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.
June 8, 2023

Hybrid combines the worst of office and remote work

The honeymoon for remoteworkisover, and managers who never liked the concept to begin with are plotting its complete reversal, so that things may return to how they were before The Great Remote Experiment. This experiment convinced millions of employees of how much better life could be without a commute or even having to live by the of...
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June 2, 2023

We need not all be connected, all the time

When I went to school in the 80s and 90s, the communication between the institution and home was limited. Kids could bring home a flyer about some future event, they'd get their grades and remarks detailed in a little grey book, and once a year parents would come in for a chat with the teachers. That was basically it, and it was glorio...
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June 1, 2023

When promotions become punishment

The world is full of talented, capable people who'd rather put their own efforts to direct use than manage others. But the natural inclination is to promote senior contributors up a managerial ladder, and out of the trenches. This often ends poorly, turning the promotion into a punishment. It's usually not that these potential managers...
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May 31, 2023

Start them in the deep end

The kindest thing you can do to a new team member is to involve them in something real and challenging right away. Don't squander weeks of new-job enthusiasm with baby rails and play tasks. Get them into the deep end right from the start. This doesn't mean leaving them all alone to figure out the culture, the work, and the people by th...
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May 30, 2023

360 degrees of phony back-patting

In all the years we ran 360 performance reviews – the employee assessment process where you solicit feedback from peers, reports, and manager – I can think of only once when it lead to a meaningful follow-up. The rest of the time, across hundreds of reviews, it was an arduous, awkward affair of forcing people to come up with novel ways...
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May 26, 2023

Recharging trust batteries with meetups in a remote company

Nothing can substitute for spending time together in person as a way to build bonds, create connections, and foster trust with your colleagues. There's just a special kind of magic that comes from being together, which Zoom will never match or catch. But what's enabled the remote-work revolution to be effective is that these moments do...
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May 25, 2023

Manage process before people

If you want to run a company that's light on full-time managers, you have to focus on managing processes before people. The traditional paradigm of a reporting manager that's constantly following up with their reports, conducting daily stand-up meetings, weekly 1-1s, and all other forms of intensive supervision, needs to be (mostly) re...
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May 23, 2023

The luxury of working without metrics

There are a million metrics you can use to track the health of a subscription software business like ours. Customer life-time value, cost of acquisition, cohort retention, revenue churn, net promoter score, funnel conversion rates, to name but a few. All useful calculations, but I can't tell you what bliss it's been to steer 37signals ...
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May 22, 2023

But what if you're wrong?

They seemed so sure. First, that the pandemic couldn't possibly have come from a lab rather than a market. Then, that masks – any masks! – would materially retard the spread. Later, that the vaccine would prevent you from getting the virus. Finally, that if you were vaccinated, you couldn't spread the virus. All of that, and plenty mor...
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May 15, 2023

Sitting on the bench

There are many reasons to pick working for a bigger company in tech. The benefits, the pay, and, at least until recently, the job security. In many ways, it's hard to argue with the cold logic of taking a seat on a star destroyer, if you can land one. But odds are you'll be sitting on the bench if you do. That is, your talents won't ge...
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May 12, 2023

That underdog DNA

Jason just penned a beautiful, succinct ode to the underdogs. Go read it. It's funny how finding just the right word unlocks the perfect mental image. We've often thought of ourselves as being in the corner of the small business, but that was never quite right. There are many kinds of small businesses, not all of them thinking of thems...
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May 11, 2023

It's not just cloud costs that are out of control

We're letting our yearly commitment to Datadog, a performance and monitoring tool, expire at the end of this month. Not because we don't like the service. It's actually really nice! But because the $88,000/year it was going to cost us to continue is just ridiculous. And it's emblematic of a larger issue: Enterprise SaaS pricing is gett...
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May 9, 2023

The misallocation of tech talent

Getting fired sucks. It doesn't matter how or when. It just sucks. And right now there are an awful lot of people in the tech industry feeling just how much. But what's bad for the individual isn't always bad for the group. Believe it or not, there's also collective upside to the massive tech layoffs happening at the moment. Like undoi...
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May 8, 2023

In defense of the office

You're never getting me back into an office. I credit much of my career to escaping that place in the early 2000s. It wasn't until I found the prolonged solitude of working from home that I could consistently make big leaps in my creative process. The pandemic taught millions the same lesson. And yet – AND YET! – I'm going to come to t...
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May 7, 2023

Programming types and mindsets

One of the longest running schisms in programming is that of static vs dynamic typing. I've heard a million arguments from both sides throughout my entire career, but seen very few of them ever convinced anyone of anything. As rationalizations masquerading as reason rarely do in matters of faith. The rider will always justify the way o...
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May 6, 2023

Escaping creative downturns

If I'm stuck in a creative downturn, there's usually only one remedy: keep going. That is, accept the downturn, but continue to stare at the computer, waiting for it to pass. While staring at the computer, there's room for menial and managerial tasks put aside during more inspired times. Checking up on things, getting back to people, a...
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May 5, 2023

How to recover from microservices

I won't deny there may well be cases where a microservices-first architecture makes sense, but I think they're few and far in between. The vast majority of systems are much better served by starting and staying with a majestic monolith. The Prime Video case study that blew up the internet yesterday is but the latest illustration. Maybe...
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May 4, 2023

Even Amazon can't make sense of serverless or microservices

The Prime Video team at Amazon has published a rather remarkable case study on their decision to dump their serverless, microservices architecture and replace it with a monolith instead. This move saved them a staggering 90%(!!) on operating costs, and simplified the system too. What a win! But beyond celebrating their good sense, I th...
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May 3, 2023

Sovereign clouds

I've been talking about our departure from renting computers via AWS to owning them in a colocated datacenter as our "cloud exit". But I recognize this terminology can rub some people the wrong way. There's an entire generation of technologists who see themselves as "cloud native", and alienating them just because we want to own our ha...
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May 2, 2023

Cloud exit pays off in performance too

Last week, we successfully pulled off our biggest cloud exit yet for Basecamp Classic. This is the original app that started it all for us from way back in 2004. And now, after a couple of years running on AWS, it's back on our own hardware, using Kamal, and holy smokes is it fast! Just look at these charts: The median request now runs...
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May 2, 2023

The responsibility is the reward

One of the straightest paths to purpose in life is to take responsibility for something (or someone). Becoming a person whose presence and competence benefits others. For both your sake and theirs. Jordan Peterson calls this the "meaningful burden" in 12 Rules for Life, and downright posits it as an antidote to depression. Echoing Vict...
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April 26, 2023

Getting America's mojo back

There is no end to accounts of America's current ailments. From deaths of despair, soaring crime in some cities, ballooning debts, dysfunctional politics, and a raging culture war. It's easy to be down on those United States. Too easy, in fact. Take gun deaths, for example. Americans own more guns per capita than any other country in t...
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April 18, 2023

How to continue making kerosene lamps on the eve of electricity

The recent and rapid advance of AI has rightfully given many in software real doubts about the future of their profession. I'd probably still wager that the fears are overstated – that we also got prematurely euphoric about the imminent prospects of self-driving cars – and that AI generating code is different from it evolving existing ...
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April 10, 2023

We spent $300K on billboards in Boston and it was a bust

Our 2023 marketing campaign for Basecamp kicked off on a ton of different channels at once. Web ads, search ads, podcast ads, and TV ads all blasted the message of JUST LET ME DO MY JOB. Our flagship commercial was a hit with the audience and the critics. But our attempt at out-of-home advertising, with billboards all over Boston, was ...
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April 7, 2023

Go Rails World

Amanda Perino had barely settled into the role as executive director of The Rails Foundation before she secured a venue, a date, and the full support of the board for Rails World. This 650-attendee conference will kick off the worldwide ambitions for The Rails Foundation to host a new series of ecosystem gatherings at incredibly afford...
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April 6, 2023

The hardware we need for our cloud exit has arrived

It's been a long time since I last saw a physical piece of hardware used to run our services at 37signals. I vaguely remember doing a tour of our Chicago data center over a decade ago, but somewhere along the line, I just lost interest in the iron itself. Now the interest is back, because hardware is fun again, so let me share my excit...
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April 5, 2023

Standing up to golems

Tim Urban's new book What's Our Problem? offers an excellent analysis of the current American political malaise. It breaks down the history of first how the Republican party got overrun by low-rung thinking from the mid-90s forward, then how equally low-rung thinking got the other side in the past decade or so. It's a light, humorous r...
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March 31, 2023

How to have buckets of time

One of the most important techniques I've embraced for managing my time is to direct related tasks to a bucket, let that bucket accumulate until full, then empty it all in one go. This in contrast to trying to catch every task the moment it lands from the myriad of interruption pipes that'll drip-drip-drip your day away if you let them...
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March 30, 2023

America is never "getting to Denmark"

It took moving back to Denmark to realize the folly of thinking America is ever going to "get there". Whether on guns or healthcare or taxes or any other major policy position that's so fiercely contested in the US. Despite growing up in this little Nordic country, I didn't fully appreciate the tremendous, underpinning power of a homog...
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March 28, 2023

Why is paid social media a bad idea?

It'll soon cost $7/month to fully participate on Twitter. Musk has announced they'll start reserving presence in the For You tab solely for paying customers from April 15th, limit participation in polls to just those customers, and soon also give preferential showing in replies as well. Legacy blue-checks will not be spared, and will i...
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