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A lot of the conversation from the "no politics at work" crowd here is centered around "these folks were wasting company time and losing productivity protesting this". That entirely misses the point. The loss of productivity around this issue is entirely on the leadership team. They let this fester - they were complicit in allowing this dumb-ass list to be circulated around the company for years, and when it became an issue, they refused to take any action on it.

I was wondering how this would go down where I currently work, because people here rarely discuss politics at all. Then I realized that making fun of customer names - and we work with large enterprise customers across the globe - would be shut down in a personal conversation with anyone I work with, and circulating a list like this would just never happen. The way to keep politics out of work is to keep your work environment professional.

This wasn't employees pontificating on the merits of BLM or party politics in Basecamp channels, this was direct response to dumb shit the company was allowing certain people to get away with. DHH's blog post where he got into the details was still basically tittering at "lol Bigbuttson is a funny name", and it's deplorable.

Our experience when we issued our "No Politics / No Religion" policy at work was very positive. The few people who had an issue with it, subsequently quit or were terminated, and many of their co-workers actually thanked us afterwards for it.

We didn't have to pay them to leave. One tried to use the company social media accounts to advance her politics, so we fired her, and the other person became frustrated that she couldn't vent at work, and quit.

I don't know if it was Trump specifically that made them so persistently agitated, but they just could not stop talking about politics and creating drama.

We later discovered that one of them had been considering reporting us to the state financial authorities because she didn't agree with our policy of accruing interest on client debts - and was collecting client invoices on her work desktop as "evidence".

Placating "activists" in the work place may initially seem like the new norm in corporate responsibility, but it is actually a self-destructive spiral, as there are ever-changing foci for woke outrage. The risk of these same employees turning on the company is extremely high in the long term.

Policies like "No Religion / No Politics" have benefits that far exceed eliminating office distractions. They limit legal liabilities by removing easily-disgruntled employees.

Why not just... manage people well?

No need to make it no politics/no religion at work. Endless talking about keto or veganism or BeachBody or CrossFit or vaccines or children or being anti-child or emacs or vim or whatever can be just as divisive and counterproductive if it's not managed. Lots of people are assholes or misinformed about a lot of stuff. Big deal. Manage. That's the active part of the word "manager".

Don't use the company social media to advance your politics or sell your MLM products or shill for cryptocurrencies -- company social media must be managed. Financial policies must be managed, and if people don't like them or aren't able to accept it, talk to them directly. Clear up misunderstandings if they exist and lay out the parameters of the job.

This is not about Trump or politics or activists. This is about bad management.

I manage and work with people of a wide variety of political persuasions. Out of work I have plenty of opinions about politics and causes. In work, I demand mutual respect and professionalism. I won't let A misgender B, I won't let C make fun of D's evangelical church, we're going to keep all the politics talk to a minimum but we're not going to ban it. If someone doesn't want to engage, that must be respected as well.

But it's just foolishness to think that my "employees can come to work... without having to deal with heavy political or societal debates unconnected to that work". Not when heavy political debates unconnected to that work affect where and when they can pee or whether they fear for their lives at the speed trap that's stationed about a mile up the road from the office. We don't need to debate it, we can't solve the world's problems, and we don't need litmus tests, but the basic mutual respect and professionalism demanded of every employee applies to me too and I need to recognize that different employees walked in the door from different worlds, and their skin color/presence or lack of uteruses/accents come along. I need to proactively make this a good place to work for my valued employees because they deserve human respect and they're f(*^ing expensive to replace. That's the bottom line.

The problem with managing people, is that they are managed by people.

Managing people is hard to do well. It's like writing code. There are bugs, everyone has their own style, everyone thinks the other person's management process was faulty.

At some point, your organization needs to set company wide standards. ...and like coding standards, they aren't perfect, they can have grey areas, and in some contexts they don't even make sense. But on the whole, they do more good than bad.

Don't put GOTO statements in your code. Don't hard code passwords in your scripts. Don't talk about politics or religion in the office.

Overall this is the sticking point to the argument that being a better manager will solve it.

Tech has awful leadership development pipelines and programs at the Junior and mid levels. I sort of struggle to think of anyone that actually does this at non-managing director levels other than the military with its Junior officer corps and maybe a very select few companies.

Not to be extremely pedantic, but the fact that the term “management” is thrown in as a solution and not “leadership” sort of proves this point.

OP is referring to generally strong and sound leadership techniques. These can and are taught by a select few orgs I just referred to; there’s definitely a science there to learn.

The issue is that so, so much of professional America doesn’t produce good leaders or bother to train them. The idea that strong management is a tenable, broad based solution, when the ball is currently at the line of management == don’t be an a* when you make schedules for your team, is not a good one.

Until corporate America, and especially tech, starts planning how to produce leaders and not just managers, a blanket ban is the only thing that makes much sense as an org policy that could actually work.

It’s true, fwiw. This is a leadership challenge that is solvable, and the orgs that grow leaders have track records of solving it without total bans. It’s usually just a matter of enforcing professionalism, diverting attention, steering attitudes, and most importantly working to create extremely high trust environments by designed. But: too many managers try* to hang in this brutal forum where* the best engineer who wanted to do EM stuff is a manager, and suddenly has to handle this. Leadership dev programs for junior leaders/EM-equivalent take years to do, not a promotion.

I've worked in a number of industries, and ALL of them have poor or non-existent management/leadership training programs.

Even full MBA programs do a poor job at this.

Yeah agreed. High payoff area to invest I think but it takes like, a lot of planning. It’s almost a full new department for a company.

You would think a company that's been in business for two decades would have a rather robust ethics guide to working with corporate and enterprise customers. It seems to be part and parcel for almost all large SaaS companies. How in the world did they let their culture get bad enough for political rants?

> You would think a company that's been in business for two decades would have a rather robust ethics guide to working with corporate and enterprise customers

No, I’d more expect a tech firm that arose in that era which gave us the “tech bro” image and in which reacting against stuffy, corporate, professional corporate structure and culture was all the rage to be among the least likely of firms to have that.

What job can you go on on political rants at? If you can get away with that then this means

1. You have a controlling share in the company and don't give af (b/c you might lose customers and employees)

2. Everyone else (at the company) already completely or mostly agrees with your rants

3. You are so damn good at what you do that people have to put up with you

Let's be honest, the most common reason people do get away with personal political rants at companies is because they get lucky and are in Scenario 2.

This is another reason why everything is becoming more polarized. Companies are beginning to "lean" much more one direction or another. There is no reason to think that this will change anytime soon.

#3 AKA The most toxic person at the workplace


>3. You are so damn good at what you do that people have to put up with you

I've seen that one before. It usually seems to involve throwing chairs.

Good stuff.

>Managing people is hard to do well. It's like writing code.

I'll say.

One problem is that if management, especially owners, feel like control of the company is being wrested from them, they'll get pretty radical in the course corrections.

An 18th C. Navy Captain facing a mutiny will probably need to hang people until he's sure of his position. There really is no other way.

Politics is different than BeachBody talk because it is moralistic in nature. Politics turns people's brains off much better than other forms of discussion because it combines in-group out-group bias with moral righteousness. Same thing with religion, but religion is brought up much less frequently at work.

BeachBody talk can however goes towards the other third rail in a business/corporate environment - sex.

Politics, religion, and sex are always going to be a problem in a company, as they distract from the core mission, divide people along lines that aren’t helpful in accomplishing the core mission, and add large potential liabilities everywhere.

Politics and religion comes up most of the times, never heard people discussing sex.

Then you’ve been in some decently professional places! I definitely have, and have had people try to start conversations on the topic many times at one of the FAANGS when I worked there, and other places too.

There may have been more opportunity for subtle management beyond a dictated top down policy of no politcs/religion at work, but at the end of the day it is clear that the two employees being described by OP needed to go.

Based on the extreme degree of ... inflammation ... fanned by twitter, fb, etc I would say that people who are not able to keep their opinions under control beyond an occasional two person conversation are the ones who need to seek some sort of counseling.

There are conversations and then there are youtube meltdowns. I have no desire to work with the latter. You speak of professionalism and respect. In the diverse world we live in keeping to oneself seems the only reasonable path for the time being.

I think what basecamp is experiencing is what can still happen even though you as a manager believed you managed it well. If you don't let "A misgender B" then you might get hit as DHH did. Because one way to read the affair is that one person got upset that DHH as the manager didn't let that person pull a holocaust reference into a debate.

(not saying at all if this was appropriate or not)

> Because one way to read the affair is that one person got upset that DHH as the manager didn't let that person pull a holocaust reference into a debate.

Well it's important to keep the context in mind here: "the holocaust reference" in this case was a chart from the Anti-Defamation League making the case that normalizing seemingly minor bad behavior makes it easier to go on to slightly worse behavior, which now doesn't seem that different from what you're already tolerating, and so on, and so on.


This is not a terribly controversial assertion, in and of itself. Was it a stretch to use it in this context? You could definitely make that case. (I've long been fond of the quip, "If you use a slippery slope argument once, you'll start using it everywhere.")

But I would argue that when DHH acknowledged the list making fun of 'funny names' was a bad idea, apologized, and promised to shut it down, he had the choice to stop talking at that point. He didn't have to publicly chastise the employee who brought up the Pyramid of Hate. He took positive steps toward putting out this fire, but then threw on a match of his own -- and then doubled down on that, publicly calling out an employee who kept at it.

So, if we're talking about DHH-the-manager, I would suggest he maybe didn't do the bestest job of managing here. He could have said, "yes, we'll take down the list"; instead, he went with "yes, we'll take down the list, but don't you think you're being a drama queen about it."

My impression was that it was the employees who wouldn't let it go, not DHH. And one employee in particular wouldn't let it go, so DHH helpfully pointed out that at some point they too had participated in joking about a customer name, so who exactly were they trying to persecute here?

I saw that too, and that I think was such a crucial mistake. Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valor. Is it fun to point out someone's hypocrisy? Probably. Is it going to be productive, especially to do so in a public manner? Absolutely, absolutely not. You're embarrassing them, to what, teach them a lesson? Well, lesson learned, but not the one you intended -- they'll learn that the boss is not above a little public humiliation to score a point. Trust gone. I'd sure start looking for other places if my manager, or the CTO, started doing that, severance or no.

I mean I don't trust hypocrites in the first place, so I'm not sure it's the boss that broke the trust.

One thing that I think gets lost in discussions of hypocrisy is that there are actually two types, and they should be handled very differently.

The first type is when an alcoholic tells you to slow down on your drinking, e.g. "do as I say and not as I do" hypocrisy. This kind is usually ok, because it tends to be more of a "learn from my mistakes" situation than a failure to understand the contradiction in your own words.

The second type is "rules for thee and not for me" hypocrisy – people that try to catch others out in their "bad behavior" but then think it is totally fine when they do it themselves, as they provide some sort of post-hoc rationalization for why it is ok for them to do it ("because context" or whatever) but totally unacceptable for others to do so.

Most people conflate the two types, but I try to only refer to the latter type as hypocrisy, and I think it is generally bad to be a hypocrite in that way. And from the sounds of it, the Basecamp employees in question were definitely more of the latter than the former.

I get your argument, but "oh, sure, you're calling me out, but you did this similar thing earlier, hah!" is not going to de-escalate conflict. Isn't part of being a manager in a prickly situation learning to choose your battles? If he'd just dropped it at that point, would there have really been any harm done to the company? Would that harm have been greater than the end result we've arrived at instead?

The damage done to Basecamp's public reputation, internal morale, and now all the projects set back by losing a third of their employees is unfathomable -- all for the satisfaction of "by gum, at least I don't have to say I put up with one of my now-former employees talking back to me in a way that was arguably hypocritical." On balance, was that really the right tradeoff to make here?

I get you, but I think you're assuming the point was to point out hypocrisy for the sake of hypocrisy, when the actual point of pointing out hypocrisy in this case was to ask the question: "What exactly is your goal here? Do you want me to fire everyone who made fun of customer names? Because if so that means I'm firing you too. Any response to this situation will involve disciplining you too, so what are you trying to accomplish?"

This was my reading as well - from the post that DHH shared.

What do you do when a (previously-complicit) employee keeps an issue going on and on and on?

A little 'hey, get off your high horse, you were involved too' doesn't go amiss.

(As a first, second or even third reaction it's not great - but it sounds like there had been a lot of talking preceding this).

> I think what basecamp is experiencing is what can still happen even though you as a manager believed you managed it well.

But it doesn't really matter if the manager (or owner) believes they handled it well. It matters if the employees thought it was handled well. In the case at least a third of them didn't.

Even putting aside the substance of the no politics policy, the delivery and crafting of it was terrible. There was a DEI committee, and it and all other committees were unilaterally dismissed. The no politics rule was decided with zero employee input. And worse than that it was delivered via public blog post that had to be hastily edited after the fact.

Had DHH and Fried carefully taken employee input and crafted a policy that took their concerns into account, and delivered with care and respect, they could've still ended up with a no politics policy. But employees would not have been blindsided and maybe more people would've bought in.

But maybe DHH and Fried really want a company culture devoid of significant employee input into how the company is run.

> Why not just... manage people well?

This feels like a statement along the same lines as "just don't be poor".

If it's so easy to manage, how come so many people screw it up?

I think ya'll are both right. On the one hand, you're right because "just manage better" is a silly assertion. As you say it is like "just don't be poor", or the one I think is more relevant to this conversation: "coal miners should just learn to code".

On the other hand, however, these are in fact business leaders who have written books about how good they are and how much they know about leading people, so... it's reasonable that our expectation of good leadership is a bit higher for them than the average middle manager.

So, how does this address anything the parent comment has talked about?

> keep all the politics talk to a minimum

Ok, so this is one management strategy and the parent comment provided another. You seem to be implying that one management choice has moral superiority to the other?

> whatever can be just as divisive and counterproductive

Yes, and their management choice could be to minimize these just as you choose to minimize politics. That is entirely orthogonal to making managerial decisions to ban certain topics.

They could choose to ban some of the non-politics topics of discussion as well. Hell, they could just say "shutup and work". They could say no work related discussion allowed at work.

Again, these are all managerial choices but you seem to be accusing the company of not managing at all?

> when they can pee or whether they fear for their lives at the speed trap that's stationed about a mile up the road from the office.

> their skin color/presence or lack of uteruses/accents come along.

You have addressed nothing about the actions of employees as the parent comment discussed. You have only addressed that people have different looks, feelings, organs, and politics. Great observation.

I've noticed an overlap between activist personalities and attention seeking personalities. Some people, either consciously or subconsciously, enjoy the dopamine hit from anger and confrontation and they will seek it out at work.

There is probably an overlap between attention seeking personalities and every group from which you hear individual voices.

Those attention seeking personalities are just the ones who get your attention and stand out.

Perhaps the perceived overlap is due to the fact that you end up perceiving people who have attention-seeking personalities more than people who do not, especially in places (like social media) that are designed to reward and amplify attention seeking.

I think there is a difference between an activist personality and somebody leaching off those groups for their own means. Perhaps certain personality types are drawn to those activist circles because they sense an opportunity to acquire some sense of power over other people. Like a parasite. Saying they are parasitic sounds somewhat accurate.

> I've noticed an overlap between activist personalities and attention seeking personalities

I've noticed an overlap between attention seeking personalities and people who get noticed for...well, anything.

But that’s kind of the nature of “attention seeking”.

you mean.... twitter? ;-)

Can someone fund a study where they measure cortisol levels before and after test subjects turn off Twitter notifications?

My assumption is that levels plummet

I've found this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610684/

Facebook use after acute social stress impair recovery of cortisol levels. I translate it as "Facebook use after social altercation makes stress longer".

Thanks for idea!

Well, if the studies are anything like FDA approve pharmaceuticals, the studies will be funded by twitter, no raw data will be made available, no attempts to replicate the studies by 3rd parties will even be allowed, much less made, and the FDA will approve the results.


It's the exact same behavior, but bred in a different environment.

You were the one that is adding partisanship to the observation. "Activist" is a non-partisan term and thus the statement should be read as applying equally to pro-life activists as pro-choice activists.

I'm sorry...what fantasy land do you have to live in where you think it's ok to use a company social media account to promote your own politics not only without permission from the company, but an explicit denial.

By "your own politics" are we still referring to things like "hey it's not okay that you're making fun of people and their different-sounding names"?

Even if we're referring to this case. What right do you think you have to use company name to push your agenda? Even if you're morally right about the matter, you're morally wrong to use company entity to push your opinion. If you're uncomfortable with the company then go to management. If it doesn't work with management then leave and try to get your retribution or whatever bullcrap using your name.

It was with the best intentions to improve the world! ;)

There is nothing you can tweet that will improve the world. Lol

Tweeting nothing will improve the world.

I have two separate mega huge employers and they both have similar approaches on this matter.

My bank employer’s approach is maximum inclusivity and mutual respect. That generally mean no politics just because it isn’t professional. Religion is a grey area. If religion is an excuse for social gatherings and celebrations then it’s fully allowed so long as everybody is allowed to participate. If a religious focused context is cause for distraction or disagreement then the conversation isn’t professional and the behavior, regardless of the religious content, can be punished.

My military employer is absolutely adamant that politics must be far away from the office. They also strongly nurture and require maximum inclusivity. Their view on religion is maximum support for any professed religion or faith as necessary to advance the religious Liberty of all employees. They have dedicated employees to ensure and guarantee religious support and exercise for any employee that requests support.

Placating "activists" in the work place may initially seem like the new norm in corporate responsibility, but it is actually a self-destructive spiral, as there are ever-changing foci for woke outrage. The risk of these same employees turning on the company is extremely high in the long term.

A big problem in 2021, going back some years, is that the internet makes it easy for anyone to put out their slate and call themselves an "activist." Years ago people used to say that politics was the last refuge of a scoundrel. This is what activists engage in: politics.

Outrage is one of the emotions that's easiest to garner virality. Many "activists" are not conversant in ethics and philosophy. Many of them aren't good people. Many of them seem to be quite bitter and hateful while they talk about justice.

Many of the loudest voices in this arena are engaging in outrage mongering.

They limit legal liabilities by removing easily-disgruntled employees.

"Easily disgruntled" is a signpost. Activism in 2021 needs better filters, because far too many people who should be in counseling and therapy are proselytizing to the masses and young people, with public results that corroborate this. At least in the 60's and 70's, one had to be capable of organization.

Did you invent a field of psychology to be able to decide if people need counseling based on what is happening online? For all I know, outrage culture is mainly happening through bots of foreign enemies intent on destabilizing the anglophone world.

outrage culture is out of control all over. If it's happening through foreign enemies too that doesn't change the media coverage etc.

This has been coming for a while.

Once upon a time, when I was in college one of the times (twenty odd years ago), the university debating society invited David Irving, well known Holocaust denier.

The Anti-Facist/Socialist Workers party people got involved, and threatened protests and violence, and pressured the University to not allow the talk.

This started happening then, and not enough of us (including me) spoke up, so it got normalised. Obviously the internet et al has had huge impacts on this (as well as the messed up world we live in), but I do kinda remember those experiences as a turning point, looking back.

I'm hoping the company I work for will follow suit and ban discussions about this stuff in the workplace.

Two years ago we had Ibrahim X Kendi speak at our company, he's now considered by many to be a "neo racist". Within months our open Slack channel for Q&A was shut-down.

However we still have a lot of the internal activists.

I don't think he's considered by very many to be a neo-racist. Only in right wing circles and few of them would even know who he is anyway.

It seems like the term neoracist has been promoted by John McWhorter more than any other public intellectual and you can hardly call him right wing unless your vision of the political spectrum is severely warped.

McWhorter recently wrote an entire Atlantic column about the actual word "racism" without once using the neologism for which you've blamed him. So, maybe he has reconsidered?


I’m referring to his use of the word in his new book (which he is serializing for free on his substack), “The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America”. [1] The first place I saw the term used (he has also used it on the Glenn Show podcast).

Regardless, I came not to blame him, but to praise him.

Though I do agree with Kmele Foster’s insistence that the term “racist” is well and good enough to describe the type of segregationist thinking and reification of the fiction of race that is promoted by so-called anti-racists.

[1] https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/the-elect-neoracists-po...

Thanks for the link! I wonder if you've read the whole thing? Several chapters in [0], we find:

...I’m realizing I can’t use the term neoracism in the subtitle of my The Elect book.

From assorted social media posts, I am realizing that if I say Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America, many understandably think I am referring to black people being racist against whites.

I need to specify – despite that it may dampen the enthusiasm for my book among some – that I do not think of black people being racist against whites and white people being racist against blacks as equally reprehensible.

Many whites are deeply aggrieved that they are assailed for being racists, but that no one seems to mind black people not liking white people. They want us to assail black racism as vociferously as we do white racism.

I must disappoint. I am fully on board with the idea that racism is about who is up versus down. Black racism against whites is, at least at its foundation, about resentment at being abused. To apply the same judgment to this as to blacks being racist against whites is facile, uninsightful – frankly, almost a debate team trick.

“But where does it lead if you hate me and I hate you and you hate me …?” – okay. But we live in our own limited time slices. There are two layers here.

One: just a few inches past about 1964, is it so unpardonable, so incomprehensible, that black people might be mad at white people?

Two: if you object that 1964 was a while ago now, then is it so unpardonable, so incomprehensible, that lots of black people might be mad at white people now when so many intellectuals and artists and community leaders have taught them to be that mad for decades?

Note – I didn’t ask whether it was right that they have been taught that. The issue is that they were. And they harbor what they were taught at a time – today -- when no one can deny that racism does exist. Anyone who thinks I don’t know that hasn’t read me much.

So. In this vein, I am seeing that “neoracism” sounds to many like I am decrying racism against whites. I get why they think that – and I know that quite a few will think that’s what I mean without subscribing to the white nationalist groups who have used the word that way.

Some in my position would try to reclaim the word and make it mean what they want it to mean. I, for example, meant “new racism against black people.” But my comfort zone cannot fashion community meaning. I am not interested in standing athwart common human understanding and hollering “Stop!,” watching it continue despite me, and then self-gratifyingly grumbling that nobody listens to me.

My strategy will be to eschew the word “neoracism.” If people are going to read it to mean that my book is about arguing against racism against white people, they will be massively disappointed by my book.

This is because my book is about how the modern conception of antiracism is racist against BLACK people.

Social media and Substack allow one to fashion a book according to public feedback in a way never possible before. My book will no longer be titled The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and Their Threat to a Progressive America,” because I can see that this leads some whites to see me as defending them against black racism. My book will not do that, and I frankly suggest the whites in question learn to understand it. Racism punches down. Yes, I believe that, even though The Elect do too. I always have.

Instead I will try something new. The Elect: The Threat to a Progressive America from Anti-Black Antiracists.

In this passage McWhorter clearly disavows this word completely, because of just the misunderstanding seen ITT.

[0] https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/can-black-people-be-rac...

Aha, thank you! I am actually quite behind on it, and also hadn’t read that post, which I largely agree with. I can see how the term has escaped his ability to define it in the context of his argument.

It seems like our era of fast decentralized media makes it tough to employ a neologism in a way that clarifies rather than confuses.

I also appreciate your good faith effort to help clear this up.

What's a 'neo racist'? Where are these odd labels coming from?

Is it racist subculture or something? It just sounds absurd compared to saying 'racist'.

It is used to point out the perpetuation and reification of race as a concept by people who call themselves antiracist. There are many liberal thinkers who have not given up on the notion that race is a fiction, and that the best way to be not racist is to understand this.

Race abolitionists like Kmele Foster (Fifth Column podcast) and Thomas Chatterton Williams (Self Portrait in Black and White), as well as scholars like Barbara Fields (Racecraft) point out that what people call antiracist depends on re-centering race in the discourse, which they see as promoting a race-based system of evaluation, which results in racist thinking (in the normal dictionary, pre-Foucaultized definition of the term).

Hence some people who agree with this line of thinking (though not the three I mentioned afaik) prefer to call “antiracism” neoracism because it’s a very different thing promoted by different sorts of people than what we traditionally call racism, but it still requires one to think in terms of race and to believe that race exists in a meaningful sense.

By who?

> he's now considered by many to be a "neo racist".

I'm sorry, what!? The author of "How to be Antiracist" is considered a "neo racist" by how many?

Also the Democratic People's Republic of Korea isn't actually a democracy?!

Do you actually have any evidence of the author, Kendi, being a neo racist or is this more right wing trash?

I'm just pointing out that someone saying they're not something doesn't mean they actually aren't, as you implied.

Kinda like how you will see a pastor rail against homosexuality, and then it turns out they have a boyfriend on the side...

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks" and all that.

To me, that doesn’t look like a strong defense of the “no politics/religion” policy, because the actual reasons those people were fired seem mostly unrelated and obvious grounds to fire someone, regardless of any particular workplace discussion policy. Deliberate unauthorized usage of the company Twitter account is certainly grounds for firing, as is using company time and resources for a plan to report the company to authorities (assuming the report was frivolous and the employee knew it). I honestly don’t see where the policy about political discussions is relevant here at all.

> We later discovered that one of them had been considering reporting us to the state financial authorities because she didn't agree with our policy of accruing interest on client debts

Wow, and I thought the HR complaint against David was nuts. Sounds like basecamp was infiltrated by Ben Kuchera's or Randi Harpers. Can't recall the name of the person GitHub miss-hired.. Recall a few years back seemed like everyone was hiring "diversity consultants" or something only to find out they were creating toxic environments by seizing political power via threatening to "cancel" anyone that didn't think and say the right things. This set them up as a type of "thought leader", or perhaps even a cult type leader, where they controlled things..

That was a weird trend and perhaps the tail end of an age in the post-gamergate era.

Was a weird trend? They've doubled-down. There are now Chief Diversity Officers.

Duties typically consist of 1) Being a white woman 2) Sending out the monthly 'diverity of the month' celebration/awareness email 3) Rubber stamping the 'gender pay equality assessment' annual report 4) Using the word 'empathy'

Was a weird trend? They've doubled-down. There are now Chief Diversity Officers.

Yep. Most companies were hiring 'Chief Diversity Officer' types to inoculate themselves from the mob. Instead, the people they hired are leading the mob.

They basically let the vampire in.

I have been gone through numerous diversity coaching at numerous big tech companies. Comparing diversity coaches to vampires is absurd and alarmist. All they did was demonstrate some biases in a way where I became more aware of my own biases, and educated us how everyone has biases and they can sometimes be good biases and sometimes be bad biases.

Comparing diversity coaches to vampires is absurd and alarmist.

That was a sentence I thought I'd never see written.

To your point, I'm glad you found that training to be helpful. The times I've been subjected to similar, I found it wasteful, condescending, and presumptive. So perhaps your mileage will vary.

That's where it starts, 'biases.' Then 'recognizing biases' turns into 'defeating white supremacy' and 'silence is violence' and 'everything is political, so we have to talk about this.'

Reminds me of a training I once attended --probably the most participatory and positive energy session ever. It basically had one point: "Don't be a dick".

"Don't be one to your friends, family, coworkers, or especially to our customers". The word is hard to define, but easy to recognize. And you kinda always know when you're being one.

Everyone has been one, and no one feels singled out or blamed. Doesn't let anybody leave feeling like a victim or a victor. Yet left people feeling powerful to call other people out for being one, without resorting to stronger language. That company had comradery; it's too bad it takes more than that.

Where I'm from, dick refers to a penis. So saying someone is a 'dick' is sexist and derogatory towards people with penises. Would you be allowed to tell someone not to be another set of genitals in a vulgar manner? Of course not.

Words can have different meanings. Dick is a first name where I'm from. Maybe take a break from being difficult and try following the rule.

The evidence suggests this nonsense doesn't work and is even harmful. Check out the literature review on the Heterodox Academy website.

The trend was taking social media influencers that were hijacking social justice issues on Twitter, and other social media, who were already creating toxic environments there, hiring them, and thinking something other than creating a toxic environment at work was going to happen.

Tail end of an age. But yes, we are in a new age now.

> Can't recall the name of the person GitHub miss-hired

Coraline Ada Ehmke?


I'm confused. Aren't such discussions banned by social norms everywhere for a very long time? I can't recall any public political or religious discussions at any place I've worked in decades.

A few years ago I worked with someone who would constantly complain about a certain politician. Honestly the unending onslaught of negativity was the problem for me. They could have been complaining about a toaster over’s inability to bake both sides of a sandwich and I still would have gotten sick of it if they kept saying it. I’m at work to make money, not to be subjected to endless banter about anything at all.

I see you don’t work with very many American fresh college graduates.

This may be the answer. Some useful traditions are not being passed down, especially at startup-type places which don’t allow older employees.

I think this is more of the issue. Young startups and management are much more lax with this type of thing and let it fester and become a bigger issue than it ever should have been. I’ve worked at fortune 10 companies and smaller startups founded by older folks and there has never been any overt sexual innuendo or politics talk which would be obviously divisive. Most everyone has enough emotional intelligence to know these things should be left at home since there’s no reason to bring them up at work.

Once I was hired at a company founded and run by boomers, and on the first day noticed several stacks of magazines like "Hustler" etc. just sitting on the floor in a manager's office, while we conversed with other colleagues some of whom were women. This was probably 15 years ago, and I didn't quit or anything, but let's not exaggerate the virtues of old people.

If anything this C-suite freakout seems like a result of too much Covid isolation. Lots of executives are hyper-extroverts who need lots of coddling from people they've hired for that task. Some needs just aren't fulfilled over Zoom. This last year set these super entrepreneur dudes [and, to be fair, their top-percentile coding-god employees too] on tilt, and they're lashing out trying to get back on track. It's their company; if they want to sacrifice some jobs and profits on the altar of their warped personalities how can we blame them?

I'm not arguing either way, but both are extremes in decorum. Most companies run by generic middle of the road boring folks adhere to general decorum overall vs explicitly offensive behavior. This isn't because they're more virtuous IMO from my experience, just because they like most folks want to work 9-5, collect a paycheck and go home and not rock the boat.

> This was probably 15 years ago, and I didn't quit or anything, but let's not exaggerate the virtues of old people.

That’s true, but every time we humans have tried “let’s throw everything out and start over” it’s ended in tears. And that’s the prevailing vibe I get right now.

We're not talking about the French Revolution here. This is a small-to-medium (or, recently, perhaps "medium-to-small") privately-held SaaS firm. For its entire existence, this firm's marketing has taken the form of checks written against a hypothetical account of expertise in business organization and cultural transformation. This week most of those checks have bounced, but that is because of the particular properties of this organization, not "kids these days".

That you can find an exception from the bad old days, where a company was run like a <80s mechanic shop, doesn't negate that experience dealing with people is useful.

Chesterson’s fence comes to mind.

I love that observation by G.K. about the fence you find and thinking through why it was erected.

I don't think a political discussion now and then at work is an issue per se. As long as you remember you're talking with colleagues, and you have to keep a respectful tone and be friendly and collaborative with them all the same one minute after the conversation is over. And insulting your colleagues (for example suggesting that they're racist, or homophobic, or otherwise a problem at work or in the society) is of course unacceptable.

I don't think a political discussion now and then at work is an issue per se. As long as you remember you're talking with colleagues, and you have to keep a respectful tone and be friendly and collaborative with them all the same one minute after the conversation is over. And insulting your colleagues (for example suggesting that they're racist, or homophobic, or otherwise a problem at work or in the society) is of course unacceptable.

Discussing is one thing, and advocating is another, and it should be obvious which is which but some people don't know and many don't care, in fact advocacy was their goal all along.

I suppose it depends on what you consider public. I once worked on a team at a Fortune 500 company where the majority of team members were Catholic. They’d often bring up religious topics while chit chatting before meetings started. I’m not Catholic, but I didn’t care. It’s not like they were ever trying to convert me or anything. I treated it like they all belonged to the same book club.

I think what folks mean by R&P is ugly R&P.

Yeah, anybody who quits over a no politics policy is probably someone you don't want in the first place.

How did Basecamp fill 1/3 of the company with people they didn't want. That is something they should try to have a lot of introspection on.

Seen the generous buyouts offered, it's probable that several of them left just because they liked the offer.

Not sure why you're downvoted. I'm mulling over an employer change right now for pure career progression / compensation reasons. I have a few good options lined up. If I were offered a generous buyout tomorrow for some random stupid reason, I would probably take it, even without first deciding exactly where I'm going to be next and without any regard to the underlying reason for the buyout. Wikipedia says they only have 57 employees (???). If so, that's less than 20 people jumping from a company with bad PR anyways and during a time when tech hiring is actually quite hot.

Just to be clear, they banned "politics" after people complained about what they considered to be racism and cultural belittlement. This is the inherent problem with people wanting to avoid politics when what they really want is to avoid difficult topics. Topics that aren't just ballot issues but may be palpably real for actual people you work with.

This is a point which I think is really tough for people to come to grips with. If you're in the majority, if you're what's considered "normal," then a whole lot of things aren't "political" for you but become political when someone else starts talking about them. When Bob talks about his wife, he's just making small talk; when Fred talks about his husband, he's "a gay activist." And god forbid one of your employees be transgender or nonbinary: requesting that they be acknowledged as such can be interpreted as an overtly political statement. Look at how many people get super, super angry with anyone who voluntarily lists their pronouns somewhere.

Straw man. If a gay guy talks about his husband, and someone calls him a gay activist for it, he's the political guy who needs to go.

I agree with your conclusion, but I don't agree that it's a straw man. There remains a fairly large subset of people who are "fine" with having LGBTQ coworkers, but if those coworkers regularly talk about their personal lives to the same degree that non-LGBTQ coworkers regularly talk about theirs, it's seen as "pushing it in our faces."

On an earlier thread about Basecamp, I suggested that if the real goal is to keep conversations in the office civil and focused on work, the policy should be "keep conversations in the office civil and focused on work." You can politely shut down acrimonious debate in your Slack not because it's "political," but because it's acrimonious, and you're not sending a message that "political" discussions that really do have a bearing on your workplace culture are off-limits even if they're conducted respectfully. That's where Basecamp dropped the ball. (And let the ball roll under the couch and then set the couch on fire.)

In this example, the accuser isn't accusing the gay man. He'd be complaining to HR about politics at work. It was legal to fire someone for being gay up last year.


A glimmer of hope. Thank you for writing this. Feels like most of the companies gone insane, where vocal minority controls everything.

"The way to keep politics out of work is to keep your work environment professional."

Both yours and the OP are side-stepping the main issue which is 'Identity Politics' -> it cannot be avoided.

It's 'very easy' frankly, to avoid 'Politics and Religion' at the office, frankly, it's normal.

Also fairly easy to avoid 'abortion and gun control'.

But - 'the companies position on BLM' for example, is something that basically hardly be avoided.

An initiative by a few staffers to create a 'Diversity Council' which they control ... well that's not technically political but that's effectively the same thing - it will happen, the company has to take a position.

And of course 'making fun of people's' names' isn't political either. Obviously, it shouldn't be done in a formal setting, but for god's sake if people can't have fun then the world is over. If a bunch of low-level customer service reps are having beers and laughing / venting about a bunch of stuff then obviously nobody should care. (Not that I think they would for the most part).

Companies are now teaching 'diversity sensitivity' and they have to decide whether to go the classical route, or to go with 'CRT' which uses some really inflammatory language about how all White people are guilty of upholding White Supremacy, literally for issues like 'Thanksgiving', 'Focusing on Correct Answers', 'Objectivity' (and I'm not remotely aggrandizing or being hyperbolic here - this is the extent of some of that training). This training in some form has to be given and it reaches beyond just the '2 hours' you get when you start.

So aside from the possibly bone-headed / lack-of-self-awarness moves by the leadership here, the issues cannot be swept under the rug.

Finally, even though 1/3 did take the money, and that is is probably an unhealthy number, it's possible that it's a 'accidentally smart move' by leadership to just avoid the types of people he doesn't want.

I utterly loathe the WeWork leadership - but I have to admit, when they signalled that they will not allow employees to submit invoices for meat - I thought it was brilliant. Machiavellian, unfair, yes - but it was a really smart way to define 'culture', even if they were effectively turning away a large group of people (and quietly suppressing others).

So in the end, 1) we have to navigate the 'politics of diversity' there's no avoiding it and 2) from a Realpolitik perspective, this may not be so completely bad for the company.

> not allow employees to submit invoices for meat

Companies that make you submit receipts for food are negative in my view and affect whether I want to work there. Simply set a per diem for food and leave it there. Trying to examine receipts for meat or not meat (or alcohol or salt or whatever) reflects a non-flexible mentality and likely makes other aspects of a company unpleasant and ineffective.

WeWork seemed batshit crazy this seems like one of the many signs of a dumb leadership style.

I think it’ll be good for them in the long run too (if they don’t go under in the short term)

It's the season of ramadan, how would you support muslims that are fasting now or need to take off time to pray or go to their mosque on Fridays?

What's the problem? Workplaces are required to allow for "reasonable flexibility" in the practice of religion. An employee may need to take some PTO for certain types of jobs, but every job I've worked has a decent amount of leeway.

This is all covered under US employment law.

I left 5 years ago, so I'm remembering this as well as I can.

> they were complicit in allowing this dumb-ass list to be circulated around the company for years, and when it became an issue, they refused to take any action on it.

That's not really what happened, and is a part of this story that hasn't entirely been made clear. The list was, if I remember correctly, about 10 to 20 names long and was tucked away in the company Backpack account. I found it in ~2010 when I first started and thought little of it.

As far as I know it didn't get added to after that, perhaps it did. It certainly wasn't "passed around". Backpack was closed to new users in ~2014, but we'd stopped using it at that point and some time I think before then someone had found the list, brought it up with the rest of the company as a problem. I seem to recall the phrase "How would you feel if you discovered your name was on this list" was mentioed, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, my recollection was that it was "deleted" (I guess it was a "soft" delete) with no dissent.

This wasn't about DHH or Jason letting a list be passed around, or defending it. No-one was tittering about "Incontinentia Buttocks" in 2021. Basecamp while I was there (2010 to 2016) became incredibly good at customer privacy and security, and I would trust them with my data, and this just wouldn't happen.

DHH's own blog post seems to contradict your account.


How so?

>That entirely misses the point. The loss of productivity around this issue is entirely on the leadership team. They let this fester - they were complicit in allowing this dumb-ass list to be circulated around the company for years, and when it became an issue, they refused to take any action on it.

The list is not the issue here.

In an ideal world, the list would be seen as an innocent inside joke, and be totally not newsworthy. But millenials (not all: some, enough to change the culture around this) don't know how to take a joke. Like the children of hippies turned yuppies, Gen X successors turned prudes.

If you have a name like Jonathan Lovesturds, sorry, but the name is funny, and you should be expect people to ocassionally make fun about it, including in companies you deal with. It is what it is, and it's not the end of the world, nor some huge abuse (my surname had pun potential, so I got some of this as a kid, big effin' deal).

The "politics at work" thing would be relevant and legit if it was for e.g. unionizing, abuse of power from some higher up, the company doing shady business (e.g. Google and military deals, Facebook etc.) etc.

But in 2021 this more often than not degenerates in people making a power-play, abusing identity politics and other fashionable talking points, to increase their influence in the company, attack others they don't like, and so on.

Pretending the list was about "racism" (when it had absolutely nothing to do with that, aside from: "also contains a small percentage of foreign names that sound funny on top of the anglosaxon such") is also in this very vein.

In an ideal world you don’t work at a company that maintains a list of customer names to laugh it. And if you did and someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list and they tell you why, you don’t self-immolate.

Pretending this list and subsequent lack of discipline isn’t about the founders vanity is very ignorant

> And if you did and someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list and they tell you why, you don’t self-immolate.

This isn't accurate. DHH openly admitted that the list circulating was a big failure that fell on the founders and the company, an admission that was positively received by most employees. The explosive part of the scandal starts when some employees insisted that the list contributed to genocidal attitudes and DHH rather aggressively pushed back on this point, saying that this is an unproductive escalation of the discussion (and then DHH himself ironically escalated the discussion even further).

> He told me today that attempting to link the list of customer names to potential genocide represented a case of “catastrophizing” — one that made it impossible for any good-faith discussions to follow. Presumably, any employees who are found contributing to genocidal attitudes should be fired on the spot — and yet nobody involved seemed to think that contributing to or viewing the list was a fireable offense. If that’s the case, Hansson said, then the pyramid of hate had no place in the discussion. To him, it escalated employees’ emotions past the point of being productive.

Pointing out the problematic nature of the list was not the trigger for this. The trigger was a specific accusation made about the political impact of the list. The founders were clearly trying not to be a company that maintains a list of customer names to laugh at.

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

Aggressively? DHH published his response here:


In particular he wrote:

> We have to be careful to celebrate that progress proportionally, though. I was dismayed to see the argument advanced in text and graphics on [Employee 1’s] post that this list should be considered part of a regime that eventually could lead to genocide. That's just not an appropriate or proportionate comparison to draw. > > And further more, I think it makes us less able to admit mistakes and accept embarrassment, without being tempted to hide transgressions in the past. If the stakes for any kind of bad judgement in this area is a potential link to a ladder that ends in genocide, we're off on a wrong turn.

And in another post:

> I can appreciate how those examples raise the sensitivity of anything related to names, minorities, and power dynamics. > > Still, I don't think we serve the cause of opposing colonial regimes or racist ideology by connecting their abusive acts around names to this incident. And I don't think we serve an evaluation of you and others making fun of names in a Campfire session by drawing that connection either. > > We can recognize that forceful renaming by a colonial regime is racist and wrong while also recognizing that having a laugh at customer names behind their back is inappropriate and wrong without equating or linking the two.

I certainly wouldn't call that "aggressive"; it reads as polite, reasoned and measured to me, and even if DHH is wrong (I don't think he is) I fail to see how this is outside the bounds of what it should be acceptable for a leader to say to an employee.

That's fair, and I wasn't aware of DHH's published response when I posted that. My "aggressive" impression was based on a third party account that mentioned employee reactions [1]:

> Hansson’s response to this employee took aback many of the workers I spoke with. He dug through old chat logs to find a time when the employee in question participated in a discussion about a customer with a funny-sounding name. Hansson posted the message — visible to the entire company — and dismissed the substance of the employee’s complaint.

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

It is accurate to say a founder self immolates their company if a decision they made led to 33% attrition in a week

It's fair to say that the founder has done some level of self immolation, but intentionally or not, your original comment focuses on the reason why they self-immolated which is what I think is inaccurate:

> And if you did and someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list and they tell you why, you don’t self-immolate.

No, whatever self-immolation that occurred didn't happen because someone pointed out how it can become problematic to have foreign names in the list. They acknowledged that it was hugely problematic and wanted to correct the mistake and move on, which is a pretty normal response. The problem occurred when some employees clashed with the founder over acknowledging a specific political accusation.

I find it uncharitable & inaccurate to portray this as evidence of the founders' vanity because they shutdown when someone criticises the list, because that's not what happened. A heated political clash happened, and losing your cool over a deeply political issue is not surprising or a demonstration of vanity, it is exactly why many people don't discuss that kind of thing.

Depends if the attrition is people you wouldn't want working for you anyway. If not for business reasons, for human reasons.

The kind of backstabbing people to jump at the chance to make a grand-standing against a good employer and get a buyout bonus at a time the company is in the spotlight for BS reasons...

It makes no business or human sense to have your entire iOS engineering team quit at once with no one to replace them, which happened. It makes no human sense to make your company appear so toxic that it will be difficult to train or even recruit new hires, Etc etc.

DHH and co made a mistake: they thought that by treating employees well, and building a good working environment, they'd get some loyalty back.

But at the first chance of them proving otherwise, money (the buyout) and the faux-hero points ("principled" exit), won for many.

Notice how for ~20 years we haven't heard any pain stories or exposes from there, until this BS story of the "name list" (which is an inside joke blown out of proportion), and the "intolerable" pain of employees told not to discuss politics at work...

Oh, the humanity...

There's no doubt that it's causing significant harm now, but I think you're not seeing this from a longer term perspective: if they think continuing to allow political discussion is likely to create more workplace problems in the future, then that could outweigh any problems they cause now in their hiring pipeline. Two possible points in favor of this trade-off:

1. I've heard vague hearsay that it's hard to get a job there and they don't hire that often, they're not a big company with a big revolving door. Hiring new employees may be a less frequent and less consequential problem than avoiding workplace issues that affect existing employees.

2. This has apparently enhanced the company's image amongst some people, just read over this HN thread. It's not clear that this will damage their hiring appeal and overall ability to competently fill positions.

There is no long term if you can’t keep the lights on

I find it quite a stretch to consider this an existential threat to 37signal. They're famous for having no VC/shareholder obligations or debt while continuing to be very financially successful for a very long time. Their products are well-liked and admired. Their founders are fairly wealthy.

Sure it can, if the situation has gotten so bad that you need drastic measures, it makes sense. It's not ideal, but that's a totally different thing that "making sense". People have to make hard decisions with temporarily uncomfortable and problematic consequences all the time at the executive level. Getting rid of a big chunk of the workforce is hardly uncommon in terms of drastic measures, no matter how it's done.

And to many people, this is going to make Basecamp appear more attractive not less. They won't have a hard time filling seats.

If a third of your small company are people you actually don't want working for you, that would be a sign of some pretty awful hiring and management.

You'd be suprised how many of your "real friends" are epeople you actually don't want near you.

It just takes a crisis to find out...

And has little to do with failure in personal relationships or management. Many people are inherently shitty.

Indeed. Imagine you’re paying for Basecamp and you need to file tickets and get support ASAP this week? What do you think of them when 1/3 of the employees are gone in a flash? Whatever you think of the debate’s impact on workplace culture, the capitalist point of view is that the founders have most certainly scuttled their company because they couldn’t manage their chosen workforce.

We've been using Basecamp for years now, I wouldn't notice if the entire company went on vacation for 6 months.

It just works.

Hey customers might notice a difference.

>In an ideal world you don’t work at a company that maintains a list of customer names to laugh it.

In an ideal world, that would be the very bottom of bad things in the world, well below "annoying ringtones".

Why does your ideal world have so many problems in it?

Because several "ideal worlds" without any problems attempted turned out to be dystopian plans by lunatics wanting everything to be perfect and clean cut according to them - and causing untold pain in the process.

The only ones who made a 'power play' were DHH and Jason. They made it clear they don't want employee input, criticism.

They don't need to make any power play, they founded and own the company. The power is theirs.

>They made it clear they don't want employee input, criticism.

No, they just made clear they don't employees diverting the discussion to BS arguments such as that "a list of funny names" is in any way similar to endorsing genocide. If that's the kind of "ideas" people would bring in, then they prefered to keep it to work talk. Who wouldn't?

It's like many people today were pampered children throwing tantrums, and don't know the basics of logic, what's relevant and what's not, how to not slippery-slope things to death, how to deal with their "feelings", and so on.

Or, that would be the case, if it was legit rage, but a lot of it is fashion, hypocrisy and power-plays.

On top of that there are people jealous at DHH and co, who can't stand their success and advocacy, and will rejoice at the first chance to turn them into scapegoats.

>The power is theirs.

You're right but I think that's kind of beside the point -- they didn't have to use that power.

>"a list of funny names" is in any way similar to endorsing genocide.

I would say they are similar, the chart is to demonstrate that they're two ends of the spectrum of dehumanising and hatred. I think it's mistaken to fixate on the "genocide" bit, there are a lot of other things in the middle of the chart also, but it all starts with subtle things like mocking other people for having names that would be totally normal in their home culture. It's a very light form of dehumanising and it may not even be intended that way but it still is one nonetheless.

>I would say they are similar, the chart is to demonstrate that they're two ends of the spectrum of dehumanising and hatred.

In the sense that moisture in the air is the other end of the spectrum of waterboarding.

DHH's blog post: https://world.hey.com/dhh/let-it-all-out-78485e8e

See paragraphs below "So I replied:" ...

Well, that seems like a generous and reasonable solution to the problem.

It really sounds like JF / DHH really didn't want to have to deal with the issue - minimal disciplinary action and then push all discussion away from official channels.

But I guess that it reveals what probably should have been clear about Basecamp - it's a vehicle for the expression / gratification of the founders - financially, emotionally and intellectually.

And the loss of staff / possible impact on the company (and customers) was a price they were prepared to pay.

I don't see any issue with that. They get their gratification and the employees get paid for providing their work as a service.

It wasn't meant to be criticism.

However, losing 1/3 of your staff overnight over an issue like this does somewhat undermine the JF / DHH narrative of extreme managerial competence.

counterpoint - maybe the significance of not undermining the other 2/3 of the company is exactly extreme managerial competence when the crisis has already made itself clear.

If you're saying that limiting their losses to _only_ 1/3 of their staff is a sign of great managerial flair then I'm afraid that I disagree very strongly.

It's like cutting off a limb with gangrene. The mistakes they made to get to this situation have been recognized, and now the next decision is how to make sure you continue to live, unpoisoned.

You do know that the staff cut Basecamp out of their lives not the other way round?

Not sure that comparing 15 or so talented and apparently hard working staff to gangrene is really the most appropriate comparison.

when you 'accept a buyout' that means a buyout was offered. Basecamp was looking to get rid of them.

> Hansson told me that the rules are not draconian — no one is going to be bounced out the door for occasionally straying out of bounds. The founders’ goal is to reset the culture and focus on making products, he said, not to purge political partisans from the workforce.

"..looking to get rid of them". Hmmm.

You're looking at the press release and not reading what they're saying. 1/3rd of their company couldn't live with only 'occasionally straying out of bounds' and wanted to make everything political such that 'straying out of bounds' was the norm, so they got 'offered a buy out'.

what the sentence you quoted is saying is that its not based on political viewpoints, but based on behaviour, 1/3 of the company would not accept only occasionally being out of bounds enough to stick around. those 1/3 were likely undermining the actual effectiveness of the company for their political causes.

As I said above.

> Remarkable how when 1/3 of the company resigns in one go - many of whom have great and longstanding professional reputations with no history of political activism and including head of marketing, design, customer support, iOS etc. - following fundamental changes they read about in a blog post, it's because _they_ were all intolerable, proselytizing activists who all had to go for the good of the company.

> Absolutely nothing to do with the two leaders who spend a good chunk of time on social media telling the rest of the world how to run their business in the most in your face way possible.

>no one is going to be bounced out the door for occasionally straying out of bounds.

1/3 of their workforce couldn't accept that and took the buyout instead. That's why it was important to do it - they valued their politics over their continued employment. It wasn't to purge people based on their politics, it was to purge people who couldn't limit themselves to 'occasionally straying out of bounds' - 1/3 of the company undermining the other 2/3 to push their politics.

I don't see an issue per se, but it makes it clear that they've got the money to live outside of the sphere of politics and society that their employees exist within.

They can afford to make it a non-issue for themselves. And so they have. An empathetic option was available to them (own up to the stupid silly names list) but they cast it aside.

As a consequence, they've lost a lot of respect both in their workforce and in the court of public opinion. I don't intend to put much stock in whatever else they have to say now.

And for me it's not about the politics at work bit. It's the rest of it that is getting less attention. Cringeworthy Huxley quotes, paternalistic benefits, etc. etc.

Then you are for sure not familiar with the way Basecamp has been advertising itself as a company for the past decade.

To me the world's gone crazy where the word "deplorable" is unironically attached to some people making fun of some names. Unprofessional is the furthest I'd take it. Something you get a finger wag for.

As a customer why would I even care if someone on the other end thought my name was funny as long as my shipment arrived? This generation truly is absurdly sensitive.

Especially when you juxtapose superficially-and-barely offensive things like this with ongoing things like war which are truly deplorable in real human suffering they cause.

Which is exactly the point! We tolerate war in the world because we tolerate smaller bad things. If we stop tolerating the smaller bad things, we can build a better society that no longer tolerates the really bad stuff.

That makes no sense. It’s not like an RPG where there’s a progression where you have to “level up” by first not tolerating small things and build up to not tolerating big things.

You can go ahead and jump right in to not tolerating wars while not caring about things that literally do not matter at all like some people chuckling at a name.

Indeed, the fact that so many people want to waste their time arguing about nonsense like this makes it much easier for the people who profit off wars to keep starting wars.


People have different needs that are at odds with one another. Compromising on what's bad for me but good for you (and vice versa) while doing what's good for both is how the world functions.

There aren't universal 'bad things' of varying sizes that we just need to get rid of. That's the sort of thinking that gets you Nazi Germany cleansing the earth of 'bad' people to bring about paradise - be very careful.

>We tolerate war in the world because we tolerate smaller bad things.


Not sure I agree. Seems to me plausible that humans have empathy and outrage limits. Unless you think someone can be outraged all day every day — because it seems like there is a new issue for the mob every day.

Sorry to say, but that's simplistic thinking. And going too far in the other direction as we're seeing today is a recipe for chaos. Society becomes overly brittle, and the smallest hit will shatter it.

> they refused to take any action on it

Is this true? My understanding is they said this was unacceptable and apologized for not stopping their employees from disseminating this list earlier. I guess people wanted a stronger disciplinary response to people who contributed the list and they refused?

They said it was unacceptable but denied that it was evidence of larger problems, basically.

The main crux was a denial that this sort of behaviour led to genocide. I’m not kidding

I would like to see the counterpoint to DHH’s blog post. There seems to be something missing because saying a names list is part of or indicative of genocide/systemic etc seems too far out to only be that.

Pessimistically, I’ve witnessed similar exchanges that didn’t seem plausible to me, but yet were very real to the people making the claim. I remember a friend who was convinced that their trans friends lives were in danger after the 2016 election and claimed that management not denouncing the election and allowing friends to work from home for safety was “literally the same” as attacking them. It was so weird having them walk through the logic I thought they were joking. Fortunately, everyone lived despite continuing to come into the office (until covid of course).

We haven’t seen the full argument that the employee used but it was based on this resource from the ADL as I understand it: https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/pyramid-of...

The argument here is that treating this kind of mockery as acceptable is part of what enables gradually more serious hateful behavior in a society at large. I don’t really think this is that controversial.

Whether it’s appropriate to bring it up in a work context to explain why something is racist, I’m not sure. I probably wouldn’t do it myself. But I do find it weird that DHH acknowledged the list was bad but doesn’t seem to believe there was anything ethnically or racially prejudiced about it. Children are excused occasional meanness without explanation, but adults generally aren’t.

Based on the post there doesn’t seem to be anything racially motivated so the pyramid doesn’t seem to fit since the list was funny names, including 6/70 non-English names.

Even if it was specifically offensive, bringing up a diagram like that in a specific instance as a path to genocide is such overkill it kind of kills the discussion.

While I think that system racism and casual denegration is bad and society needs to work to eliminate it, putting it on the same spectrum as genocide is like showing a chart that includes a light bulb and the sun as part of a discussion on luminosity. Yes, it’s technically correct but not useful for conversation. Making fun of foreign peoples’ names and genocide are both racist. But the odds of such an act leading to genocide is googol:1 given that there are billions of acts of this type of name racism daily vs rare instances of genocide.

Which, until I see more of the discussion and the list in question, I'm inclined to believe given the blog post someone else posted where they outlined the problem and their specific response.

I think when something like that flies under the radar for over a decade, serious organizational problems are not far behind.

They also admitted it wasn't under the radar, the founders says they'd known about the list for years.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

Choosing to not discuss politics is fine. But if you do that, you’re making a choice: you’re choosing to take the side of those who prefer political decisions to be made by a small elite, without feedback from people like us. You’re choosing not to weigh in.

I feel like I'm more tormented by people demanding I take "a side" which is invariably their side. God help me if I choose to disagree. Besides, we live in a Democratic Republic and it's my representatives making the decisions, not me. That's literally by design. My only real feedback is casting a single vote when it's the right time.

Yes, the unstated fact in these discussions about politics in workplace is that the dominant group is very liberal or even leftists. Especially on social issues.

People who are criticizing Basecamp want their politics in workplace. Every single one of them knows they won't be in the minority. They won't have to be one of the few opposing voices in a sea of anti-abortion, pro-gun-rights, anti-gay-marriage, anti-immigration coworkers.

I wonder if discussing removing racial segregation from workplaces back in the 60s or 70s or whenever was considered a "very liberal or even leftist"? Sometimes there's just a right side to be on.

I've never had a discussion about abortion or guns-rights or whatever in the general workplace - maybe I've had social conversations amongst work friends - but really the "political" conversations I've had at work are mostly focus on building diverse teams to build better products or calling out and addressing bad behaviour.

>I wonder if discussing removing racial segregation from workplaces back in the 60s or 70s or whenever was considered a "very liberal or even leftist"? Sometimes there's just a right side to be on.

Absolutely. The US government considered the entire civil rights movement to serve the Communist agenda. Read about J. Edgar Hoover's enemies list[0] or COINTELPRO[1]. The FBI believed MLK was a Communist agent[2]. Any anti-war or Black activist group was portrayed as enemies of the state and left-wing extremists.

You can see the same playbook being used against BLM today. No one on the right will fail to refer to them as anything but a "Marxist terrorist group" that "burns entire cities to the ground" and "murders innocents with impunity."




I don't usually like engaging in political discourse online, as its very rarely fruitful, but I'd just like to encourage you to study some philosophy before making statements like these whereby you treat your own opinion as absolute fact (or at least your phrasing comes off that way to me). The nature of inaction on these issues is not necessarily inherently immoral, and I would personally argue its supererogation rather than moral duty, so whilst it may be commendable to stand up in these sorts of situations, in my opinion you are by no means morally obliged. This whole area has been a subject of debate for a very long time and the answer is never as simple as a generalisation that can fit in a sentence or two.

Could you name some pointers that I should look up to learn more about both sides of this debate?

Sure, with respect to the language used in the original post, modal logic can be used as a formal basis for how we derive meaning from phrases like 'must' and 'never'. This has a lot of overlap with the field of deontology, which is a subset of moral philosophy which looks more closely at moral dutys and obligations. There are quite a few different theorys worth exploring in moral philosophy beyond just the deontological one, so I'd recommend starting with classical perspectives like that of Kant and making your own way from there.

There was never any assertion that not participating is immoral, but that it is itself choice.

You’re free to discuss politics outside of the workplace to your heart’s content, gather with other activists and even found your own political organization in your free time. You’re also free to quit your job and devote yourself entirely to, you know, politics. So I don’t buy any of your argument.

I totally get your argument but how do we address issues where there's implicit bias being applied to our work? AKA mostly white, males programming in potentially biased features.

Work is not a politically/religiously clean room environment whether we like it or not.

>> AKA mostly white, males programming in potentially biased features.

Compared to the US population, white people are significantly underrepresented [0] in US software development jobs and overrepresented by Asians. "Most" is technically true at > 50% but it is hardly reflective of US racial demographics.




[0]: as are black and hispanic people

Your data has no place here

That's a distinction without a difference as white people still make up the majority.

So you're against equal representation?

>Work is not a politically/religiously clean room environment whether we like it or not.

This is exactly true; I really don't understand the opposite point of view (and I'm happy if anyone can enlighten me; I'm happy for good-faith discussion). It's not hard for anyone to admit that our society, the very organization of people along economic, class, race, and gender lines is 'biased' in some way, that the equality of the law does not reflect in how people are treated. Why do people think that the door to the lobby of your workplace is like a magical portal into another dimension, where these influences/biases/perceptions no longer hold any sway?

I understand that this argument can be extended - for instance, we might say that the public/private distinction is just as arbitrary, but we have good reasons to respect, say, sexual autonomy in the private realm. Do we have similarly good reasons, speaking in terms of what a well-meaning person in society might be concerned about for why 'politics' (speaking broadly as issues from 'the outside' that manifest within the company and issues of the company itself) should enjoy a similar distinction?

We spend one third of our adult lives at work. Much of that time is spent on interacting with others in some way. Should that really be closed off to 'politics'? Is man a political animal (Aristotle's words, not mine!) or not?

There is absolutely a political aspect to work. It is entirely relevant to discuss it. It is also entirely legitimate for an employer to say "talk about politics after the whistle blows, I am paying money for your attention right now."

Work is a third of your life, but it's the third of your life that is about doing what somebody else wants you to do in exchange for funding the other two thirds. That's not true for everybody, but it's a rule of thumb.

The other week I moved houses. I hired some movers who charged by the hour. If, instead of moving my furniture, they'd stood around talking about politics, and said "how can you tell us to get back to work instead of talking politics, when labor is an inherently political subject!" I would have been angry. Most people would, I think.

The big problem with this discussion is that it is inherently very divisive. Should the nation invade a "malicious" regime to "free" the people or wait for them to find their own way, even if it might lead to more suffering? Is Islam or Atheism the right way? There is no good answer but there are very strong opinions. Discussing those at work will lead to infighting and disagreements between coworkers, as well as a lot of time spent (or, from a company-profit-perspective, wasted) on political activism. Especially since the people with these strong opinions a very happy to annoy you to help their cause or attack you for "standing by and letting it happen". This is bad for everyone involved.

That being said, there's no clear no line, I agree with you. Some political issues are related to the work place - unions come to mind - and those should not be excluded. Disallowing those is probably illegal in most places anyway and Basecamp, by the way, did explicitly exclude issues which are related to work.

But I think the general idea is that yes, you should keep politics (and religion) separated from work, as far as possible. That does not mean that you can not talk about it on your lunch break or after work or that you're not allowed to unionize. But you should not make your coworker uncomfortable because she/he likes guns and you think only maniacs do so.

>We spend one third of our adult lives at work. Much of that time is spent on interacting with others in some way. Should that really be closed off to 'politics'? Is man a political animal (Aristotle's words, not mine!) or not?

It's exactly because everyone else must spend time with other people at work that they should keep their politics out of it - their right to work without being harassed for political causes is greater than someone's wish to discuss it at work. That's not why people were hired for the job, its not related to the job, leave it at home.

I am of course very much against harassment at work - I wouldn't want anyone to be the subject of relentless political statements - however, not all (and I daresay not most) political discussion is harassment. I tried to address the idea of "not relevant to the job" by highlighting that these things are relevant to "the job" where "the job" is a facet of both our society and our life - it is not separate from it, nor is "the job" a special realm immune from political influences. "The job" is political, to the extent where economic, gender, racial, sexual, etc. relations are already political on 'the outside'.

The main point of my comment is that saying politics is "not related to the job" is both ahistorical and incorrect, very much in the same way that ethical concerns relating to building bomb is just as "related to the job" as what material the bomb's shell ought to be made of.

Let's take a step back; are ethical concerns part of "the job"? Why or why not?

>I tried to address the idea of "not relevant to the job" by highlighting that these things are relevant to "the job" where "the job" is a facet of both our society and our life

Yes, you pulled a word game to justify your position from the outset and are restating it. I disagree. Just because you consider it important to every part of your life, doesn't mean you need to bring it up in your job. It's not an overriding thing for everyone else who doesn't share your level of alarmism and the outlook that economic, gender, racial, sexual issues define every part of your existence. I'm at work - I don't want to care about any of your racial, sexual, etc issues. I will treat you professionally and I want you to do the same.

>The main point of my comment is that saying politics is "not related to the job" is both ahistorical and incorrect, very much in the same way that ethical concerns relating to building bomb is just as "related to the job" as what material the bomb's shell ought to be made of.

Then find a different job. Maybe with an NGO who shares your causes.

>Let's take a step back; are ethical concerns part of "the job"? Why or why not?

Ethical concerns are part of my profession, but they don't define my life and my ethical concerns don't define other people's ethical or professional concerns.

Just treat people professionally and don't bring identity politics into the workplace.

"We could increase our potential audience by X% and our revenue by Y% by changing feature XYZ to a way that this group does not find so off-putting"

All companies want as many customers as possible. It would not be hard to make a case for something that would create more customers.

Talk to other employees about it outside work and/or using personal accounts?

Or talk to management (this is not a moratorium on bringing up what employees see as issues with management, this is obviously about communications between employees which is tangentially work related at best.

It doesn't need to be a clean room, but a lot of people have been treating it like the equivalent of a polling place/church (more the former, I think most businesses and employees still know enough to avoid the latter unless they are explicit about it). I don't need to know your political leanings at work, I don't need to know your religious beliefs, and for the same reason I don't need to know your sexual orientation, preferences or kinks. You can make it obvious to me, and I don't care, but work is not the appropriate place for a discussion of any of those things unless the discussion is management or HR telling you that a) none of that matters for your job so you shouldn't care about other people's details with respect to that, b) to stop if you're making it an issue with people, and c) if you don't like that, take a hike. The only other case is when you're telling them someone else won't follow those rules.

> how do we address issues where there's implicit bias being applied to our work?

my experience is that most workplaces and social spaces I'm in are systemically liberal, "reality has a liberal bias" abounds

>I totally get your argument but how do we address issues where there's implicit bias being applied to our work?

What kind of implicit bias do you mean?

Nope. You can still discuss politics over beers. Over barbecue. Over the phone on your own time. At your favorite place to volunteer. At your grocery store... Just please don’t do it where others are trapped having to hear you without any way out.

If you don’t want to hear opinions, work with robots not people.

Seriously, I get it, being ranted at sucks, but your a human, they’re a human, just say “I’m not really interested” and walk away.

Relying on company policy for this is a strange offloading of your personal social responsibility and relationships.

I understand and appreciate some work cultures are toxic, but I think it’s fair to expect people to taking a bit of personal responsibility for interacting like a normal person too.

You’re not wrong. That’s been my approach. I’ve left two jobs over this, and have found a place where I genuinely like all of my coworkers, and we pretty much steer clear of unprofessional topics.

There’s an old saying in the south: “never talk politics or religion around the supper table.” I think that it’s generally a good rule of thumb to avoid those topics when in a situation where you have a captive audience.

It has become socially inappropriate to not want to talk about certain things. A company policy prevents things from getting personal.

Comments like this make me worry that a lot of people don’t have lives outside of the office or their work identity.

Or maybe people keep their friend groups so tightly curated by ideology these days that the only chance they have to argue about politics is at work?

Possibly true. Back during the election you'd read about people disowning family members. Probably hyperbole, but still insane

In the abstract, sure, an important sentiment; but applying Wiesel's words to this debate seems like the very height of hubris. No matter how fervently I might agree with some activists' goals, I am very dubious that Basecamp's old policy was actually improving the world, or that their new policy is hurting it.

There's a difference between not taking a side at all, and compartmentalizing so that some things are expressed in some parts of you life and some aren't.

They said employees are not expected to curtail political speech in personal contexts or using personal accounts, just for official work accounts, where work communication is done.

That was explicitly stated, and it was also stated that employees are encouraged to speak their mind politically on their personal accounts.

This is a company setting expectations about what work time and work resources should be used for, with that explicitly not including political discussions. I think that's entirely within the expectations of most employers and employees.

Firstly, who defines the "sides". There is a massive amount of US presence online which often reduces to Democrat vs Republican.

Except for those of us outside the US, who have no interest in US politics are often been told if you don't pick a side you are siding with evil.

Secondly, that statement is basically public cohersion. If you are told, you have to pick - victim or oppressor - absolutely noone is going to publicly pick oppressor. Its kafaesque in its simiplicity.

1. Voting is done in private for a reason.

2. You discussing politics with your colleague has 0 effect on political decisions.

Trying to keep politics out of work != Never discussing politics, and refusing to choose a side

And I'm saying this as somebody who's very critical of how Basecamp has handled this situation.

Choosing a side is how you get polarisation.

If the trouble with the world is too much polarisation, perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to take a side.

But do we really have to draw these lines at work, during work hours? The office is not a public square. It’s not a place where you give feedback to people in power...

Causality is backwards here. Which side is oppressed and which is the victim is a deeply political question; speaking out takes the side of victims because the widespread political support builds the shared understanding that their victimhood exists.

> you’re choosing to take the side of those who prefer political decisions to be made by a small elite, without feedback from people like us.

If you're talking about life in general, yes, but "don't talk politics at work" is very different from "leaving all politics to a small elite because they never get feedback from people like us"

Making a neutral web where the combined decisions of the millions of users determines the outcome is not giving power to a "small elite"

Who is the oppressor and who is the victim?

Some things aren't worth weighing in on.

For example, you go to work and some of your more braindead colleagues are earnestly insisting that keeping a list of amusing customer names is the first step on the road to genocide.

Do you: (a) get involved in this nonsense, knowing from past experience how furious they'll get if you disagree, or (b) ignore this stupidity and get on with your job?

Personally, I'd pick the latter.

> They let this fester - they were complicit in allowing this dumb-ass list to be circulated around the company for years, and when it became an issue, they refused to take any action on it.

After reading the article linked here in the comments a few times - "What really happened at BaseCamp" - I actually think that people who make a fuss about the list are dumb-ass. I mean, it's a list of funny names! Put mine on it, if you want! Anyone who takes offence to it, needs to chill out, forget about woke Pyramid of Hate and stop bothering other people

(for the record, pre-Nazi Germany had hate speech laws, and Hitler did write strong anti-semitic messages in his first book long before coming to power - this idea that "jokes will escalate to genocide" is pure woke fantasy & narrative that they use to promote their cause and bully other people into submission)

From DHH at https://world.hey.com/dhh/let-it-all-out-78485e8e:

> In fact, reviewing the original list in question, the vast majority of names on it fall into the category of the two specific examples above. It's not a list of, say, primarily Asian names. Out of the 78 names listed on the last version we were able to recover, just 6 names appear to be Asian.

> So connecting this to the shootings in Atlanta, because the Asian victims of that atrocity had their names misspelled in news reports, is exactly the kind of linkage I'd like us to avoid when we analyze our mistakes together at work.

The Verge is lying about things as usual, painting an inaccurate picture of interracial conflict.

> "lol Bigbuttson is a funny name", and it's deplorable.

Hyperbole. One European making fun of another European is hardly deplorable.

Seems like pretty innocuous lulz to me.

Someday you will look back on a world where it was okay to laugh at things, and perhaps you will even remember writing this comment.

I'm generally perceived as a pretty funny guy, I joke around with both my reports and those I report to, and, yes, even with customers all the time. I've found that I don't need to diminish others to do this, there's plenty of other crap to joke about, like the quality of our products, how long it takes to get stuff done, the UX of the tools we share, dumb programming trends. It's easy to laugh without it being at the expense of others.

I'm glad that you wrote this, because "punch up, stupid" is just not that difficult a concept in humor.

Joking about the quality of your products is hurtful to the people who made them. Joking about dumb programming trends is offensive to the people who find them useful. You're still happily diminishing people, only now you won't even do it to their faces.

Criticism of a product or trend is not the same as criticism of its creator or users--if it even is valid criticism rather than social noise

I'm joking about the quality of the products I make, to be clear.

I would say it's actually hard to make jokes that aren't at the expense of others. Otherwise, everybody would be doing it.

It's fine to laugh at things. But circulating a list with customer's real names that you think is funny is very unprofessional. I'm sure my coworkers and I have had a laugh now and then about a name that is strange to us. But we wouldn't post it up somewhere and keep making fun on a long term basis. That's a different level.

It's very easy to find jokes material without making fun of other people.

You just have to have that mindset. Make fun of yourself instead of others, for instance.

They were laughing at people, not things.

They were laughing at people's names.

They were amused by a double meaning found in an arrangement of alphabetic characters.

It's really not a big deal.

It's not a big deal that a bunch of so-called adults were using company time, data, and resources to act like elementary schoolyard bullies making fun of people's names?

Inevitably that sort of thing gets out, and insulting your customers' names is not really a great business strategy.

Beyond that, I wouldn't like working with people who are so clearly children. And not even good children.

It can't be bullying if the person (that would be bullied) isn't even aware of it.

Source: I was actually bullied as a kid. I couldn't care less if people are making fun of my name (or anything else about me) without me knowing about it.

If I found out someone thought my name was funny enough to make it on a list, I'd be curious and probably want to know more about why. Offense doesn't even cross my mind.

If a company ensures that everybody needs to act professionally all the time then even talk about politic will be done in professional matter. But as soon as you allow unprofessional behavior or talk regarding any topic (deals, customers, code comments, etc) you will have trouble with politic.

Is Bigbuttson an actual name? That is funny to an English speaker.

Just as funny as something like Takeshita, which is a real Japanese surname.

If I was working with someone with that last name I definitely wouldn’t bring it up.

Can confirm, went to (an English-speaking) school with a Takeshita. Juvenile jokes were had.

It sounds better than it reads with the appropriate pronunciation, but with a western accent.

If his first name was Bigsby I’d probably be laughing too. Though I doubt I’d put that in writing, in particular in anything remotely corporate related.

It's also pretty offensive to your customer if that's their name.

Maybe it’s a pornography company...? Maybe people should chill the fuck out with the constant thirst for being offended.

Deliberately not an actual name, but I'm guessing the actual one he referenced is along those lines (he specifically mentioned it being Nordic)

Not according to google (nsfw)

What list? What’s the back story!

But where is the actual list? The only bit of information marginally interesting in this stupid drama is the list itself, yet it is nowhere to be found! Moreover, how can a "list of best names ever" be so troubling, let alone racist? I don't understand.

I imagine people are wary of circulating the list because it's private data - people's names - from the Basecamp client list. It also sounds like those names might well be easy to Google, so they wouldn't even be anonymous. They shouldn't even have been shared internally, let alone externally.

The idea that it's racist is that the names were only funny to English speakers, because they sounded like English words they consider funny, from the reporting I'd guess things like butt, dick or fart. That feels really condescending and exclusionary if you're on the receiving end of it.

> The idea that it's racist is that the names were only funny to English speakers, because they sounded like English words they consider funny

This makes no sense to me: aren't native English-speakers of many races? Aren't there non-English speakers of many races also? Moreover, this happens with any pair of languages. I'm not a native English speaker and there are some English names that sound extremely hilarious in my language. I see myself compiling such a list just for fun. I wouldn't expect English people to be offended by this silly thing, which is inevitable: when there are different languages, there are word collisions and some of them are funny.

> people's names - from the Basecamp client list.

Ouch, this is different, then! I did not pay attention to this detail. Now I understand why the list of names does not circulate (but still, I don't get what could be so bad about it).

According to their response, it seems some of the names on the list (according to the founder, something like 6 of the 72) were phonetically funny in English but Asian in origin (as opposed to the rest, which were mostly European and phonetically funny because of suffixing "son" to something that sounded funny). The implication as I understood it, as when this was pointed out as to why while it was an inappropriate list it wasn't necessarily inappropriate in a racial way one of the employees responded by initiated an HR discrimination case against founder, is that the people that saw it as a racial issue are not happy to have it classified as not one.

>but still, I don't get what could be so bad about it

Making fun of people in a way that isn’t offensive is a tight line to walk interpersonally and best avoided altogether in professional circumstances. This is particularly true if you’re making fun of people for fundamental aspects of their identity, like names. How would you feel if your name was on a list somewhere and people were laughing at it and cracking jokes about it regularly? Some people might be okay with this, but I think others might be rather offended by it.

> I wouldn't expect English people to be offended by this silly thing...

I imagine it depends to a large extent on whether you've heard the same shitty joke about your name - hur dur your name sounds like butt! - from far too many people in your professional life. Remember, this is a list of client names that was created solely for the purposes of ridicule while being passed around internal Basecamp networks. In terms of racism, I'm white and British, and it definitely has a flavour of the cultural racism that was prevalent during the British Empire which, for all its differences, America inherited.

>there are some English names that sound extremely hilarious in my language.

I'd love to hear some, that sounds great.

Hah, cool.


So the fact that the Chevy nova didn't sell in spanish speaking countries because the name means "no go" is racist too, then, right? I'm just applying the same logic.

> A popular but false urban legend claims that the vehicle sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because no va literally translates to "it doesn't go". This has since been debunked, however, as Nova (one word) means "nova" in Spanish just as in English. In fact, the car actually sold quite well in Mexico, as well as many Central and South American countries. Nova was also the name of a successful brand of gasoline sold in Mexico at the time, further proving that the name confusion was not a problem.


You won’t find Mitsubishi Pajero in the Spanish speaking countries though…

Or Mazda Laputa, or Nissan Moco.

Super racist!

I dont think the relation "best names ever" -> "no politics at work" is that straightforward. There had to be a lot of escalation in the discussion internally, and then political issues were raised.

Ya, it almost seems like once the criticism of the list took on a somewhat political component (people saying it was racist), that the critics were silenced with the no politics rule.

This is basically what happened according to available info [1]. DHH, one of the co-founders, admitted the list was a mistake but aggressively pushed back on the political assertion by some employees that the list and the people involved were contributing to genocidal attitudes. As DHH pushed back, he went so far as to dig up old employee messages and repost them publicly to argue that the employees making accusations about genocidal attitudes were themselves hypocrites. Less than two weeks later, Jason Fried announced the new company policies.

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

According to the summary articles posted upthread, that seems to be what happened. The list was reinterpreted in the context of Stop Asian Hate to be racist. Which is not exactly fair given that the list is 10 years old. One should judge by the standards of the time, not the changing standards of today. And reading between the lines, that's essentially what the Basecamp founders said too: (paraphrasing) "this was a joke in bad taste made by people who aren't even at the company anymore. we're sorry that it happened, but it's water under the bridge." Then someone filed a racism complaint with HR against the founders and it escalated from there.

These are personal details of actual people. I sincerely hope it stays as confidential as possible.

The fact is we don’t know what actual behaviour this is about. I can imagine circumstances where circulating such a list was questionable but harmless fun. I can imagine circumstances in which it involved egregious and tasteless taunting and offensively derogatory behaviour. I just don’t know.

>Moreover, how can a "list of best names ever" be so troubling, let alone racist?

Well I imagine the list had a lot of people from certain ethnicities...

It didn’t. See DHHs blog post for numbers.

> Out of the 78 names listed on the last version we were able to recover, just 6 names appear to be Asian.

Really? DHH mentioned the vast majority of names were Nordic or English. Isn't that racist against the Nordic and English people?

Most people don’t consider discrimination inside European / Asian / African groups as racism - rather, discrimination between those groups.

I don't think the posts specified the ethnicities of the people who made the lists. Are you sure it is intra-group and not inter-group?

It's likely Basecamp demographics match the US, where Europeans are the majority ethnicity.

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