David Heinemeier Hansson

May 28, 2021

You'll pay for it either way

If you need a machine and don't buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don't have it – Henry Ford

I was thinking of this quote all week, as I worked on a new internal operating tool for supporting Basecamp. We must have wasted thousands of hours over the years on routine support questions for Basecamp that required technical expertise with a console to answer. Or to perform routine concierge tasks that we had built playbooks around, but that still required a technically-minded support person or even programmer to execute. Again and again and again.

With HEY, we knew from the get-go that we simply couldn't launch that way. We had to be able to answer hard questions around deliverability from day one. It wasn't going to scale any other way. Email is both harder and more critical. So we built a wonderful operating tool to do these concierge tasks and inquiries from the start called Post Office.

But Basecamp has been around for over 17 years, and we never had a proper support tool. This meant we had several people dedicated to doing that ad-hoc, playbook-run form of support. Which compensated for the lack of tooling, but at the cost of repetitive toil.

We needed a support tool, and we hadn't built one, so we found ourselves paying for it many, many times over anyway. Inertia is a powerful force. It took living with HEY's Post Office to realize how badly we needed such a tool for Basecamp.

So now the first version of Basecamp's support tool called Trek is here. It's still got a bit of that Cobbler's Children Syndrome right now, so it ain't pretty, but it works! Built to HEY spec on data safety, too. It's great to finally have, but why oh why didn't we listen to Mr Ford a decade ago 😄

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.