David Heinemeier Hansson

September 3, 2021

No one wants to be a code monkey

So many software companies these days are stuck on a ticket treadmill, working a never-ending backlog. When those companies look at Basecamp, they think "this can't work for software development?!", because it's not a ticket feeder. Heads explode when I tell them we do everything in Basecamp.

That's the challenge of selling software out of sync with the predominate frame. Before we can even get into the conversation, we have to restate the question. That's partly why we wrote Shape Up. To help people escape the confines of the ticket treadmill.

Because carving up the work to fit into these little, disjointed stories that can fit within an oppressively short two-week sprint is just soul crushing. Agile was supposed to be liberating us from process, but its current incarnation doubled down on its alienation.

Software developers and designers aren't happy doing assembly line work. Calling that work "stories" is the great con of many modern agile processes. A story without a beginning, a middle, or an end is a shitty one. It's more like just a scene, shot out of sequence.

People who make software deserves to be part of the full story. To help flesh out the plot and the characters. If we reduce them to mere implementors, we've lost the plot. We must all engage our autonomy. No one wants to be a code monkey.

You can follow Shape Up using lots of different tools, but we literally built Basecamp for and with this methodology. Specific features, specific flows, all to support this engagement of creativity and autonomy.

The problem for us with doing Shape Up on Basecamp is that it's so easy to forget that most of the rest of the world is still stuck on that ticket treadmill. And that our product doesn't work well for that. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what the "real world" is like.

But it also makes the conversions we do accomplish so much more meaningful. We aren't just selling you a new tool, we're selling you a new way to think and to work. That's so much harder, but wow, the rewards when it works.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.