Campfire requires rework
37signals’ Campfire product is a brilliant example of poor web application design. I would much rather use IRC and forfeit the tiny number of features in Campfire that are actually useful such as image in-lining and arguably Youtube clip in-lining too (though this one is rarely used for actual work). I can’t actually remember the last time we actually used the log history/transcripts feature.
Some of the problems and annoyances we have with Campfire are:
- Switching between rooms requires a full page refresh and is very slow.
- Despite the illusion of fake tabs, you can only be in one room at a time. Unlike an IRC client these fake tabs provide no indication that room activity has occurred. So you must periodically switch between rooms to check for activity. If you need to be in multiple rooms for real then you’ll have to open more tabs in your actual web browser.
- Timestamps for chat messages seem to be grouped together (good in theory) but they only appear after some random amount of time (bad implementation in practice).
- There is no built-in notification/pop-up support. So you have to install hacks like the Kindling for Chrome extension.
- A third of the screen real estate is occupied by pointless stuff that you rarely use. Yes having a user list is important, but having it visible at all times is not.
- All of the “Campfire clients” for Windows are rubbish.
- But the biggest annoyance of all is when you blindly start typing a message and the web application is too dumb to auto-focus the cursor on the message entry text box. And you can’t simply and predictably Tab-key your way to it easily. The only constant-time way to reach it is to focus it with the mouse. Bear in mind that this is a feature that every IM client since about 1999 has had baked in.
Is it time for 37signals to drink some of their own Kool-Aid and actually “rework” their Campfire service?