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Freedcamp: A Light of Hope

It’s a story of hope, survival, and endurance. In the early dawn soldiers stormed the gulags as pale weary eyes looked out. Too weak to cheer, they waited for their rescuers to give them long needed water and sustenance. For some, it was too late.

The situation we’re talking about isn’t of Holocaust survivors, nor of prisoners held by the North Korean regime. It’s not of some lady who had the misfortune of locking herself in the bathroom for weeks on end. No, it’s from a much more subtle form of confinement that the captives were freed. Some didn’t even know they were being held.

We’re talking about the state of the online Project Management application market.

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For those who aren’t aware, all online Project Management software, including the market leader Base Camp, costs money. People use email, social networking sites, and many complex applications, for free. But something as simple as project management software has always been a paid service. Up ’til now. This rescuer in the night, hero in our midst, regent of disimprisonment, is Freedcamp.

Now before we delve into everything Freedcamp has to offer, Base Camp and their people are worth another mention. It’s built by 37 Signals, the providers of the well known resource for tech start-ups, “Getting Real.” This is a collection of short essays and quotes by alleged experts within the start-up industry. The main gist is to keep your design simple and launch quickly. One note from their quasi book that we all know is marketing material (but still pretty useful), is that they launched Base Camp before they had completed the billing system. They were in such a hurry to get the product in the hands of customers they just cut it loose. In so doing they gave themselves the deadline of exactly 30 days to set up the residual income that would fund their efforts. It turned out to be a great business model to be sure, one that has been emulated by many project management applications in their wake.

Freedcamp took the whole launching their project management application without the invoicing system one step further. They launched it with no intention of ever setting up an invoicing system. After years of watching this anomalous market gouge the daylights out of its customers, someone finally took action. The result can be found in Freedcamp, the soon to be premier and preferred place for online project management.

At a functional level it comes with all the necessities for a complete project management package. These include to-do lists, a discussion section, milestones, time tracking, and file storage. The to-do’s are a list of tasks associated with a project. People can comment on them if they like. The discussion section is a broader forum that allows people to list and discuss topics affecting the project. The milestones are (from the best of my recollection) a simpler and easier version than Base Camp’s. You provide a title, description, priority, and target date. They can be marked as completed when done. The time tracking feature allows you to enter how much time either you or the entire team contributed to the project. For each entry you can leave a brief description and indicate whether it’s billable or not.

Freedcamp Milestones

As would be expected from a product that’s free, you’re allowed as many projects and team members as you would like for as long as you like. To invite people to your project you can send them an email from the invite interface, or you can provide them the name and password to the project. The latter functionality is helpful so you can easily provide access to clients or people you’re meeting with in person. (The project password is just an additional way to induct new members to a project. Once joined they use their normal Freedcamp authentication.)

Freedcamp takes aim against Base Camp not only in its name but also with its import system. Leveraging 37 Signal’s stance on open APIs, they utilize theirs to hasten BC’s customers to greener pastures. This allows for seamless migration while both testing the new system, and slowly forgetting about the imprisonment that once held them.

Finally the occupation is over, a new dawn will rise. The captives are free, with Freedcamp. After all, the 37 Signal folks (who we actually hold in the highest regard, please don’t hurt us with your space laser), did exhort their fellow software comrades, to pick a fight.

  • Julien Robinson


    I was excited when Freedcamp came out. But now I am having doubts.
    I love two systems at the moment: Teambox (it’s open source!) and Apollo (it’s just so good…).

    They both have a strong business model: Teambox has an open source version, but make money out of people not willing/able to install it on their servers. Apollo has a more classical approach: they charge people (well, not yet, but I think they will soon).

    How will Freedcamp sponsor development? Who knows. I posted a comment on their blog post asking precisely this: The comment wasn’t published; in fact, NOBODY’s comment was published.

    FOr now, I will give it a pass. IF they release things as open source, OR come up with a way of making money (maybe ads?), I will consider them. Till then, I don’t really want to enter my data into a system that might be dead/zombied tomorrow.


    1. Steve Gibson

      This is indeed the trouble with a free business model. How will they make their money to continue to fund the service? It’s possible they could use ads, or maybe they’ll pursue other revenue streams once a number of businesses sign into their product. Having a series of businesses trust their core data with you is a powerful sales lead. I’m sure Freedcamp has considered some of these options.

      You make an interesting point though- that some people genuinely like paying for things. I think it’s human nature, since we know that in most cases you get what you pay for. Anyhow, we’ll see how it pans out. I suspect Freedcamp will do just fine and find a way to monetize their effort without changing their core, free pricing model.

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  • Fletch

    You have to pay for file storage above a basic free limit.

    1. Steve Gibson

      No you don’t. Oh! Looks like you do. In trying to discover what the free limit it they’re not forthcoming with it. Dislike clandestine limits like that. After inspection it’s 30MB. That’s definitely on the low side… Thanks for the tip!

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