Jorge Manrubia

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

jorgemanrubia.com
February 5, 2022

My MacOS essentials

Just because the world is short of lists of favorite apps, here is mine: Task Paper for todos I used to have a thing for todo apps. I tried them all and even tried to build my own. I switched to Task Paper years ago and have stuck to it since then. The truth is that my relationship with todos has changed significantly over the years. T...
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February 2, 2022

Of bugs and giants

In October of last year, we started to receive reports about chats that stopped working in Basecamp. They were all iOS/Safari users. Campfires wouldn’t work, as if there was no internet connection, and the only solution was completely restarting Safari. The bug was elusive and happened very intermittently. We tried several things witho...
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January 29, 2022

Silence

I quit Twitter for the first time nine years ago. Two years ago, when I started at Basecamp, I felt like giving it a new try. Long story short: it didn’t work. I had identified noise as my biggest problem with Twitter back in the day. The signal was very low. I naively thought I could improve that by carefully selecting who to follow a...
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December 22, 2021

A system to encrypt data in bulk for Rails

We just released mass_encryption, a library to encrypt large sets of data using Active Record Encryption. If you have been following along, Rails 7 was recently released and, among many goodies, it supports at-work encryption with Active Record. This new gem addresses a problem many apps will face: perform the initial encryption in exi...
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November 28, 2021

Don't block yourself: a remote-worker super-power

When working remotely, this is a great habit: make decisions and communicate them, but try to avoid getting blocked waiting on others. Imagine this typical example: you are not sure about how to do something. Your first idea might be to jump into a chat and ask someone for help. I won’t say I never ever do this, but it’s not a great ap...
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November 20, 2021

MacBook Pro M1

Two weeks ago, I got a MacBook Pro 16-inch. I got the base model (M1 pro, 16GB). My previous machine was a loaded-up MBP 15-inch from 2019. Bottom line: it's been the most noticeable performance jump I've experienced since SSD disks. Performance The improvement is ridiculous. My previous MBP felt slow, and it often struggled to dispatc...
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October 9, 2021

Career advice

A software engineering student asked me via Linkedin about career advice. Not sure I would take advice from myself because I made many mistakes, but here are a few things I wish someone had told me right after college: • Technical stuff is a fantastic career path, really. If someone tells you that true engineers don’t code, or that you...
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August 29, 2021

Timeboxing away

Deadlines in software have bad press, for a reason. Say “we need to release this version at this date”, and you are stressing everyone out. Now, say “we need a version of this at this date”, and you are actually helping to ship. I learned about this idea of fixed deadlines and negotiable scopes from Basecamp many years ago, way before ...
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August 19, 2021

Privacy-aware Rails consoles with console1984 and audits1984

We just released console1984 and audits1984. The first gem extends Rails consoles to make them auditable and to protect sensitive accesses. The second one is a simple auditing tool. This constitutes the other essential part of the technology we developed at Basecamp to raise the privacy bar in Rails applications, and I am thrilled to f...
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July 21, 2021

Making Rails run just a few tests faster

Some time ago, I learned that Rails parallel testing had a significant overhead due to database setup and fixture loading. Essentially, each process will set up its own database and load all the fixtures, and this is not free for non trivial datasets. Fixtures are a factor here. At Basecamp, we use fixtures heavily and, when running si...
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June 18, 2021

A story of Rails encryption

This story starts in October of 2019. I was in the Basecamp meetup in Chicago two weeks after joining the company. During an internal presentation, David talked about the need to raise the bar when it came to privacy for the new product the company was working on, codenamed Haystack, now HEY. We all were busy with all kinds of projects...
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April 19, 2021

Complexity-inducing narratives

I recently gave a talk on software complexity, Single Page Applications and Hotwire (slides). Due to time constraints, I ended up cutting off a whole section on narratives that are often Trojan horses for unjustified complexity and decided to write it down instead. These narratives are: • It doesn’t scale • Tech giant uses it • In the ...
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April 9, 2021

Farewell Evernote

I've been using Evernote since September of 2010. I started as a passionate user, and it quickly became an indispensable part of my workflow. Then, the product started to go south, slowly but steadily. The clients became more complex, heavier, and uglier. They added a ton of features nobody asked for. And they didn't improve the one th...
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March 19, 2021

A Basecamp email: before and after

As a longtime fan of Basecamp copy, I always enjoy asking for help with user-facing texts I need. This time we had to send an email to some users that were impacted by a bug. I went to Jim Mackenzie. Here's the before and after. Before: “Hi <name>, We recently discovered a bug in HEY where it could fail to move emails to the designated...
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March 14, 2021

Extracting, not inventing

Documenting the pull request to add encryption to Active Record brought me memories about the origin of each feature: • Support for unencrypted data: HEY was already used by staff and some beta users when we added encryption. • Option to downcase: emails are not case-sensitive. • Option to ignore case: labels are case-insensitive when ...
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March 6, 2021

Smelling Rails smells

Shopify recently published Upgrow: A sustainable architecture for Ruby on Rails. It describes a set of architectural principles to build Rails applications and announces a companion future gem. I was surprised by seeing Shopify endorse this approach. The proposed patterns aren't new. Many people have advocated for them since Rails is R...
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