Jorge Manrubia

A programmer who writes about software development and many other topics. I work at 37signals.
March 2, 2023

Pending tests

I recently started working on a new thing at 37signals. We have a blank slate in front of us, and nothing is set in stone, which means we are moving fast. I find myself creating meaty pull requests every day. This is how every single pull request I open ends: This is just a reflection of how, most of the time, I write tests at the end....
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February 26, 2023


I’m fascinated by the sensations that the things we use induce in us. Not their usefulness, suitability, ergonomics, or aesthetics, but sensations. I don’t have a better term to capture something as substantial as difficult to describe, but I can illustrate with some very personal sensation-driven opinions: • Zelda Breath of the Wild’s...
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January 22, 2023

Writing is thinking

You don’t need an audience to put writing work for yourself: • Writing can let you access things you know but can’t access deliberately. This is a powerful and utterly counter-intuitive insight. • Writing down assorted ideas as they pop up in your mind will bring all the benefits you are looking for here. In my experience, formalities ...
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January 18, 2023

The best presenter ever

I learned about Benjamin Zander in 2011. I was reading Resonate by Nancy Duarte, and she used his Ted Talk from 2008 as a case study in one of the chapters, to illustrate several concepts on how to deliver presentations. Nancy Duarte knows one thing or two about presenting, so her description of him as a "master communicator" caught my...
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January 16, 2023

The augmented programmer

If you are a programmer and have tried ChatGPT, you have probably realized it’s a landscape-changing technology. The history of programming is a history of raising the abstraction level, and with all the cautions and disclaimers you want, the jump that ChatGTP represents is monumental. Right after college, I got a research grant to exp...
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January 1, 2023

Learning with ChatGPT

I’m learning Python these days. The reason is that there are two domains I want to explore and play with — finance and artificial intelligence — and everything I want to use is built in Python. Being Ruby my go-to language, a recurring problem I’ve suffered for years is building my own infrastructure for most things I wanted to do in t...
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December 26, 2022


Some assorted reflections on my 2022: • I wrote a lot, more than ever. This was my favorite piece. This was my biggest hit. And I’m proud of this series, into which I put quite a bit of effort. I had many interesting conversations with people with shared interests, which I enjoyed a lot. I intend to continue writing for myself in 2023....
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December 23, 2022


I have referenced this article by Kent Beck in my last twopieces. Here goes the last one. When discussing whether coupling was good or bad, Beck says: “This is where I got stuck for a long time (years).” I can’t think of a more influential author than Kent Beck. His contributions have defined what modern software development is. This s...
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December 19, 2022

Code I like (V): Active Record, nice and blended

This article was originally published in the 37signals dev blog. Persisting objects in relational databases is an intricate problem. Two decades ago, it looked like the ultimate orthogonal problem to solve: abstract persistence out so that programmers don’t have to care about it. Many years later, we can affirm that… it’s not that simp...
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December 13, 2022

Compared to what?

This article was originally published in the 37signals dev blog. I loved this article by Kent Beck on cohesion. At some point, when discussing how cohesion and coupling are opposing forces, it says: “Wait!? Isn’t coupling bad? But cohesion is good? But cohesion is coupling of subelements? Isn’t that bad? And good? This is where I got s...
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November 27, 2022

My curse with plain code editors

I think the first IDE I used was Borland Delphi in 1999. I remember being marveled by its code insight features, where the editor would suggest what properties and methods were available for a given symbol. I remember being puzzled about the programming sorcery powering that — pretty much the same feeling I have today when I play a mod...
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November 15, 2022

What defamation looks like

Last Sunday a friend shared with me this Twitter thread by Kasper Timm Hansen: He confirmed later in the thread he was referring to me as the author of the Vanilla Rails article I recently published in the 37signals dev blog. Kasper starts by presenting a history of friction during PR reviews between us, where he was careful with words...
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November 8, 2022

Code I like (IV): Vanilla Rails is Plenty

This article was originally published in the new 37signals dev blog. Read it there. I have often heard this: vanilla Rails can only get you so far. At some point, apps become unmaintainable, and you need a different approach that brings the missing pieces, because Rails encourages a poor separation of concerns at the architectural leve...
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October 15, 2022

Online discussions, the good parts

Some recent positive experiences made me think about the source of my distaste for online discussions. The blame is on me: I assimilated online to social media or online comments in the wild. I can’t imagine a worse discussion platform than Twitter. Any meaningful discussion requires nuance, which Twitter eliminates by design. Making p...
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October 10, 2022

Code I like (III): Good concerns

Rails concerns have received much criticism over the years. Are they the solution to all the problems or something to avoid at all costs? I think a problem with concerns is that you can use them however you want, so no surprise you can shoot yourself in the foot when doing it. After all, concerns are just Ruby mixins with some syntax s...
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September 24, 2022

Aging programmer

Back in college, they told me that I would start my career writing code, but eventually, I would move to a position where I would ask others to code my designs. To celebrate that this turned out to be completely false, here are some assorted reflections as a 40-year-old programmer that looks back: • Compared to my younger versions, I f...
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September 18, 2022

Code I like (II): Fractal journeys

Fractal is about similar patterns recurring at progressively smaller scales. To me, good code is a fractal: you observe the same qualities repeated at different levels of abstraction. This is not surprising. Good code is the one that is easy to understand, and the best mechanism we have to deal with complexity is building abstractions....
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August 6, 2022

Utility-first CSS

Recently I've found myself with the need to use a CSS toolkit a couple of times. The motivation was building from scratch some internal admin tools. I had heard great things about Tailwind, and David had bootstrapped a Rails integration for it, so we decided to go with it for building a new version of our internal Basecamp admin panel....
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June 13, 2022

Code I like (I): Domain-driven boldness

One of the first things I did when I started working at 37signals almost three years ago was cloning the git repo for Basecamp. I poked around and ended up at this method: module Person::Tombstonable ... def decease case when deceasable? erect_tombstone remove_administratorships remove_accesses_later self when deceased? nil else raise ...
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June 5, 2022

What do we want people to feel?

Since I started using HEY World last year, I have written 28 posts. Those are more than what I wrote in my six previous years of blogging. Publishing an article in HEY World is as easy as sending an email, which I am sure is a life-changing feature for many people, but not for me. I am a programmer nerd, and publishing on my personal s...
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May 26, 2022

Enterprisey expectations

As a customer, I can't think of something I value more than how a company handles the problems I have with them. I have recently been evaluating Datadog for Basecamp. It's a fantastic product, and we are in the final testing stage. We recently tried the new version of its official Ruby/Rails gem, finding a severe memory leak problem. I...
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May 16, 2022

Priceless adversity

It's hard to appreciate the good without having experienced the bad. My first job made me professionally very unhappy. It lasted a few years, and it deeply impacted me. I swear there hasn't been a week since I quit, almost ten years ago, where I didn't reflect on my good luck compared to my starting point. Don't get me wrong: if I coul...
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May 14, 2022

Performance in context

When it comes to analyzing code performance, context matters a lot. For example, say we have this code that adds two numbers: a = 1 + 2 And now we need to add a subtraction: a = 1 + 2 a = a - 3 So what's the cost of this change? We can benchmark: require "benchmark/ips" Benchmark.ips do |x|"only add") { a = 1 + 2 }"...
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May 7, 2022

Rails attributes: an essential API you can probably ignore

A few years ago, Rails 5 introduced an API for declaring Active Record attributes. It lets you define typed attributes at the model level and control via types how to cast values assigned to them. Active Record internally uses this API profusely. Active Record models automatically declare these attributes for you by inferring the types...
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April 30, 2022


Ceremony at work is those self-imposed rituals people follow to get things done. Too much, and it becomes a burden. Too little, and it's chaos. Ceremony serves two purposes: assessment and communication. Assessment is about making sure you are working on the right problems at any given moment; communication is about getting everyone on...
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April 23, 2022

What did you work on today?

Everyone at Basecamp answers this question at least twice per week: "what did you work on today?". We use Basecamp check-ins, of course. It's a simple practice with profound implications and something I would recommend to any company working remotely. These answers are in written form, and anyone in the company can see them and make co...
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April 4, 2022

Writing for yourself

This question applies to most people, and it certainly applies to me: does it make sense to write without an audience? It does. One of my favorite books is Pragmatic thinking and learning by Andy Hunt. It's a book about how our brains work, which is a subject I find fascinating. A core concept it develops is how our brains operate in t...
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April 2, 2022

Not a designer

I love design (as in product design). It's a discipline I have tried to educate myself at, and it's what I appreciate the most in any product I use. And yet, I'm terrible at it. I have empirical evidence that it's not my thing. But I can't help having strong opinions on how things should be designed. A contradiction, you see, HELP! I g...
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March 12, 2022

Changing critical code paths with scientist

I recently worked on improving the inbound email analysis system in HEY. This system analyzes every email that hits HEY to decide whether it should flag it as spam, bounce it, or warn the user about specific problems such as having a forged sender or containing a virus. In its current form, the system was making it difficult to add som...
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March 6, 2022

Social media evilness

Why are so many people so awful towards other people on Twitter? How can there be this massive gap between how people conduct themselves on Twitter and in real life? I've always found fascinating how our brains work, and I was sure there would be good answers out there. I've read a few books and articles on social media issues lately, ...
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