get your thoughts/questions on ReWork, building a startup and more.

Their first book, Getting Real (http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ ) definitely caused a stir in the Startup community; ReWork (reading it now-wow) is going to trigger a much bigger reaction, IMO.

So what do you think of ReWork and what would you as Jason Fried?

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asked Mar 16 '10 at 09:11
Bob Walsh
2,620 points

5 Answers


What I think of ReWork?

Here are some comments taken from HN (following this review by Management Today ):


I'm currently reading the book, and he
amusingly left out the stats
supporting their conclusions or the
rest of the sentence which tempers the
strong advice. This is obviously

They say "Don't make plans" and end
the sentence with "Before you start,
you don't know anything then".

They say "learn from successes, not
failures" and back it up with stats
about how people who failed at a prior
business endeavor are no more likely
than first time starters (23% of
succeeding), but people who've
succeeded at prior business have a
much greater chance (forgot that

Uneven smear job a stuckup business


I think approaching your work from the
standpoint of "Learn from success, not
failure" is a sure path to succumbing
to confirmation bias and becoming a
one-trick pony.

The 37s guys have done some wonderful
work. But to me they are pretty much
the embodiment of what I think of when
I remember Paul Buchheit's great

"Limited Life Experience +
Overgeneralization = Advice"


The authors' advice is so sweeping and
deliberately confrontational that it
misses all the subtleties that
actually make businesses succeed.

Having read a couple of Signal vs Noise 's articles, those comments don't really come as a surprise.

In short, I doubt ReWork will be as successful as Getting Real.

answered Mar 16 '10 at 15:50
Olivier Lalonde
2,753 points
  • "The authors' advice is so sweeping and deliberately confrontational that it misses all the subtleties that actually make businesses succeed." Those subtleties cannot be controlled. They are normally byproducts of the less subtle approaches. Once you have established a successful business it becomes a numbers game and subtleties are important. Perhaps that is how it should be understood from what I know of 37 Signals – Thom Pete 14 years ago


Not meaning to be too confrontational but I think I would stir it up a bit with:

  • Is there any advice you gave in Getting Real that is no longer relevant in light of ReWork?
  • Is there any of the advice in the book backed by scientific research?
answered Mar 19 '10 at 09:18
Sam Saffron
432 points


No questions - just observations

Caveat: I don't mean to bash these guys - they are smart and are trying to help improve other developers' and founders' lives. I applaud that. I read the link to the free pdf section for rework.

It was nothing new - nothing that smart people have been saying for a while.

RE: meetings - if you don't have competent people running or keeping the meetings on task then you are doing it wrong.

Also note - these people run a tiny company that does SIMPLE web apps. Apps that can basically be written in a weekend or a week. You can't run larger companies without meetings.

This is all nice advice - for people who actually can make policy. I think Joel already wrote a while ago about how to be effective if you are just a lowly peon. This part of the book is useless except as an idealistic concept of how to do things for most people.

"If you think a competitor sucks - say so" That's a good way to look unprofessional and also a good way to be the target of mudslinging and lawsuits. What a crock of crap. Some of us aren't in this as a show business. We want to be professional. That is pretty bad advice unless you are donald trump or jason calacanis.

His examples though are much more subdued than the first line in that section would indicate the stance to be.

I would still caution against it, otherwise you could end up looking foolish and hypocritical like Apple does now - turning into the "big brother" it mocked and railed against in the famous 1984 commercial.

Interesting reading, but I don't think I can really agree with it all - especially since he seems to lead each section with a controversial first sentence or heading, then explains what he means (which is far, far tamer than the leading sentence), then at the end backpedals and lightens the claims. It is showmanship writing if you ask me, and nothing we haven't heard before..


Perhaps my discomfort with all the advice they give is summed up from "get real"

"If you are building a weapons system,
a nuclear control plant, a banking
system for millions of customers, or
some other life/finance-critical
system, you're going to balk at some
of our laissez-faire attitude. Go
ahead and take additional

Most of my work has been in real-time financial data delivery and also some navy/defense work. At least they acknowledge the limitations of their advice.

I don't mean to take anything away from them - by all accounts they are productive and successful. They've done a good job. I just don't think their story applies to my current ventures.

answered Mar 16 '10 at 12:33
Tim J
8,346 points
  • Yes, their apps might be small, but they handle 1000 new customers a week. That poses relevant scalability challenges that require quite some *team* thinking. – Deleted 14 years ago
  • I definitely agree with you on that one Tim. – Olivier Lalonde 14 years ago


In the section, "Let your customers outgrow you" you recommend declining complex requests and let customers outgrow your applications. Do you feel you were upfront about that philosophy early on or were some users under the impression you would grow with them/implement their new requirements?

answered Mar 16 '10 at 12:35
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • Yes, it does seem that Fried, et. al. presume and operate as if the customers are there for them (37 signals) and not the other way around. Or maybe that is just a misinterpretation of their comments. – Tim J 14 years ago
  • @Tim - obviously they are catering to their customers or they wouldn't have any. It's not like their products don't have any competition. – Jeff O 14 years ago


How much money did you received from your partnership with Jeff Bezos?

We all know that you/37 signals is against getting VC money, however, will you/37 signals consider helping other start-ups? not necessarily by funding(giving money away) but with partnerships, experience, networking, etc...

answered Mar 19 '10 at 12:59
4,815 points
  • Ricardo - did not ask him $$ but did get into this topic... – Bob Walsh 14 years ago

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