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One of their iOS devs who left has been incredibly vocal about how he no longer felt like this was somewhere he could work because of this policy and its effects, so I think you're plainly wrong (or insisting that there's no way we could take a person at their word). https://twitter.com/georgeclaghorn

It's a lot more likely that the 1/3rd that left both left because they were unhappy with the policy, and because they thought they could get jobs elsewhere. I would bet there are some people who stayed behind who didn't believe they could find a job this good soon but who also disagreed with the policy. Which, I get it.

6 months free money is not as much as you'd think; a new job hunt takes 3, even for talented, in-demand people.




A number of their employees were very vocal from the moment the post went live. They expressed how disappointed they are. You can literally hear the despair in two employees voice in a 90s podcast episode where they announce its hiatus.

Basecamp was a company built on reputation, and people joined on that and then the leaders just flushed that all away. Its not surprising that opinionated and outspoken people - the kind of people Basecamp courted - left.


Despair over not talking about politics on work channels? Are they absolutely consumed with politics that they can’t focus on actual work tasks? I have worked with someone who insists on inserting a political topic or headline into every meeting and it’s distracting and exhausting


'not talking about politics' is a straw man for the actual issue. They have a list of funny names, got called out on it, and didn't like that. "politics" implies "we dont like Amy Klobuchar" or whatever, but it wasn't that.

It was about "what do we tolerate", "who do we welcome", "who are we as a company"? They didn't like their employees defining this for them, because it forced them to think things they didn't want to think about.


> They have a list of funny names, got called out on it, and didn't like that.

On the contrary, as far as I can tell (i.e., based on information released by founders and employees), they didn't object at all to being called out on it. Everybody at Basecamp, the founders included, thought the list was wrong and inappropriate.

What they did object to was the discussion being escalated to genocide and that there appear to have been employees who refused to climb down from that.

It does become impossible to have a constructive discussion, particularly about sensitive or controversial matters, when some people involved want to escalate to the most extreme position imaginable. It tends to mute other viewpoints.

This used to be well understood on the internet, and is the reason Godwin's Law is explicitly stated (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law#:~:text=Godwin'....).


that isn’t really a problem with politics though is it?

it feels like a problem with the discussions participants listening and speaking skills.

if someone immediately jumps to a negative extreme then its likely they feel quite emotionally distressed about the topic. if you notice someone is emotionally charged about a topic (either yourself or a participant) then we should seek to discover the shadow conversation that is being had. what is the true source of the emotional distress.

instead we see it as weakness and press harder.

removing politics won’t solve that.


I don't disagree with you, but I can also see how that could become a huge problem in a workplace.

It can be pretty frustrating when people debate in this fashion about work-related matters. E.g., nowadays I find it particularly tiresome when people frame technical discussions (such as one database platform or front-end technology versus another) in moral terms. It's incredibly unhelpful.

It has the potential to be even more disruptive for non-work matters (though the original "Best names ever" discussion was very much work-related).

Still, whilst I'm not especially critical of the position DHH and JF have taken - though initially I found myself back and forth on it - I do of course wonder if a more nuanced resolution that alienated fewer people (I don't mean on twitter and other social media, which is mostly just noise: I mean at Basecamp) could have been found than something that feels like blanket ban, even though it's not really.

Perhaps they tried - I don't know.


i would love to read an example of a technical discussion framed in moral terms. if you’ve got any off the top of your head, i’d appreciate you commenting them.

i suspect, a lot like becoming conscious of the impact the food we choose to eat has on things external to our local context (climate, animal welfare etc), technology decisions choices could be seen through such a lens.

as Frederic Bastiat wrote, there is “that which is seen and that which is not seen”.


You've honestly never heard a discussion between software developers where people label use of a particularly language, technology or technique X, "wrong", or said something like, "if you're doing Y, you're doing it wrong"? You've never seen the shade people throw at PHP?

Where do you work? Can I join?

More seriously, if you (have nothing better to do than) look through my comment history you'll find a discussion from a few weeks or months back where I chided somebody for saying (I paraphrase), "if you're patching directly in production you're doing it wrong." Granted doing so is far from ideal, and not something I've ever done with any kind of regularity, but occasionally it's the quickest way to resolve an issue whilst you follow proper process with a more involved investigation and fix.

I've found this varies a lot by company I've worked for: it doesn't happen where I work now much at all, but other companies I've worked at many technology choices are either "right" or "wrong". I just don't have the energy or patience for it these days.


ah, i took moral discussion to be code for political discussion, not actually moral (good vs bad) haha.

in that case, yes. people get dogmatic about the strangest things. depending on my level of give-a-fuck i sometimes dive in deeper, “why do you think this is bad?” etc.

sometimes theres a decent learning opp either for me, discovering a new way that something can cause problems or for them, learning to apply some nuance to their beliefs.


Absolutely. I definitely prefer for the discussion to start off dispassionately as opposed to having to drag it there, but I completely agree with you.


A lot of discussions about the environmental impact of proof-of-work Bitcoin mining would fit the bill.


And that would perhaps be fair, although cryptocurrency discussions range far wider than technical concerns.

And that's quite a long way from what I'm talking about, which are technical discussions that are more day to day concerns for many software developers in the industries and types of application I've worked with (e.g., desktop software tools and web applications/services in sectors such as telecoms, life science, payment processing, retail systems, data analytics).


If that is the case, banning politics feels like the nuclear option. And regardless of the the intent I think the consequences will yield the result parent notes.

Other companies are able to handle peer conversations without making such a broad and vague category as politics taboo. Like you can enforce a code of conduct and treat speech of genocide as being in violation and issue a citation for a minor offense and terminate repeated or hard offenders. You can also enforce stricter speech standards on open channels and announcements while allowing workers to have free conversation in their own opt-in echo chambers.

Nuking all political dialogs just feels like a bad HR policy.


> You can also enforce stricter speech standards on open channels and announcements while allowing workers to have free conversation in their own opt-in echo chambers.

I think this is what the policy amounts to though, right? They're banning political discussion on their shared work Basecamp, but not anywhere else, and are even encouraging it in other private and opt-in channels, as well as employees' personal blogs, social media, etc.


And also banning any DEI initiatives, banning any and all committees, and a host of other changes that essentially boil down to "shut up and do what we tell you".


> banning any DEI initiatives

That's not actually what they've said though, is it? They're moving responsibility for DEI back into HR (they call it People Ops)[0]. I have pretty mixed feelings on HR as a company function[1] and choice of profession, but that's far from a ban on DEI initiatives.

(I don't dispute your comment that committees have been dissolved.)

[0] The original "Changes at Basecamp" blog post literally says, "The responsibility for DEI work returns to Andrea, our head of People Ops,": https://world.hey.com/jason/changes-at-basecamp-7f32afc5


Fair enough, banning any employee organization of DEI work (outside of the one HR person).


> On the contrary, as far as I can tell (i.e., based on information released by founders and employees), they didn't object at all to being called out on it.

> What they did object to was the discussion being escalated to genocide and that there appear to have been employees who refused to climb down from that.

The topic brought up was the Pyramid of Hate, and I'm going to presume linking the list of names to one of the base levels of bias. DHH is the one who escalates that point to say, well this must be a fireable offense since it is on this pyramid with genocide on the top, which is really completely ignoring the point of the pyramid and not at all what employees probably said. An employee actually tries to explain this, that "dehumanizing behavior begins with very small actions". DHH ignores the point and completely unprofessionally and unethically (imagine the CEO of your company doing this) publicly shares some old chat log of the employee participating in making fun of the names, as if this employee wouldn't be aware of that and probably regretful of it.

So yes, an employee tried to explain what might be wrong with DHH's thinking and yes he did not like it at all and responded inappropriately and he was the one who wanted to "escalate to the most extreme position imaginable."

Here is the full-text from the article that described what happened:

"But Hansson went further, taking exception to the use of the pyramid of hate in a workplace discussion. 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.

Hansson wanted to acknowledge the situation as a failure and move on. But when employees who had been involved in the list wanted to continue talking about it, he grew exasperated. “You are the person you are complaining about,” he thought.

Employees took a different view. In a response to Hansson’s post, one employee noted that the way we treat names — especially foreign names — is deeply connected to social and racial hierarchies. Just a few weeks earlier, eight people had been killed in a shooting spree in Atlanta. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent, and their names had sometimes been mangled in press reports. (The Asian American Journalists Association responded by issuing a pronunciation guide.) The point was that dehumanizing behavior begins with very small actions, and it did not seem like too much to ask Basecamp’s founders to acknowledge that.

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."


I haven't seen the employees "escalation to genocide", but as I understand it, it was an employee sharing the ADL pyramid of hate -- that such attitudes such as stereotypes were foundational to further hate.


Yes, the ADL pyramid is a modern Godwin’s law. You only bring it out to state that “making fun of someone is the foundation of genocide”.


Nobody is doing that. What people are saying, in this thread even, is that making fun of names is innocent fun.

The pyramid is intended to show that its foundational to hate.

Thats then being immediately taken out of context to equate stereotypes with genocide as a straw man argument. In this thread.

Nobody here or at Basecamp made such an argument. Its entirely made up to shut down discussion.


> The pyramid is intended to show that its foundational to hate.

Thought is also the foundation below that. In fact, thought is much more requisite to hate rather than making fun of something.

Shall we update the pyramid and show that thought is the foundation to all hate so we can show it whenever someone thinks?


Reductio ad absurdum


> as far as I can tell

The thing is, that is not very far at all. You were not involved in the situation at all.


Well, obviously I can only comment based on information that's been released publicly by DHH, JF, and their employees (both current and former). What would you prefer we all evaluated the situation based on?

Some employees have been critical on social media of the policy changes. None of them has suggested that DHH or JF thought it was OK that the names list existed. Again, all available evidence suggests that nobody who is still at Basecamp or who was there formerly, including the founders, thinks the names list is OK.

What exactly are you questioning here?

Because you evidently don't know any more than I do yet, based on that same body of information, you seem willing to insinuate a much shakier conclusion though you lack the courage to state it explicitly (because I think you know that it's not backed up by any evidence). You're not adding anything to the discussion other than noise.


I am questioning why you feel the need to weigh in on something you are not in a position to have an informed opinion on.


In theory no more or less informed than anyone else in the discussion. This is a discussion forum: we all have as much or as little right to comment here as anyone else taking part in this conversation.


> They have a list of funny names, got called out on it, and didn't like that

Not at all true - they dealt with it extensively internally, agreed it shouldn't have happened, etc. But folks kept analogizing the list of funny name to genocide.


Is this a quote that comes from somewhere? I see multiple people talking about this 'analogizing a list of funny names to genocide'.

I think its been properly debunked multiple times in the comments here to say its untrue. Just wondering where it comes from that people keep commenting it so strongly.


People making such a fuss over a list of funny names? Yes, that's office fun you wouldn't want your customers to know about, which I guess makes it a bit unprofessional. But still it's absolutely innocent fun. Whoever makes it into an existential political issue has lost it, seriously.


> But still it's absolutely innocent fun.

Not if you're one of the injured parties.


Funny-names list survivors, let's not offend them with the improper nomenclature.


Yeah, I’m sure I’ve been on a few over time and yet still an inner drive towards pattern matching and spurious associations leads me to moments of light-heartedness tempered by not wanting to cause offense.


Truly these are first world problems


This is truly becoming an issue in the first world, soon the biggus dickus sketch from The Life of Brian will be censored not to offend Richards across the country


Making fun of ethnic names isn't 'innocent fun' when your company purports to be diverse, equal, and inclusive.

If you don't believe me, well, DHH himself agrees with this: it's a problem when you acknowledge the pyramid of hate, as he does.

What's at issue is that he acknowledges all of this, then refuses to recognize any wrongdoing, dresses down employees in public, and claims that "political talk" -- about the company, about whether these practices are correct, about whether this is an inclusive and equal place -- is banned.


I'm not sure where you read all this. In his post [1] DHH says:

1) that the list was a mistake and that they've learned and moved on.

2) that "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"

3) that "the vast majority" of the names in the list were in fact of Anglo-Saxon or white background.

So he acknowledges, apologises and de-escalates. And points out that there is nothing racial about the list. What should he have done more, or differently?

[1] https://world.hey.com/dhh/let-it-all-out-78485e8e


My take on what the disagreement is about is that while there is agreement that the "Best Names Ever" list was inappropriate, there is disagreement about _why_ it was inappropriate. The founders seem to think it was inappropriate because making fun of your customers behind their back is not nice, but that it was not racist. The other contingent seems to think that in addition to being disrespectful of their customers, it was also racist. That contingent feels that in order to work towards a less racist future it is important to acknowledge past acts of racism.

Two other details I find interesting:

  - In the post you linked to, DHH specifically talks about the Asian names on the list.

  - The only attributed statements I've seen from any non-founder employees are from Jane Yang.
My guess here is that Jane is Asian, that she is likely one of the most involved employees in this situation, and that she feels that the inclusion of Asian names on the list constitutes anti-Asian racism. DHH clearly disagrees about the last point. If I'm right, this is a case where a white man is telling an Asian woman that comments she believes reflect anti-Asian bias are not racist. In my observation, white men telling minorities what is and is not racist is one of the surest ways to enrage those who feel passionately about racial justice issues.


> In my observation, white men telling minorities what is and is not racist is one of the surest ways to enrage those who feel passionately about racial justice issues.

Might well be, and yet this doesn't mean the "white men" are always wrong. If the vast majority of the names in the list belong to Western whites, and only a few to Asians, does it make sense to claim the list is racist? I don't think so. And why should someone admit (and thus confirm) a non-existent but very serious moral failing, just to appease an angry employee? With all that it entails: once something has been confirmed to be a moral failing, the same judgement automatically applies to all similar instances. We're seeing where this is going.


Thanks for sharing that - I hadn't read that particular post and it's very thoughtful and well articulated, and facts there are indeed surprising, such as the vast majority of the list being Anglo-Saxon.

To your question, I think it is the consequences of closing such a discussion that he leaves unaddressed. Does the company still value your opinion? Do you matter?

I honestly think, as DHH hints, that being able to 'rehumanize' might avoid even having to ask these questions.


> I think it is the consequences of closing such a discussion that he leaves unaddressed. Does the company still value your opinion? Do you matter?

It seems he clearly proved that those opinions matter, if he recognized the mistake, recognized the validity of some of the points made, and apologised.

What I've observed in this and other well known instances of "social justice" protests (I hope it's the best neutral term to describe them) is that there seems to be no endgame accepted by the protesters. No apologies are ever accepted without an explicit or implicit transfer of power to them. An example of an explicit transfer of power is setting up some commission or bureaucratic structure where the protesters or people they trust will be enrolled; and resignations represent an implicit transfer of power (the recognized power to make someone lose their job, which is not a small one).

Compare this with normal workplace dynamics. You can complain inside your workplace for many work-related reasons (workload, bad management, pay, etc.). Your complaints can be openly discussed, legitimately rejected, or acted upon. But in any case a change in the hierarchy or in the company structure is not something you expect. It can happen (very rarely) or not, and you might be satisfied with the responses or the changes or not, and if you don't like the answers after a while you might decide to move somewhere else. You don't consider unacceptable that the company doesn't see or address your point of view. At some point the discussion ends and that's it. This is not what happens on social justice complaints, and I think it's toxic (in the workplace, but in general everywhere).


I can't really comment about other "social justice" protests because frankly I don't really care about them, but yes this absolutely is about power.

What DHH neglects to address is that he's claiming the power to silence. "we had to close down this channel" or "discussions are being moved".

I like your idea of comparing this to a normal workplace dynamic. What if you get the rare change you wanted to see, but in exchange there is a new policy: no more discussions like this? Yes, your ideas about devops or whatever were fine, we're making a change, and now please never discuss our product development process again.

At the very least, does the change you 'won' feel genuine?


This all seems very absurd to me. I can't imagine working at a company where I'd even be notified if CS had kept a list of funny names, much less expect owners to weigh in, repeatedly, about the attendant moral issues.

It's unprofessional, shouldn't have been done, we're stopping it, if people recreate it that will have appropriate consequences. Done. What's the point of even mentioning this trivial thing again?


Power. The point is power. Step 1: note an issue. Step 2: show how the issue is on a direct path to genocide. Step 3: as the issue is now connected to genocides, it should never happen again. Obviously the best way to ensure that is to have someone special (or, say, a committee) in a position of power.

I'm not even saying it's a cynical play, it's extremely easy to forget to reflect on it and just think you're doing the right thing all along. The outcome is still the same though.


> Making fun of ethnic names

They're not necessarily ethnic, some people just have funny names:

https://theawesomedaily.com/50-funny-names-that-are-so-unfor...

https://www.newidea.com.au/funny-names

In your opinion just how genocidal are these articles on the pyramid of hate?


> They're not necessarily ethnic

The first list you posted has a bunch of "funny" East Asian names. That stuff was racist in "Sixteen Candles," there's no excuse for it in a modern workplace.


Your links have nothing to do with what basecamp did?


They're lists of funny names, same as what Basecamp did.


What basecamp did "represents a serious, collective, and repeated failure at Basecamp [...] counter to creating an inclusive workplace. Nobody should think that maintaining such a list is okay or sanctioned behavior here."[1]

[1] https://world.hey.com/dhh/let-it-all-out-78485e8e


Yes, and that's referred to a list of funny names. It's still not clear to me in what the "ground fact" (the list of funny names) is different from the links posted above.

I'll be frank- and I know that I'm risking the mistake of reading just what I want to read-, I think that those "counter to creating an inclusive workplace" and the general tone ("serious collective failure" etc.) are just nods to the social justice culture, and are meant to appease and concede some ground to the opponent. I don't think (also because it is clearly stated elsewhere in the same post) that there was anything intrinsically racist in that list, or anything that made it substantially different from those examples above. Apart from the obvious difference that these are customers, and it's not nice to secretly make fun of them.


Despair over the controversy of an internal “funny names” list turned into an external PR move.


That's not what happened, nor is it why people were upset by the founders' actions.


How was Basecamp's reputation built on social justice issues and fanning flames on internal message boards? I thought their rep was based on good product development


> 6 months free money is not as much as you'd think; a new job hunt takes 3, even for talented, in-demand people.

That still looks like 3 months free money. That is a considerable offer no matter a person's politics.

Occam's razor is most of the people who left did so because they didn't like management, because that is the normal reason people leave jobs. However, it is very noticeable that if someone was looking for a reason to leave for any unrelated reason, this was the perfect opportunity.


Occam's Razor is not an appropriate tool to make the point you are trying to make.


Not sure why you are getting down voted. Occam's Razor is heavily abused and misused in the majority of cases, treating it like some axiomatic mathematical principle and misapplying it to human behavior.


Yeah, this is exactly right:

1) Employees left for ideological reasons.

2) Employees left out of self interest.

There are reasons I believe it’s predominantly 1, but neither explanation is more convoluted. Misuse of an excellent thinking tool.


Those aren’t actually alternative explanation; values define self interest, they aren’t orthogonal to it.


Tweet: "I’m planning on taking some time for myself before looking for new opportunities"

Seems like someone enjoying a break, and glad to have timed it to get a huge severance package.

Remember, it's not 6months pay to sit in prison, it's 6monrhs pay to do anything they want, including a hobby project, child rearing, a busoner idea, education... plus a few hours a week of job searching.


Or it's somebody who is so upset and shocked to the core about what has just happened that they need time to grieve for the best job of their lives becoming intolerable very quickly.


That’s not my experience watching friends go through the full cycle. The tech employment market for talented programmers appears to be the hottest I’ve ever seen and I worked through the late 90s tech boom where literal used car salespeople were being hired into tech only to be back selling cars by summer of 2000.


Talented people will also have higher standards (want large compensation package, or interesting work, or something else), and figuring out whether a job opening is up to that standard takes time. The result is that even for developers in high demand it takes a lot of time to find a new job.


> 6 months free money is not as much as you'd think; a new job hunt takes 3, even for talented, in-demand people.

If you're a developer, that's enough runway to launch a side-business. After all, job-searching is hardly time-consuming (it takes so little time that people do it while already employed in a full-time position).

Yeah, some folk will sit at home binge-watching netflix for 6 months. I can all but guarantee you that I will have a product at the end of six months if I was unemployed for six months.

At the end of the time I'll have a new job and a product (whether the product actually makes money or not is irrelevant. Getting a product to sell is the first step).


> Getting a product to sell is the first step

Super tangent on the thread but if you want a product that people are interested in you might think about using a process like Nathan Barry's Authority or 30x500. Not that those are the best or only ways to make a product, of course, but they're at least a direction to take to figure out what people want, need, and buy.


Thanks, I'll look it up.


> a new job hunt takes 3

Where is this? At Senior level in London it can take days once you're good and ready.


That was my experience as well in London and very similar here in Helsinki, Finland.


You would magically find a suitable job in days?

I personally have a lot higher requirements for a new position than "a job that pays more than my current one". E.g. working on something that is worth doing, together with great people.

This takes a lot longer than "days" to find.


Where is this? At Senior level in London it can take days once you're good and ready.

Basecamp is fully remote isn't it? So it could be anywhere.


I’m not seeing that at all. I have seeing 90% of people let go at my previous job (sample size of 50) pick up jobs within a month. A few obviously had a harder time but the market right now doesn’t seem to be hard at all.


The person you linked to said they are taking time off before looking for new opportunities, so they don't seem concerned about not having enough time to find something new.


Minor point, he's a Ruby/Rails programmer, or was last time I saw him.


Former member of the Rails core team, in fact, from which he has also resigned. https://twitter.com/georgeclaghorn/status/138813101023207424...


> a new job hunt takes 3, even for talented, in-demand people.

That sounds really long. It never took me more than 2 months from an initial contact to an offer (whether accepted or not) and sometimes less. I've seen people hired in less than a month - in fact, I've seen many times people hired before they left the previous job. Of course, it's just my personal anecdata but 3 months sounds really long. Any hard data to back it up?


Well if they didn’t do it for they money maybe they could have publicly donate it all to charity. Otherwise it just looks like they did it for the cash.


I'm reading through his tweets and don't see much interesting on the subject. I may have missed it tho. Can you point me to a thread where hes vocal on it?


How much do you think the people who have been working there for 5 or 10+ years are making per month?

And they can literally land in the company they want to work at in a week.


> there's no way we could take a person at their word

What people say on Twitter is hardly courtroom testimony. It is evidence, sure, but I wouldn't give it a whole lot of weight. Probably even less weight for being "incredibly vocal".


Poster meant a full 1/3 left because yadda yadda. Not that the entire 1/3 left yadda yadda.




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