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Changes at Basecamp (hey.com)
883 points by massel 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 792 comments



I wasn't expecting to like these changes after seeing a ton of tweets from rubyists I respect criticizing them, but after reading them... I love them all.

Companies becoming vocal political entities over the past few years has been mind-blowing and I'm glad to see companies starting to reel it back and get back to, well, being companies. They make products; they don't need to have opinions on unrelated things.

IMO people (even the people in charge of companies) can (and should) have political opinions! _Companies_ shouldn't.

>You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target.

This line speaks to me a lot. I find 99% of political conversations at work are just pontification and/or signaling; I don't want to waste precious time at work chatting into echo chambers (or starting fights!) -- especially in a context where my opinion (or my coworkers' opinions) literally _do not matter_.

Seems like they handled the paternalistic benefits well also by just providing direct compensation instead. I've felt left out of benefits at companies in the past because I didn't want to use a gym, or buy certain things, etc. It's kind of the same vibe as smoke breaks at some jobs -- you're missing out if you're not a smoker. This seems more inclusive for everyone, and I really appreciate companies recognizing their place in a worker's life: they sign your checks for what you do during work hours.

All in all, these seem like really great changes in theory. With all corporate policies though, we'll see how they're implemented in practice.


>Companies becoming vocal political entities over the past few years has been mind-blowing

Are we pretending that all that corporate lobbying and political donations that have been going on for years and years was non-political?


There’s a difference between economic politics to be lobbied for and cultural politics to signal/argue about.


That's true, but you can't separate them when making donations.

If I donate to Candidate X, I'm taking her economic and her social policies at the same time.

In practice, this means that many large companies have to choose between issues they support. Microsoft may want lower taxes from Republicans, but they also want easier immigration and gay rights from Democrats.

If a company takes only an economic perspective, they may end up doing something morally repugnant to their workforce or customers, which turns a social issue into an economic one.


> Microsoft may want lower taxes from Republicans, but they also want easier immigration and gay rights from Democrats.

That's probably why they donate to both parties: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/microsoft-corp/recipients?i...


Many times I see people cite these statistics as if they are the actions of the company. However. 90% of those donations are from individuals that work for Microsoft and list Microsoft as an employer. It’s cited towards the bottom of the page. I think that this mostly tells us that there exists a decent number of politically active employees and that a large majority of those donate to democrats. The remaining 9% of the donations are PACs which would have their own disclosures. I couldn’t find reference on that page for which PACs Microsoft is donating too though and which party those PACs are donating to.


One could also argue that they donate to both parties because they want to have influence over whomever wins any election. It may be totally divorced from ideology.


Or because they fear being targeted if they don’t contribute…


Targeted for what?


Targeted for not donating, I presume.


Does economic inequality fall in the first or the second bin?


It depends. That’s pretty vague.


What's the difference?


Corporations lobby for their interests.

Employees lobby for their interest by negotiating with their managers/contract or organizing into a union etc. or if they’ve been seriously slighted by lawyering up.

Arguing about race relations, gun rights, cancel culture, policing, trans rights, income inequality at large is irrelevant to 99% of employees. They’re just venting opinions and creating drama over something that they can’t change and usually is irrelevant to their workplace. They can be activists on their own time or keep it in private channels. I think all the “no politics” people want to avoid is Twitter-like conflict and drama, not a ban on all things human or real advocacy for your own interests.


if the lobbying relates to the business/bottom line of the company, then it's "non-political".


I loved everything about what I read here.

I'm not surprised at the backlash as most of the Ruby community in the west has been extremely political.


#ruby-lang is famous for K-lining people who say "guys", for example.


I had to look up K-lining. TIL.


Like “hey guys, can anyone help me with x?”

That’s annoying.


What's #ruby-lang?


Probably an IRC channel (the original hashtag).


Really? That’s a shame.


I understand the motives (at least the official ones) behind those changes, and I agree with most of the points there. I would say that to some extend, joining social/political discussions by companies becomes marketing.

My biggest issue is that companies do not live in a politics-free bubble. The bigger the company the more it cares and tries to influence the politics, either publicly or not, because politics influences the business.

But business influences politics too. And I think this is a reason that employees want the companies to take a stand. A company employing 10k people can make a bigger impact than those 10k people themselves, so people want to leverage this.

Theoretically, it should be a bad thing, in democracy, we want every vote to count equally. But in sad reality, individual people choose politicians, but after that, the politics is shaped by powerful. 10k people are not powerful, the company they work for - may be.


> Seems like they handled the paternalistic benefits well also by just providing direct compensation instead.

This one's odd to me, because I thought the point of non-cash benefits was that it was much cheaper than giving out cash because the employer has more bargaining power than you.


At an individual level, that's often true.

An employer might, for example, negotiate a gym membership or online classes for their employees at 70% of the normal price. If you take advantage of those benefits, you're basically getting a 30% discount on something you'd otherwise pay full price for.

To continue the example, however, if less than 70% of your workforce uses that benefit, the company is now typically paying more in total than the individuals would be paying to just buy that thing on their own. (Obviously, this depends on how your perks are negotiated, but even then you also have overheads in paying someone to acquire/negotiate/maintain these kinds of nontangible benefits.)

Not to mention it falls into the Gift Card problem of dictating what those employees get to spend their money on, instead of giving them the freedom to spend it as they wish, which devalues the per-dollar benefit every time there's a perk that goes unused. (Food for thought: second-hand $100 gift cards often sell for $50-75 cash online.)

I don't have any inside numbers on what % of people take full advantage of all of their company benefits, but I'd venture a guess that there's not as much cost-savings as it seems at first glance.


Well it depends -- it's fairly simple math equation. The more paternalistic benefits you have, the more they cost, and the more people take advantage of more than one of them the more you risk hitting the value requivalent to the 3-5% promotion you have given that employee over 2 years.

Just my opinion, but if you were happy to take a 90k job because you live somewhere with a low cost of living for relatively less strenuous engineering work (let's be honest, Basecamp isn't pushing the boundaries of what can be done on the technical side, more on the product side), you're probably fine with waving off the extra 10k or whatever by thinking to yourself they'll pay for schooling if you ever do that (you probably won't).

Also, important to note that their 10% thing is performance linked ("profit sharing") -- so it pays for itself. If sales at the company grow 10% so they increase your pay 10% (and that isn't even necessarily what it is, they didn't clarify what the 10% is), the incentives are aligned and the company makes an outsize gain compared to each individual employee. It's a win-win-win, but most of the wins are on the side of the company, as usual. Compounding effects are much stronger than 10% yearly gain -- and what's even crazier is that you have to keep moving the company forward to keep getting the 10% -- essentially if you keep doing that, it's exponential improvement for the company, and each new person that comes in has to get on the hamster wheel. It's brilliant (which is why it's so common).


> a 90k job

Basecamp pays SV salaries to all employees regardless of location.

https://m.signalvnoise.com/how-we-pay-people-at-basecamp/


Just a theoretical example to make the numbers easier (rounding off to 100k).

That said, I also can't find anything anywhere on what people at basecamp are actually paid (nothing on levels.fyi or glassdoor, I didn't search very hard). I don't know what "SV salaries" means but not everyone in SV is making the average or median salary -- some people will be under or right at 100k, probably very early in their careers or when a company is taking a flyer on someone with no credentials.


In-kind benefits aren't taxed as income, so benefit both employer and employee in that sense, but they're also more likely than cash to never be used and thus become a waste for both parties.

Note in this case they're giving the cash value of the benefits for one year only, so presumably this will save them money in the long run unless they end up having to permaboost salaries, but that is doubtful. Market rate's the market rate and I don't think many people seriously make a decision based on whether one employer offers discounted gym memberships or not.


Totally. Not sure about the US, but at least in Spain that kind of benefits (private health insurance, restaurant tickets, etc) tend to be a lot cheaper for the employer often just for being a company, but usually for the large quantities they work with.


Calling benefits "paternalistic" is both loaded language and inaccurate:

> paternalistic : relating to or characterized by the restriction of the freedom and responsibilities of subordinates or dependents in their supposed interest

What restriction do these benefits impose?

Let's just call them benefits.


From the article:

>2. No more paternalistic benefits. For years we've offered a fitness benefit, a wellness allowance, a farmer's market share, and continuing education allowances. They felt good at the time, but we've had a change of heart. It's none of our business what you do outside of work, and it's not Basecamp's place to encourage certain behaviors — regardless of good intention. By providing funds for certain things, we're getting too deep into nudging people's personal, individual choices.

The authors were not referring to benefits in general, but to a specific subset of them that seem to fit your definition well.


I understand the authors think there is a difference.

However, I don't see a significant difference between 'traditional' healthcare and preventative healthcare (e.g. a gym membership and healthy food).


Basecamp isn’t a huge company. The bargaining power probably wasn’t that significant.


Dropping group-rate benefits is a sort of a pay cut, but only if employees were using the benefit enough. You'd have to do the math to see how it shakes out.


Not at all. They probably just got tired of people complaining that providing benefit X that could only be used by some slice of the workforce was therefore unjust. Which is absolutely ridiculous. But here we are.


> IMO people (even the people in charge of companies) can (and should) have political opinions! _Companies_ shouldn't.

I'm not sure how this meshes with this post? Basecamps founder has been politically active in a role representing the company, by talking to congress about big techs market power (i.e. Hey's fight with Apple). That part is not what they are banning here.


Part of this post's change is that Basecamp (as a company) is pulling back on publicizing political stances that aren't directly related to their business.

From the follow-up post @ https://world.hey.com/dhh/basecamp-s-new-etiquette-regarding...:

>Next, Basecamp, as a company, is no longer going to weigh-in publicly on societal political affairs, outside those that directly connect to the business. Again, everyone can individually weigh-in as much or as little as they want, but we're done with posts that present a Basecamp stance on such issues.

>Note that we will continue to engage in politics that directly relate to our business or products. This means topics like antitrust, privacy, employee surveillance. If you're in doubt as to whether something falls within those lines or not, please, again, reach out for guidance.

The founders obviously have strong political opinions on a lot of topics and I think it's great that they're going to express more of them personally instead of expressing them through Basecamp (company).


Those sent political opinions, those are naked self-interest opinions. They overlap, but the distinction is critical.


I love Ruby but I don't share a lot of common ground with Twitter hungry rubyists.


Can there ever be a non-work related conversation between employees that is not a "societal and political discussion"? In the past week I have spoken to coworkers about high housing costs (bunch of us are testing the market right now), property taxes, EV rebates, weed legalization, homeless/drug use problem on the streets. All of this is apparently a fireable offense at Basecamp?

People are going to say "obviously stuff like this is okay", but to me that's even worse. The company can and will apply arbitrary rules to whatever they think is unacceptable political speech.

And if they do strictly enforce that employees must only ever communicate about work (and the weather or whatever), then that sounds like a very depressing and dystopian workplace.

Is it really that hard to hire adults who can have reasonable adult conversations (with sometimes differing opinions) without it being a "major distraction"? And is the best response to this really to bow down to the loudest voices on either side and shut down conversation for the 99% who are just...normal?


While I hear the, "But anything could be viewed as societal and political discussion", it's kind of a straw man argument. We all know what types of discourse Jason and David are referring to and they augmented their request with, "But if you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Someone will gently remind you of the etiquette, and we'll move on. This isn't some zero-tolerance, max-consequences new policy."

From my POV, they're taking a difficult stance to rid the workforce of the extreme forms of toxic distraction (which happens across the political spectrum and is pretty recognizable) and for the most part, doing exactly what you articulated: returning to reasonable adult conversations that 99% of people are capable of doing.


I don't feel like it's a strawman. I don't know the culture there, but what about:

- Talking about unions, or pay equity (Might be illegal to ban either)

- "Hey Jodie, my partner and I are marching in a Gay pride parade this weekend, wanna come?" (Is that political at Basecamp?)

- Some ex-military employees form an informal group to welcome and mentor new employees coming out of the military. (Is that political?)

- One of our new clients is a controversial group/business/etc, what should we do?

I could keep going for a while...it's difficult to avoid "politics".


These are partly strawman arguments too, especially since they've been careful to state it's not a zero tolerance policy. If you take this on good faith and assume the goal is to reduce dividiness rather than a hard-line ban on everything that anyone could ever construe as political (impossible in any case), it's pretty easy to come to a conclusion for each of your points and any future points you come up with.

> - Talking about unions, or pay equity (Might be illegal to ban either)

Would be illegal, strawman.

> - "Hey Jodie, my partner and I are marching in a Gay pride parade this weekend, wanna come?" (Is that political at Basecamp?)is- this is something they'd have to decide, however it should be framed as "we're going to <political event> this weekend, want to join?". On the other hand, if they're incorporated in a place where being gay and gay marriage is fully legal, I don't think gay pride can be considered political any more than independence day, in which case, of course it would be allowed. Someone responding by saying "ugh, gay people make me sick", OTOH, should be censored under this rule.

> - Some ex-military employees form an informal group to welcome and mentor new employees coming out of the military. (Is that political?)

- not political, however, if someone responds by saying "ugh, I hate the military, you guys are terrible", that would be political and they should be warned to simmer down (I say this as someone who does dislike the military - but I don't think that gives me the right to say nasty things to people who have escaped and are trying to move on).

> - One of our new clients is a controversial group/business/etc, what should we do?

This is a business decision and should be discussed in that context. It probably shouldn't get discussed in the casual slack channel regardless of this rule.

Try examining this post again but in good faith rather than trying to poke petty holes in it - by which I mean, assume that they are trying to reduce division in their company instead of assuming their end goal is censorship.

If course, maybe it will turn out to be a bad thing in the end. But I don't think we'll reach that conclusion by listing minor problems with it.


> Try examining this post again but in good faith rather than trying to poke petty holes in it

Ironically, I think you are not taking tyingq's comments in good faith.

It is fine if you think tyingq's points are straw men, but it does not mean that everyone agrees with you. It doesn't mean that someone with a different POV is being "petty" or not acting in good faith.

I found the discussion between the two of you useful, but I don't think it was helpful for you (all considered) to question tyingq's intentions.


> "Hey Jodie, my partner and I are marching in a Gay pride parade this weekend, wanna come?" (Is that political at Basecamp?)

How about Jodie says, "No thanks"

"Aw, why not?"

"Not really my thing"

"What, do you have a problem with gay people?"

I mean I see that as likely as any outcome from that conversation starter.


See that to me is the strawman...

"No thanks"

> "Aw, why not?"

> "Not really my thing"

and then the next line would be something like "It's a lot of fun" or "Straight/Cis allies are totally welcome" and if Jodie was like me the response is "I'm sure, but I just don't want to" and that's the end of it.

There is an oft-repeated idea that non-queer people are getting in any way harassed to alter their lifestyle by threat of accusations of homophobia, despite being unfounded.


The whataboutism is the precisely the issue.

No actual union will encourage or allow union business on company forums, for example. If you want to talk to Jodie about marching in a parade, give her a call or message her offline.

I’ve worked for employers where it is illegal to discuss politics with their systems. Honestly, it made for a great work environment... I don’t need to know or care whether you’re a Baptist minister, a drag queen or both in your spare time. I just need to work with you.


It's not "whataboutism". I was genuinely curious what they meant. "Political" means different things to different people. I'm also curious if it's just the forums. I don't know if they are 100% remote, all the time, etc.


I should have worded that differently.

Work isn't college. Once you get beyond a certain size, by making a public debate and exploration of stuff that isn't work a thing, you're going to go down rabbit holes that probably aren't particularly healthy for the organization. That's where the whataboutism comes in.

My personal preference is for my colleagues to behave in a manner of mutual respect. I get to know my immediate colleagues and folks I work with, but I don't see any value in anything beyond that. The company should treat you with dignity and respect, but I don't care or need to know that some person on the other side of the ocean is a non-binary veteran dealing with whatever.

If a person's conduct is inappropriate, that's an entirely different matter.


> That's where the whataboutism comes in.

I'm not following your use of the word. I think we may have different ideas about what it means.

From Wikipedia:

> Whataboutism, also known as whataboutery, is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.[1][2][3]

Where did tyingq say someone else was a hypocrite? They didn't.


I'll read feedback in the form of comments. Indirect feedback by way of the down arrow will have no effect whatsoever on my views. So, if you want to persuade, use your words.


FWIW, I don't see a down arrow; it's a minus sign. (Or a hyphen, but the minus makes more sense to me in this context.)


You do not have enough karma for the ability to downvote, hence the down arrow is disabled for you.


Aha, thanks!


> Some ex-military employees form an informal group to welcome and mentor new employees coming out of the military. (Is that political?)

Veteran here. Yes it is. It's identity politics, especially in hyper liberal areas. I'll express some thoughts I have around this.

Some veterans, especially campaign veterans which are a protected class, will struggle when being introduced to the workforce. When I got out, shortly after a year long stint in Afghanistan and subsequently more combat training, I was given a class called SEPS & TAPS. TAPS is an acronym here, but let me remind you foremost of what "taps" is.

Taps is the bugle song played every night at base. When taps plays you are under military order to stand at attention and salute the flag. Taps is a reminder of those who lost or sacrificed their lives that day. It is a daily reminder that your choices are often dangerous ones much less ones that don't just involve your life. For that minute, you are relegated to appreciating their sacrifices in utter silence.

In my course (SEPS & TAPS) the first power point we received covered a page filled with telemetry data about Marines you didn't want to be. The drunk, the drug user, the domestic abuser, the college drop out, the person with anger problems. I wish I had screenshot this slide because words cannot capture how uphill that battle would seem. When I finally did get out, I realized why all these shocking statistics make sense. I've heard people talk about "hero worship" and I'm from the South where veterans have a decent reputation. Where Southerners probably do give a lot of credence to the military because most of the military is generational servitude from the Midwest and the South, likely due to a perceived lack of opportunity in many areas. Hero worship is little more than lip service to veterans though. The real substantive outcome of me getting out was watching all my friends lives reset, facing a lack of opportunity (again), and more bills, pressures, and externalities like school all while trying to return to being a normal human being. It was immense and for a time my life would fall apart in one way while bounding forward in another. It felt like I was literally Flubber, and it was killing me.

If you've followed my posts on this forum life is okay now. But I can see why veterans may need a group at work where they can be veterans or talk about issues. What I don't agree with is if these groups tried to influence the work force. I wouldn't agree with them sending out lecturing messages about veterans or memorial day, even if they're right. I wouldn't be comfortable with them making statements for the veteran community. I wouldn't be okay if they set hiring parameters on top of what is required by law.

I also understand there are people who hate veterans. Some people at work I actively ensure that I don't bring up being a veteran, that I'm particularly good at marksmanship, that I've been to Afghanistan (or any sub-experiences thereafter). No amount of advocacy that a veterans group can do will change that person's mind. I cannot overcome people who equate military service with fascism, nationalism, or even the train of thought that leads people to believe all or most veterans are conservative. I can't fix a broken mind like that; only personal experiences that challenge the thinkers opinions will, which means likely, one day, some veteran will be on the other end of that. Maybe someone like me who can listen to a dissenting view that feels dehumanizing, but maybe not. That's just the way personal growth goes; thinkers don't really plan on who or how their minds will eventually be changed. I accept that reality as a fact of life. I embrace it to some degree and actively work to avoid it in another.

So, is that group political? Yes, but there are things they can choose to do that are decidedly more political and that is where you'll get disagreeance from me as a member of said group.


Part of the problem is that no, we do not know what they are referring to. Lots of murky lines, lots of people with bad experiences that what for them is essential is considered over lines, worry that it'll be used to silence internal discussion of things the company does, ... (and of course if you impose it on a company used to something different, it's potentially a massive culture shift)

The "you can take it to private channels" can play out either way I guess: it can be a completely valid replacement of using company channels, but it is an additional hurdle if you have no signals to go by who to talk to. And if you actually have a problem with work channels getting out of hand, I feel like it's a gamble to hope it works better in the dark.

If my employer told us we had to move the more social/less technical chat channels outside of company infrastructure, I'm not sure that'd be better overall. And sort of odd to go with each new hire "oh and btw there's this second chat without the bosses, come join".


Blacklist/whitelist, main vs master, is there a bias in promoting women, what are the rules for dating a colleague, is an anti-bias training needed are all topics that are divisive, though some of them are easy to solve (David has strong opinions for naming variables, remote working solves the dating problem and no peer reviews means that less talk needs to be done about promotions).


>remote working solves the dating problem

if only.


May I ask your basis for saying these are the issues at hand at Basecamp? Are you a current or former employee? Heard these things firsthand or secondhand?


Okay, come up with a company policy for those (and if people feel strongly about it you probably want to know rather than have them just bitch in private about it), and if people get obnoxious about it do something about that. Instead of leaving your gay employee wondering if she needs to ask permission to mention getting married because that would be bringing up a "societal or political topic" (or to pick an example from elsewhere in the thread, if someone can mention that they went on a hunting trip on the weekend).


These kind of blanket no politics policies are typically direct responses to obnoxious behavior. I don't think we know the story at Basecamp yet, but when it happened at Coinbase, it was in response to a vocal segment of employees who demanded that the company publicly recite the slogan of a political movement they supported.


> We all know what types of discourse Jason and David are referring to

Do we? For any potential example I could think of, you’re telling anyone who is directly affected by or cares deeply about that example that their concern is not one of the political issues acceptable to discuss, but rather one of those types that we all know can’t be discussed.


If these topics are really that obvious to everyone then they should be written down (because it definitely isn't to me). On the contrary, they are pretty explicit about not allowing ANY discussion "remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society".

Now that I think about it, banning some kinds of political talk (discussing pay disparity, forming a union) is probably illegal.


I actually do not know what types of discourse they're referring to. Can you specify?


Presumably the more toxic and censorious forms of social justice activism.


Is anyone able to actually articulate an example of a political or societal topic that is supposedly obviously of the type that shouldn’t be discussed at work?


Sure - the USA Government wants to sign a deal to buy your software. But a group of people start a divisive email thread on how the USA Gov is a racist, white supremacist, sexist, imperialist government and the company should boycott them.

Or that Israel wants to sign a deal but a thread is started that we should boycott and divest from the the Zionist murderers of Palestine.

Or the Republican Party wants to sign a deal - where do we start?! Oh boy. Best keep that contract under wraps!

Or a police department wants to sign a deal but a thread launches that is certain that police are racist and doing a deal with them is harmful to PoC, etc. They must be defunded.

Or China wants to sign a deal but <fill in the blank>

Or Planned Parenthood wants to sign a deal but they murder babies.

Or the lol Catholic Church signs a deal lol....

Outside of business deals - “the company must take a position with BLM or else it is supports racism”.

Or “the leadership needs more X”

Or whatever. There’s no end to this and there’s no ends to the examples.

HERE IS WHY THIS IS GOOD POLICY: At some point, there is a good chance a reactionary party will take office. It will be charismatic and leverage done overreach on the left. It will feel empowering for a large group of people to be heard and the media, as they always do eventually, will fall in line with the reactionaries. This will not be good. And suddenly open discussion on “what’s right to do politically” will be awful. We need to stop that from happening. But the longer a small group of far left bullies dictates “née norms” the more good people will stay silent until the day that charismatic leader comes into view. Trump was not that leader and still got 70m votes. Someone that is an actual reactionary and not just a buffoon will come up and will seem like a good idea to a lot of people. And if the norm is that popular political opinion should be infused into everything then good luck.


I appreciate that you provided a lot of examples. For each example, I’m wondering if you think it shouldn’t be discussed because the debate itself isn’t important to the company (e.g. “it doesn’t matter whether the US government is a white supremacist government, we are doing this deal with them either way”), or because the company has taken a stance on the debate (e.g. “the US government is not a white supremacist government, and we are doing this deal with them”).

If your reason is the former, I’m curious how far you would take that. Is there any conceivable case where the company should not do business with some organization or government because of political issues? And if your reason is the latter, then shouldn’t the company try to be upfront (at least internally among employees) where it stands on these issues?


I believe it is up to the share holders and that’s it. If the share holders don’t want to do business with a certain group of people, it is their prerogative. They can vote. Employees can quit.

And yes I don’t think the debate is relevant to a business organization. The elected government decides who business can be and which business can be conducted. If you don’t like it then by all means, petition your representatives. But please do it on your own time.

You can do business with the Catholic Church and Planned Parenthood. If you’re keen to then use your earnings to crush one org or the other.


Ahh, love to ban "censorious" social justice activism.


Discourse can only be had when one is open to listening to individuals different viewpoints and accepting differences. Unlike individualistic ideologies social justice define a person by a constantly expanding set of politically motivated unchosen groups organized as “oppressor” and “oppressed”, and it is actively opposed to discourse as it sees that as a mechanism for the powerful/dominant group to assert power over the less powerful group in a zero sum game.

I think its pretty clear at this point that social justice in the workplace lead to more conflict and resentment than its worth. It also makes excellent people doubt if they were hired due to a quota or because of expertise (or the reverse for other groups).


Yeah. Notice how the free speech absolutists are nowhere to be found here.


Pretty sure the free speech absolutists would say that private companies can have whatever rules they like on their platform.


Would, but aren't. Kind of curious in and of itself; usually they not only would but also are.


Not sure I share the frame of reference I get the impression you're assuming we have in common. What do you mean?


I honestly don't know what types of discussions they are referring to. I obviously know some of what is included, but I certainly don't know what the limits are.


See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26949792

Someone else (and me too) had the same question


I don’t think it is a straw man. They say “remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society”, I can’t think of many things that are not remotely related to these or quickly can turn into them. So it does seem to be restricted to work and the smallest of small talk. Which is fine to me. Those kind of discussions pre-WFH I had during breaks and after work activities with co workers. So now it is just trough other channels than the main company communication one.


Do we "all know" what they're talking about? it sounds like they don't even know. What they want is not to have to deal with society while making products for society. This will lead to a employee base of purely wealthy white guys, which is clearly what they want


We all know? Good thing you're the self-appointed representative for all of "us". Because I have absolutely no idea where to begin drawing that line.


Plus I doubt anybody will get in trouble for having a lunchtime video chat with a coworker and talking politics.


Do we all know? I don't. I have no idea. Is it cool for me to talk about housing markets? About markets in the abstract? About marijuana markets despite it being illegal where I live? About policies in other states that differ from mine, like marijuana policies?

There's no reasonable line, because unless you're stupid as can be, politics isn't some abstract thing that happens over there; it's a thing that happens everyday in your life.

I'm immensely disappointed in DHH for this take.


A friend of mine is a software engineer in a conservative industry, and their company brought out the same "no politics at work" last summer. Their benefits package has some language specifically referring to only extending health insurance coverage to hetero spouses, and only permitting time off for a new child if the employee gave birth to it, so nothing for adoptions, fathers, or surrogate births.

People have been trying to bring these issues up to HR but they get immediately shut down, "That's politics. Stop trying to force the company to pick a side. Please refer to section 7(a) revision 2 of your employee handbook".


Right, this is how it should be. If that is a deal breaker then find a different employer.

Work is not a forum to compete for your personal views. It is a forum to exchange your time for money or equity as per your contract.

If you feel it should be different, make sure you are holding enough equity to set the rules or as I mentioned, find a new job that agrees with you.


Why shouldn't employees have a say in how their own workplaces are run?

EDIT: I see this is being downvoted. It's a genuine good faith question, and if you've downvoted, I'd love to know what you see as unconstructive about this comment. I'm sure the HN community would not be so petty as to downvote it out of pure ideology.


Activism that imposes zero costs on the activist, indeed provides social benefits, just isn’t very convincing.

Going to jail for your beliefs or standing up to cops with dogs and fire hoses—-those make otherwise indifferent people stop and think.

The fact that “stay and change things from the inside” is maximally convenient for soi disant activists doesn’t strike many of us as a coincidence.


This implies that someone could convince you X activism is worthless by not doing anything to visibly resist it.


Why should they? It is not their business. If they want a say in how it is run they can leave or figure out how to buy into the business as an investor/owner.

Employees are literally in place to do one thing: trade time/energy for money in service of the companies goals.


You should take a moment to read your own comment and consider how much raw ideology is packed into it - it's just pure authoritarianism. As an illustration of this, consider this similar comment:

"Why should peasants have any voting power? It is not their country. If they want a say in how it is run they can leave or figure out how to buy into the country as a feudal lord.

Peasants are literally in place to do one thing: trade time/energy for money in service of the King's goals."


You are comparing a government to a company. Peasants don't optionally sign contracts to belong to their nation. For the record I think the peasants should and have every moral (althouth probably not legal)right to revolt.

Revolting from your company is called quitting. So go ahead and revolt if you want.

If believing that both companies and workers should have the freedom to set their own terms for how they want to operate within the bounds of the law is authoritarianism then I will proudly take the label although of course, this is directly inverting the definition of authoritarianism.


> You are comparing a government to a company.

Indeed. Both can be run either a democratic or authoritarian fashion. "Ownership should mean absolute power" is a common belief (everywhere but particularly in the US where labor rights have never been strong), but is only one option, and more democratic forms are possible.

> Peasants don't optionally sign contracts to belong to their nation.

Thinking that employers "belong" to the companies they work for is quite strange language. But more to the point, employees don't "optionally" sign employment contracts - most people are forced to work to pay the bills - in other words, they are coerced into signing the contract. Most people hate their jobs and would rather not do them.


Sincere question - not meant to be inflammatory: Do you actually believe that most employees in the United States are coerced/forced to sign employment contracts, or are you simply playing devil's advocate?


It is virtually impossible to survive in the United States without employment.

I don’t think the “coercion” perspective is the most convincing argument, personally: but there really isn’t much of an alternative to employment. The fact that the US has starving children speaks to how little of a social safety net we actually have.

I guess while I wouldn’t personally use “coercion” in a debate about this stuff, it’s also somewhat of a reasonable argument when you consider the alternatives. It’s just very ... meta.


Of course. For most people, if they don't work, they can't pay for food and shelter. They will then be coercively denied those things via property law enforcement.

"Do the bidding of an employer or be forcibly denied food and shelter" sure sounds like coercion to me.


So the concept of having a boss is authoritarian? Again I'll proudly wear the label of authoritarian as you describe it.


[flagged]


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What is it you think I've misunderstood?


> If they want a say in how it is run they can leave

No, they couldn't. Feudal peasants (i.e. serfs) were tied to the land and were NOT free to leave. In general, their lords controlled every aspect of their lives, including who they were permitted to marry.

Being a serf wasn't quite as bad as being a slave (for instance, serfs generally couldn't be sold away from their families, as they were attached to the land), but it was pretty damned bad nonetheless.

At any rate, drawing a comparison between a feudal serf, owned from birth and tied to the land, and a software engineer who could likely have a new job by the end of the day (particularly coming from a high-profile shop like Basecamp) seems rather disingenuous.


> Why should they? It is not their business.

Why shouldn't they? Companies make many decisions that are not central to their business -- what snacks to provide, where to hold the company holiday party, etc.

Yes, you can claim the above somehow tie into the core business. If so, then I also get to make the connection. I'll argue that (e.g.) supporting Black Lives Matter is a net positive to the company.

Take Away: I suggest we dismiss the notion that companies should not take positions on various issues.

One may debate the wisdom of companies taking various stances, but I think it is quite ridiculous to claim that companies do not have the freedom to take various stances.


so businesses are allowed to be racist because "they own it"? what's next start paying women and POC less because reasons? oh wait


They are allowed to do anything within the law.


They frequently do. The contracts they sign often give them some rights in this regard. Companies also optionally give employees these rights all the time because they perceive it to be in their own best interest.

They aren't legally owed them though. So if the company doesn't want to give them that say, then they don't get that say.


What a contract says does not determine what is ethical. I'm interested in worker control over their own workplaces. Plenty of countries already do this, Germany for instance has board seats reserved for workers as mandatory for all large companies.


The U.S legal system (or anywhere else's) is not based on your subjective personal ethics.

Germans voted for a specific right. American's do the same all the time. Germans still do not have some blanket right for every worker to control company policy.


> What a contract says does not determine what is ethical

Or what is legal. So many people don't assert their rights because some random piece of paper (or online form) told them they can't, when it would be completely unenforceable in a local court.


so a conservative employer gets to just discriminate against blacks/gays/women/ect and that's ok with you? do you see the problem here when employees can't speak out and are shut down with "no political speech or your fired"

"if your not christian you shouldn't work here"


well luckily, some particular traits have been made illegal to discriminate against, because in the past, terrible consequences have been had from such discrimination.

> blacks/gays/women/ect

But this doesnt mean that _every_ trait falls afoul - and if you want your trait to gain the special status of being illegal to discriminate against, this work (aka, activism) should be undertaken with private resources, not the resources of the company for which you are employed. Trying to recruit people into your cause during work hours should also be discouraged - but giving invites to dinners/lunches and having private discussions outside workhours should be allowed.


Go read Title 7 of the Civil rights act. That's not how any of this works.


> If you feel it should be different, make sure you are holding enough equity to set the rules or as I mentioned, find a new job that agrees with you.

This is a false dichotomy.

It is analogous to people who say "love it or leave it" with regards to patriotism for a country.

In my experience, when I hear a person say "if you don't like X about what Y does, find a new Y", I also find evidence that they often lack the ability to observe without judgement. Because of this, they may lack compassion.

Would you say the same thing to someone who doesn't have much leverage to find a better job?

I wonder, would you tell them "to just deal with it"? Or would you simply admit that there are many paths to addressing issues?

There are people in the world that are rule-followers to a fault.

1. Say your partner has a life threatening emergency and you must drive them to the hospital. Do you run a stop sign if there is no cross traffic? Rule followers might say no. However, a higher standard of ethics might say that saving a life is more important.

2. Say your company has a policy that says "don't talk about your concerns about the company on the message board". Let's say you have concerns and have raised them via "proper" channels but the result in unsatisfactory. Do you raise them more generally? Rule followers might say no. Wise people weigh the issue and consider the pros and cons.

The world is about actions and consequences. In my view, that is what the rules tell you. The rules don't always simplistically define ethics. Rules, like any formal system, are not adequate substitutes for guiding principles and conscience.


Perhaps they should have looked at the benefits package before taking the job?


Or pay attention during an interview. There was a time when Big Idea (The VeggieTales People) were hiring a ton of tech people to manage their render farms, animation systems, etc. A common topic of conversation revolved around when were you saved by Jesus Christ?

If you were not a evangelical Christian, you quickly realized you would not be happy working there


I find it strange that even a hyper conservative company would prohibit time off for adoption.

I took one day off for the birth of my first daughter. I was in college. I couldn’t afford more time.


In the past week I have spoken to coworkers about custom keyboards, sail racing, gym routines and upside of hiring a personal trainer, travel, 3D-printing, I can go on forever. I believe it is fundamentally possible to have an interesting and relaxing conversation with coworkers and not to touch political topics.


What you described is talking about personal interests and activities, and I agree that is the kind of stuff that is easy and fun to talk (and hear) about with others. I’m starting to think many people don’t have personal activities and interests and don’t know what to fill in small talk with other than what they saw on social media or the news.


What about people whose personal interests and activities directly involve politics? Like people interested in political analysis or reporting, or people interested in competitive policy debate, or even people who actively do advocacy work in their free time? Is small talk about the advocacy work you did over the weekend worse than my small talk about building drones over the weekend?


>Is small talk about the advocacy work you did over the weekend worse than my small talk about building drones over the weekend?

I think you're way more likely to find coworkers that get mad or upset over the advocacy work you did over the weekend than you are to find coworkers mad about you building a drone.

One of these topics seems to have a much higher chance of negatively affecting either you or your coworker in the workplace.

If you're enjoying some watercooler conversation with a coworker, would you prefer them chatting about the drone they built or the door-to-door-campaigning they did for <candidate you despise> 2024, or the protest they were at against <your preferred candidate>?

Even if you're fine discussing advocacy work for a cause you disagree with (like any adult should be), there's also a chance you're going to alienate or upset your coworker by not agreeing or being on "their side".

Talking about building drones doesn't have the high-stakes social stigmas that can have lasting, chilling effects in the workplace that a lot of tangentially-political topics do.


> If you're enjoying some watercooler conversation with a coworker, would you prefer them chatting about the drone they built or the door-to-door-campaigning they did for <candidate you despise> 2024, or the protest they were at against <your preferred candidate>?

Well, I’m the one who likes fiddling with drones in my free time, so I’d personally be more interested in that discussion! But that’s a different question than which of these conversations should be prohibited by the employer.


There’s a lot of things that aren’t political per-se you shouldn’t share with the broader group.

For instance, maybe my family has a history of killing wild animals for food. I wouldn’t share our kill shots with my company the same way I would with friends that are interested in hunting. Because I know it’s something a good chunk of people don’t want to see and it’s unnecessary to share.

Now imagine I had a few friends in the office who too supported this. And we went out of our way to not only share pictures of these killings (which are all legal) but started to intimidate people that didn’t like to see them.

And then we go a step further and plan a trip to Africa to hunt lions - all legal and on the up and up. And we share these relentlessly. And we don’t stop there. We post Big-5 trophies and endless shots of venison being butchered.

We also begin to loudly advocate NRA membership for colleagues and use company resources to recruit social events where we all go shooting together. We go further and decide we want THE COMPANY to support our gun rights. We walk out and protest our CEO who “doesn’t have the balls” to take a measly pheasant.

Who wants this?


> And we went out of our way to not only share pictures of these killings (which are all legal) but started to intimidate people that didn’t like to see them.

And your managements only way of reacting to that is banning all potentially political talk? Really? My boss would go "go make a #hunting channel and keep it there". And I presume if I tried to get him into gun rights activism the response would be "no, stop pestering us about it", repeated more firmly and with consequences if I kept it up.


This entire article and thread and Twitter are people complaining that the boss just said “no stop pestering us about it”.

You made my point?


If you don't see a difference between "don't talk about any political topics" and "stop pushing for the company to do something about your pet topic X", then yes, that is your point. But given you recognized a difference between "talking about your hunting" and "pushing for the company to support the NRA", I doubt that is the case.


The fable was about the slippery slope or w/e. Maybe not a Pynchon-esque metaphor here, but I’m not a writer.

But why is it different to pressure a company into publicly supporting 2a? It’s literally a right as sacred as speech or voting.

Why does that seem weird but other things not?


My point is that I don't think it's effective to respond to every "slippery slope" by not letting people anywhere near the slope and holding them back from talking about things they care about because they touch the slope. But rather to pick your point on each slope, which gives your people more opportunity to be open and,if it involves company policy etc, for you to get feedback - although the final decision about what the company does of course still rests with you. And if a topic just doesn't work, ban that.

Re the specific example: I'm not from the US, so a fundamental right to guns (or even just much in the way of gun culture) is culturally "weird" here. I didn't intend to suggest that this would be weird/off-limits to all companies everywhere. Which is kind of the point again: find what works for the topic for your people.


as per this company there would be no hunting or gun channel in the work slack because "politics"


Sounds great, to be honest.


What do you mean "what about"? Isn't it obvious - you don't talk about these interests at work. What's unclear about that? Is there something in your employment contract guaranteeing you the right to talk to your coworkers about anything that interests you? How would you feel if I spoke to you at the watercooler about my hypothetical interests in the supremacy of the Arian race?


I don't try talk about my gym routine with coworkers who aren't interested in gym workouts. It's boring to them and the conversation goes nowhere. So you should not try to talk about politics with people who aren't interested in your politics.


I think he's saying that being interested in politics is inherently inferior to being interested in other things, and people who like to read about politics are fundamentally lesser than people who don't know much about politics (and therefore we shouldn't care if banning "politics" affects them).


Yes, in fact those people who enjoy politics and advocacy outside of work should be actively discouraged from working in high performing organizations. I certainly filter them out during my interview process as they are more likely to be a liability than a great worker who gets the job done.


Or rather, an increasingly large number of people's personal hobbies essentially consist of reading, tweeting, blogging, and talking about politics.


Sports once filled that roll. It was acceptable and with enough tribalism to make it interesting. Sadly, they are not a safe conversation anymore.


it's all fun and games until you slip and your co worker finds out your gay and their entire tone and demeanor changes and they treat you different but then when you go to your manager "no politics in the workplace". Or your black and find out your co-worker is a member of the KKK and is a well known racist, but no politics at work ok


You probably shouldn't bring up 3d printing - people might start talking about 3d printing gun parts, and that's of course political, and you _did_ start the conversation. Same problem with travel - as you know, many countries restrict travel because of the pandemic, and the very existence of the pandemic is a political issue among some people.

As you can see, it's a ridiculous policy that can only be enforced arbitrarily.

Also, sidenote: what happened to all the "free speech is bigger than the first amendment! It's an ideological hill worth dying on!" people? One mention of changing "master" to "main" and they're everywhere on hackernews, yet oddly quiet in this comment section.


You are actively misinterpreting what they said.

a) They explicitly state that employees are allowed to actively discuss these things, just not in group chat.

b) They explicitly state that this isn't "some high consequences zero tolerance policy" and that the consequence for violating the rule will be that you are reminded of the rule.

It's sad that this is the top comment.


The "not in group chat" part was added later after the backlash. The original version of the post said employees can't talk about it, period.

And the severity of the punishment isn't what is being debated here, but the fact that there can be punishment at all.


Without any insider information, it seems equally as likely that they just better clarified what they originally meant versus backtracking in response to backlash.

"Reminding people not to talk about politics and then moving on" doesn't really seem like a "punishment".


No, original post had don't discuss. They backtracked to "not on main", maybe after realizing this could be read as barring protected activities.


> In the past week I have spoken to coworkers about high housing costs (bunch of us are testing the market right now), property taxes, EV rebates, weed legalization, homeless/drug use problem on the streets. All of this is apparently a fireable offense at Basecamp?

> People are going to say "obviously stuff like this is okay", but to me that's even worse. The company can and will apply arbitrary rules to whatever they think is unacceptable political speech.

From reading this announcement, it seems like they are going with the former. The article specifically mentions "every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large." Of course, it remains to be seen how exactly they apply this rule. The announcement doesn't mention how they will go about enforcing this prohibition, but to me it's very clear that the examples you mentioned obviously fall under this prohibition, as well as many other topics I would expect to be discussed at work, like vacation and holiday policies.


Try reading the OP again. The headline is “No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account.”

They’re not saying you can’t chat with your colleagues about politics, they’re just saying it shouldn’t happen in the space everyone has to use for work.



The post specifically contains "People can take the conversations with willing co-workers to Signal, Whatsapp, or even a personal Basecamp account, but it can't happen where the work happens anymore."

That seems entirely reasonable to me.


All of the communications on these channels are typically legally discoverable, so it makes sense you don't want to introduce potential vectors for political discrimination in an increasingly remote world.

There are plenty of non political topics to cover...Gardening, pets, clothing, home renovation, local music events and festivals, kids, etc. In all the teams I've been on, political topics never came up. It's okay to find friends outside of work and discuss politics with them; your social network doesn't have to center on the workplace.


What if you want to discuss gay spousal benefits? Or how medical insurance is going to work for gay couples?


Then read your contract. Discussing these things does not change what the contract you signed says. If you don't like it, renegotiate or leave. If your negotiation is an ultimatum on these points you should probably consider it equivalent to deciding to leave in most cases, but maybe if you have enough leverage you will win.


One might also consider forming a union with your fellow coworkers, and negotiating with management with said union.

As you mentioned, if you have enough leverage, you win. If that's your jam, grab for the crowbar of labor rights. Organizing is federally protected.


Sure it's your legal right to form a union, go for it if you want. More power to you if you win.

Fortunately workers in tech are almost unanimously smart enough to understand this isn't in their interest and reject unions.

Also understand you are playing power politics so if you are going to play make sure you can win. These people at instacart didn't: https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/21/22242676/instacart-firing...


> Fortunately workers in tech are almost unanimously smart enough to understand this isn't in their interest and reject unions

https://www.npr.org/2021/01/08/954710407/at-google-hundreds-... ("Google Workers Speak Out About Why They Formed A Union: 'To Protect Ourselves'")

https://www.wired.com/story/how-kickstarter-employees-formed... ("How Kickstarter Employees Formed a Union")

https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/02/following-unionization-gli... ("Following unionization, Glitch signs collective bargaining agreement ")

I admit there's still much work to be done with regards to tech organizing.


The "Google union" is a complete joke BTW. It's made up of half a dozen low-level employees that have no bargaining power at all. Half the company hasn't even heard of it (true story).


Yeah. That's the whole list...

Want to compile the 1000 page document that would be all the places who haven't unionized?


That's unnecessary. I'm simply demonstrating that unionization has occurred in businesses far larger and with arguably more difficult organizing environments than Basecamp (with a total of ~60 employees). 800 Google workers thought it important enough to join their union.


800 out of 135000 is 6 tenths of 1%.

A Basecamp union organizer who was the only one to decide to join their own creation of a Basecamp Workers Union would already be 3 times as successful as the Google union on a per-capita basis.


I can only chuckle at the raw math, as if that’s the valuable datapoint. It seems impossible until it’s done.

It took decades for America to ruin the idea of unions, they’re not coming back overnight.


A union derives its bargaining power from the amount of monopoly it has on the labor supply. (I don't say that as a bad thing; I mean it just as a factual thing.)

Tech industry turnover is around 13% per year, or 0.25% per week. The Google union could all quit at once and it would be like that week's turnover number was slightly higher than normal.

Google has more employees out sick on any given day than they have union members.


Imagine making this ridiculous argument for anything else.

Yeah, maybe only .005% of Americans are flat earthers but I chuckle at the math! You just havent given it enough time for us to be proven right!


I'll stick to calling 1000s to 3 "nearly unanimous"


Yes, the Lou Bloom / Game of Thrones perspective exists and has a basis in our world. When you play with power, you win or you die.

But I don't believe that's why American gays have been experiencing more and more support. It is not persuasion by equity, but simply by asking people what kind of future they want to live in. Gay life also also improved among EU peers for the same reasons.

Politics is the negotiation of power, and yet strangely, gay people have been able to achieve wins at the negotiating table simply by asking, often without leverage. Sometimes people will listen to your story and simply agree.


except if your co-workers never know they they never have a chance to stand up for you and demand change. this is a great way to silence minorities because talking about the challenges they face is now forbidden.


Gardening: So are you a climate change wacko or a doomsday prepper wacko? Clothing: Do you know where I can get my leather chaps repaired? Home Renovation: I need to get a permit and inspection for my rec room renovation. They want confirmation that the beam can hold 400lbs in the sex-swing.

Any topic can be political if you are enough of a jerk.


Yep. I do wonder if we've lost the ability to talk and recognize common experiences versus politics and people are looking to go full jerk.


> Can there ever be a non-work related conversation between employees that is not a "societal and political discussion"?

If you're tendentious enough, you can make anything political. But if you start talking about the post-colonial geopolitical implications of your coworker's son's new chocolate chip cookie recipe, expect everyone to roll their eyes and walk away.


Add small talk, banter, and shooting the shit into that. And, maybe, becoming friends or at least more acquainted.

There's a whole breadth of interpersonal communication and humanity that exists outside of the realm of politics, society, and activism. It's self evident, otherwise what do you expect to achieve from talking politics and activism except to be able to talk even more about politics and activism?


> All of this is apparently a fireable offense at Basecamp?

I think you're being needlessly hyperbolic but fear not, DHH has you covered:

> If you're in doubt as to whether your choice of forum or topic for a discussion is appropriate, please ask before posting. But if you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Someone will gently remind you of the etiquette, and we'll move on. This isn't some zero-tolerance, max-consequences new policy.

https://world.hey.com/dhh/basecamp-s-new-etiquette-regarding...


You can have these conversations but you can’t have them on company property. But if you want to create your own forum with other coworkers then go ahead.

So no more using the company Slack for this type of thing.

I think people are starting to see how some groups have been undermining and infiltrating every organization they can. It’s literally in their literature to do this. Replicate what they’ve accomplished in universities and journalism - it has spread to tech workplaces, non-profits, and elite private schools. The goal is to politicize everything and then seize power and then pillage for personal gain.


>Can there ever be a non-work related conversation between employees that is not a "societal and political discussion"?

I think there are two questions. How much work time is taken up by non-work related conversation, and how much does an employee's non-work related political advocacy disrupt their work and the work of other employees? The unfortunate truth is that many (especially younger people) believe it is not only their right, but their duty, to agitate for the political and social change they believe in, at all times, and, in many fields, this mentality isn't compatible with a functional (much less efficient) work environment.


Yeah. More than questioning the ethical implications of their decision I was simply struct with a... damn that must be a boring place to work at.


Maybe they want to hire people like to work on the things the company do.


> Is it really that hard to hire adults who can have reasonable adult conversations (with sometimes differing opinions) without it being a "major distraction"?

What do you do when you have someone that sits in a work slack channel all day fiercely debating politics? Counsel him, sure, but then ultimately you’ll need to fire him.

Inevitably people will wonder if he was fired because of the positions he took (which everyone is fully aware because he never shut up about them) rather than because he wasn’t doing any work. Modern HR best practices foreclose transparency (“we fired so-and-so because he committed just four lines of code in the last two months”).

What’s the best option here?


You can (publicly) tell people to stop getting into politics debates all the time without banning all mentions of things that touch politics.


You just outlined the solution yourself. If someone isn't doing enough productive work then fire them for that. Whether they were talking about politics or anime doesn't really matter.


But if he’s the only outspoken Trump supporter or trans-rights activist at the company you are going to spark a lot of rumors and ill will when you fire him. Whereas firing the biggest anime fan isn’t going to garner any notice.


I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. With these new policies in place it's more explicit that you are firing an employee for being a Trump supporter or trans-rights activist.


Think we'll see a lot more companies coming out with statements like this.

Who wants their work slack to look like the worst parts of Twitter and Facebook? With employees cancelling each other and demanding they recognise various political points? Not me.

You can tell there have been a lot of difficult discussions with various employees behind the scenes. It's all a distraction.

Work should be about work.


I don’t want to make any assumptions about who you are, and this is not an attack on you, but “no politics” isn’t a neutral position - it’s a position to take when you’re OK with the status quo and want people to shut up and just go along, because you’re largely not affected by the things that they are. I speak from experience - in my country our autocratic ex president also had a “no political discussions except the ones I sanction / that benefit me”, and enforced it with brute force, torture, imprisonments, even murder. His rationale was that “there’s a lot of work left to move the country forward - so let’s put politics aside and work together”. This was nonsense, of course - HE still got to talk politics when he wanted, and used that fact to extend his rule. Yes the analogy isn’t perfect and it’s country vs company, but it’s the same underlying logic. The people who made these rules are not going to be affected by them in any way, beyond no longer having to see opinions they disagree with on Slack.

Yes you’re right no one wants their work slack to turn into the worst parts of fb and Twitter, but that’s not what we’re talking about here is it? We’re talking about employees being able to discuss current events and how they’re being affected by them, in a world where everything - even mask wearing - can be deemed political. This doesn’t have to happen on the main slack channels, but where’s the harm in letting employees still communicate in separate slack channels that are not mandatory to join and that employees can just ignore if they’re not interested?

They have every right to introduce any rules they want - it’s their company and I’m not contesting that. But this is not as simple as oh they’re just trying to make the work culture less toxic, good for them.


>but “no politics” isn’t a neutral position

Yes it is, it absolutely is. You can be a big activist outside of work, no one is saying you can't be.

>It's a position to take when you’re OK with the status quo and want people to shut up and just go along, because you’re largely not affected by the things that they are.

This boils down to the "you're with me, or you're against me" mentality. You can want work to be neutral but still not be happy with the way things are. These things are not mutually exclusive.

It's like saying "if you don't believe in gun rights, it's because you hate women and want them to be defenseless." Or "if you support Planned Parenthood, you support the genocide of minority babies."

Of course those are nonsense stances.

On top of that, maybe the "status quo" is better than what you're suggesting. The tens of millions of lives that perished under Communism would be happier with the "status quo" the way it was before... Alive.

>I speak from experience - in my country our autocratic ex president also had a “no political discussions except the ones I sanction / that benefit me”, and enforced it with brute force, torture, imprisonments, even murder.

This is exactly what leftists are asking for though. The "no politics at work" literally means no left-wing or right-wing politics, just none at all.

>This was nonsense, of course - HE still got to talk politics when he wanted, and used that fact to extend his rule. Yes the analogy isn’t perfect and it’s country vs company, but it’s the same underlying logic.

Straight out of the Marxist handbook.

>But this is not as simple as oh they’re just trying to make the work culture less toxic, good for them.

I think they are, because what's considered the "status quo" is up for debate in 2021. Welcome to the post-fact world.

Politics, especially wokeism at work, has become exceedingly toxic, and counterproductive.


> Yes it is, it absolutely is.

No, its not, it avsolutely is not.

> You can be a big activist outside of work, no one is saying you can't be.

Limiting the scope of activism always serves to protect the status quo. The fact that the imposed limit is itself limited does not make it neutral.


>No, its not, it avsolutely is not.

Yes it is, it absolutely is, by definition, logically neutral. If it's across the board "no politics", then no one ideology gets pushed, which is by definition neutrality. QED.

>Limiting the scope of activism

The scope isn't being limited, you have unlimited scope, but just no activism on company time.

>always serves to protect the status quo.

Or limiting the scope of activism always serves to protect progressive politics, because you're not allowing conservative voices and ideas to be heard.

>The fact that the imposed limit is itself limited does not make it neutral.

It's not limited to any one side, which de fact makes it neutral. QED.


> Yes it is, it absolutely is, by definition, logically neutral

No, its not. It, by definition, favors the status quo.

> If it's across the board "no politics", then no one ideology gets pushed, which is by definition neutrality.

No, prohibiting pushing isn’t neutrality, its favoring the current state.

> The scope isn't being limited.

Yes, the a particular scope is being excluded.

> [...] company time.

That’s the excluded scope.

> > always serves to protect the status quo.

> Or limiting the scope of activism always serves to protect progressive politics, because you're not allowing conservative voices and ideas to be heard.

Sure, if the conservative position is not the status quo and the progressive one is; your preventing both (and others) from being heard, adversely impacting all that are not the status quo. To the extent your “alternative” is true, its not an alternative, just a specific case of what I initially described.


>No, its not. It, by definition, favors the status quo.

It, by definition, does not favor the status quo. Staying silent on a topic may be against the status quo, or it may be for it. That by definition makes this neutral.

>No, prohibiting pushing isn’t neutrality, its favoring the current state.

No it's not as explained above. Pushing may be for or against the status quo, and prohibiting pushing by this logic means neutrality. The status quo may be under threat by staying silent, or the status quo may not change by staying silent. That is neutrality.

You're essentially creating a non-falsifiable here by just assuming that "silence = for status quo".

>Yes, the a particular scope is being excluded.

Except nothing is out of scope, just time and place. You still have unlimited scope outside of work.

>That’s the excluded scope.

That's not a scope. You're company is not limiting your scope, you agreed to be there, during business hours, to conduct business.

>Sure, if the conservative position is not the status quo and the progressive one is; your preventing both (and others) from being heard, adversely impacting all that are not the status quo.

Yes, which in the long run means no one side is being heard or pushed over others... True neutrality.

>To the extent your “alternative” is true, its not an alternative, just a specific case of what I initially described.

Exactly, and it proves my point. The net of it all is neutral. QED.


There’s a long-standing company rule that anyone named Bob has to eat lunch sitting on the floor. Some people named Bob started to complain, but some other employees liked the rule. It was causing a stir, so I as CEO decided to prohibit any discussion on the matter.

Then the Bobs told me that the discussion gag was unfair. I told them that it is, by definition, logically neutral, since no ideology is getting pushed — it applies across the board, to both them and the “pro Bob floor” group.

The Bobs are still eating lunch on the floor, but I don’t hear anyone complaining anymore, so I think we landed in the right place.

QED?


[flagged]


It's not a straw man, because the rule itself isn't germane to the discussion. I just picked one in which it’s clear that the “default” state is unfair.

> It's not limited to any one side, which de fact makes it neutral. QED.

The gag policy in my analogy is not limited to any one side. According to your reasoning, that de facto makes it neutral.


>It's not a straw man, because the rule itself isn't germane to the discussion.

It is a straw man because internal company dealings in your example is something that they explicitly allowed to be discussed.

>I just picked one in which it’s clear that the “default” state is unfair.

Yes, and the reason the Bobs have to sit and eat on the floor is because when they used to eat on the table, they'd kill a baby before every table meal. The "default" state is fair.

The fact of the matter is multiple different "default status quos" exists.

>The gag policy in my analogy is not limited to any one side.

Except the straw man because internal company dealings are not gagged.

>According to your reasoning, that de facto makes it neutral.

Yes, external politics not related to work are gagged, which de facto makes it neutral.


Okay, so let's imagine it's a societal norm that Bobs eat on the floor rather than a company rule. A group of Bobs are agitating for change, so I institute a gag policy on the topic. Neutral?


So? We are humans. We get distracted by a whole bunch of things that happen to us daily because, well, we're emotional creatures. When you are somewhere most of the day you end up being distracted by many other things than "just work". If you cut the politics then something else will keep our primordial animal minds busy.

A place where you have to only "be about work" is impossible to achieve. Even sweatshops in Bangladesh have unions and places where they can talk politics.

I would say a healthier choice for them would've been to cut out the people that were bullshitting and causing toxic environment. For sure those exist and should be spotted if they cause negativity at work.

Funny thing is that doing this top-down, as they are doing, is literally "cancel culture".


> If you cut the politics then something else will keep our primordial animal minds busy.

Apples and oranges. Politics triggers people at an entirely different level, to the point that many can't let it go.

Basecamp's decisions may not make sense if you've only worked with level-headed coworkers who are capable of disagreeing with each other on politics and still maintaining respect for each other. However, once you've seen what happens to offices where people let their angry political debates from Facebook and Twitter spill over into the office, it makes a lot more sense.

Company chat shouldn't look like Twitter flamewars or Facebook rants. Some people can debate things and then check their feelings at the door when it's time to get back to work, but many can't.


> If you cut the politics then something else will keep our primordial animal minds busy.

I think it's fairly easy to make the argument that our minds are especially tuned to tribalism. Not only that, but what comes out of discussions focused on political/social tribalism is especially toxic. It's one thing to have a little banter about football teams, it's another when people are convinced their lives are at stake.


> it's another when people are convinced their lives are at stake.

huh? their lives (and livelihoods) sometimes are at stake...


Coinbase and Basecamp are now certainly on my shortlist of companies that I would consider working for now, hoping for more like this


Has coinbase done this too?


With employees cancelling each other

Can you explain what this means without using the word "cancel"?


I'll assume this question was asked sincerely and in good faith.

By cancelling in this context I mean trying to ostrasize those they disagree with. Talking negatively about them, excluding them as much as possible from social and professional activities. Ignoring their advice and opinion at work. Being rude or negative when they do have to engage with them etc.

In short, acting without the respect and courtesy we would want colleagues to show each other.


That's soft cancellation.

Hard cancellation is when you get others to gang up on them and go to HR to try to get them fired. Afterwards, you publicise whatever got them fired offline in the hopes that they become 'radioactive' to employers and so that they and their family fall on hard times.

I'm a little confused as to why people don't understand what "cancel" means in this context. Isn't it quite a popular topic nowadays? Is it possible that they're claiming ignorance, because they want to argue against the meaningfulness of the term?


I think people get confused because many on the right use cancellation to refer to both firing people who have done something that's truly vile, as well as those who have been fired for simply having an unorthodox opinion. E.g. Harvey Weinstein vs. James Damore.


Your comment and the comment you're replying to gave two very different definitions of "cancel". And yet you're surprised that people find it ambiguous?


It's not ambiguous in the context. And normally people don't bring the sorites paradox to definitions of words that describe gradients -- we can describe something as cancellation even when there are more severe cancellations that are possible.


The question wasn't asked in good faith, as much as I appreciate the courtesy of the respondent. You can read that user's twitter and see that they were already familiar with the term and they believe only Nazis complain about it (they posted a graphic novel panel indicating this.) They were only asking for clarification in hope of getting an answer they could exploit in some way.


I dearly wish that when people use the phrase “cancel culture,” they mean exactly what you say here. If they did, it would include trying to “cancel” people who sympathize with white nationalism.

But it would also mean people who belittle or demean others because of their gender. Or people who belittle, demean, and bully people with less experience.

One of PayPal’s founders once bragged that they declined to hire an engineer because they said they liked to “shoot hoops,” and PayPal was not a company where people liked to “shoot hoops.”

All of that would be “cancelling” people too, by your definition, and it’s all just as worthy of discussion.


Where I work, that sort of behavior is classified as "workplace bullying", and I think that's accurate. My concern with political discussions being common is that people will be expected to conform to whatever happens to be dominant in that workplace in order to remain on everyone's good side. I don't know if it would be possible to refrain from participating without being called out, because people will think you're hiding something.


I have a dumb question. How common are political chat rooms at companies? When I read books like Billion Dollar Loser, it sounds like lots of tech companies encourage employees to have semi-public discussions via Slack on company time about things completely unrelated to work. I work for a tech company and I can't imagine my employer doing that.


Yet politics is one of the few places you can impact your workplace. Most companies in the US are authoritarian and it's in politics you can have some say. Democracy at Work is the next stage of work. The "shut up and work" kind of work is a dead end.


1. You start a 'democratic' company 2. You make a controversial decision or series of decisions 3. You lose 'voted out' 4. Turns out your controversial decision would've been [firing a few employees/getting acquired/insert unpopular thing here] to keep the company afloat, and everything goes belly up

It's the same reason unions only work in the biggest, most established companies. Everything slows to a crawl otherwise.


Seems Mondragon does just fine.

> cooperatives tend to last longer and are less susceptible to perverse incentives and other problems of organizational governance than more traditionally managed organizations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation


There's a great blog entry I just read about this, "On Politics At Work". I think the author effectively hits on a real problem with a lot of these discussions.

https://json.blog/2021/04/26/on-politics-at.html

To some folks, "politics at work" means "endless battle royale political debates among coworkers in a Slack all day long; why wouldn't you be against that?

But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

I'm giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt and assuming they're trying to stave off the former. But it's not that easy to do that without also affecting the latter, because if you ask questions that boil down to is our company discriminating, even unintentionally and do our LGBT and minority employees feel as safe and valued as our straight cis white employees, someone will be super upset that you're "bringing politics into the workplace." (I guarantee someone reading this is thinking "ugh, 'cis' is a slur, why you gotta be so political," and, bang: somebody has just made recognizing the existence of trans people into something inherently political, and now we get to argue over whether that somebody is me or the cis-is-a-slur guy.)

Here's a thought: if your goal is to try to keep company Slack channels civil and focused on work, then don't say "don't be political." Say "keep company Slack channels civil and focused on work."


My company has mandated that 40% of our recruiting contacts for engineers are women. We have spent weeks talking about bias in our interview process and despite having no metrics showing bias is a problem we have made changes to combat it (i.e. no video on the call) that have led to worse experiences for our candidates. Suffice to say we have had a lot of trouble hiring engineers.

> Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

Imho companies that try to tackle the woke political issues are going to end up worse off and never make those few employees that keep bringing them up happy.


How many woman engineers are in your team as a percent of total?


More importantly: who cares? The point of classical equal rights is the MLK, "my children won't be judged by the colour of their skin". The moment you ask a question like that, you are deliberately rolling back his vision by implying that a 100% male engineering group is a severe problem that needs a solution. It's not. It's an entirely expected statistical outcome given the demographics of people who study the profession. And it's inherently political to ask your question because by doing so, you're implying the answer matters, which is very much a political and left-wing stance. Whereas what's actually been encoded in law and up until very recently, culture, is that it's not even an allowed question to ask at all.

This blog post by Basecamp is excellent. What a fantastic company it must be to work for. It's too late now because I'm starting my own company and am fully dedicated to that, but part of the reason for doing so was the feeling that there weren't enough (any?) companies with these sorts of policies in the world. I'll add Basecamp to the small list of software firms I'd be willing to work at in future.


More importantly: who cares?

There are many good reasons to care. Off the top of my head:

* Having a diverse work force makes it less likely that you will be blind to problems caused by unintended side effects of your product that only affect certain groups.

* Having no women (or people of color, or people with disabilities, or...) on the workforce, will make you less attractive as an employer to talented people in these groups. Ultimately, you get to hire from a larger talent pool, if you make an effort to cultivate diversity.

* Making an effort to attract a diversity of people will make you uncover barriers of entry, that you might not have been aware of, and removing those has the potential to benefit everyone.

And finally, even if you believe strongly that your hiring practices are not the cause of the lack of diversity, and that the real problem is elsewhere (in the education system for instance), you can still choose to be part of the solution by providing proof that there is a desirable future to be had for a woman who chooses to go in to a STEM field.


Generally talented people enjoy working with other talented people, and prefer to be hired and rewarded only for that reason.

The social justice diversity, equity and inclusion is a political stance that instead of seeing individuals see groups of "oppressed" and "oppressors" which is a recipe for a less productive work environment. These unchosen group identities are political tools and not descriptive of an individual.

Moreover, social justice uses activism to take over the organization to the point where it use as many resources as possible for activism. It is not unusual at this point for activist employees to ask a company to make bad business decisions for political reasons, so a policy putting political activism into the private sphere makes it clear that you are at work to create a long-term sustainable and healthy business.


Generally talented people enjoy working with other talented people

Everything else being equal, sure.

and prefer to be hired and rewarded only for that reason.

Why would anybody who knew they were talented and got hired or promoted, assume it had to do with anything other than their talent?

The social justice diversity, equity and inclusion is a political stance that instead of seeing individuals see groups of "oppressed" and "oppressors" which is a recipe for a less productive work environment. These unchosen group identities are political tools and not descriptive of an individual.

It is possible to recognize that a certain groups of people on average face more obstacles and barriers, without equating individuals with the groups they belong to or vice versa.


> Why would anybody who knew they were talented and got hired or promoted, assume it had to do with anything other than their talent?

Affirmative hiring, diversity quotas etc are actively aimed at identity based hiring and promotion. In addition to this a candidate in a favored identity group often go through different hiring and promotion procedures with involvement from the DEI officer.

> It is possible to recognize that a certain groups of people on average face more obstacles and barriers, without equating individuals with the groups they belong to or vice versa.

In a different working environment this may have been the case, but according to the silicon valley index more than 2/3[1] of silicon valley workers 20-45 are immigrants of asian descent so the woke assertion that its a white mans business is not accurate.

In addition to this there are official company policies that discriminate against white men, and there are policies actively working to give special consideration in hiring and promotion to BIPOC. Their aim is to create asymmetry between groups.

[1] https://jointventure.org/download-the-2020-index


Gender and disability ratios at companies already match that of most CS program graduates every year. There isn't a hidden pool of people that are being ignored.


The talent pool extends a lot further than people with CS degrees. And even if your statement narrowly is true for the industry as a whole (I’m skeptical that it is – from what I’m told more women than men leave the industry), it isn’t necessarily true for individual companies.


> The moment you ask a question like that, you are deliberately rolling back his vision by implying that a 100% male engineering group is a severe problem that needs a solution.

What if someone was judged by the color of their skin or their gender by the system? There are plenty of studies that show how the LSAT/SAT for example, is biased in favor of whites. The school may say they only admitted those with the highest scores and didn't look at skin color, but skin color ended up built into the score.

So while the system should correct for this eventually, companies are attempting to correct for this issue now.


If the status quo was that we were already living in a gender-blind, race-blind society, your comment would be correct.

The truth is that we don't know if the 100% male engineering group is a result of perfectly executed meritocratic interview process or a result of systematic bias. It's probably wrong to make blind assumptions either way, but if we're going to make assumptions anyways then we should lean towards the latter.


I think we actually do know that.

Firstly, hiring is actually irrelevant to this because the gender ratios of most software companies are the same as the gender ratios of CS graduates, which is what you'd expect on average in a meritocratic process. A few firms like Google have higher numbers of women which they achieve by a variety of means both fair and foul, but the average company does match.

The 100% male group is a hypothetical - I've only rarely been in such teams myself and only when they were small. It's clearly possible if the team is, say, 10 people. If you get to 100 and there are no women I'd be wondering if there's something odd going on, but it's still explainable by chance, and it's very dependent on sub-field. For example if you're doing embedded programming for the oil or nuclear industries, then those industries are themselves mostly interesting to men, so you get "interest in software * interest in industry" and you can get lower numbers than pure software companies. This is often the case for industries that are hyper-competitive or risky, for instance, I've seen 100% male engineering teams a lot in the cryptocurrency space.

So if there's any debate or action to be had here at all, it's actually by universities, not companies, because company demographics follow CS program demographics.


I care deeply. With a 100 percent male workforce comes a 100 percent male mindset. Say I am creating a site for maternity clothes, I am not sure if I can turn a blind eye to the trade offs all the male engineer may make even though they have the best interests at heart. They may not be significant to the male engineer but it will very much be caught by a female engineer. Unless you are selling shaving kits or male grooming kits, your customers are gonna be woman and so that perspective is much more important than getting the best software engineer.


To reframe this on race, there's been a couple of (from an engineering perspective) gobsmacking demos of how non-diverse developers end up making something that just does not work for people who don't look like them.

The soap dispenser that doesn't recognize dark skin:

https://gizmodo.com/why-cant-this-soap-dispenser-identify-da...

Facial recognition systems that don't work well on dark-skinned people:

https://www.wired.com/story/best-algorithms-struggle-recogni...

I can't find it now but there's another demo of the simple face detection algorithm (not recognition, just highlighting that "here is a face") simply not detecting a dark-skinned person til she lifts up a white mask to her face, and then it detects a "face" immediately.

Something as simple as soap dispenser not detecting dark skin, would that have made it out into production if they'd had a dark-skinned person on the team? Something as basic as, "Hey this doesn't work on Jim, maybe we should tweak the sensor a bit."

That's where some diversity matters, just so that your products work on everyone out there.


Diversity doesn't matter in practice if management doesn't want to spend the resources to engineer for diverse use cases. I've been over-ruled too many times when I've pushed for "fringe" use cases - including once with exactly your example of a product not working on Black people (different product, but same ethnicity-based issue). My team intentionally sought out (internal) diversity to test the prototype on. And guess what? When I said this was a big problem and we needed to fix it, I got over-ruled (by my non-White company president) because we were already late shipping the product. (Then product got canned for other reasons later - after I left the company shortly after this decision).

I'm not sure how to fix this broader problem - or what else I could/should have done there (other than leave for greener pastures)!


The idea that MLK would think 100% male working environments in tech is ok and also the embodiment of one of his most famous quotes seems slightly off to me...


People often don't like the implications of their principles.

For example, although MLK Jr. espoused being a good Christian, he did not follow the principles of being a good Christian when he cheated on his wife with multiple different women.


> which is very much a political and left-wing stance

Then I have to ask, is it then a political and right-wing stance NOT to ask these questions?


How much does being a woman affect your ability to engineer?

Should a woman only be hired because they're a woman, even if they're a poor engineer? That seems way more sexist than the alternative.


An alternative interpretation is that by opening more positions for women, they're trying to make a societal improvement, by opening doors to people (women, in this case), that meet too many closed doors.

Given their (in relative terms) failure, one could say that this is a complex problem, and addressing one issue is unfortunately not enough.

> even if they're a poor engineer?

This is not something GP wrote. They wrote they had significant issues because, in a sense, they created a problem (hiring methodologies) in order to solve one that didn't previously exist (gender bias).


I would say reasonably. Products benefit from broad points of view. Companies should avoid making soap dispensers that don't work on black skin because they didn't hire black people.

The cliche is that tech companies are aiming to change the world. Software has real impacts on humans. Maybe the group of people "changing the world" should be a bit more diverse than just Dudes.


"products benefit from a broad point of view" lol


Let's not let Hacker News be a place where we misquote someone with a low-effort reply :)


I think we are at about 10% right now in a department of a bit less than 100 engineers. A quick google search shows the industry is at 25%. I would be curious to know what the current graduating classes of engineers is at. My guess would be 30%? Requiring our recruiters to hit 40% means more work for fewer candidates for a marginal benefit for our company.

To be fair I would expect more female engineers to show a benefit in the retention rates of female engineers so I think this initiative could be net positive for the company but I also doubt the people pushing for this are being data driven.


How many women are engineers as a percent of total engineers? Given the current ratio in my generation (mid thirties) we are at least decades away of having a significant ratio of senior engineers candidates, so I'm not sure your question is relevant to assess anything.


strong female engineers exist, so i would ask why you're not seeing them as candidates.


He didn’t say they had zero female engineers.


Are you saying you'd prefer to talk about politics, at work? Because it sounds like you consider this to be a political issue, that you'd like addressed.


They didn't say that at all. Why are you putting words in their mouth?


Are you saying they don't consider this issue political, or that they don't want it addressed? What words do you think I put in their mouth?


“prefer to talk about politics, at work?” To answer your question, no, they did not say that.


Seems like the GP tried https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Just_asking_questions and failed


I find it incredibly funny that you'd find an innocuous question about someone's post to be some kind of sinister rhetorical strategy.

Its also very funny that anyone would consider the contents of a question about a post to be "putting words in their mouth". I am absolutely authentically curious about why someone would take the extremely funny step of appearing to rail against politics being discussed at work - by complaining about a "political" issue that's happening at their work.


I find it incredibly funny that you deceptively try to put words in people’s mouths by “asking questions” Then are dumb enough to keep trying your failed “ask questions” trick. Also your sense of humor is highly underdeveloped. Go watch some Curb your enthusiasm or something.


Curb your enthusiasm theme starts playing


> But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

I really detest such things, and the "problem" is easily solved by "I don't give a fuck".

I don't give a fuck if you are male or female, or anything in between, if you are, black, white, yellow or whatever, neither do I care about your sexual preferences, or your religion. And neither should anyone else care.

I do care about how well you can do your job, how well you fit in our team, etc.

I helped hire most of our team members, and by luck they are very diverse in all of the above mentions traits. But who should care?

This is 2021, nobody should give a fuck about those things anymore. If you do, in either direction, you're part of the problem, not the solution.


"How well you fit in our team", especially when applied to things like interviewing and hiring, often has a strong correlation with "are you not a member of an underrepresented group", often unintentionally.


That is strange. When I do interviews, I will look if this is a nice person, if this is a professional person. I don't really think about which "group" they might belong to.


Your definition of what a "nice person" looks like may be predicated on the breadth of your experience with different people. For many (most?) people, the closer someone is to what their friends/family look and act like the "nicer" they are. That's not a condemnation of you or anyone else - it's normal.

I think some humility is in order. It's possible that one is a perfect, unbiased judge of character. On the other hand it's possible that one is just human, with a predilection for equating "like me and my friends" to "nice" or "professional".


It seems not in this case, as this person hired a diverse team as measured by gender, race and sexual orientation. I'd venture there are multiple approaches to seeking interpersonal compatibility and some of those approaches tend to have better outcomes than others. It seems good to try to learn from people who practice those more successful approaches.


That's a position of privilege. Only people who aren't discriminated against can afford to take a position of indifference.


I legitimately believe that "not giving a fuck about differences" is the goal we should all aim for. Yes, I am lucky that I can afford this mindset, but if I want everyone to also benefit from this privilege (such that it isn't a privilege anymore, but the standard), how do I do ?

I live in a country where the differences are handled almost the exact opposite to what is done in the US. Instead of spreading positive discrimination that reinforces the idea that we're all different and actually promoting communautarism, we believe that our differences are fundamentally a private matter and when we want to build something together we leverage our common interest and values. It's all idealistic but in practice our racism isn't as widespread and brutal as other places, which is why I'm convinced it is the right way to follow


"not giving a fuck about differences" is 100% the goal. But there are differences, so ignoring them is just sticking your head in the sand.


It's not about ignoring differences, it's about making sure our differences aren't important. It's a subtle difference but it's what makes the ideology work.

The best example is that it is forbidden to have public statistics based on religion. Not because religion doesn't matter (it does), not because religion is irrelevant (it isn't), but because pointing out our different beliefs is the best way to pit people against each other


> The best example is that it is forbidden to have public statistics based on religion. Not because religion doesn't matter (it does), not because religion is irrelevant (it isn't), but because pointing out our different beliefs is the best way to pit people against each other

Not sure that’s such a good example. When something is painfully obvious to everyone, the suppressing statistics only leads to more resentment, conspiracy theories and political unrest (or support for far-something groups).

A good example is terrorism in Europe. You can be pretty sure that if the race/religion isn’t mentioned, it’s not white & atheist/christian.


I agree that there are differences. I also agree that minorities deal with discrimination. But the solution is relentlessly not giving a fuck, and now comes the big part: also making sure everyone else doesn't give a fuck (about the differences).

This last part is crucial for not being indifferent or sticking your head in the sand. We ignore the differences, but we don't ignore the bastards that do take those differences into account.


> I don't know, sounds pretty political. Talk of this is probably banned at Basecamp.

I'm sure discrimination is banned at Basecamp.


In the first reply you wrote, it was unclear to me if / easy to get the impression that, you would have ignore those who discriminated based on differences -- good that you clarified here that it wasn't meant in that way :-)


I don't know, sounds pretty political. Talk of this is probably banned at Basecamp.


I don't even understand what "privilege" means anymore. I used to, but it now just seems to be a word that gets thrown down to try to end the conversation, whenever someone's arguing with a white guy. How did we get to this point where you can't even have a valid opinion about something if you're coming from some position of privilege?


It seems to be the result of a multi-dimensional formula taking into account every possible variable you can imagine.

Is kind of like a Credit Score, but determined by Twitter. The process is opaque and you cannot dispute it. You also can't get your Privilege Score beforehand, but you WILL be told your relative Privilege Position compared to other people if you say something wrong.


Your opinion is valid regardless of your privilege. When it comes to discussing specific experiences that minorities face, however, you should defer to the experts in the area who have lived their entire lives being in the seat of discrimination. Hope that made sense.


> Your opinion is valid regardless of your privilege. When it comes to discussing specific experiences that minorities face, however, you should defer to the experts in the area who have lived their entire lives being in the seat of discrimination. Hope that made sense.

It doesn't make sense. You are essentially if you are non-minority, your opinion should be ignored unless its in-line with the opinion of those in the minority. How is that respecting an opinion as "valid"?


It sounds to me as if you think someone who hasn't been discriminated against, cannot have any meaningful thoughts.

As if a social worker could only help out with problems s/he had experienced him/herself already.

> Hope that made sense.

A bit, not that much


You can put words in my mouth all day but here is exactly what I wrote.

> When it comes to discussing specific experiences that minorities face, however, you should defer to the experts in the area who have lived their entire lives being in the seat of discrimination.

We all appreciate attempts to understand and empathize with us. You can go very far by talking with us and trying to place yourself in our shoes, but we don't appreciate it when you talk over us, attempt to silence our voices, or, case in point, put words in our mouths and exaggerate our points beyond recognition.

Please try and engage this topic in good faith and not through pedantics and wordplay. If you fundamentally disagree that the victims of discrimination should have the loudest voice in the matter, I'd love to talk further.


> should defer to the experts in the area

There is not always such a thing as "the experts".

People who look the same, grew up in the same place, have the same parents, can still have the opposite opinions.

Then, who is the expert -- when they disagree with each other, the complete opposite.

(Real world example from where I live.)

I'm not in the US though, actually things seem a bit weird over there. The history looks quite different here where I live.

> put words in my mouth all day

Not sure what you have in mind, I still think that what you wrote, sounds weird (I hope you don't mind). As if someone who got bullied in school, automatically should know better how to mitigate such problems in school. (Be an expert?)


When you form a student-led committee on anti-bullying but mysteriously exclude all the victims, the bullied kids will beg and plead you to reconsider and listen to their voices instead. Not because everyone else's opinions are invalid, but because they are the ones who can speak the clearest about issues that others are blind to.

I'm playing along with your analogy here, but I actually think it's a terribly weak analogy. Racial discrimination is often so ingrained in the culture that its perpetrators aren't always hulking bullies menacingly taking lunch money from people. They are more dangerous because they often see themselves as kind, empathetic and intelligent - often believing that they can detect and solve deeply complex, emotion-rooted problems such as racial discrimination simply by thinking about it for a bit when it's convenient for them. They can't fathom that the experience of the discriminated may be so vastly different than their imagination permits, simply because they haven't experienced it firsthand.

Too many of us have been silenced and told to shut up both explicitly and implicitly. When it comes to racial discrimination, we will not go unheard. In this instance, in this matter, our voices do weigh much more than yours and that's simply the fact you'll have to live with.


> I'm playing along with your analogy here

No, I think not. Look here:

> When you form a student-led committee on anti-bullying but mysteriously exclude all the victims

That's, what's the right word, changing the analogy into madness.

I said like this: "Not only group X can have good ideas about something"

and you seem to believe that that means: "X must be silenced" -- that's weird, to say the least.

I never said that, and I don't think that, and I feel surprised, maybe a little bit ill, that you somehow misinterpreted what I wrote, that much.

> They are more dangerous because they often see themselves as kind, empathetic and intelligent - often believing that they can detect and solve deeply complex, emotion-rooted problems such as racial discrimination simply by thinking about it

I suppose there are such people.

> have been silenced and told to shut up

I feel sad for the cases when that's happened to you and others

> our voices do weigh much more than yours

That's odd, you start writing "our" and "yours" as if you now believe that I'm in some antagonist group, just because I said "not only X can have good ideas".

I'm happy that my friends who look different than me, different skin color for example, don't think like that. We think about each other as "we" together, not as "us" and "them".

I think it's good to end the conversation here. In any case I'm probably not replying any further. And if you did reply to this, I think that that reply would misinterpret something I wrote, but I wouldn't reply and point out what that misunderstanding was about.


As long as you aren't trying to refute the fact that historically silenced people are the de facto authority on being "historically silenced", we're on the same page.

And for the sake of clarity - Yes, anyone can and will conjure up great ideas and solutions. No, I'm not calling for such an ideas to be discarded just because the source is "wrong".

For your convenience, let me paste my original comment that you had a beef with:

> Your opinion is valid regardless of your privilege. When it comes to discussing specific experiences that minorities face, however, you should defer to the experts in the area who have lived their entire lives being in the seat of discrimination. Hope that made sense.

I thought it was clearly implied that the voice of the discriminated be priotitized over others 'in the events of clashing opinions'. If that wasn't the case, then I apologize for my weak writing. English is obviously not my first language.

Lastly, when you engage in a discussion with a minority person in matters regards to treatment of minority groups, do not be surprised that terms like "we" "us" and "your" get thrown around. It's simply how conversations naturally flow around such topics, and not indicative of the speaker's bias towards identity politics. You might be shocked to find that my close friends of diverse backgrounds don't see me as the strawman you described. And that's not even mentioning my wife and her family.

Have a good week mate!


> As long as you aren't trying to refute the fact that historically silenced people are the de facto authority on being "historically silenced", we're on the same page

Ok, I definitely agree with you about that

> No, I'm not calling for such an ideas to be discarded just because the source is "wrong".

Oh ok. I first got the impression that you did, thanks for replying and explaining

About the quote:

> When it comes to discussing specific experiences that minorities face,

I read that as having ideas about what to do about it, whilst you seem to have referred to what has happened to minority people in the past.

I'm thinking that "discussing" here is a bit ambiguous and I'm sorry that I didn't realize I had interpreted it differently from what you meant

> English is obviously not my first language.

Not my first either :-)

(btw I'm a bit surprised, I was guessing that you had grown up in the US in a primarily English speaking part of the country)

> You might be shocked to find that my close friends of diverse backgrounds don't see me as the strawman you described.

I'd think we would be good friends if we met

Have a good week & summer you too


It's possible for person to be more of an expert on issues "minorities" face than a single member of a minority. If it's their area of expertise and they have information from and exposure to wide swaths of those minorities. A third generation Asian American graduate from Sandford working at a startup in SF isn't having the same experience as a Vietnamese immigrant chicken farmer..


I am not indifferent towards people who discriminate, whether that is positive or negative discrimination. But thankfully those people are a minority.


I mean, I think this is like saying it's O.K. to not care about climate change because we have done enough and it's not a problem anymore. i.e. It's way better than it was and it doesn't effect me so I can live my life however I want, I am not worried about the future generations that may have that problem because of my actions.

In this situation, you are saying it doesn't effect you so you have the privelege of not caring.

Totally fair! Wish everyone were in that position.


You don't seem to get my point: everyone should care about the environment, and nobody should care about the color of your skin.

Edit: let me be more specific. In a company, I don't want to hear "Are the women compensated the same as the men?", I want to hear "Is everyone fairly compensated?". There is a very big difference between the 2.


I see what you're getting at, and yeah that sort of just world would be nice. You could ask "is everyone fairly compensated?" now though, and many people would not think to consider the various disparities that exist - the current system, to their mind, is fair.

So you have to look at the data, gather the facts, and force the issue:

---

Is everyone fairly compensated?

Yes

But, it looks like a woman is paid 20% less than a man for the same position. Is everyone fairly compensated?

Yes. (Insert sexist reasoning here).

Are women compensated the same as men?

No.

Why is that fair?

---

You could repeat this same thought process for so many other examples, where the general concept of fairness is rooted in inequality, bias, and prejudice.


(Just FYI, I also actually didn't understand what you meant. Thanks for the follow up and explanation)


Most guys I know in the tech industry see it rather differently. The way they (we) see it is simple: there is rampant illegal discrimination in tech, and it's all against straight white guys like us. That's Europe. In the USA you'd probably include Asians too. Nonetheless I don't know a single guy who argues for affirmative action in favour of straight white guys: everyone argues for simply caring only about who does good work and damn the rest. That's not a position of indifference of course, it's a strongly held belief.

Look at this very thread. Just a few posts above this one is a guy who says he works at a firm where 40% of all recruitment efforts have to be for female engineers. Those sorts of policies are everywhere. That's actual, concrete discrimination. Firms put bonus pots aside for women, they set up competitions and career opportunities from which men are banned. Men are being barred from board positions and top executive roles all over the place.

At the last place I worked, after firing the head of sales the CEO announced at a company all hands that the next head of sales had to be a woman, and that's why the firm had been without one for so many months. It's of course illegal but the agencies that enforce these laws are run by people steeped in identity politics, so they aren't enforced. When one was finally located she turned out to be wildly incompetent. In the first management offsite she got up and said she had no idea why anyone bought our product. She didn't mean this in a "the product is bad, I'll shock them out of denial" way. She meant it in the sense that she really didn't understand what the product actually did (it was a rather obscure product for software developers). In a sales meeting with a customer she started trying to convince the customer not to use our product, apparently without realising she was doing so. The prior male head of sales had been fired simply for displaying low energy, this woman is of course un-fireable despite demonstrating repeatedly she has zero understanding of the companies products!

That same company invited a third party training company to use the offices at the weekend to run programming classes. These classes were open to everyone except straight, white men. I kid you not, that was the actual rule. If you were a white male you were expected to bring social media evidence that you were gay. Like, photos of you making out with other men or something like that. The justification for this was to keep the lessons "safe". Myself and my (gay) manager went to HR to complain, the head of HR spent 30 minutes trying to defend it. There was no apology and nothing was done about it.

This stuff is routine, it is daily life. It passes by without notice. If even one of these things happened in the reverse direction at a large company it'd make international news.

It's this kind of poisonous ideology that Basecamp are trying to expunge from their firm with this announcement, and what can the average man do but applaud? Who doesn't want to just come to work and have peaceful relations with their co-workers, regardless of race or gender? Only leftist activists, and which firms really need them? They're far more trouble than they're worth.


> where 40% of all recruitment efforts have to be for female

This is a huge insult to any woman that is good at their job.

In my team we hire the best. That means that any woman in my team is on average as good as any man in my team.

If we had quotas, that would mean that the men in my team are on average better than the women, since they pick the best of both segments, but one segment has way less candidates. How do those women feel to be places into the bucket of "filling seats"? How do project managers select who they want on their team? And then they cry that people are getting discriminated. Self fulfilling prophecy.


The examples you’ve mentioned are quite egregious and I understand how you would hold a negative opinion about such efforts. However, I’d argue they come from leaders in a lot of organizations not understanding why inclusivity is actually important, let alone how to implement it.

The scope of creating a workforce with more representation is not small and probably requires long term planning, constant feedback, and buy-in from stakeholders on all fronts. Companies who only want to appear inclusive are bound to take unilateral, drastic measures in order to meet an observable target without considering the higher order effects.

Basecamp’s approach is just avoiding the problem by pretending it doesn’t exist. Employees who felt unwelcome at work won’t suddenly be happy when they can’t even talk about it. Power to make changes will be concentrated at the top with people apparently determined to keep the status quo.


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Yes, we live in a privileged society where all people are considered equal.

People who practice positive or negative discrimination should get with the program.


Where in the US can I find that society? I'm having trouble being convinced when trying to reconcile this with the waves of anti-asian violence that's been tearing our community apart for the last few weeks.

Is it really difficult to admit that we don't yet live in a perfect society?


> Where in the US can I find that society?

Any western civilization has equality of individuals as one of their core values, next to democracy, separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.

> Is it really difficult to admit that we don't yet live in a perfect society?

We will never live in a perfect society. That's why I say people should get with the program. Anti-asian violence is a crime that can and should be prosecuted.


So your entire argument falls down to: government says we're all equal, therefore equality achieved. It's as if everyone was simply making a giant fuss about racism and feminism that never existed for decades.


Discrimination does not need to be overt, mostly it's insidious, cloaked in vague statements such as "culture fit". And no, not everyone is considered equal. There are many (or at the very least non-zero) racists, sexists, homophobes, and bigots of many other forms in the world. Thinking that that does not affect how those in power go about their business is willful ignorance, capricious heartlessness, or gleeful complicity. Just because it is no longer possible to actively voice discriminatory opinions, or that laws exist to ostensibly stop discrimination does not stop its effects, and sticking our heads in the sand does not stop them.


"Privilege" has just become a rhetorical get-out-of-jail-free card for shutting down any argument with no actual substance.


Your latter example is also expressly undesirable in the workplace. You are hired to build product, not obsess over the diversity of the employee base, unless you are hired in a DEI role specifically.

Asking the questions you are asking is political. Discussing people’s membership in groups like cis or Native American or whatever else IS an unwanted political act. Those group identities are fundamentally political tools. Treating people as anything other than individuals is a political act.

Discrimination happens against an individual. If you see discrimination happen against an individual, and you privately and discretely address it with the appropriate people (could be with those directly involved, with superiors, with HR, whatever seems appropriate in that situation), that is not a political act, it is a moral act of taking care of a coworker.


> You are hired to build product, not obsess over the diversity of the employee base, unless you are hired in a DEI role specifically.

pssst those two things are connected

> Discrimination happens against an individual.

This is just weirdly wrong?

> If you see discrimination happen against an individual, and you privately and discreetly address it with the appropriate people (could be with those directly involved, with superiors, with HR, whatever seems appropriate in that situation), that is not a political act

This is an incredibly political act.


It's hard not to escape the conclusion that the goal of Basecamp's new policy is to quietly suppress or ultimately evict people who think like you.

There is no connection whatsoever between diversity and building product. Note: you haven't tried to explain your claim there is, just implied it's obvious, probably because you can't. I've seen people try to honestly intellectually defend a connection between employee diversity and product design before, and it's always a joke. You get anecdotes about face recognition not working on black people (reality: the software in question just had trouble with low contrast images and also struggled with white people's faces). And that's about it. I can't recall ever seeing someone actually argue that more women == better product because, well, that's a pretty sexist thing to believe isn't it? It implies men have no empathy, or that there's a universe of product requirements women will only tell to other women, etc.

If discrimination is happening against an individual and you work with the management chain to resolve it, that's not a political act, because you aren't attempting to radically remake the entire organisation for everyone (politics), but only address the specific problem that was actually observed.


There is an absolute wealth of connection between more diversity and better products: it’s not that a monoculture can’t make products for everyone, it’s that it’s easier for a team that has wider representation to do so: it’s a competitive advantage for them.

Want examples beyond hand driers? Apple missed menstrual cycle tracking in the Health app. NASA offered to send 1,000 tampons with the first woman in space - and had to abandon its first all-woman spacewalk for bad planning in kit availability. Google Photos tagged black people as gorillas. (Regardless of the cause, it shipped). SnapChat shipped a yellowface filter. Google Translate delivers highly gendered results when translating from gendered languages into English. Google Home is 70% more likely to recognise male voices because of training set bias. Women are 49% more likely to be injured in car accidents because the seating position for crash testing is designed for men. And - yes! - Pinterest has struggled to reach men as users apparently because of its SEO strategy.

Want more examples? Ask any passing woman what app she uses that clearly didn’t think about women.

Diverse teams make better products. The stats are out there.

Trying to argue this highly political. We wouldn’t even be able to talk about your point at Basecamp. Does that not worry you? Don’t assume they will always agree with your politics just because they’ve done this.


It's a pretty subtle distinction but I'll try to make it.

The examples you give are mostly product examples (i.e. the product lacking features or not correctly addressing its target audience). Therefore I think it would be appropriate to discuss those in the workplace, but NOT as a function of e.g. the gender make-up or racial make-up of the team, but rather as a function of competence in addressing those issues.

In particular, imagine a hypothetical scenario where we are building a product, and we receive the feedback that many women find it difficult to use, and we want to fix that by hiring an expert.

The goal is to hire someone who understands marketing this type of product to women. Although it's maybe likely the most suitable candidate for this would be a woman, it could also possibly be someone else - and we would be looking for experience/evidence toward competence in that area, regardless of the candidate's gender or other characteristics.

To make the conversation apolitical, it would be about specific competencies and lacks of the team or product, NOT about the team itself having "not enough short blue-eyed Turkish women over 50" or some other group.

Also, to keep the conversation apolitical, the conversation would not extend to broader social questions outside of the specific product or problem. It would not stray into generalizations about groups. It would not appeal to emotional arguments like "safety."


None of my examples needed experts to address — just someone of the affected group on the team and (yes) comfortable enough to speak up. Also, even in your hypothetical, there will still be issues that are difficult to raise internally because the entire area is political. And so nobody will, until your company embarrasses itself in very public ways.

People bring politics and emotion. If your customers or staff are people, it is more effective to be able to discuss their issues directly without contorting yourself into a "just focus on the work" correctness.


Another (potentially fatal!) example: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200812161318.h...

> Women are more likely than men to suffer adverse side effects of medications because drug dosages have historically been based on clinical trials conducted on men, suggests new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago.


Is the implication here that Apple had no women working on the Health app, Google Photos has no black team members (and if they did, they would have explicitly checked this case?), Snapchat has no asians, etc? Or that some magic ratio would have caught these issues?

There's some serious assumptions buried there that don't pass the smell test.


Yes, that is absolutely the implication. These mistakes are so egregious they're almost instantly obvious to people who know to look. For instance, the Health app tracked seemingly everything under the sun, including blood-alcohol levels. The reaction from women when it shipped was instant: where's the period tracker?

If there was a woman on that team it says even less good things about Apple that they shipped without it.

But: Apple's diversity report from then [1] says they were 80% male in tech, so while the assumption might be serious, I don't think it's unreasonable.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2014/8/12/5949453/no-surprise-apple...


Apple case is somewhat odd as it's a guilt by omission. I would bet large amounts of money on there being at least woman within the product chain on this (director, PM, TPM, designers). That is, I don't think there's as strong of a correlation between presence of an identity and attention to features/products they would be affected by. For example, I could see a PM reading articles like this [1] and deciding there's too much potential heat on a period app in the default offerings. FWIW I also think this should have been there, and Apple can position themselves nicely w.r.t privacy concerns.

Like, at its core, I agree with the statement that having women on the team would not decrease the probability that these sorts of mistakes don't happen. But its positive impact has to be non-deterministic (or else getting into some implications about <identity> as a group which I can't get behind).

[1] https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/13/18079458/menstrual-...


If there was a woman on that team it says even less good things about Apple that they shipped without it.

So you admit it's nothing to do with diversity, then, just an ambient assumption that the needs of women should automatically trump the needs of men and women combined?

The simplest explanation for Apple's decision is not that they're all raging sexists who need to be forced to hire more women by activists, but rather that when adding features to an app they are ranked by how useful they'd be to the entire userbase. Feature development is a zero sum game - adding that means not adding a different feature. Any feature exclusively for women will have half utility by that obvious metric and lose automatically to features useful for everyone. So the real question is why would anyone expect a general purpose health app to have a period tracker? Isn't that a pretty grotesque sense of entitlement by a small handful of women?

As for the others, come on. That's exactly what I mean by ridiculous arguments. Any photo app should have a black team member who is tasked to spend all day taking selfies and not, say, fixing bugs or adding features? If some company was dumb enough to actually do that, they'd just get criticised in other ways, because such black-testing jobs would be menial low wage jobs, not highly paid and respected software engineering positions. Some of those examples aren't even oversights, like Apple's straightforward prioritization decisions or the fact that Google Translate uses gendered language when translating languages that use genders pervasively. They're just stuff a small minority of activists have chosen to get faux-offended over. And the few that remain are clearly not caused by lack of diversity awareness given you chose to cite Google Home (I'll take your word for it on the stat), a product from one of the companies most visibly committed to filling the ranks with women. They even hired a black female AI ethics researcher, so obviously it's not lack of diversity that caused the training set problems.

In other words none of the examples you cite have anything to do with "diversity" and cannot, because as you admit, you have no idea what the demographics of those teams is. You're just assuming that they must be all made up of un-caring men who never think about others, which is exactly the sexist assumption underlying all identity politics that I highlighted!


Periods are relevant to a "small handful" of women? Have you discussed your thinking with any women?

Is it a "pretty grotesque" sense of entitlement at work when a man looks for a urinal in a public building? Or when a disabled person looks for the wheelchair ramp? These things have half utility at best by your "obvious metric".

Take this further: imagine architecture firms were staffed mostly (80%+) by women. They keep getting complaints because their doorways are only 5'11" high (ideal for 99% of women's bodies), they don't provide urinals and so on.

Is it a wild assumption that having more men – or, god, "experts in catering to men (who might be men but also women)" - on their teams would help address these repeated own goals? Or do we need to spend years getting the data that shows us the real, mysterious, non-political underlying cause of this gender bias in buildings?


It seems to me that buildings and medicine and cars and gym equipment and everything, need to be usability tested on all groups of people: short, tall, men, women, black, white, thin, fat, old, young, wheelchair, blind, deaf.

But I don't think all those groups of people need to take part in the construction work.

It'd be nice with more diversity in tech. So please don't misunderstand. I just think that there are other better examples of how diversity is good.

(Usability testing: Testing early prototypes I suppose -- it's not that easy to redo, say, a car, once it's in production.)

> keep getting complaints because their doorways are only 5'11" high (ideal for 99% of women's bodies),

That thought makes me feel upset! (Although I'm not a human. But I am tall) Thanks for a good example


I feel like you're deliberately mis-interpreting me. It's a small number of women who kick up a big fuss on Twitter about the choices of Apple's PM team.


“Treating people as anything other than individuals is a political act.” - this is such a great line and very easy to forget.


> You are hired to build product

When making a product, have you ever given your feedback on it? Or are you just a "warm chair" churning out code that was instructed to you?


>Treating people as anything other than individuals is a political act.

Absolutely, but so is treating them as individuals.


> Discussing people’s membership in groups like cis or Native American or whatever else IS an unwanted political act.

Unwanted by whom?


By most people. You know, non-activists. We just want to come to work, do our jobs, hang out with other people passionate about what they do. Just enjoy this time and not engage in political activism. Is this too much to ask?


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Please don't put made up statements in my mouth. That's pretty low. I never said I want to silence anyone. I said I want to come to work and expect work related discussions, nothing else. I'm really tired of this toxic narrative that if I don't want my workplace to be a battleground of political discourse I'm somehow silencing opinions or oppressing minorities.


But they haven’t actually silenced anyone. They’ve said employees are free to even congregate in personal groups with other employees to discuss politics. Just not on company Basecamp.


In this case, I was referring specifically to the policy mentioned in the article.

But it’s a valid question more broadly as well, and some of the other answers have been dismissive.

In general it is unwanted by people who prefer to be treated (and to treat others) as individuals rather than group members. People who want to interact with others based on individual qualities and merits, irrespective of group associations (especially immutable characteristics like height, skin colour, hair colour, etc).

I believe this (for now) still represents the majority of people in the US, and probably in some other countries as well.


> But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

I don't understand why would any company want employees to openly discuss "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" This is a terrible question for any specific company to answer. Calculate the average wage of male and female employees? Very likely it won't be equal. And run regression to control different variables (experiences, skills)? If this is not inviting unnecessary internal fight, I can't think of anything else. Not any sane person would want to do this its own company.

"are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" Same spirit, if you don't believe it, nobody can prove it.

"what problems does our company sole, and for whom?" not sure what's the point here.


I don't understand why would any company want to openly discuss...

That's the point; companies don't want to discuss it but oppressed employees do.


I think a problem is that people don't want to discuss these subjects. They want to tell other people about the problems. This creates an atmosphere where, if you have the correct opinions, you are free to lecture ad nauseam, and if you do not then you must keep your ideas a secret on penalty of ignominious and instant termination.


Even salary between men at the same level may not be same. there are too many variables.


Sounds just as dumb as when Hacker News banned "politics" for a period, and people were discouraged from posting EFF blog posts and the like, because "politics" is an impressively vague word.

Politics is life, it doesn't have to be toxic.


In my experience, when people say "I don't want politics at work", what they mean is they don't want what you'd call toxic politics. For example, I consider my workplace generally apolitical despite our large and active DEI committees, because they consistently frame their work in positive terms: lots of "here's how we can make people happier and more successful!", occasional "suchandsuch was a tragedy and we hope to work towards a better future", nothing in the vein of "X group is bad" or "Y politician must be defeated".


There's political activism that's related to your employment/career, and then there's political activism unrelated to your employment/career.

Discussing career related political activism at work - such as unionization, or fair pay, because it actively affects you in the workplace - is fine to me.

However, woke politics, like gender equality, abortion, or some other trending topic that is unrelated to your workplace, should be discouraged. Things like that are more akin to religion - it's private, and should be kept off the workplace. Do it in your own private time, with people who also want to do it in their private time.


Gender equality is the law of the land, it's not (or at least shouldn't be) a "woke" topic.


Eh, feels pretty different.

HN’s ban was intentionally a short term reboot/cooldown, during a particularly hot time - not a broad and indefinite ban.

Society is hard. I think it’s good to experiment, and when you’re explicit about a timeline, it seems like the stakes are reasonable.


Starting a comment with "sounds dumb" isn't a great way to make your case that "it doesn't have to be toxic".


> I'm giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt

I'm not, especially as the post then moves straight into dissolving the DEI committee and moving its responsibilities to HR.


That is a net benefit to the company and employees. The DEI committees I've seen are filled with some of the most viciously aggressive people. It's simply not possible to have a conversation with them about these issues that doesn't start with "you're right, I'll shut up and listen to you tell us how we should fix things."


They moved it back to an employee who cares and was doing a good job without being a toxic coworker. That seems good for future hires as well as current employees of all kinds.


Seems pretty clear to me that they mean general political discussions and not those that relate to the company. Imagine being on a team where there are differing opinions on the Israel/Palestine conflict, and it keeps getting brought up in threads? You think that team is going to gel?


Hmm, my jury is out on all of this, but you raise a good point. I was in exactly that position where I had to work closely with someone who I knew had strongly differing opinions to me on Israel/Palestine.

I'm not sure if it was an unspoken agreement or just lucky, but we made damned sure not to bring it up at work ... and we managed to work effectively together.

My gut here is that the founders just botched the delivery of these policies, but I'll keep thinking about it.


Unfortunately, I took their announcement at face value but looks like from this article, that their intent was to eliminate company criticism theverge.com/2021/4/27/22406673/basecamp-political-speech-policy-controversy


I appreciate this. I think often we will frame things in a negating way, which doesn't end up working that well. I find "don't be political" as telling me to not touch something...I end up wanting to touch it. Whereas "keep channels civil and focused on work" tells me what the goal is and helps me recenter on that when I stray. Because I think the goal is not to be "not political" but really to "be civil and focused" as you mentioned.

Thank you!


I suspect that this represents a practical consolidation of power by leadership in tech. While you can't come out and say "hey, we want to corner the market in white male nerds", you can say things like "Mean people suck, why can't we all just get along, no politics on slack, we're good right?"

Think of it as the tech-liberal backlash. Tech has been wrestling with representation and diversity for a while now, indeed more visibly than many industries, and some limited progress has been made, maybe not as much in raw numbers than in qualitative stuff like less-hostile workplaces. But it is far from the _worst_ industry for diversity.

Meanwhile, it gets harder and harder to hire engineers, and the dominant class isn't going away anytime soon. If you can figure out how to signal to them that "hey, Basecamp/Coinbase/MyCo is a place you can just be you and chat about games and gear without worrisome questions about equal pay" then you potentially achieve a short-term recruiting advantage.

I say "short-term" because of course, it's short-sighted. But worse, it's cynical, as it wants to halt the minimal progress that has been made behind a smokescreen of civility and fairness. And given that it's being openly pushed by white male leadership, it's fully reactionary, and white-male supremacist. It's a harsh term to use but we haven't really uncovered a more accurate one.


Not everything is racially motivated. They are just making business decisions in a small business. The whole reason they are doing it is probably ridiculous and cynical takes like this.


It doesn't have to have a particular animus to have the effect.

The question is, why make a big blog post about it in the first place? They can't claim innocence, since they followed Brian Armstrong pretty much to the letter, and have the walkouts to boot. So we can assume the attention was calculated.

Just look at how many posts on HN are now like "I want to work there!" Recruitment signalling accomplished.

The backlash is real, and to me the interesting part is it's semi-liberal tech dudes leading the charge.

BTW do you mean to say that bringing up issues of equal pay justify overt censorship as a "business decision"? Just asking because that was the issue I mentioned above.


I disagree. Discussions about diversity and equality are absolutely political debate. It's even boringly trending I must say.

It's barely a 30seconds discussion between founders, not a company-wide debate. You follow it up with a yearly report on actual diversity vs real world distribution. That is, if you're big enough a company to be compared to it.

For example: if you have zero women in tech, there is a problem, and you have people to remove from recruiting roles. If you're close-ish to the median of your recruiting pool, you're fine. What need do you have for ceaseless internal discussions about it?


Very interesting - the Basecamp statement addresses both discussions about politics broadly, and discussions about internal company policies related to diversity, ethics, and inclusion. In fact, it changes the power structures around those to make them more top-down. It seems a bit disingenuous to lump these changes in with the first kind.


> But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

Whilst this is reasonable and well-intentioned, the unfortunate truth is that wokeness is used as tactic for gaining power. And in a company power struggles are bad for the company.


Forget banning politics at work -- that's obviously such a good idea that it should be considered an assumption. This post from chipotle_coyote makes a good argument for banning Slack at work.


I find the boundaries which the "On Politics At Work" blog sets to be very narrow and centered around what that the author thinks is the most pressing issue. The author names 4 points out of which 3 are about equality on the workfloor and one vague one about "what problems do we solve?".

I find it odd that no one even speaks about questions like: "Is this company a net-win for society? Are we perhaps making the world a worse place?". For example is it not important if you work at Uber to discuss how far "disrupting" is allowed to go? When does "disrupting" become eroding workclass rights? Shouldn't you discuss if it is ethical to get a large group of people to work below minimum wage? Or in case of Apple if it is acceptable that the supply chain becomes time and again "contaminated" with suppliers who use forced labour?


For what it's worth, this was hastily written as I was thinking about what was happening at Basecamp. I would agree that it's very important to ask the questions you're asking-- that's why I added the final bullet. It wasn't the set of issues that were top of mind for me in the context of what was happening at BC, but I think they are critical, political questions that companies should ask.


> But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

Because if you have data(like Google had) that women are paid more for same skillset or try to argue that the company is focusing too much on diversity at the expense of talent, do you think it doesn't count as politics. Honest question, I don't have strong opinion in these topics, but I know people who have.


>But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

These are questions for people at work whose job description involves hiring, payroll, and the corporate charter. These aren't collective questions to be debated and answered by employees whose jobs are completely unrelated. If, for example, you are hired to be a programmer, then your job is to program - that's all. Its not up to you to decide what the company's mission should be, or, "whose problems we are trying to solve". While a programmer is debating these philosophical and political questions with other programmers, they aren't doing the job they were hired to do - program. Certainly if the ownership of a company decides that they want to hire people to not only program, but also opine on their political and moral beliefs, that is their right. But is also their right to decide they don't want to pay people they hire to opine and debate during work hours on issues that have no direct relevance to the job they were hired to do. Just as it is your right to refuse to accept a job at a company that hires you to exclusively do a job without bringing your political baggage into the workplace.


"Are we hiring diverse people I want to work with" is a question relevant to everyone, because it falls under workplace conditions, which is something you're not allowed to prevent employees from discussing.

Also, we're talking about tech workers who get stock compensation, right? They literally own (part of) the company.


If you don't like the people in a company, don't take a job there. Astounding to me that it is controversial that people who are hired to do a job should be spending their time doing the job they are paid to do instead of debating with other employees about what their employers should be doing. I don't see anyone suggesting that employees can't contact HR, or write letters to those whose actual job it is to making hiring decisions, or have discussions with the coworkers on their own time. If you are a shareholder, and you want to have input on how the company is run, there are numerous avenues to do so. The sense of entitlement is crazy.


> If you don't like the people in a company, don't take a job there.

What if you do like them and so you want more of them? Maintaining culture doesn't happen on its own.

Note everyone's job is making hiring decisions, most companies don't have central hiring like Google does (and do they really?).


Minor nit, but afaik Basecamp does not include any sort of stock or equity as part of its compensation package.


This is true but I felt like this subthread was generalizing back to the rest of the industry. It looks like they're doing profit sharing as an alternative, which does make you feel responsible for the company doing well, but doesn't give you power to affect it in the same way.


There will now be signs in the break room:

NO GOSSIP

NO POLITICS

YOU WERE NOT HIRED TO HAVE OPINIONS OF YOU OWN

JUST CODE


you're not wrong. it's just not explicitly stated, but an implicit understanding that your job is to <do the thing hired for>.

See what happens if you spend more than any trivial time on the job doing something else other than what you were hired for!


But you are making a separate contention now: that employees are spent considerable company time on discussions of politics. If they were, up till now it was with the endorsement of their managers.

The Basecamp policy is now that you can't discuss politics (or anything controversial) on any company platform, including e.g. in the break room, on the discord chat or whatever on your commute, out of office hours, etc. And they are officially removing any feedback mechanisms from company structures, figuratively salting the earth to prevent anyone discussing anything.

Obviously everyone could move to a platform in the cloud for discussions, but the writing is on the wall.

While this may well be a gross violation of labour laws, US employee rights are so weak it doesn't matter: say anything and you're canned.


Just as you ask for the right to be political on work premises and channels, they ask for the right to be apolitical on those same places. There are people on both sides of the fence. Which right is more important and how do we choose which one to disregard. There will always be disagreement between people and it should be practically impossible to create a society of perfect harmony. In order for both sides to at least tolerate each other's existence you need to create autonomous zones for each one. A company which doesn't want political involvement other than what is directly related to its business is exactly that. If you want to be politically active during working hours, then you don't fit into this company and there is no one stopping you from working for another one which is politically active or starting one yourself. People work better with people with the same core values. Only when both choices remain you actually have freedom and some semblance of tolerance. Remove either option and all you get is strife. Obviously some zones are "banned", like "I would like to kill people" and "I would like to rape people", because we all(or at least most ) agree this is not OK. However, I really hope all(or at least most) people have not gotten to the point where being apolitical is actually not OK and so is its zone.


Sounds awesome.


Exactly. I don't understand people who don't get this.


The more general problem is the same words can be interpreted differently by different people. On the internet, given a large enough audience, every interpretation with every possible emphasis will be brought out.


Say "keep company Slack channels civil and focused on work."

You have been canceled for "tone policing".


In a follow-up on DHH's blog[0], he says:

> Note that we will continue to engage in politics that directly relate to our business or products. This means topics like antitrust, privacy, employee surveillance. If you're in doubt as to whether something falls within those lines or not, please, again, reach out for guidance.

I would read this to mean that political issues that are tied to business decisions (like pay equality and recruiting practices) are in-bounds for discussion at work.

[0]: https://world.hey.com/dhh/basecamp-s-new-etiquette-regarding...


> I'm giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt

It's not clear that they deserve the benefit of the doubt, if we are to believe Casey Newton's article, "What really happened at BaseCamp":

> Employees say the founders’ memos unfairly depicted their workplace as being riven by partisan politics, when in fact the main source of the discussion had always been Basecamp itself.

> “At least in my experience, it has always been centered on what is happening at Basecamp,” said one employee — who, like most of those I spoke with today, requested anonymity so as to freely discuss internal deliberations. “What is being done at Basecamp? What is being said at Basecamp? And how it is affecting individuals? It has never been big political discussions, like ‘the postal service should be disbanded,’ or ‘I don’t like Amy Klobuchar.’

> Interviews with a half-dozen Basecamp employees over the past day paint a portrait of a company where workers sought to advance Basecamp’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by having sensitive discussions about the company’s own failures. After months of fraught conversations, Fried and his co-founder, David Heinemeier Hansson moved to shut those conversations down.

https://www.platformer.news/p/-what-really-happened-at-basec...

EDIT: formatting


I'm glad you enjoyed my post.


Well put...


> But to others, "politics at work" means "are we paying women and men the same for doing the same job?" and "are our recruiting practices leading to a non-diverse workforce and missing out on great people who should work here?" and "what problems does our company sole, and for whom?". These are really important questions. Why wouldn't you want to bring them up at work?

Because there is only one accepted answer. Anyone who drifts from that into the opposing side will be reprimanded, scarred for their remaining tenure at the company, and/or fired. Good luck objecting to your company having N number of positions literally reserved for only certain races. Source: company X recruiter.


What the hell is water?

People can't even see politics anymore they're so steeped in it.


I think this is perhaps true in a different way than you mean it: politics has such a pervasive effect on people's lives that it is nearly impossible to remain resolutely neutral about everything (and going out of your way to try to do so anyway will come to be seen as its own stance).


No doubt you would be offended and angry if your CEO instituted a policy of workplace secularism, that extended to no career progression if you were a churchgoer. Or if important people commented on how smelly you were, and everyone laughed about Mr Stinker and your funny food. Banks wouldn't lend you money for a house in the nice part of town, because they all knew you were a snollygoster and they didn't want your kind at the local school.

You'd probably be angry at their prejudices. But I'm sure you'd understand, because groupthink is bad.


And you'd be completely fine with being passed over for a job because there is a quota for pink people and you're not pink? One can object to bad solutions to a problem without denying the problem itself exists. It's exactly the stifling of these types of discussions to real problems that's the issue. Any suggestion of alternatives or pointing out problems with existing practices, and you get labeled a bigot.


You understand that white people are literally pink right?

And there is an effective white guy target at many workplaces: all but one. People choose other people like themselves.

The preposterous nature of your contention is that I would be passed over for being too white? Well, I would simply take one of the many other jobs my strategic class and race positioning allows me to take.


The Asian students that can't get into Harvard despite higher scores disagree with you.


How about all the qualified applicants that Harvard rejects in favor of legacy and athletic admits? And why hasn’t Harvard’s enrollment increased in step with its endowment?


Since you wrote the "pink" analogy and this post too, I can respond here:

The issue of anti-asian quotas at major american universities is absolutely a legitimate one that needs addressing.

Here's why it's a little bit more complicated than just: "Let's just remove all criteria for university admission besides high scores. That won't discriminate against asians and be a true meritocracy".

Because then, the amount of poor people getting into university would absolutely plummet, and the socioeconomic divide between the classes in the US would only grow further. Being able to do well on tests is a privilige based on having time to study, the money for tutors, and other factors. There is obviously a pure raw talent aspect, and the geniuses of the world might get in regardless of their race or poverty level. But there is not enough geniuses in the world. Most University student bodies are average and slightly above average humans. There has to be some way to promote balance in the student body - racially, economically, culturally. And right now, Asians are disproportionately pay that burden. It should be worked on, and improved.

But you should in no way conflate this problem with university admissions with "pink quotas" for hiring diverse groups of talent. The companies that are the most promoting the idea of improving their diversity through initiatives are the largest and richest tech companies. They do so not just because it's beneficial to the bottom line, but also because they can AFFORD to be choosy.

Joe Blow Software Co and Fizz Buzz Sandwiches aren't putting in diversity goals in their hiring strategy. They wait for people to come in to apply for jobs, and hope that they can get someone to cover a shift before the end of the week that isn't a drug addict.

Google and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft do it because they know that on any given day for any given position they're going to get 100 resumes, and they have what can only be described as a "loosely scientific" approach to weaning them out to 40 that can be phone screened, 5 that will come onsite, and 1 that will be hired. (Numbers are made up but are close to the real ratios).

Everything from the phone screen onward is data driven, meticulous, and kept to a strict quality bar. But the intake process has a lot of randomness, a lot of flexibility, and THAT is where the companies focus to say "Why don't we actually try to interview more women, and minorities for a change. What's the worst that can happen? We phone screen 50 people instead of 40, and so our "onsite efficiency ratio" drops from 12% to 10%.

There is no quota. There are goals to improve these numbers. But there is no quota in the professional world.


To be clear I'm not arguing for or against the merits of any particular policy. I continued with the quota example because that's what started this branch of the thread. I agree the issue is complex, and my one sentence response doesn't do it justice at all.

My point is more that, it should be ok to question current practices; both those propagating societal issues, and those attempting to solve them. Currently on many topics, even slightly questioning the current remedy risks getting one labeled negatively.


> There is no quota. There are goals to improve these numbers. But there is no quota in the professional world.

You're simply misinformed on this. I have direct primary source information from recruiting personnel in "Google and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft" that there are significant specific quota'd positions. These programs leaking to non-woke press is going to be an outrage.


Goals != Quotas.

This is frequently misunderstood by people outside these companies (and frequently by people inside them too without integrity).

You're supposed to meet goals without compromising on integrity or quality. e.g. you can't ship buggy messes.

And you can't hire substandard employees. There are mechanisms ("bar raisers") in place to do this, at least at Amazon.

I suppose I can't speak for Google, Facebook, or Microsoft. But I'm pretty sure that it's exactly the same and what you're getting is a game of broken telephone where an ambitious goal in a high stakes environment gets re-interpreted as a quota.

BTW, you're supposed to fail ~20-30% of your goals at Amazon, or you didn't set ambitious-enough ones.


You're suggesting I'm playing broken telephone game, yet you're the one extrapolating your company's experience to all the other hundreds. I can't speak for Amazon's policies. But there are companies that have headcount for N people, and N/X slots will be for Y identity.

Then you have companies like Twitter that literally say on their hiring boards:

"Our vision for the future is clear.

50%.

At least half of our global workforce will be women.

25%

At least a quarter of our US workforce will be under-represented minorities."[0]

Key word "will", not "would like." How do you interpret that as a goal as opposed to a clear quota?

Honestly I can't wrap my head around how Twitter believes 45% men / 55% women is the ideal and 55% men / 45% women would be unacceptable.

[0]https://careers.twitter.com/en/diversity.html


Most of the large tech companies have similar hiring policies. It’s not unreasonable to think what goes at Amazon is fairly similar to what goes on at Apple, Google, etc. There’s a reason the FAANG acronym exists.

Also, if your takeaway from “at least half the employees will be women” as a goal, at a time when the breakdown is 43% women, and has been a lot lower for the past decade, is that “55% women is ok but 55% men is not”, it’s pretty obvious you’re arguing in bad faith.

It’s pretty obvious that’s a goal that at least half the workforce will be women in fewer than 4 years. What that actually means is that Twitter is likely gonna barely cross the 50% mark, if they are even gonna meet it.

The reality is that the moment they hit 50% they will ease off on the effort to recruit more women than men, which, thanks to structural factors that have led to the current unbalanced distribution of employees, will only make their hiring easier ans allow them to continue hiring equitably.


They write "Our vision for the future is clear ...",

But not "Our future is clear, there will be ...".

There is a big difference.

> How do you interpret that as a goal as opposed to a clear quota?

They explicitly say it's a vision (goal).

(Still, goals and monetary incentives can have the same effect, it seems, looking at what thu2111 wrote nearby, about Google.)


I worked at Google and was interviewing twice a week for years. They had "goals" then too. They made the same claims, that it wouldn't affect employee quality, and I believed it at first.

But the goals were incentivised with money and what happens when you do that? The system was bent in all sorts of creative but illegitimate ways to try and get there. Women would fail interviews and be passed to the next stages anyway. They were given the best interviewers that were preferred by the hiring committees, and men who were mis-interviewed were simply dropped on the floor instead of re-doing the process or filtering the bad interviewers out. I was told they were doing this by the recruiters themselves. They organised hiring events from which men were forbidden from taking part. And so on.

More problematically post-hiring there were no real controls, so women were unfireable. Women who caused so much trouble their team rejected them weren't fired like the men were, but rather were endlessly moved around between teams. Hiring isn't perfect so if you filter out the bad men and leave the bad women, it's the same as lowering the bar for women - the bar lowering just happens at a slightly different place.

But that was some years ago. Tech firms became much more extreme since then. A recruiter leaked YouTube's instructions to do biased hiring previously, and nothing happened. Firms have been given carte blance to discriminate against men by western governments, they're constantly attacked by an activist class who insist they do so - what do you think happens? Of course they are discriminating. How else could they achieve their goals? "Encouragement" is a fantasy, there aren't huge pools of women who are inexplicably refusing to apply to major tech firms.


You said a lot of things in your first 2 paragraphs but at no point did you say "And then we hired women at a lower bar than we hired men"

"Women would fail interviews and be passed to the next stages anyway." sounds like it but the next stage isn't an offer - it's the onsite interview. If Google's process is anything like Amazon's, there is a screen-OUT stage and a screen-IN stage.

The screen out stage is primarily there to make sure not to waste the time of the full onsite interview loop. It's highly subjective and you are SUPPOSED to err on the side of letting people go through. You're SUPPOSED to have the most senior engineers on the team do these screens. But people frequently don't. They introduce their own biases, and managers use phone screens as practice for their most junior interviews. The outcome is qualified candidates sometimes don't even get a chance to prove their worth in an onsite loop.

So is it fair that some semi-qualified man didn't get a chance to prove their worth onsite but some semi-qualified woman did? No, but there is no way to make this process truly fair at the scale that FAAMNG hires.

So long as the FINAL process is fair, that's all that you can really do and ensure you don't hire unqualified people.

> They organised hiring events from which men were forbidden from taking part. And so on.

That sounds so much more insidious than it actually is. This is no more discriminatory than Women's Only universities. Or HBCU's. Amazon also does "women's only" hiring events. They have lower hire ratios because there is a pipeline intake problem too in our whole industry. But that's okay.

> More problematically post-hiring there were no real controls, so women were unfireable. Women who caused so much trouble their team rejected them weren't fired like the men were, but rather were endlessly moved around between teams. Hiring isn't perfect so if you filter out the bad men and leave the bad women, it's the same as lowering the bar for women - the bar lowering just happens at a slightly different place.

I have serious doubts of the reality of this statement. PEOPLE are essentially unfireable. It's extremely hard to get fired from a FAAMNG company once you're in. What you describe happens to all employees (being moved between teams).

> Firms have been given carte blance to discriminate against men by western governments

Just what way are you being discriminated against or oppressed? Making it easier for women to apply does not make it HARDER for Men. All the initiatives we discussed are IN ADDITION not INSTEAD OF.


You said a lot of things in your first 2 paragraphs but at no point did you say "And then we hired women at a lower bar than we hired men"

You're interpreting this the way you want to. If given an identical interview a man would fail and the woman automatically gets interviewed more, that is bar lowering. If given identical behaviour the man is fired and the woman is promoted, that is bar lowering. What do you think the point of interviewing or firing people is? And for sure the only person who ever generated reactions in my teams of the form "how the hell did this person get hired and why aren't they fired yet", was a female engineer who was the darling of the manager's manager, another female engineer who thought getting more women into tech management was a high priority.

Now, again, that was years ago. There are plenty of people since who came forward and said yes, Google and other tech firms use quotas in hiring. Recruiters, people who would know.

So is it fair that some semi-qualified man didn't get a chance to prove their worth onsite but some semi-qualified woman did? No

It's good you admit this, because that's the core of the issue. Not if hiring can be made truly, perfectly fair (whatever definition is used), but if it's actively being made unfair by gender-biased policies. To which the answer is an absolute yes.

That sounds so much more insidious than it actually is. This is no more discriminatory than Women's Only universities

You claim it's not insidious and then say, well, this type of discrimination goes unpunished elsewhere so it's OK. That doesn't make it not insidious. It just proves the underlying argument: that our society is by this point systematically biased against men despite the theoretical existence of equality laws. Do you think male-only hiring events would be tolerated? Surely not.

I have serious doubts of the reality of this statement. PEOPLE are essentially unfireable

I understand why you might think that, but that certainly wasn't true when I was there and IMHO it clearly still isn't true. There were at least two guys who I directly worked with who got fired for being unproductive. I knew quite a few others who were put on PIPs for various reasons. Google did, maybe still does, operate a policy of "up or out" in which being fired is automatic if you don't get promoted. It was very much possible to get fired there, unless you were a woman, in which case HR would have preferred to sacrifice a goat than fire a woman. Remember, the firm had "goals" to keep the female:male ratio as high as they could, and it was explicitly phrased as a moral issue.

And of course, look at James Damore. Fired and viciously publicly attacked for spelling out the reality of the situation: these firms discriminate horrendously in favour of women and against men, and yet it's not working, that approach doesn't generate a torrent of happy women in tech. It generates angry men who, rightly, feel they're being treated unfairly for genetic reasons.

Just what way are you being discriminated against or oppressed?

I just gave you a list but maybe repetition will help:

- Men are being banned from senior executive roles.

- Men are being banned from board seats, in some parts of the world, by law.

- Men are being banned from recruiting events.

- Men are being banned from training programmes (e.g. https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/bbc-defends...)

- When women make an accusation against a man, they are automatically believed and their identity is protected. The same is not true for men. Again, in many parts of the world, this principle is enshrined in law: the law itself in unequitable.

- Men who point out obvious demographic truths backed by plenty of research are fired, like "women are less interested in computers than men". If women make claims directly contradicted by plenty of research, like "women are paid less than men due to discrimination", they are praised and rewarded.

- Men who want fair treatment of other men are routinely banned from "diversity committees", e.g. https://fortune.com/2015/01/23/diversity-work/ (but I saw this at my previous employer too). That's why the concept of diversity is so widely treated with derision. They want an absolute diversity of people who all hold their extremist beliefs.

- Beyond prizes in hiring-related competitions, there are bonus pots at firms set aside exclusively for women. This has been true at least since the early 90s at Microsoft.

- Job assessment is routinely biased against white men in ways that are obviously illegal, but again, men have no protection and SJW activists are so confident about this they actively boast about it in public. Consider this quote from an interview with someone at Atlassian on their new HR policies:

"A huge component for us was de-biasing the assessment process. There’s been a lot of talk and testing on de-biasing and we worked closely with our design team to remove bias from the process. What we realized were that systems weren’t designed to be anti-racist, for example, which isn’t the same as non-racist. We wanted to be actively conscious, for example, of being anti-racist"

This sort of list could go on all day. I know you really don't want to believe that because it undermines so many other beliefs that go along with the whole package, but women are lionised in our industry, men are second class citizens and the sexist/racist discrimination that occurs is all done by people who most loudly announce themselves as "anti-sexist" or "anti-racist". One day this whole ideology will be recognised by all as the dark evil it truly is. Until that day we have to point out its hypocrisies, every day.


I got halfway through your post counter-arguing point by point, but I had to give up because I realize I disagree with so much of what you say that my response will be unmanageable for you to discuss in return. I don't think we're going to agree, and I don't think we are changing any part of each other's minds.

I fundamentally live in a different world from you if you believe that men are second class citizens in our industry.


Well, I understand that feeling. I nearly gave up half way through my prior comment too for the same reasons. I hope at least you understand the experiences and reasoning behind the viewpoint, and see that it's not mere reactionism but motivated by things happening in the real world, even if it seems remote from your world or if you take away fundamentally different conclusions. That is perhaps enough.


Just "setting quotas" is more than slightly missing the point. You can tell HR to hire more POC for senior level positions, which is what my last job essentially did, but it doesn't actually bring new diverse talent in.


Quotas are against federal law.


Federal law is irrelevant because it's not enforced when the victims are white men.


I would like to see some more information about the amount of poor people getting into universities plummeting. It’s my understanding that many of the Asian quotas are keeping poor Asians out of prestigious universities and replacing them with average upper middle class students. If you have sources, I would love to read them.


Oh you mean affirmative action for non-Asian minorities is unfair to Asian ones?

I don't really think that is unfair, but then I think the whole system of elite university admission is a total disaster for equity.


> Oh you mean affirmative action for non-Asian minorities is unfair to Asian ones?

Yes, it objectively is. No matter how you will try to paint it using colourful phrases and invocation of "justice" - this is discrimination.


It is certainly discrimination. Evidence has been collected and judgements made, e.g. that African-Americans are severely discriminated against, and special provision be made for them to compensate.

This is specifically trying to be fair, rather than trying to make access equally difficult. I don't know why that is hard to grasp. I don't think 'righting injustice' is bad way to explain it.

Harvard is also discriminating against Asians because there are 'too many'. This seems quite likely but is a separate issue. The historical injustice is present, but cannot be said to have the same character. I don't think criticism of other minority AA programs is justified, but you can have your own opinion.


Earlier in the 20th century, that reasoning was used to limit the admissions of Jewish students. The issue was cast as their being admitted at a disproportionately large rate as compared to the general population, so corrective measures were implemented.

https://www.businessinsider.com/the-ivy-leagues-history-of-d...


Back then, there were zero black students at Harvard. The admissions process can’t become more fair by failing to correct for the vast injustices imposed on African-Americans. Arguing that Black students are taking what rightfully belongs Asian students is just as racist as Harvard’s anti-Jewish policies.


I realize your heart is in the right place, but I just want to call out that what you're saying is actually propagating the stereotype of Asians scoring high / other PoCs not scoring as much in exams. This can create undue expectations which can lead to feustration, anxiety, and depression amongst people that are stereotyped to be high performers. Add to that the layer of being systemically discriminated against, and it gets rather bad.

Again, I'm not questioning your heart, but I do think that words are powerful and words are how the society group think evolves.


This has been covered to death wrt the Harvard discrimination scandal.

Asians do (on average) score higher. Asians were discriminated against due to this.


As if admission into Harvard (and most other elite schools) is solely based on test scores (and even grades). Give me a break.

For reasons folks may or may not agree with, most elite schools look at a wider range of factors than just scores and grades. Does this lead to there being room for discrimination? Yes. Does it guarantee that discrimination is happening? No.

Just as a simple example, there are plenty of non-Asian folks with high scores and high grades that get rejected too, often for similar reasons — namely, being narrowly focused on academics and not even being world-class at that.


I think it would be much better if admission into elite schools were based on objective test scores. It's easy to see how racism seeps into "Your extra-curriculars just aren't Harvard enough" or whatever subjective judgment call would be used to evaluate in-person interviews, extra-curriculars, essays, etc. It's a lot harder to see where the racism is coming from if the admissions criteria are "Higest X scores get admittance, random lottery to break ties." There is also transparent racism in the current system that says some races have to score higher than others to be admitted.


Again, this has been covered extensively in large schools discriminating against Asians. Go google it if you’re interested. Big scandal recently.


I am very aware of the details of the accusations. My personal belief, backed with some actual detailed real life knowledge, is that most people who think that discrimination is going on don’t understand one of two related things:

1. How elite school applicants are rated. Most folks seem to think it’s just test scores and maybe grades. It’s not.

2. What successful applicants at elite schools look like on paper. Most people think that elite school student bodies are just a bunch of brainiacs with near perfect grades and scores. While grades and scores are certainly high, the defining characteristic of the core admits are that they have done something of note at the regional, national, or international level (not always true of fringe admits, but that’s a different story). Sometimes these people don’t even have near perfect test scores or grades (frankly, some come across as not terribly smart at all), but they are able to get compelling things done.

I recommend reading Cal Newport’s book on elite school admissions to get a better idea of how to get in.

Also, it seems like two courts have said that Harvard in particular did not discriminate against Asians.

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/12/934122462/appeals-court-rules...


I think you’re making a lot of assumptions of the average readers’ views on the admissions policies of elite schools. I’d say I have a pretty solid view of how the admissions process works.


That’s not a stereotype- it’s true. Racial disparities is why the SAT got cancelled.


There is nothing in Asian brains that makes them different than non-Asian brains. SAT does not capture people's innate ability but something else.


Do you have any basis for thinking so? What else could explain it?


It's entirely cultural. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.


Don't you think your theory requires evidence?


One can object to a proposed solution to a problem without contributing to the problem or being part of the problem.

Opposing the explicit carve out of 25% of a recruiting pipeline specifically for HBCU candidates, for example, does not imply one is racist.


One can offer an opinion, and if the motivation is not inherently racist it may have weight. But to your contention:

HBCUs have significant underrepresentation in tech -- despite graduating many talented individuals, they never seem to get hired. A company could see a competitive advantage in recruiting there, where competition for talent is less. The mgmt might also think that the resulting diversity of thought is beneficial. Other potential employees might be attracted to work at such a forward looking company.

What basis would you have for believing that such a goal is bad for a software company? Is it your job to bolster the hiring practices of the past?

Reply to reply: You're arguing for the status quo, against setting targets for HBCU grads. Why? What is the basis for believing it is any better, when it pretty clearly disadvantages minorities?

I only made one contention: graduates of HBCUs are under-represented in tech. If this is a misapprehension please correct me.


"You're arguing for the status quo, against setting targets for HBCU grads."

I'm not, and this is a real problem with the kind of thinking in this area these days. Opposition to a quota system is not the same as support of the status quo.

"I only made one contention: graduates of HBCUs are under-represented in tech."

> The mgmt might also think that the resulting diversity of thought is beneficial.

The implication that diversity in ethnicity, gender, etc., is the same as diversity of thought is not a good quality assertion. It certainly isn't uniformly true.

> work at such a forward looking company.

"Forward looking" is certainly an assertion, here. Not everyone would agree that quotas are "forward looking."


You've asserted several things that are themselves unsubstantiated or at least controversial.

"Is it your job to bolster the hiring practices of the past?" is a particularly good example of what I referred to in my comment, actually. You're essentially shutting down any rational conversation by asserting that disagreement is necessarily in support of "hiring practices of the past."


>The mgmt might also think that the resulting diversity of thought is beneficial.

Managment may think many things, but that presuposes that diversity of thought comes from the diversity of skin. I can practically guarantee that if your company hired a diverse mix of races, but they were all of technical background and straight HS to college to work then you would not get the diversity of thought you would get if you focused your spare hiring capacity on hiring retiring US marines, radar techs, prisoners, people close to retiring age or any other group that is typically left out (or persevered to be left out) of the typical high tech startup.


So you're arguing that diversity of background (age, previous career, class) is more useful diversity than ethnicity/race?

In some ways I agree; we're all shaped by adversity and experience. But I don't think you can ignore the incredible lack of people from black or hispanic backgrounds in tech either. The goal of increased diversity in entry level hiring is advanced by the suggested HBCU recruitment drive. Supporting it doesn't preclude recruiting from other talent pools.


> So you're arguing that diversity of background (age, previous career, class) is more useful diversity than ethnicity/race?

That isn't at all what the commenter argued. They argued that diversity in ethnicity/race is not the same as diversity in background. The commenter did not provide a superlative or other qualifier.


You assume that hiring a black person to an all white team, gives much thought diversity. My argument is that it does not, if that person had a middle class background and similar upbringing.

If you hire a former gang-banger who is a wiz with eletronics, then you will have some real diversity.


You don't think that hiring a black guy will provide some useful perspective? (Or an immigrant?) I don't get why you contend that class is the only fundamental distinction here.

Tech is often focused on the minutiae of our machines, but even then information and learning is not evenly distributed. I've worked with various minority engineers and also Indian/Chinese/Persian/etc and they've all had really different views on how to approach things, how to manage conflicts, and different mathematical backgrounds too.


"does not give much diversity" isn't the same as "will not provide some useful perspective."

This is the issue I have when discussing these matters with certain people. When everything is presented in such stark black-and-white terms there's little room for discussion.


We already have a solution for the issues you described, HR.

Defiling work communication channels with political opinions only serves to distract, deride, and divide.


> We already have a solution for the issues you described, HR.

Surely you must be joking.


If you don't trust your employer's HR department, then why did you accept the position?


That question doesn't really make sense in the context of a US workplace.

The employee:HR relationship is fundamentally adversarial over here. HR's job is to protect the company, including from its own employees. They will throw you under the bus if it benefits the company.

Most people won't run into issues with them, but if you think that someone important to the company's bottom line is behaving inappropriately and you go to HR about it, how would you expect them to react? It's a matter of incentives.


What's the point you're trying to make? That irredeemable companies are a nightmare to work for?

Well of course they are. And just like irredeemable relationships, you need to move on and improve your judgement to avoid a repeat. Bemoaning on Slack achieves nothing.


The point the post you're replying to was trying to make (true or not) was that US companies have this problem unilaterally — so there's no point to trying to avoid companies based on it, as long as the US is where you choose to live.


Why would you trust any employer’s HR department? Their job is to reduce the company’s liability, not help you with your problems.


If you're hiring people or using your employer benefits their job is to help you with that.


> is our company discriminating, even unintentionally and do our LGBT and minority employees feel as safe and valued as our straight cis white employees

This is an HR responsibility. You either trust them to avoid and eliminate discrimination or you don't.


> This is an HR responsibility.

No, HRs responsibility is to make sure that legal liability for unlawful discrimination does not get imposed on the company, consistent with other corporate goals.

Actually mitigating discrimination may sometimes be the mechanism for that. Helping management create a smokescreen around acts of discrimination and find pretexts to force out people likely to discredit that smokescreen are also sometimes ways HR does that.

Mistaking HR for your advocate rather than management’s is a dangerous mistake.


With what authority will HR eliminate discrimination?

At a minimum, they’d need to stop accepting employee referrals (how can they tell if the referrals biased?) and take over the technical interview process.

Also, what happens when an exec elsewhere in the company discriminates against someone? Will HR have the power to unilaterally fire the exec? The CEO? The chairman of the board? How would they even detect the discrimination?

Sadly, declaring that one division of a company will eliminate discrimination doesn’t work. You need the whole company to pull together, though realistically, that won’t work either.

Society as a whole has to decide to solve the problem. Looping around to the article, one of the political parties passed hundreds of bills to disenfranchise minority voters; arguing that minorities should have basic rights is (in the US, at least) politically controversial.

Charitably, I hope the goal is to force my values on the employees, and silence dissent (no bigoted discussions at work).

Invoke Godwin’s Law, and… Done.


You're hired to produce value, not instigate political change.

If your goal is to "force my values on the employees, and silence dissent (no bigoted discussions at work)", then go start your own company (although your demands best describe a cult).


Even within this framework, “only discuss these things with HR” is untenable. Say a coworker harasses you and HR tells you it’s the first time someone has reported them. How can you know whether to revoke that trust without “talking politics” with your coworkers?


What if we don't, for not only Basecamp but for most employers worldwide in any industry? This is a very common view.


I live in Mexico and it's certainly not because I trust the police.


HR exists to protect the company not the individual


Because you don't truly find out how bad/toxic departments within a company are until you've been there a while.


I had the darkly humorous experience of meeting my HR rep for the very first time on a (pre-pandemic) video conference. Meeting agenda? I'm being fired!

Of course now that we all live in Covidland, we've had horror stories of whole business units just getting a pre-recorded message that they no longer work there.


Because "do I trust HR?" (a question to which the answer is almost certainly always "no, but it doesn't matter in most cases"), is only one minor criteria amongst a vast plethora of other important ones when deciding to join a company or not?


If you do, why were you offered a position?


What kind of a question is that? The first and foremost function of HR is to protect the company, you have no reason to trust them. And who even has such a deep insight into the HR of a company at the time of your hiring that they decide whether to take the job or not based on that info?


HR is on your employer's side and in most companies gets nothing done aside from avoiding liability.

As a European person, I'd say keep the political discussion to your union. Unions also often have much better political affiliation and can make things happen on a broader scale.


> To some folks, "politics at work" means "endless battle royale political debates among coworkers in a Slack all day long; why wouldn't you be against that?

This is just so alien to me. Maybe it's an American thing but I've never been in a workplace where this has been a thing. I've never seen these "quickly turning unpleasant" conversations in the workplace.

> 'm giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt and assuming they're trying to stave off the former. But it's not that easy to do that without also affecting the latter

In 2021, I think we've moved past the point of benefit of the doubt. DHH and Jason Fried and (supposed) to be smart switched on people who recognise their own privilege. They (should) know that you cannot ban the former without impacting the latter and genuinely hurting people.


The issue I see here is that Jason Fried and DHH state that this decision lands solely with them. Giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt is impossible until and unless they center marginalized voices and give them positions of power at Basecamp. Otherwise this decision is cowardice wrapped in some arbitrary policies.


Well, Basecamp is their company, isn’t it? If they don’t have the right to make those changes... who has?


The people who do the work that produces the value.


This is such a hilarious statement that you see all the time here.


> do the work that produces the value.

who then got paid for said value.


People who say things like that generally consider profit to be stealing because there would be no profit if everyone was paid for their value.

The way I see it is that profit occurs because the value of the end product is greater than the sum of its parts.


Unfortunately this won’t happen until the employee:employer power imbalance is changed, which effectively means a worker co-op.


> The issue I see here is that Jason Fried and DHH state that this decision lands solely with them.

To me that's just sensible leadership. To keep the company productive, you have to let the leaders make decisions while the subordinates focus on doing the work.

> Giving Basecamp the benefit of the doubt is impossible

But maybe the only way to solve the problem of polarization is for all of us to give each other the benefit of the doubt more than we might be comfortable doing.


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