Goodbye, Basecamp

Yesterday, we decided to move away from Basecamp for business uses along with my own personal uses. This includes the core product along with Hey and Hey for Work/Domains. There’s been plenty of great coverage on this already, so I’m not going to go too far into the details, but I did want to share my thoughts, especially as a person who thinks cancel culture has gone too far.

First, a little background for folks who haven’t been following the story closely. On Monday, Jason announced a series of new policies that took immediate effect internally at Basecamp. Among changes were a ban on societal and political discussions, getting rid of paternalistic benefits and communities, no longer dwelling on past decisions, and lastly, stopping 360 reviews.

The announcement that got the most criticism was the ban on political and societal discussions, and frankly, I don’t blame those who work at Basecamp. In today’s world, these topics are becoming ever more relevant, even in a work environment, and banning these discussions can cause adverse effects. Part of the reason for the criticism was the hypocrisy — both Jason and David often talk about these topics on Twitter & their blogs. Plus, it didn’t help that the post lacked detail on this policy at first (Jason has since revised it to add more context). By far the most telling part of the post for me was this, however;

Who’s responsible for these changes? David and I are. Who made the changes? David and I did. These are our calls, and the outcomes and impacts land at our doorstep. Input came from many sources, disagreements were heard, deliberations were had. In the end, we feel like this is the long-term healthy way forward for Basecamp as a whole — the company and our products.

By the response from employees at Basecamp, perhaps they should have gotten a bit more input. Seeing all of this play out felt odd, to say the least. It felt like these changes came out of nowhere. And then, Casey Newton released an article in which he interviewed dozens of Basecamp employees in part about a list that contained “funny names” of those who had written into customer support. This list had been maintained for over a decade and had been known about by senior company leadership, including Jason and David. Not only was the list called disrespectful and a violation of customers’ privacy, but it was also accused of being racist. And DHH’s response to this, which is now public, was also accused of being racist and was reported to HR. A committee focused on diversity and inclusion had just been starting internally and was dissolved when these changes were announced. It seems like that change, in addition to the political discussion change were, at least in part, instituted to prevent talking about the events that had unfolded. Rather than discussing what had happened and moving on, they banned all discussion around these types of issues. Basecamp has always believed in not looking back, which is one of their core ideologies I’ve always disagreed with, and making it an official change seems like a step in the wrong direction.

I normally like to stay out of it with stuff like this, especially if it doesn’t affect me directly. But all of this is shocking coming from Basecamp. Obviously, David is a loss cannon, and I’ve never been a fan of the some of the things he’s said, and that has especially played out on Twitter over the past few days, but it goes beyond that. A good amount of these changes and the response to them seem to go against everything Basecamp stands for & their core values.

Plus, it seems everyone knows the company essentially exists for the enjoyment of Jason, David, and perhaps Ryan. Product and company decisions are really made by a small group, based on what they want for themselves. Until a few months ago, I was 100% fine with this because they seemed to be, for the most part, good decisions. But if the direction things have gone in over the past week or so is any indication, I bet those won’t be the best decisions going forward, ultimately affecting the customer.

Everything combined has encouraged us to look elsewhere in terms of software. A big reason we used the product in the first place was because of (what I thought was) their ideology when it came to work, and (the feeling of) being treated well as a customer. We’d been thinking about it for a few weeks already, and this just pushed it over the edge. I really do hope they have a change in heart & I’ll still be following Jason’s writing and keeping an eye out for new products. I think with them losing about 35% of their staff, however, product improvements will be delayed. We’ll be fully migrated out of all their software by the end of May at the latest.

That’s about it. I’ll conclude with this tweet from 2019.

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