I’m a boring programmer (and proud of it)

Archetypes for programmers (if you believe all those silly job postings). Illustration by Nate Otto.

I have a confession to make — I’m not a rock star programmer. Nor am I a hacker. I don’t know ninjutsu. Nobody has ever called me a wizard.

Still, I take pride in the fact that I’m a good, solid programmer. One who works hard at his craft and really enjoys it, even without the fancy labels.

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Is group chat making you sweat?

Is this you? Are you making other feel like this?

Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.

In 2006 we launched Campfire, the first modern SAAS group chat and messaging tool for business.

Since then, quite a few business chat and messaging tools like Hipchat, Flowdock, Slack and others have sprung up. And we’ve since rolled group chat and instant messaging (we call them “pings”) into the all new Basecamp 3.

As a company, we’ve been around group/business chat longer than just about any other company in business today. In addition to hearing from our customers for years, our own daily experiences over ten years of extensive group chatting have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. All together, we’ve messaged nearly 10,000,000 lines to one another at 37signals/Basecamp since 2006.

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Why I work remotely (hint: it has nothing to do with productivity).

Illustration by Nate Otto

These are some of the things I can do because I’m fortunate to work for a company that lets me work from anywhere:

  • Hug my kids and feed them breakfast before they leave for school in the morning.
  • Greet and make a snack for them when they get home; hear all about their day.
  • Work from my favorite coffee shop.
  • Spend a week with the whole Basecamp team in our Chicago office.
  • Spend a week with my team in sunny Austin, TX (while it’s -2ºF in Chicago).
  • Run an errand for a friend.
  • Walk my dogs.
  • Work with a friend.
  • Care for a sick child without taking a sick day myself.

After you’ve read all the books and articles about keeping on-task when working from home, setting up the perfect home office, avoiding loneliness, staying connected, sidestepping distractions, and avoiding interruptions I’d suggest one thing: embrace interruptions.

Keep reading “Why I work remotely (hint: it has nothing to do with productivity).”

Employee benefits at Basecamp

Our headquarters in Chicago.

I’m often asked about the benefits we offer at Basecamp. Potential employees are obviously curious, but most of the questions I get are from fellow business owners and entrepreneurs. Everyone’s looking to know what everyone else is doing — as are we — so I figured I might as well post our current benefit list publicly.

Note: Since the majority of our staff works remotely, and some outside the US, some of these benefits are provided in different ways. For example, the 401k is only available in the US. We’re currently working on making sure everyone, no matter where they work, have commensurate benefits (or at least as similar as possible). We’re still working on this, so hopefully I can write more about how we’ve addressed this down the road.

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The day I became a millionaire

I grew up lower-middle class on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Anywhere outside of Scandinavia, the socioeconomic label would probably have been ‘poor’, but Danish safety nets and support systems did their best to suspend the facts and offer better.

Me in the middle in home-made clothing to go with home-made ninja weapons… oh yeah!

But don’t worry: This isn’t a rags-to-riches story. I loathe the I-did-it-all-by-myself heroic myth mongering. I got where I am thanks to government-sponsored maternity leave, child care, health care, education, and even cash assistance. I grew up in housing provided by AAB, a union-founded affordable housing association. And my mother was a damn magician at making impossible ends meet without belaboring her tricks (like biking an extra 15 minutes to find the lowest price on milk).

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RECONSIDER

#WEBSUMMIT2015

About 12 years ago, I co-founded a startup called Basecamp: A simple project collaboration tool that helps people make progress together, sold on a monthly subscription.

It took a part of some people’s work life and made it a little better. A little nicer than trying to manage a project over email or by stringing together a bunch of separate chat, file sharing, and task systems. Along the way it made for a comfortable business to own for my partner and me, and a great place to work for our employees.

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Give it five minutes

I used to be a hothead. Whenever anyone said anything, I’d think of a way to disagree. I’d push back hard if something didn’t fit my world-view.

It’s like I had to be first with an opinion — as if being first meant something. But what it really meant was that I wasn’t thinking hard enough about the problem. The faster you react, the less you think. Not always, but often.

It’s easy to talk about knee jerk reactions as if they are things that only other people have. You have them too. If your neighbor isn’t immune, neither are you.

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