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 30, 2023

The law of the land

Affirmative action is right up there with abortion and gun control among the highest-profile, longest-running social fissures in America. So of course the recent ruling from the Supreme Court making its use in college admissions illegal was going to light a political fire. The surprising thing is just how contained the burn has been wi...
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June 29, 2023

Design for the web without Figma

By all accounts, Figma has been an amazing tool for designers. We've used it extensively at 37signals, and I'm sure most every other software shop has too. Adobe didn't pay $20 billion for nothing. But we don't do the bulk of our design work with or in Figma when developing Basecamp or HEY for the web. That's all done directly in HTML ...
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June 27, 2023

Staying in the arena

One of the things that can seem difficult to understand for people who merely tolerate having a job is why anyone would continue working if they didn't have to. You often see a version of this incredulity when the peanut gallery weighs in on the choices of billionaires. Why do these Very Rich People continue to do things – especially t...
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June 26, 2023

Wisdom is not what you know

The hallmark of great wisdom is not what you know, but what you know and can put to use. The globe is full of learned idiots, unable or incapable of following the wisdom they have accumulated. There's no prize for a closet full of axioms or insights, if you leave it all in there, and venture philosophically naked into the world. Ironic...
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June 25, 2023

Back to America

After spending much of the past three years in Denmark, our family is returning to America full time this summer. The original reasons for temporarily emigrating – the prolonged school lockdowns and other pandemic madness – have long since evaporated, and we've had a solid chance to taste all that Copenhagen has to offer. And that's a ...
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June 24, 2023

Rails World sold out in less than 45 minutes

There hasn't been a major, dedicated Rails conference in Europe since 2008, so perhaps it's no surprise that there was pent-up demand. But I was still shocked to see the forthcoming Rails World visit to Amsterdam sell out in less than 45 minutes yesterday! What an awesome reception to the first major project undertaken by our new Rails...
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June 23, 2023

We have left the cloud

Since it took us years to get into the cloud in the first place, I originally imagined it would take us years to get out as well. But all that work to containerize our applications and prepare them for the cloud actually turned out to make it relatively easy to exit. And now, after six months of effort, it's done. We're out. The last a...
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June 22, 2023

Breaking the inertia of mediocrity

It's rarely the terrible decisions, processes, or even people that'll sink your organization. It's the accumulation and inertia of the mediocre ones. Dealing with the truly bad is easy. It's painfully obvious to all that change is required. The danger is imminent. It's much harder to find the will to act when the danger lurks in inadeq...
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June 21, 2023

Europe is half the cost for our company meet-ups

Since the pandemic ended, we've had the pleasure of organizing three different company meet-ups for 37signals. We got going again in Miami, then hopped to Amsterdam, and most recently we went to New Orleans. Next we're going to Barcelona in the fall. Would you have guessed that hosting a company meet-up in US was almost twice as expens...
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June 20, 2023

Until the end of the internet

It's hard to know what'll stick around when shopping for software online. Popular services and crucial products get shut down all the time. You can't even trust that major conglomerates like Google to provide something you can count on two-five-ten years from now. And if you're betting on something backed by venture capital, well, you ...
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June 19, 2023

You can't trust Google

Google will eventually kill every single service you care about, if they can't find a way to directly monetize it with ads at a scale of billions. They're institutionally incapable of being in the product or service business, because neither products nor services butter Google's bread. Advertisement does. You can see this emphasis in a...
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June 19, 2023

Turn down the volume on the world

It's hard to think original thoughts if your senses are being perpetually flooded with everything from everyone all the time. And it's hard to protect your senses against this if you're constantly in close mental proximity to those who've had success running the established script. To escape back to first principles, you need to consci...
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June 15, 2023

Acting your wage will atrophy your abilities

Abilities unused will atrophy, so putting in anything less than your best means giving up on what you’re capable of. You can’t save talent or energy for better days, only watch it go to waste. This is a hard truth to accept if you don’t think your company has earned your best. And companies make employees feel like that all the time. T...
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June 13, 2023

The Le Mans Centenary

I didn't get into the race car until two in the morning. By then, the rollercoaster that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans had already been going for ten hours. Oh, and we were a lap down on the leaders in our class. Doh! I've never had the race go that long before getting into the car. Usually by midnight, I'll have driven at least a good tw...
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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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