If you really set your mind to it, you can do it. Get to the very top. Beat out all the others. That’s how I did it. I just wanted it more, worked hard, and eventually all my dreams came true. I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s up to you!
So goes the familiar song of entrepreneurial or professional success. The same song being played in a thousand different tunes by a thousand different hucksters. It’s the song we all want to believe. That the world is ours for the taking, and whoever wants it more, will get it, and when they get it, they’ll deserve it.But that’s a shit track, and we really need to change the station. Odds are overwhelmingly that you will not make it to the top. That you will not be the next baller posting champagne shots and private jet pics. Or be celebrated in parades of adoration by your peers. There just isn’t enough room up there, on the top.
There’s lots of room amongst the disillusioned, though. The disappointed. The self-loathing. All those who wanted it so bad, but didn’t get it, and now blame themselves (or others or both!) for their supposed failures. That group is easily thousands if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of times larger than the small crop up there on the top.
A shit track indeed. To give simultaneous false hope and a false idol to so many when you know, PER MATHS, that it just isn’t going to happen for the vast, vast majority. That’s not just a shit track, it’s cruel. Time. To. Change. The. Station.
So here’s a better one: Making it to the top isn’t the game you should be focused on. The top is full of people who hate what they had to do or who they had to become to get there. Even for the people who get there with a clean conscience often end up disappointed by how shallow the satisfaction really is.
Besides, you only have limited influence on whether you’re going to succeed at whatever you put your mind to. It’s by no means within your exclusive sphere of control. There are so many things that have to come together at the same time. Only a couple of which you own.
But you do have control over whether you’re doing a good job, as measured by your personal sense of satisfaction in the work. Over whether you’re taking the time to notice, to learn, to improve. That’s the most fulfilling part of being up there, at the top, anyway. The “being good” part. Hell, even the “becoming good” part is pretty amazing, if you play it right.
That’s a game worth winning: The one played with yourself for your own betterment. Not the one played against others, measured against them. Screw that game.
Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s a luxurious game to play. You’ve already made it to some satisfying station in life when you’re allowed to focus on your own personal development for subsistence rather than a survivalist climb out from the bottom. But that’s also true for most who are into that Getting To The Top game.
So resist the temptation to focus on where you want all of this to take you, if you can. Luxuriate in the experience and flow of getting better. Stop playing games where you can’t set the rules. Start winning the ones where you can.
I‘ve been thinking about your regret minimization framework for making decisions lately. I don’t recall whether I read about it in an interview, or if you shared it with Jason and me in person in those early days after your involvement in Basecamp. But regardless, I think you’re currently making bad decisions that you’re going to regret. Maybe even decisions that we as a whole society will come to regret.
It doesn’t have to be like this. You’re literally the richest man in the world. Markets have suspended disbelief for decades, and let you rule as you see fit. It’s well within your power and purvey to change course.
The HQ2 process has been demeaning if not outright cruel. At a time when politicians are viewed as more inept, more suspicious, and more corrupt than ever, you made city after city grovel in front of your selection committee. They debased themselves in a futile attempt to appeal to your grace and mercy, and you showed them little. The losers ended up worse than where they started, and even the winners may well too.
For what? Extracting a few more billions that Amazon does not need in subsidies? If you tilt your perspective a little, I think you’ll be able to catch the optics that the richest man in the world asking for tribute like this is an ugly one.
Amazon is Jeff Bezos. You can’t cover decisions behind committees or other shareholders. You hold the reins, you reap the lion’s share of the rewards, and thus you’re accountable for its actions.
As many great conquerors in history, I’d be surprised if you didn’t care about establishing a legacy. I mean, you clearly already have. But there’s still time to shape that legacy into something more than the man who killed retail, extracted the greatest loot from its HQ cities, and who expanded the most monopoly holdings the fastest.
Rather than keep asking what cities and countries can do for Amazon, maybe start asking what Amazon can do for them. Be magnanimous. Be responsible.
Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. The better business move. At some point people are going to have had enough, and when they figure out a way to channel that discontent into political action, they’re going to come looking for the heads of those that did them the most egregious wrongs.
I know it doesn’t look like that big of a risk right now. People still seem to trust Amazon more than most of the big tech companies, but that’s a lagging indicator. The clouds are gathering in the distance. It starts with a fewpioneers calling for antitrust action, and then one day you wake up, and that’s what the whole world wants.
It’s hard to be proud of having you as a minority owner in Basecamp right now. Maybe there’s even a tinge of regret. I’d very much like to minimize that.
Jeff owns a minority, no-control stake in Basecamp (the company that Jason and I co-own). For the first few years after purchasing that, Jason and I would meet or talk to him about once a year. It’s probably been 7–8 years since we spoke with Jeff directly last. If we get another chance, this would be the most pressing topic.
Last Thursday, November 9th, Basecamp 3 was in read-only mode for almost five hours starting 7:21am CST and ending 12:11pm CST. That meant users could access existing messages, todo lists, and files, but no new information could be entered, and no existing information could be altered. Everything was frozen in place.
The root cause was that our database hit the ceiling of 2,147,483,647 on our very busy events table. Almost every single activity in Basecamp is tracked in this table. When you post a message, update a todo list, or applaud a comment, we track that activity in the events table. So when we became unable to write new events to that table, every attempt to do practically anything in Basecamp was halted.
This was an avoidable problem. We were actively working on expanding the capacity of the events table in the days prior to this outage, but we failed to properly account for how quickly we were running out of headroom.
To compound the avoidable factor, we should had been aware of the general issue much sooner. The programming framework we use, Ruby on Rails (which was originally extracted from Basecamp!), moved to a new default for database tables in version 5.1 that was released in 2017. That change lifting the headroom for records from 2,147,483,647 to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 on all tables. Which ended up being the same root-cause fix that we applied to our tables.
It’s bad enough that we had the worst outage at Basecamp in probably 10 years, but to know that it was avoidable is hard to swallow. And I cannot express my apologies clearly or deeply enough.
We pride ourselves at Basecamp on being “boring software” because it just works and it’s always available. Since Basecamp 3 was launched, and up until this outage, we’ve had an uptime record of 99.998%. This near five-hour outage has taken that impressive statistic down to a more humbling 99.978%.
Some companies might choose to weasel around an outage like ours by claiming that it was only a “partial outage”, because the application remained available in read-only mode for the majority of this time. But that’s not what we’re going to do at Basecamp. We’re going to take the scar in our uptime record as a reminder to do better.
Because we owe everyone using Basecamp to do better. It’s embarrassing and humbling to have suffered the biggest outage at Basecamp in a decade from an issue that we should have addressed years ago, and that we were actively working on addressing, but failed to complete in time.
As the CTO of Basecamp and the creator of Ruby on Rails, I accept full responsibility for our failures. I should have been more vigilant with our own database schema when Rails 5.1 announced the new default, and I should have followed up and asked the right questions when we finally did start work on remediation. I’m really sorry to have failed you 😢
If you have any questions, or if we can help in any way, please reach out to our wonderful support crew who’ve been dealing with each report individually.
I also want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who’ve been so gracious with their kind words of encouragement and support during and after this ordeal. I don’t know if we’ve earned such understanding, given our clear culpability, but we are extremely grateful none the less.
On a personal note, I want to apologize for not posting this postmortem until today. The plan was to have this final summary ready on Friday, but then the Woolsey fire hit, and our family was forced to evacuate our home in Malibu. It’s been a crazy week 😬
Basecamp 3 is now back online for reading and writing. All data was confirmed to be fully safe and intact. No emails that were sent to Basecamp during the outage were dropped. We may still have some backlogs on processing things like incoming emails, and you may still see some slowdowns here and there as we catch up. But we are back, and we are safe.
We will be following up with a detailed and complete postmortem soon. All in, we were stuck in read-only mode for almost five hours. That’s the most catastrophic failure we’ve had a Basecamp in maybe as much as decade, and we could not be more sorry. We know that Basecamp customers depend on being able to get to their data and carry on the work, and today we failed you on that.
We’ve let you down on an avoidable issue that we should have been on top of. We will work hard to regain your trust, and to get back to our normal, boring schedule of 99.998% uptime.
Note: If you were in the middle of posting something new to Basecamp, and you got an error, that data is most likely saved in our browser-based autosave system. If it doesn’t appear automatically, we can help you recover that data. Please contact support if you’re in this situation, and we’ll have a team ready to assist.
Below is the timeline for today:
At 7:21am CST, we first got alerted that we had run out of ID numbers on an important tracking table in the database. This was because the column in database was configured as an integer rather than a big integer. The integer runs out of numbers at 2147483647. The big integer can grow until 9223372036854775807.
At 7:29am CST, the team diagnosed the problem and started working on the fix. This meant writing what’s called a database migration where you change the column type from the regular integer to the big integer type. Changing a production database is serious business, so we had to test this fix on a staging database to make sure it was safe.
At 7:52am CST, we had verified that the fix was correct and tested it on a staging database, so we commenced making the change to the production database table. That table in the database is very large, of course. That’s why it ran out of regular integers. So the migration was estimated to take about one hour and forty minutes.
At 10:56am CST, we completed the upgrade to the databases. This was the largest part of the fix we needed to address the problem. But we still have to verify all the data, update our configurations, and ensure that we won’t have more problems when we go back online. We’re working on this as fast as we can.
At 11:33am CST, we’re still verifying that all data is as it should be for Basecamp 3. The database migration has finished, but the verification process is still ongoing. We’re working as fast as we can and hope to be back fully shortly.
At 11:52am CST, verification of the databases is taking longer than expected. We have 4 databases per datacenter and we have two datacenters with databases. So a total of 8 databases. We need to be absolutely certain that all the data is in proper sync before we can go back online. It’s looking good, but 99% sure isn’t good enough. Need 100%.
At 12:22pm CST, Basecamp came back online after we successfully verified that all data was 100% intact.
At 12:33pm CST, Basecamp had another issue dealing with the intense load of the application being back online. This caused a caching server to get overwhelmed. So Basecamp is down again while we get this sorted.
At 12:41pm CST, Basecamp came back online after we switched over to our backup caching servers. Everything is working as of this moment, but we’re obviously not entirely out of the woods yet. We remain on red alert.
I will continue to update this post with more information, and we will provide a full postmortem after this has completed.
We should have known better. We should have done our due diligence when this improvement was made to the framework two years ago. I accept full responsibility for failing to heed that warning, and by extension for causing the multi-hour outage today. I’m really, really sorry 😢
I’m trying to remember when it was last this crazy at work. Before we spent a month fighting poor planning and terrible execution on the publication of our new book It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. Was it when we got DDoS’ed over two days and were fighting to keep Basecamp on the internet? Was it when we touched the third rail and spoke about customer data in public? Or do we have to go all the way back to the early days when Basecamp went down whenever I, as the only technical person at the time, would get on an airplane?
Whenever it was, it’s been so long that I had almost forgotten the cocktail of feelings that go with it. That mix of frustration, exhaustion, exasperation, and, perhaps for a fleeting moment, even disbelief. Why is this happening! How could we be this stupid?
But now it’s back. Oh it’s back. Publishing It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work has been the most frustrated, exhausting, exasperated, and even unbelievable process. For the dumbest reasons too.
It started with the design. When we signed on with our new publisher, the shared intent was to publish a new book in the same format as REWORK and REMOTE. So we designed a powerful new cover to the same dimensions, and felt really proud about how clean and clear we managed to make it. We were so invested in the impact of the cover that we didn’t even put our names on it!
But when we saw the final book, our hearts sank. This wasn’t right. The book wasn’t the same format. It was taller, so the dimensions were off. And the translation of our design was a complete hack job. It wasn’t even centered on the page!
Yeah, nobody else is likely to notice. Nobody else knows what it was supposed to look like. But we did. We noticed. And when you pour your heart into a book like this, which we’ve been thinking about in some form or another for almost a decade, it hurts.
Okay. Mistakes happen. We were partly to blame. We could have triple checked. We fell for the illusion of agreement, because we weren’t looking at the final thing. Whatever. The second printing would get it right. Bygones.
Forgiving what happened next proved to be much harder.
Harper Business bought the rights to publish It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work with a mid six-figure offer. They outbid another publisher who were in the final running for the rights by a fair margin. Awesome, we thought. This means they’re really invested in blowing this out! This is going to be great.
It was not great.
Despite paying top dollar for the book, Harper Business decided to only print 14,000 copies in the first run. That 14,000 was based on the first orders from retailers. Barnes & Noble wanted 4,000 copies. Amazon wanted 3,300. The rest went largely to independents and wholesalers, and a few for overseas. Once everyone had gotten what they had ordered, Harper Business had no books left. The whole first run was spoken for.
This is where I kick myself. You think when you’re dealing with a major publisher like Harper that you’re safe to leave the details of the printing and the publishing in their hands. This isn’t some upstart publisher. They’ve been around forever. They publish so many books. They’re the professionals, right?
But if we had dared to question that premise — that they’re the professionals, they know what they’re doing — we’d have remembered that we printed 34,000 copies of REWORK. Our first book! The one that went on to sell more than half a million copies around the world. So why were we printing so few books this time around? We’d soon try to in vain to answer that question.
Now it’s fair to note that REMOTE didn’t sell as well as REWORK. But if you’re going to place your bets cautiously based off that, the time to do so is in your offer worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not trying to hedge a few tens of thousands in printing costs.
But this book got off to a roaring start. We flew up the Amazon best seller list, making it to #24 one of the first days. Then we sold out their entire stock in less than 5 days. What joy! What celebration!
If only. Amazon selling out their stock right away was a disaster. Not because of the copies sold, but because Harper seemed to be taken completely by surprise. They had no books ready to restock, because they printed so few in the first place. The first reprint wasn’t even set to go, because they dillydallied fixing the busted cover design. And worse, the remaining 11,000 books that had gone to Barnes & Nobles and wholesalers and independents could barely be accounted for. We couldn’t get straight answers on who had the books, or whether any of them could be sent to Amazon, since that was clearly where people wanted to buy the book.
And who can blame them? Because the book was selling so fast on Amazon, it was listed with a 40% discount! A $27 book selling for less than twenty bucks. Of course you want that, and of course you want it on a 2-day free prime shipping.
The bookscan numbers for the first week hammered this point home. While Amazon had sold 3,300 books, Barnes & Noble — who had ordered even more than Amazon for their first order! — had sold a pathetic 240 copies. And at least 10% of those sales were either us or friends or family excited to see the book in a physical bookstore.
Here’s what worse: Harper knew this would happen. They had told us that Amazon on some titles were 70–90% of sales! In our case, Amazon was over 90% of hardcover books sold the first week, despite the fact that we had gone out of our way to guide sales to B&N during the pre-order phase.
So let’s do the math here: You print 14,000 books for the first printing. You know that Amazon is going to be up to 90% of sales. Wouldn’t you then reserve a good 10,000+ books for Amazon? Harper’s excuse? Amazon’s buyer just said they wanted 3,300 copies, so that’s all we gave them, and we held nothing back for a restock…
And that’s even accepting the premise that 14,000 copies is a good number of books to print for a title you’ve paid mid six figures to acquire. It costs less than $2 to print a book. So Harper spent less than $30,000 to print books, because their planning department didn’t want to risk sitting with $10,000 worth of unsold inventory if the book should bomb.
That’s what the team at Harper literally told us. That, yeah, that was perhaps a small number to print, but they couldn’t convince the planning department to print more, because this was the number of orders they got from retailers. And the planning department is judged not on having enough books, but only if they print too many, and end up with unsold inventory 😮
All of this would just have been a funny anecdote about how dysfunctional large bureaucracies can be, if it wasn’t for what happened next. Taken aback that the book was selling(?!), Harper then had to scramble to get the second printing together. That took a month. Today is the first day that Amazon actually have books in stock ready for delivery tomorrow. They sold out on October 6th.
In that month, all our sales momentum for the hardcover book died out. We had all this publicity lined up. An incredible review by The Economist. Wonderful write-ups in WSJ and The Times UK. Podcast appearances coming out the wazoo. All the built-up excitement for a book that’s hitting right in an industry-wide discussion about toxic work environments and the cost of burning people out. It’s hard to have timed all this better, or, I suppose worse.
Because what good is having a wonderful launch campaign, if you have no books to sell? After Amazon sold out, our book page would scare away potential readers away with a 2–4 week delivery time notice. One time it even said it might be 2 months before the book was back in stock!
This of course also meant we blew any chance of making the prestigious bestseller lists. Whether the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any of the other lists we made with REWORK. Yes, they’re vanity lists to a large extent, but if you’re not going to make the lists, let it be for a good reason like, not enough people buy your book, not that you don’t have books for all the people who want to buy.
So why did it take Harper Business a month to get our newly released book back in stock? Because of Trump. Because of tariffs. Because of paper shortages. Because there were a lot of other big books being published at the same time. Because of consolidation in the book printing business. I kid you not, these were all excuses pitched by Harper as to why there were no books.
And there’s some truth to all of these. It has been difficult to estimate when you could get to the printer. Other books have been affected too. But no one else at our scale had their launch quite this spectacularly botched by the publisher not doing the due diligence to account for these challenges. Out of all the other new releases that broke into the top 50 on Amazon, we were the only title out of stock for a long time.
We’d get these long serenades about how they too were really frustrated. How these things just happen! How it was going to get fixed any day now, but they just weren’t exactly sure when. How mad they were and what loud noises they were making when talking to the departments in charge.
Every possible excuse except for “the dog ate my homework”. Which, really, would have been a more compelling excuse than “tariffs”. Because that’s really what it comes down to. We botched our launch because someone didn’t do the homework. They didn’t print an appropriate amount of books to the scale of the book, they had no solid plans for a second printing when the first one ran out, and they had no capacity for anticipating that all the factors that had been in play for months (like paper shortages or tariffs or, ffs, Trump) would impact the process.
They were unprepared for and proved incapable of doing the one job you absolutely must do as a book publisher: Print. The. Books.
Because it’s not like we overloaded Harper with responsibilities on this launch. Jason and I did all the material editing ourselves, we had the whole book designed in-house, we had it illustrated in-house, and we even had our own PR agency do a lot of the footwork for publicity.
This is that joke: You had one job, Harper. One job. Print the books, get them to book stores.
Anyway. It’s been crazy at work. Needlessly so. Painfully so. Frustratingly so. But, like all moments of crazy, it also held a buffet of lessons for us to take. Like, never work with Harper Business on another book again… kidding… sorta… maybe… 😂
No really. We went for the publisher who bid the highest, and we assumed this meant they had real skin in the game. We went with a major publisher, so we assumed they all knew what they were doing, and we didn’t have to double check every publishing decision. We made a deal with a single acquiring editor without meeting the rest of the team, because that played to our bias that someone entrusted to write a mid six-figure check on their own would have the authority to call the shots that mattered, but we still ended up haggling over $10,000 in costs to print books.
That’s a lot of bad assumptions. Assumptions built up over two past and good experiences printing books with the professionals at Crown publishing. When you work with people who know what they’re doing, it’s so easy to assume that this is totally normal. That everyone is going to be at this level, because that’s the baseline you see. But it’s not normal. Whether constrained by a dysfunctional organization or whatever, plenty of people end up being incapable of rising to that baseline. And then you really start appreciating what you never even knew you had to worry about.
Now I’ve ended up writing a long tirade, and I completely accept that some people might gag with summary like: “So they gave you a bunch of money, fucked up a few things, but now the books are back in stock, so why do you care?”. Because I do care. Because we didn’t write this book primarily to make money, but because we had something urgent to say, and wanted as many people as could benefit from that message to hear it. But yes, I’m writing this to process my own frustration, if not outright rage, as well.
Brian Acton does not sound like the happy, fulfilled guy the stereotype of billionairedom would have you believe. He sounds like someone racked with regret, guilt, and torment over his decision to sell the most promising rebel base to the empire and then realizing that the empire would do what the empire does.
It’s so easy to dismiss such anguish with gifs of a man crying himself to sleep on a bed of money. But that’s as shallow as it is glib. Yes, Zuckerberg made Acton unfathomably rich. He also made him unfathomably small and impotent.
They say becoming a billionaire isn’t about the money, it’s about the power. If so, clearly this was a deal gone wrong. Acton became a billionaire by giving up all his power and handing it to Zuckerberg.
Who wouldn’t regret that? And yet, who wouldn’t be tempted by Facebook’s billions? Temptation is natural, it’s human. And so too is the rationalization that it was “an offer too good to refuse”, which seeks to absolve the taker of all guilt (and agency). And so too is the depths of despair when you deep down know you made a mistake.
That’s probably what makes the Forbes interview so painful to read. Acton is trying to make sense of his regret. Facebook is clearly on a path to turn what may well have been his life’s work into everything he built it not to be. And yet he has to rationalize his decision with utterly inauthentic excuses like how they’re “just being good business people, not bad people”. It’s like watching an early session of therapy play out awkwardly on a lit theater stage in front of an audience. You can’t help but cringe.
And in that cringe lies the appeal of Acton’s story. The utterly human temptation towards unfathomable wealth with the equally human suspicion that purpose is so much more than 10-digit bank balance.
The bastion of hope that was WhatsApp is gone. The “no ads, no games, no gimmicks” ethos will complete its transition into “all ads, all deceit, all extraction” soon enough. There’s a twenty-billion dollar hole in Facebook’s balance sheet that needs filling (with interest).
But rather than mourn that loss, we’d do well to use it to energize a new generation of entrepreneurs to avoid the trap that Acton fell into. To power the formation of a thousand new WhatsApps, intent on avoiding the faith of the fallen one.
We need to rewrite the cultural incentives around selling out. Acton predicament as the prototypical tragedy rather than victory. Replace envy with pity. Inspiration with rejection.
Let’s make it cool to turn down twenty billion dollars.
Basecamp is hiring a data analyst to help us make better decisions in all areas of the business. This includes everything from running A/B tests with statistical rigor to forecasting revenue for the year to tracing performance problems to analyzing usage patterns.
We’re looking for an experienced candidate who’s done similar work elsewhere (as you’ll be the only one at Basecamp with this specialty). But nobody hits the ground running. You won’t be able to answer every question immediately or know how all the systems work on day one — and we don’t expect you to.
We want strong, diverse teams built from different backgrounds, experiences and identities. We’re ready for the ongoing work that goes into building an inclusive, supportive place for you to do the best work of your career. That starts with working no more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis and getting 8+ hours of sleep a night. Our workplace and our benefits are designed to support a sustainable, healthy relationship with your work. (We literally just wrote a book on the topic!)
Today, our team works from 32 different cities spread across 6 countries. You can work from anywhere in the world, so long as you can design a normal working day with 4 hours or more overlap with Chicago time (CST/UTC-6). Nomads welcome.
About the job
Data informs almost everything we do at Basecamp, but we’re not a “data-driven organization” in the sense that data dictates decisions. Data is there to clear the head, but ultimately we drive the company with our heart.
This means the job isn’t about maximizing revenue or minimizing costs. Yes, we want to make money and we don’t want to be wasteful, but we also want to be kind, considerate, fair, flexible, and calm. You won’t be looking for ways to squeeze the last sour drop out of the lemon at Basecamp.
But you will help us make sense of the data. Establish the facts. Put a price on the choices we make. Help us understand the business, our software, and its customers.
Here are some examples of projects you might work on:
Analyzing the performance of a new marketing page. Track the cohort that signed up with this variation. Keep us patient for a statistically significant result. Compute the value of the change.
Identify when a brute-force login attack started, quarantine the IP addresses involved, work with technical operations to bolster our defenses, and write up the forensics report at the end.
Analyze our purchase records to locate transactions within states that are starting to collect sales tax on software like ours, work with our accounting company to document that sourcing method, and help evaluate whether we should buy or build a sales-tax engine.
Help product strategy analyze usage data to figure out whether a certain feature is working as intended, and if it is, who it’s important to.
Illuminate how we’re spending money on cloud computing today, and estimate how much we’ll be spending next year, given our growth patterns.
Answer the question: Has Basecamp 3 gotten slower in the last 6 months? Compare aggregate performance data to find the high-level trends, then help us pinpoint data tipping points or code regressions.
Answering these questions usually means formulating and running queries against our big data infrastructure. But it also means just doing the basic math, and ensuring we’re being statistically rigorous. You should be able to do both the technical and statistical work to answer questions like the ones in the examples above.
That’s a lot of different areas of responsibility! So you probably won’t be an expert in all of them, and that’s fine. A solid fundamental approach to analysis will pave the way.
And you’ll have plenty of help! Basecamp has a Security, Infrastructure, and Performance (SIP) group that’s responsible for managing the data pipeline, storage, and analytical interfaces. And a Operations (Ops) group that’s responsible for running our servers, network, and cloud services. It’s a plus if you’re able to help evolve these systems, but by no means a requirement.
In broad strokes, Managers of One thrive at Basecamp. We’re committed generalists, eager learners, conscientious workers, and curators of what’s essential. We’re quick to trust. We see things through. We’re kind to each other, look up to each other, and support each other. We achieve together. We are colleagues, here to do our best work.
You’ll probably have a degree that has exposed you to the rigor of the analytical work. Social scientists welcome. If you don’t have a degree in Theoretical Statistics, that’s not a showstopper — and it’s not what we’re looking for, anyway! We care about what you can do and how you do it, not about how you got there.
While we currently have an office in Chicago, you should be comfortable working remotely — most of the company does! This means that the bulk of our work is written, whether that be in the form of long reports or short chats. We value good writers.
We also value people who can take a stand yet commit even when they disagree. We subject ideas to rigorous debate, but all remember that we’re here for the same purpose: to do good work together. Charging the trust battery is part of the work.
About our pay & benefits
Our pay is within the top 10% of the industry, for the matched role and experience, based on San Francisco rates. This comes to a range at hiring of between $115,000 and $141,000, depending on your seniority. No matter where you live. Plus, with two years under your belt, you’ll participate in our profit-growth sharing program.
Our benefits at Basecamp are all about helping you lead a healthy life away from work. While we have a lovely office in Chicago, it’s not where you’ll find foosball tables constantly spinning, paid lunches, or any of the other trappings that companies use to lure employees into staying ever longer at work.
Work can wait. Our benefits include 4-day Summer Weeks, a yearly paid vacation, a one-month sabbatical every three years, and allowances for CSA, fitness, massage, and continuing education. We have top-shelf health insurance and a retirement plan with a generous match. See the full list.
How to apply
Please send an application tailored to this position that speaks to us. Introduce yourself as a colleague. Show us that future. As we said, we value great writers, so please do take your time with the application. Forget that generic resume. There’s no prize for being the first to submit!
We’d like to hear about how you’d approach some of the example projects outlined in the description about the job. Imagine you’re doing the work and walk us through your thinking.
All that being said, don’t send in a copy of War & Peace. We hire rarely at Basecamp, so when we do, there’s usually hundreds of applicants. Be kind to the people doing application triage and keep your cover letter to fewer than 800 words and the thoughts on project approaches below the same ceiling.
Go for it!
We are accepting applications for this position until Friday, October 12. We’ll let you know that we’ve received your application. After that, you probably shouldn’t expect to hear back from us until after the application deadline has passed. We want to give everyone a fair chance to apply and be evaluated.
As mentioned in the introduction, we’re eager to assemble a more diverse team. In fact, we’re not afraid of putting extra weight on candidates from underrepresented groups at Basecamp.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
(And again, imposters: We are too. Take heart. Step up.)
Managers used to be the object of envy for their leisurely workday. Maybe it included showing up half an hour later than the norm. Maybe it was that mid-day session of golf. Maybe it was skipping out early on a Friday.
In an age of back-breaking manual labor, it’s understandable how such disparity was cause for contempt. But for much of the economy, those days are over.
And yet it seems that far too many managers have internalized a deep sense of guilt from that era, so they desperately try to convince themselves and others just how hard they’re working! How worthy they are of their perched position on the hierarchy. How important their constant gaze and vigilant action is for both their company and the economy as a whole.
Thus is the sign of insecurity. When you deep down know that your 24/7 efforts just aren’t as important — or even desired! — as you’d like to believe, the quickest way to quell those nagging thoughts is to doubling down on the bravado. You don’t think I work? Oh, let me show you!!
Overcompensating like that may or may not be a conscious process. It’s probably easier when it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy in any psychological sense of the word. It’s hard work to dance with dissonance, cognitive or otherwise.
But to keep dancing like this, you need someone to provide the music, and the media has been all too willing for all too long. Fawning article after adoring hagiography. Look at this marvel of a monster manager! Up before anyone, to bed later than all! No vacation for 20 years! Bathroom breaks strategically picked to squeeze out 120-hour weeks! You should all be in awe of these super humans!
It’s time for the music to come to a halt. Stop lionizing toxic work habits as inspiration for new entrepreneurs and managers. Masochistic managers can continue their self-immolation for The Mission and The Company, but the rest of us and the media do not need to bang the tambourine while they do it. Because that shit already trickles down enough as it is. We don’t need to help it.
Instead we should look with pity on such a narrow existence. And frequently with the appropriate level of ridicule and scorn when the performative aspects of exhaustion get too over the top.
Let’s return to a time where being a harried mess of a human wasn’t the high managerial calling it is today. But let’s spread that luxury wider. Instead of turning everyone into the overworked peon of the early 20th century, we should be striving for everyone to be able to take off early on Friday for golf. Or enjoy that long lunch. Or pick when they come into the office.
Jason and I have have sought to become calm managers in a calm company for the better part of twenty years. It was our continued frustration with the endless exhaustion bravado that lead us to pen our latest book: It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. It’s coming out October 2nd in the US.
Not because there aren’t people who actually enjoy working in an open office, there are. Quite a few, actually. But they’re in the distinct minority. The vast majority of people either dislike the open office or downright hate it. So how is that going to work, exactly?
By force, of course! Open offices are more appealing to people in management because they needn’t protect their own time and attention as much. Few managers have a schedule that allows, or even requires, long hours of uninterrupted time dedicated to a single creative pursuit.
And it’s these managers who are in charge of designing office layouts and signing leases. It’s also these managers who are responsible for booking photo shots of the FUN-FUN office, giving tours to investors, and fielding interviews with journalists. The open office is an excellent backdrop for all those activities.
What it isn’t, though, is conducive to better collaboration. A new study shows that the number one argument for the open office, increased collaboration, is bullshit. Converting traditional offices with walls and doors and separation into open-plan offices causes face-to-face interaction to plummet, not rise. People try to shield their attention (and sanity!) by retreating into headphone-clad cocoons, and instead rely on instant messaging or email to interact. D’oh!
My personal distaste for the open office goes back to the turn of the millennium when I worked at several tech companies with open-office layouts. It was a tyranny of interruption, distraction, and stress. The quality of my work suffered immensely, and so did my mental wellbeing. I feel quite comfortable stating that I would never have been able to create Ruby on Rails or any of my other software or creative achievements in such an environment.
One particular incident from those days stand out. We were already working from an open office, but at least I had a desk with a wall behind me, so there was a modicum of privacy and psychological safety. Then management decided that it would “look better” if we went to circular desks where several of us would be sitting with our backs to the hallway, so everyone walking past would be looking at our screen as they passed. It took a minor rebellion that lasted several weeks before management backed down from that horrendous idea.
Now, an open office is a continuum. The absolute worst is when you have dozens of people from all different departments in the same room. Sales, marketing, support, administration, programmers, designers, what have you. These departments have very different needs for quiet or concentration or use of phones or open conversation. Mixing them together is peak bad open office design.
Less bad — but still not great — is to again have dozens of people in the same room, but from largely the same functions or complimentary ones. Programmers, designers, writers together. The problem here is that even within the same domain, different people will have very different sensibilities about what’s a reasonable level of conversation or interruption. Remember, there’s a sizable minority of even creative people who enjoy the open office!
And probably least bad is small team rooms of fewer than ten people, preferably fewer than six. I’ve sat together with really small teams before and that’s been OK. Some people who don’t like the open office at all might even still enjoy this configuration.
None of this is new. There’s been an endlessstream of studies showing that the open-plan office is a source of stress, conflict, and turnover. And yet it’s still the default in tech. An almost unquestioned default. That’s a fucking travesty.
We’re squandering human health and potential on an epic scale by forcing the vast majority of people who dislike or hate the open office into that configuration. Their work deteriorates, their job satisfaction declines. And for what? Because a minority of people kinda like that configuration? Because it’ll look good in a few photos? Because it’ll impress strangers who visit the office? Get outta here.
The Basecamp office has a row of desks out in the open which we govern by Library Rules. We also have four private work rooms. Usually fewer than five people work from the office on any given day. The rest is remote. Want to learn more about how we try to keep it calm at Basecamp? Got a new book coming Oct 2, 2018 called It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. Check it out.
I think I’ve cracked the obsession amongst much of the Silicon Valley set with compressing work life, sacrificing everything until the big exit, and running fast while breaking all the things: If you don’t plan to stick around, who cares how you leave the things behind?
This loot’n’leave strategy can justify much of what’s wrong with startup culture in the broad, below-the-titans cut (where reaching emperorhood brings its own justifications). Employees, customers, regulations, and, hell, even society at large, is much easier to screw over without regret if you don’t have to stick around for all that long. A few years of being the villain or the asshole is probably something a lot more people can imagine tolerating than if it was the condemnation of a whole career.
I can think of how the opposite dilemma frequently guides my decisions and opinions at Basecamp. If I’m going to be here for the next 10–20–30 years, what’s the right move that I won’t regret over the coming decades? How can we find ways to do right by more people, more of the time? How can we get to the root of what’s going wrong at our company or with our offering or with our technology? How can we fix them in such a way that we won’t have to worry about them all the time for the decades to come?
That perspective of permanence gives you a completely different outlook on your actions and your overall strategy. It’s like how most people end up treating a neighborhood they live in with a different kind of respect than one they’re just visiting. It’d be nice if everyone were just the best human they could be all the time, but it seems that most need some intrinsic incentive. Having to stick around is one such incentive.
How would things be different for you if you couldn’t just loot’n’leave?