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.
October 24, 2022

Move the needle or move on

Don’t continue to waste your attention on projects that can’t be deemed a success by the naked eye. The more sophisticated you have to be to tell whether there's a positive effect, the less likely it is to be worth the effort. Spend your energy where it’s plain as day when it works. This doesn’t mean instantly bailing if immediate effe...
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October 21, 2022

Need it take 7,500 people to run Twitter?

When WhatsApp was sold to Facebook in 2014, it had almost half a billion monthly users, but a team of just 50 people running everything. Compare this to Twitter, which today has a staff of 7,500 to manage half the number of users. Yet Musk is the crazy one here for suggesting that maybe Twitter could operate with a mere TWO THOUSAND em...
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October 20, 2022

Don’t tell someone how to feel

Emotions rarely flow neatly from logic. That’s why we so often place the two in contrast. And why it’s foolish to try to tell others how they ought to feel. Emotions roam on sovereign ground, and foreign prescriptions feel like invasions. Rightfully so. We’ve made this mistake for at least a decade at 37signals by trying to tell oursel...
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October 19, 2022


I must be the latest of the late-late adopters to LinkedIn. I somehow managed to go almost twenty years without an account on the assumption that this was just a nerdy, straight-laced edition of Facebook. And I stopped using that in 2011, so why would I bother with the lame business version? But it turns out I was wrong even though I w...
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October 19, 2022

Why we're leaving the cloud

Basecamp has had one foot in the cloud for well over a decade, and HEY has been running there exclusively since it was launched two years ago. We've run extensively in both Amazon's cloud and Google's cloud. We've run on bare virtual machines, we've run on Kubernetes. We've seen all the cloud has to offer, and tried most of it. It's fi...
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October 18, 2022

The scarcity scarecrows of Open Source

I love the ethos of open source: Free code creating a true commons in software. I'm less enthralled with some of the particulars of capitalized Open Source movement, which at times seem obsessed with the same scarcity mentality that runs the commercial branch of our industry. One of those times is right now with the fight over GitHub's...
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September 26, 2022

Expectations are everything

It's well established that Olympians who finish 2nd are less satisfied than the ones who finish 3rd. It's "I was so close to winning" vs "I'm just happy to have made the podium". Expectations at work! I got reminder of just how true this is racing at Spa in the European Le Mans Series yesterday. We started the race with the absolute lo...
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September 22, 2022

Misery starts when the struggle ends

In the essay "Can socialists be happy?", George Orwell makes the penetrating observation that while humans can imagine hell in minute detail, heaven escapes anything but the most fuzzy, vague descriptions. We can't conceive of happiness beyond a reprieve from what currently ails us. It's a profound conclusion that has far-reaching impl...
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September 15, 2022

Unreasonable people

It takes unreasonable people to do unreasonable things. It's highly unreasonable to set off to change the way cars are powered across the world. To turn what started almost as a joke – a car driven by a floor full of laptop batteries?? – into that unreasonable reality that we stop pouring liquid flammables into a car that then propels ...
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September 14, 2022

I love being wrong

Being wrong means learning more about the world, and how it really works. It means correcting misconceptions you've held to be true. It means infusing your future judgements with an extra pinch of humility. It's a treat to be wrong. When you've been wrong enough times in your life or career, it invites you to think in bets. If you hold...
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September 7, 2022

The faith of Andrew Tate

“Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks Lick on these nuts and suck the dick Get's the fuck out after you're done — "Bitches Ain't Shit", Dr. Dre, 1992 [Lyrics | Video]” Dr Dre has 7M followers on Instagram. This 2011 derivative of the song by Tyga has 31M views on YouTube. “I don't love 'em, I fu...
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September 6, 2022

The path to meaning is paved with responsibility

That the antidote to a flailing existence might be more responsibility can come off as counterintuitive. Why would you ask more of someone who's already struggling? But that objection flips the cause and effect. Lots of people are struggling exactly because not enough is asked of them. I remember a version of this diagnosis being expla...
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September 5, 2022

God's will

I'm no scholar on Nietzsche, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the philosopher who declared God Is Dead was the very same trying to preserve the essence of God's will in the principle of Amor Fati (love your fate). The ability to accept reality as it unfolds is a gift Christians is offered in their communal theology, but one th...
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August 29, 2022

Don't keep all your digital services with one company

The crazy case of the father from San Francisco who lost all his email, contacts, pictures, apps, and phone number – everything else connected to Google! – because of a false accusation of child pornography by AI is not just terrifying, but a warning siren for all. It connects directly to the case where Apple nuked the digital life of ...
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August 23, 2022

Cultural intuition

We can't write down everything that factors into the conduct of the business. There simply isn't the time or the foresight available to carefully catalogue all possible scenarios, trade-offs, and decision trees one might encounter in the course of running a modern, creative business. And even if there were, such a tome would become a s...
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August 22, 2022

Mission statements are worse than worthless

I'm sure it's theoretically possible to write a mission statement that actually says something and actually matters. Just like it's theoretically possible to find that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But chances are far better that the rainbow springs straight out of a dumpster than a pot of gold, and that the mission statement is...
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August 17, 2022

Let it slide

No matter the size of the business, there'll always be an unlimited number of tasks left to do, processes left to improve, and contingencies left to plan. The work is truly never done, so regardless of how much effort is put in, you'll inevitably end the day unfinished. All you can control is what you're willing to let slide. Most days...
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August 16, 2022

Try hard not to solve hard problems

You don't have to solve the majority of hard problems you encounter in either business, design, or programming. Almost all of them can be restated as an easy problem, if you dare question the assumptions, reweigh the trade-offs, and stop diving after sunk cost. Above all the other principles at 37signals, this is our key to keeping the...
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August 10, 2022

Turning the phone into a tool again

I've been keen to use my phone less for a long time. So on a recent holiday, I banished it completely for a week, while reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. That felt great. But as Newport notes, it's easy to fall back into bad old habits, if all you do is a sabbatical from your phone. His book details a bunch of good remedies, b...
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August 8, 2022

Stay with the pain, don't shut this out

"Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing", intones Tyler Durden in Fight Club, as his alter-ego is screaming from the chemical burn. It's a profound scene that taps into a well of philosophical thought that humans have been struggling with forever. And it's applicable to more mundane affairs too. I like to think of this ...
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August 5, 2022

I can't save you, nobody can

In the two decades I've been managing people, there's never been a termination that didn't sting. Acting on the knowledge that someone isn't working out is probably the hardest task for any conscientious manager. It's only natural to meet that difficulty and that sting with regret: I could have done more. But the hard truth is often a ...
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August 1, 2022

A way out of the danger zone

The new Top Gun has everything America needs right now: Confident, competent, and charismatic execution. It has premiered at a time when everyone here seems to have lost faith in the grander, uniting project of this country, and thus reflects an inspiring counter to the prevailing fatalism. It's as subversive as an unironic American fl...
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July 29, 2022

There is no iceberg

It's human nature to assume there's a good reason for why things are the way they are. And that this reason is either benign, based on careful deliberation, or malignant, derived from malice or incompetence. But this is a false dichotomy that often steers us away from the simpler answer: Nobody thought about this at all. There was no p...
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June 1, 2022

I ain't no angel but I have made some startup investments

I'm not saying the only reason I've categorically refused to invest in tech startups in the past was my instinctual aversion to the term "angel investor", but it surely did play a part! There's just something so ridiculously self-serving about this angelic charade that turned me off for the longest time. So too did the fact that every ...
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May 31, 2022

Employee surveillance software is managerial bankruptcy

Moving to remote work has brought out the worst in some managers. It's revealed their insecurities and paranoia, and caused them to address these in a spectacle of incompetence. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the continued surge in interest for employee surveillance software, which risks turning a working arrangement that s...
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May 26, 2022

Who's been swimming naked?

"Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked", says Warren Buffett, and now we're indeed seeing just how many tech companies have been indecently exposed as the investment mood snaps from greed to fear. Bolt, for example, just announced a brutal 1/3 cut of all staff, after touching the sun with a $11 billion v...
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May 24, 2022

Bullshit jobs hide more easily in big companies

The late, great David Graeber struck a nerve with his 2013 essay On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. It diagnosed the "moral and spiritual damage" caused to our "collective soul" when masses of white-collar employees work pointless jobs. The thesis was confirmed by a startling poll a few years later that showed 37% of British workers t...
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May 20, 2022

This might not be the place for you

They failed to capture the hill at Netflix. That small but vocal gang of employees hellbent on canceling Chappelle last year over his comedy special. Now comes the counter offensive from the executive in the form of newly updated cultural guidelines at the company: “As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity ...
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May 11, 2022

The founder's gamble

As companies mature, grow departments, accumulate staff, and develop reliable streams of revenue, it gets structurally harder and harder to make the big decisions that might upset the applecart. This is the familiar scene of The Innovator's Dilemma. The more of everything there is, the higher the stakes appear, and the less likely prof...
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May 9, 2022

Everybody loses when legitimate power isn't exercised

Just because you have a high-ranking title, doesn't mean you're automatically right about everything. More junior employees can surely hold better insights, field smarter ideas, or judo solutions toward simplicity in a given circumstance. But it does mean you should be mostly right, most of the time, or that title isn't vested in legit...
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