Because of my frustration with bad UX and no visible product improvements, I was already internally discussing leaving Basecamp behind at Allovue. Now that I know they’re a milkshake duck, we’ll be cancelling within the week.
For what it’s worth, we started doing Shape Up— it kind of works. There are pieces that are really well aligned to the way we do product, but a whole lot that does not work at all if you’re not a mature product throwing off a few million that you make only incremental feature improvements on.
Things we’ve liked:
- Scoping work to 2 or 6 week long stretches is pretty natural/doable.
- Bringing together leadership to talk about and confirm our direction every 8 weeks is great.
- Developers creating their own tasks is mostly great.
Things that we’ve not figured out:
- Bug and chores are not really a thing people want to do in “cooldown” & hard to “spend” budget on upfront.
- Greenfield projects and ideas are hard to write 2-6 week pitches versus “see how far we get”
- Devs would rather do work than make tasks.
Things I need to do now:
- Codify what we keep somewhere that doesn’t send people to Shape Up.
- Quickly choose a better tool than Basecamp that can serve a similar role— to be a place for research, pitch writing, and ultimately, task management for devs.
I’ve always found Basecamp to be a weird company with weird founders that sometimes said really interesting things that I 70% liked and 30% cringed. There were things to admire, not the least of which was their success at achieving total financial independence. But the product is just… not that good. And their current situation with “politics” and “society” issues can only be interpreted one way:
They said they wanted to grow and be more diverse and better, but as soon as their absolute control was challenged, they took their ball and went home.
“At least in my experience, it has always been centered on what is happening at Basecamp,” said one employee — who, like most of those I spoke with today, requested anonymity so as to freely discuss internal deliberations. “What is being done at Basecamp? What is being said at Basecamp? And how it is affecting individuals? It has never been big political discussions, like ‘the postal service should be disbanded,’ or ‘I don’t like Amy Klobuchar.’
Hansson’s response to this employee took aback many of the workers I spoke with. He dug through old chat logs to find a time when the employee in question participated in a discussion about a customer with a funny-sounding name. Hansson posted the message — visible to the entire company — and dismissed the substance of the employee’s complaint. ❡Two other employees were sufficiently concerned by the public dressing-down of a colleague that they filed complaints with Basecamp’s human resources officer. (HR declined to take action against the company co-founder.)
– from Casey Newton’s Platformer, What really happened at Basecamp
Over the course of that 10-day Moral Quandaries case investigation and discussion, it became clear to me that the only way to move you two was to prostrate myself. To violate my own sense of personal privacy and list out in excruciating detail example after example of how I have experienced hate and harassment. So I did, and at the end, hate speech and harassment were added to the list.
– Jane Yang, Basecamp Data Analyst
Change is fucking hard. I’m sure people have left Allovue thinking we wouldn’t change. I’ve been here long enough to know we are constantly changing. We have fucked up for sure, but we try and do better every time. There are still struggles we go through. I still have struggled mightily to attract non-White, non-male candidates every time I hire for the product team– like, single digit percent of all applicants. I have personally struggled with building strong relationships across teams at different times and making sure people feel heard. There have been conversations where I failed to speak up and support the way I could have and should have as an ally. Worse, there have been times I didn’t even realize that I needed to because I didn’t see what was happening in front of me. I struggle daily with being a White guy, in a position of societal privilege and power but with actual positional authority in the company that I don’t always realize I walk in the room with. I struggle with how to struggle as a full person in front of people.
This shit is hard. I have made mistakes. I am sure there’s a host of skeletons in my closet. Some things that left a mark on me, but worse, things that I don’t even see as remarkable in my own life. My feeling about this is the only thing I can’t do is take my ball and go home. I don’t know that my mistakes are excusable, and I hope they are redeemable. I hope they are fewer and far between. But mostly, I think the greatest sin of all would be deciding to use my power and privilege to stop struggling at all.
The worst thing I could do is use my power to enhance my own safety.