Temperature Check

One of our colleagues on the Basecamp customer support team, Jayne Ogilvie, wanted to find out how other tech companies with remote staffs handle issues like communication, career development, and hiring. Jayne sent out a survey and got back a wealth of information and ideas about how other teams work together. In this episode of Rework, we hear more from two participating companies: Sarah Park of MeetEdgar talks about how their staff gathers internal feedback on important decisions, and Patrick Filler and Anitra St. Hilaire of Harvest talk about taking on the challenge of making their company more diverse and inclusive.

Next week, we’ll release a bonus conversation with Sarah Park about MeetEdgar’s culture of transparency and open meetings. Make sure you’re subscribed via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, RadioPublic, or the app of your choice so you don’t miss it!

Go Behind the Scenes

A famous guy once said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” But he was a grifter. In fact, going behind the scenes — whether it’s a factory tour or cooking show — can be a valuable experience for both visitors and guides. In this episode, we crash a middle school field trip to the Method soap factory on Chicago’s South Side. We also hear from Basecamp’s CEO Jason Fried on his YouTube series on making design decisions and from the managing partners of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan on why they don’t believe in secrets.

If you leave a comment, be sure to tell us whether you prefer yeast or cake donuts!

You Need Less Than You Think

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Who needs a fancy office when you can work out of a dingy food court? Who needs fancy equipment when you can buy what you need at Walmart? Who needs to hire an SEO specialist? What does an SEO specialist do, anyway? (A question for another episode, or maybe another podcast altogether.) On this episode of Rework, three very different companies — a fashion brand, a company that sells fresh salads from vending machines, and an auto detailing shop — discuss their humble beginnings and offer practical advice about being resourceful and staying lean.

But Wait, There’s More!

Do you struggle with finding the right podcast? Are you tired of true crime shows and hosts trying to sell you a mattress? Introducing Rework, a podcast that’s free of both murder and midroll ads. When you listen to this episode of Rework, you’ll learn the fascinating history of infomercials and hear sales tips from experts like the marketing guru who made the Thighmaster a ’90s sensation. But wait, there’s more! Stick around after the episode to hear Wailin explain the premise of Three’s Company to Shaun. Subscribe to Rework today!

Opening the Rework Mailbag

We have another Mailbag episode, where Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson answer listener questions. In this installment, they tackle questions about workplace communication and remote working. Alison Green of Ask A Manager, whom we featured in our previous episode, gives her advice on a couple of questions too.

You can listen to previous Mailbag installments here and here. If you’d like a question answered on a future episode, leave us a voicemail at 708-628-7850 or email us at hello@rework.fm.

Ask A Manager


Last summer, my little corner of the Internet blew up with a post on Ask A Manager, a workplace advice column by Alison Green. The letter writer said that 10 years ago, he’d ghosted on his girlfriend of three years. While she was visiting her family, he moved out—not just of the home they shared together, but of the entire country—without so much as a Post-It note. And then, as karma would have it, he learned that his ex-girlfriend was about to become his new boss. Oof. Alison responded with her trademark thoughtfulness and honesty:

I don’t know that you can salvage this! It’s not reasonable to ask Sylvia to manage someone who she has this history with. You can try and see what her take on it is, but I’d be prepared to have to move on, whatever that might look like for you. I get that it’s going to be inconvenient — maybe even quite hard — but there may not be an alternative here.

I got hooked on Ask A Manager with this post, but I’m a relative latecomer to the party. Alison’s been dispensing workplace wisdom for a decade now and today she launches a new book that provides practical advice for how to talk to managers, employees, and coworkers about a huge range of topics, from asking for raises or promotions to handling awkward social situations at the office. On the latest episode of Rework, I interview Alison about how she became an advice columnist, how she’s cultivated a community of surprisingly nice commenters, memorable letters (like the ghosting ex), and more.

Life After Shark Tank

The ABC show Shark Tank is irresistible reality programming: Entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of famous investors and have the potential to make a life-changing deal. But as with any reality show, there’s much more to the Shark Tank experience than what gets shown on TV. In the new episode of the Rework podcast, we talk to three business owners about what it was really like to go on the program — and what happened afterward, when they had to get back to the very real work of building their companies.

This episode features:

Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar, a company that makes vegan and cruelty-free lipstick in vibrant shades that work on a broad range of skin tones. Watch a clip of their episode.

Chris Ruder of Spikeball, the maker of a game that’s a mix of volleyball and four square. Ruder played Spikeball as a child and later revived the brand after it had become obsolete.

Joe Moore of First Defense Nasal Screens, which patented an adhesive filter that sticks on top of the nostrils to prevent allergens from entering the body.


A friendly reminder that we are collecting your workplace communication questions for Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. If you’re seeking advice on how to talk to your boss, your employee, or a colleague, leave us a voicemail at (708) 628–7850 or email us at hello@rework.fm.

Please Don’t Like This

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In the summer of 1962, the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould performed an all-Bach concert at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. The second half of the program was devoted to The Art of Fugue, and Gould did something radical before he started playing the piece—he asked the audience not to applaud.

This wasn’t the first time Gould publicly expressed his discomfort with audience applause. Earlier that year, he published an essay in Musical America called “Let’s Ban Applause!” He argued that the best way to consume art was to internalize it and reflect on it in a quiet, deliberate way, instead of making a flashy public response in the moment.

In the essay, he jokingly proposed something he called the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds, or GPAADAK. Under GPAADAK, applause would be allowed only at weekday family concerts, where “the performers, naturally, would be strictly second-team.” For the no-applause concerts, Gould suggested that solo pianists be conveyed offstage on a giant lazy Susan while still seated at the instrument, to prevent any awkwardness over having to walk off the stage in silence.

For Gould, who ultimately retired from concert life in 1964, audience applause was distasteful for a number of reasons: It evoked a gladiatorial vibe that was at odds with the reverence he felt the music deserved, and it didn’t give him any real feedback. I see this today with standing ovations—I can’t remember a single classical concert I’ve attended or performed in (I play violin in an amateur community symphony) where the audience didn’t automatically rise to their feet at the end. Surely not every performance deserves a standing ovation, yet concert-goers feel compelled to do it. I can see why Gould found the whole business kind of annoying and meaningless.

In the latest episode of Rework, we start with Gould as a way to frame a debate we’ve been having at Basecamp about the Applause feature in Basecamp 3. DHH wrote previously about the red flags that the feature started to raise for him and others at the company, and how we decided to kill the feature (internally) as we decide its ultimate fate. You’ll hear more from DHH, as well as iOS designer Tara Mann, in this episode, which covers the broader theme of seeking validation on social media.

Meetings are Toxic

Meetings are one of the worst kinds of workplace interruptions. They’re held too frequently, run too long, and involve more people than necessary. You may have gathered that we really dislike meetings at Basecamp. And many of you do too! This episode of Rework features:

  • A group of philosophy professors in a meeting they Kant seem to end. You might say it had…No Exit. One attendee, at least, found enough Hume-r in it to tell us about it.
  • A meeting about a meeting.
  • A dramatic reading about conference calls from hell.
  • Basecamp programmer Dan Kim talking about his post on recurring meetings and what you—yes, you!—can do to start changing the ingrained culture of meetings at your company.
  • A brief, pedantic aside to note the difference between garters and garter belts.
  • A cringeworthy meeting with an unwanted participant—and an unexpected outcome.

We had more listener-submitted meeting stories than we could feature in the episode, so here are a couple bonus ones!

No Work Done

I had an intense 12-hour meeting over two consecutive days. We were writing, correcting and estimating stories for a three-month project. Devs were in the room with managers, scrum master and biz owners.

So at the end of the second day, we finished the last story and we were supposed to groom and task it out next day (a third meeting day, yay). But our manager talked with us the next day and told us that some biz owners were mad about some unclear criteria in the stories, so he said that the (managers and biz) will regroup and this time “correctly rewrite all stories” and that we will have another 12-hour meeting next week.

That’s the story of how I had 24 hours of meetings in two weeks and NO WORK DONE (we couldn’t start working in the project until we had the second 12-hour meeting).

Quelle Horreur

I recently worked as a product manager for an Austrian company that was owned by a big French group. We were an IT service provider for two products, and in this meeting we were supposed to discuss payment providers for our new e-commerce offer.

The office and project language was English. My boss spoke English, French and German. I spoke English and German. Our French colleagues spoke French and English (with difficulties).

The meeting was a jour fixe (recurring) video conference scheduled for one hour, done over a big screen in HD. On our side, it was my boss and me. On their side, it was three project and product managers joined by a “payment expert” and an “SEO expert.” So that was seven people. Five minutes before the meeting, our CFO informed us that he would be joining shortly just to clarify “some budget things” with the department lead. So in total, we had nine people in the meeting: six on their side and three on ours. After the introduction round in English, the CFO and the department lead started to discuss budget details in French and that lasted for 40 minutes. Nine people in the meeting, two people talking to each other, and one of the nine (me) doesn’t understand a word that was said. Once they were done, they both left the meeting, so the rest of us had 20 minutes to discuss what we wanted to discuss.

I’ve read Rework and already had formed my opinion about Jour Fixes and working in meetings. I also complained often and openly about meetings I was invited to but had nothing to say and could have just read the minutes afterward. But this one was a special kind of meeting. It was almost like it was directed by Monty Python. I no longer work there 🙂


We publish Rework on alternate Tuesday mornings. To get new episodes on your phone as soon as they’re released, subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, or RadioPublic, or search for REWORK in your favorite podcast app.

Interruption is Not Collaboration

What’s happening?

Hey, are you busy? Can you listen to this real quick? It’s an episode about interruptions in the workplace. You’ll hear from academic researchers, Basecamp’s head data wrangler, and the CEO of a remote company about how they’ve tackled not just the disruptions themselves, but also the workplace culture that allows those intrusions to flourish.