All Basecamp policies are now on GitHub and licensed under creative commons

“Until The End of The Internet” is just one of the many policies we’ve decided to share

We try hard to write good policies at Basecamp. Make them plain and easy to understand. Without out all the dreaded legalese. By humans, for humans.

I particularly like our refund policy and our Until The End of The Internet policy.

But I’m sure we don’t always succeed. And sometimes our policies may decay over time. Terms that are or become unreasonable linger on. Ugh.

So that’s why we now invite our customers and anyone else who’s interested in reviewing our policies to collaborate on making them better, making them fairer. To this purpose, we’ve put all our Basecamp policies on GitHub!

This also means that every revision is tracked and date stamped. You can even subscribe to be updated whenever they change, if you care to follow along at that level.

Furthermore, since the spirit of this idea is to collaborate, we’ve also licensed all these policies under the Creative Commons Attribution license. If you’d like to use any of the policies for your own business, feel free! All we ask is that you give us a bit of credit, if you either copy them entirely or materially.

This act of sharing was inspired by the reception to opening up our Basecamp Employee Handbook. We’ve heard from so many business owners and employees that our handbook helped them put together their own. That they were inspired by some of our values or practices enough to adopt them as their own.

Our hope is that the same might happen with our policies. If more companies would adopt a no-nonsense refund policy, we’d all be better off. If more companies — AND YES I’M LOOKING AT YOU GOOGLE 😂 — would honor their legacy systems, and not willy-nilly kick users to the curb, we’d all gain from the level-up in trust.

Policies are part of the organizational code of a company. Not only should that code be open source, it should be tinkered with, improved, critiqued, forked, and refactored. Let’s do that.

The Chase Jarvis Live show

← Me | Chase →

Back in October I was in San Francisco to record an episode of the Chase Jarvis Live show. We talked for nearly two hours about work, life, building calm (and crazy) companies, FOMO + JOMO, philosophy, the downsides of real-time communication tech, not setting goals, saying no, our new book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work”, etc. Loads of stuff, a really fun conversation.

Here’s the full YouTube video:

If you prefer audio-only, you can find the episode on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Big thanks to Chase for having me on, and for being such a kind host. He also had David on a while back — well worth watching that one as well.

We hope you enjoy!

The Support Side of Downtime

There used to be a panicked feeling that would set in when we’d have any sort of outage or issue in Basecamp past — that stomach-dropping, heart-palpitating, sweaty-palmed feeling. But on November 8th when I awoke to a 6am text spelling out Basecamp’s downtime, I wasn’t worried. Before I finished reading the full text, I remember thinking, “Oh, they’ll have it sorted out before I can finish making coffee.” But as I continued reading and began to understand the estimated downtime to be at least two hours, my adrenaline hit.

The first thing I wanted to do was check on the support team. Were they in panic-mode? How sweaty were their palms? How many customers had they talked to already today? How close to capacity were they?

And by the time I received the alert and logged on (coffee brewing while I said Good Morning, thank glob for remote work), Basecamp had been in read-only for about 30 minutes, three times my prediction. Despite the stress of a lengthy downtime, knowing that we’d have a few hours of this status allowed us to settle in and accept our predicament. We had time to get into a flow and trust ourselves to talk our customers through this.

Really, what I realized when I logged on was that everything was absolutely under control on the support team. And of course it was: for the past two years, our team has been conducting crisis drills with each other. Once a month, we rotate responsibility for these drills and each person is responsible for coming up with their own style of drill. They’ve become quite the gif-filled, fun time! We work from a playbook (hosted on GitHub in case Basecamp is down) that acts as a living document we can update as-needed. We’re currently in the process of using our experience from the read-only outage to revamp and reassess the playbook to make it even more accessible, comprehensive, and succinct — no small task, mind you!

Keep reading “The Support Side of Downtime”

Postmortem on the read-only outage of Basecamp on November 9th, 2018


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.

Note: If you weren’t using Basecamp at the time, you can see how we kept everyone in the loop using our status.basecamp.com updates and a play-by-play record on our blog. We can’t promise to be perfect, but we promise always to keep you informed in a timely and completely transparent manner.


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 😬

Illustrating “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work”

Take a look behind the scenes at the illustration process for Jason Fried and DHH’s new book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

Back story

Every essay in Jason and David’s previous titles, REWORK and REMOTE is accompanied by an illustration that captures the key message of the essay. Contract llustrator Mike Rohde’s iconic original art perfectly compliments the irreverent and contrarian tone of the books. We love the format and it has worked well for us but when it came time to design the new book, Jason was eager to try something new. He reached out to the Basecamp team for fresh ideas.

Jason’s post in Basecamp from February 2018

At the time the working title of the book was The Calm Company, which was less provocative but perfectly captured the kind of company we want to have here at Basecamp—the kind of company prescribed in the book. Jason had already asked our team to pitch ideas for the jacket design and with two best-selling books behind us there was a sense that we could take even more of the production in-house. Having already contributed some spot illustrations to Basecamp’s marketing in recent years, I eagerly started work on concepts for It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

The concept

From the onset, I felt pretty strongly that the illustrations could be valuable content in themselves rather than simply complimenting the text. So I explored ideas that featured a running narrative that could tell a parallel story of a company that’s anything but calm. I considered graphic novel style spreads, comic strips and even something like Sergio Aragones’ “marginals” in Mad Magazine. I also explored ideas in the style of cartoons in the New Yorker that wouldn’t directly relate to the essays but would be satirical vignettes of situations where it’s crazy at work.

Here are the original sketches I shared with Jason and Basecamp marketing designer, Adam Stoddard, a few weeks later in a video call.




Original sketches pitched to the team in April

I pitched each of these ideas but it was the sketch featuring a blurb about Charles Darwin that we found ourselves most excited about. I had remembered reading an article about Darwin’s daily routine several months before and that had sparked the idea to feature famous people—both current and historical—who had done great things without embracing the extreme work habits that are so often praised today. The illustrations would introduce these figures to readers, reinforcing that it truly doesn’t have to be this way. After all, if Darwin could write one of the most important works in modern science working only 3 hours a day whatever you’re spending 80+ hours a week doing probably isn’t quite as important. So I ran with the concept enlisting our own Wailin Wong to identify, research, and write the blurb for each figure.

We had a tight deadline—only about 60 days from concept to delivery of the final art—so I got right to work exploring visual styles. Modern illustration, especially in the tech world, seems uniformly clean and over-simple so I knew I wanted to try something more unrefined and irreverent. I also had the sense that these should be draw by hand with real materials. Partly for practical reasons like printing at high resolution but also so that the original art would actually exist for posterity. Maybe we’d frame and display them in our office or give them away. So I explored several approaches that shared a loose, rough feel and Adam popped them into the interior layouts he’d been working on.





Style explorations using Charles Darwin as our prototype

They ranged from just bad to outright weird but the idea seemed to be taking shape. I especially liked the ones that were in a more editorial cartoon style and include a prop or other visual gag (such as Darwin’s iguana) but these illustrations needed to feel like a consistent set and I was concerned about finding equally interesting themes for 20+ figures. We decided the more realistic, but slightly unhinged portrait (second row, left) was the way forward. As a final proof of concept I drew two additional subjects from our list in the same style and we submitted the idea to the publisher.



Three illustration spreads presented to our publisher. Interesting note: all three of these subjects made it into the book but I redrew each of them because the style evolved as I worked.

Production

With approval in-hand I got down to work. How many illustrations would ultimately appear in the book depended, in part, on the final page imposition. We hoped for at least 12 but I drew about twice that many so we were ready if there was room for more and so that there was some opportunity for editorial changes. That meant I had to average about one finished illustration per day to meet the deadline—oh and still leave enough time for my normal work.

At first I started splitting my days in half. In the mornings I’d do my normal design work at Basecamp and then I’d switch gears and work on illustrations for the book in the afternoons. This didn’t work out well at all. For one thing, it was easy to let the morning’s work spill over into the early (or late ) afternoon. It was also really difficult to switch between such different tasks. To boost my output and provide less frequent context switching I tried splitting my week into two parts: two days on product design and two on illustration. It was better but I still wasn’t working at full speed. Things only kicked into high gear once I decided to go all-in on drawing and fully immerse myself in the project, ignoring everything else. How much difference did it make? In the first 10 days of the project I did 7 pieces. In the last 6 full-time days I completed 17! Even though it meant putting my regular work on hold for a few days, ultimately by focusing intently I finished the work far ahead of schedule and spent less time than I anticipated overall.

The Process

Since the art would be printed in black and white in the book, I settled on ink and paper for the original art. Even though it would be hand-drawn on paper, I actually did my rough sketching digitally with Procreate on iPad Pro. Why? Speed. Working digitally meant I could easily erase, redraw, resize, move, stretch, copy and skew my drawing as I refined each sketch. Nose, too big; eyes too small? It’s just a matter of seleting and resizing instead of erasing and drawing again. What I could do in seconds with the tools in Procreate would have required dozens on redraws on paper.


Rough sketch of Stephen Hawking with Procreate on iPad Pro (left). This time-lapse recording of Gustav Mahler shows the quick editing digital sketching affords (right)

Drawing portraits of people you don’t know and can’t observe in-person is a tricky thing to do so I had to gather publicly available image references for each figure. Google Images was instrumental in this, in particular because it allowed me to see many images of a person all together. Studying a subject from many angles, in different situations, and even at different times in their lives allowed me to create exactly the portrait I imagined for each person.


Sketching on iPad Pro, allowed me to keep reference images from Google Image search (left) visible while I drew using the split-screen feature (right)

The portraits of Maya Angelou and Stephen Hawking are examples of this that I’m particularly proud of. I had a pretty clear idea going in about how I wanted to represent them and a wide range of reference photos of these well-known figures gave me all the image data I needed. In both cases the final piece is a somewhat ageless portrait that represents their character without recalling a particular, recognizable moment in their lives. I found that the younger reference images didn’t have enough character, but the images in their later years exaggerated their features in a way that helped me understand them better. The final art is more like a set of caricatures than serious portraits.

After completing the rough sketch, I would resize it for consistency and print it out. Then using a classic technique, I’d transfer the image to paper for inking. This made the task of drawing a set of 20+ images at a consistent size and laid-out nicely on the final page mistake-free. If you’ve ever drawn something starting in the middle only to run off the edge of the paper, you know what I mean!



Transferring an image: first I covered the back of the print-out with graphite (left), then laid it down on the final paper and traced over the lines causing the graphite to transfer onto the paper (middle), that left a light pencil outline perfectly placed on the final medium (right)

The last step was to do the final drawing in ink using my transferred sketch as a guide. I used Speedball Super Black india ink with Speedball calligraphy pen nibs and holders on 11 × 14 Canson Bristol Vellum. Splatters were added with ink flicked from the britles of a stiff paintbrush.





Drawing in ink

This project was unlike anything else I’ve attempted. All said, I completed 25 drawings, 18 of which appear in the first print and e-book editions of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. I’m incredibly proud of the project and even more grateful for the opportunity Jason and David gave me to contribute to this wonderful book that speaks so clearly about how we work. In fact, the entire project was done almost entirely in-house at Basecamp. It was written by Jason Fried (CEO) and David Heinemeier Hansson (CTO), jacket design and interior design by Adam Stoddard (marketing designer), illustrations by me, Jason Zimdars (product designer), and research by Wailin Wong (producer of The REWORK podcast).



Final spreads (designed by Adam Stoddard) including a new rendering of our friend Charles Darwin (left), THE OPRAH, and a photo of the first print edition (right)

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

I did this work at Basecamp where 40 hour work weeks are the norm, no one checks email on the weekend, and our benefits are focused on getting people out of the office, not enticing them to stay longer. We’ve stepped out of the hustle game in Silicon Valley and designed our company differently. This book will show how you can have a calm company too.


It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is available October 2, 2018 in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. Order now at Amazon.com or most anywhere you buy books.

Basecamp is hiring a data analyst

Come work with us!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Illuminate how we’re spending money on cloud computing today, and estimate how much we’ll be spending next year, given our growth patterns.
  6. 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.

About you

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.)

Basecamp 3: New feature round-up

Summer is winding down, kids are back in school and the Basecamp team has a fresh batch of updates to share. Here’s a quick look at some recent improvements that are available right now in all of your projects.

Getting over the hill

Hill Charts are a completely new way to track progress and a Basecamp 3 exclusive. People everywhere are loving this unique way to see where their projects really stand and answer the hard questions that get them un-stuck. Now it’s much faster to choose which lists to track on the Hill Chart. Take a look…

Set up Hill Charts.

Profile cards

Clicking someone’s avatar in Basecamp is often the best way to get a little more information about people you’re collaborating with—especially when you work with clients, people you’ve never met, or on a team spread across time zones. Now profiles show you which company someone is a part of, their role in Basecamp (Administrator, Owner, or Client), and what time it is where they live. These details can help you track down an admin, figure out who the new person on the project is, or avoid bugging someone in the middle of the night.

Profile now cards display additional details.

Coloring folders

Now you can color folders just like you could other items in Docs & Files. Add a little personality, make something important stand out, or come up with your own color-coding system.

Coloring and organizing folders.

Project tools

Basecamp features seven distinct tools to handle every situtation in your projects from communicating to organizing to tracking work. With the latest update it’s easier than ever to choose which combination of tools to use on each project.

Managing project tools.

Improved invites

One of the best things about Basecamp is it keeps everyone on the same page so that nothing falls through the cracks. That only works, however, if the right people are involved in the project. So we’ve removed some steps, cut some complexity and streamlined the process so that getting people into your projects is easier than ever.

Inviting people is clearer and more direct.

Managing My Drafts

You write a lot in Basecamp, we get it. Drafts let you work on that post, announcement, article, or note in private until you’re ready to share it. But not everything gets published and before this update it could be a lot of work to figure out what was what or simply get rid of the ones you no longer needed. With this update, you can see all of your draft Messages and Documents, when they were last edited, and in which project they live. Not only that, but you can trash them right from the list without having to click into each one first. More info, faster edits, less pain = win!

Managing My Drafts

Jump to projects

For Basecamp pros, the Jump Menu is a speedy way to get around in Basecamp. Just hit ⌘+ J to return to something you saw recently or type a few characters to quickly filter Projects, Teams, and People. With our latest update we made it easier to jump to another project by making them pop up to the top of the list. This makes the Jump Menu hands-down the fastest way to get to a project in Basecamp.

Filtering in the Jump menu now makes jumping to another project even faster.

Thank you ❤️

We’re so grateful for all our customers and we hope these improvements make your time working more calm, effective, and enjoyable. If you’re not yet a Basecamp customer and feeling overwhelmed because your business is growing, you’re buried in email, stuff is slipping through the cracks, and communication is a struggle maybe it’s time to give us a try. You can try Basecamp completely free and unlimited for 30 days. No credit card needed to sign-up!

Short time horizons keep it fresh

When do we do our best work? When we’re excited about something. Excitement morphs into motivation. We do our best work when we’re motivated. A great way to stay motivated is to work on something new. No one likes being stuck on a project that never seems to end.

The typical project

Long project waveform

The typical project starts out great but then our motivation and interest wanes as time goes on. It’s natural. Staying interested in a project over a long period of time is a challenge for anyone. The longer the project the thinner the tail. You’re not going to do your best work in the tail.

The ideal series of projects

Project series waveform

When you do a series of small projects, or break a single big project into smaller individual projects, you stand a better chance at maintaining motivation and rekindling interest. When you have a pile of tiny projects you get the chance to work on something new more often. We do our best work when we’re excited about starting something new. That’s why the bulk of our projects fit into cycles that last 6-weeks or less.


Credit for the waveform concept goes to Jim Coudal.

Reflecting on five years at Basecamp

Back when I was a kid, they called this place 37signals. 👴👋👽

This week I celebrated my fifth year around the sun at Basecamp. For a lot of people that’s probably not a big deal, but for me it kind of is — it’s by far the longest I’ve ever been at any one job (my previous record was ~3 years).

That got me wondering — what’s so different this time around that made it stick? I eventually realized it basically came down to this:

I’m happy at Basecamp because every day I’m in a position to ship the best work that I can.

I admit that’s a rather generic statement, and pretty much every company in the world tries (or claims) to do the same. So what does Basecamp do that works so well for me?

Now before we get into the specifics, let me just say that this post isn’t meant to be a humble brag of how amazing Basecamp is. It’s simply an examination of how one company among many thousands operates, and why that meshes so well with someone like me.

So, as I was saying — what’s so special about Basecamp that it suits me so well? Well, it’s a bunch of things that all interleave together…

🚢 Shipping meaningful work is what matters

I’ve been at companies where I did a lot of “work”, but it often felt like I was just shuffling widgets around. I’d go to meetings, send emails, and make some stuff, but in the end, it’d be hard to tell if my work meant anything to the final product.

Other times we’d have so many pointless “stakeholder perspectives” that by the time we shipped, the final product was so watered down that it didn’t matter to anyone.

And yet other times, after months or years, some things would just never ship at all.

Basecamp is the exact opposite. As a small company working in small teams, we don’t have the luxury of spending any time on stuff that isn’t essential to shipping. And because we have to be choosy about what we work on, it’s usually the case that what we ship will be meaningful to our customers.

So we discuss ideas thoroughly, but don’t paralyze ourselves with analysis. We don’t pretend to know everything or try to predict the future, we ship and see what happens. We don’t have soul-sucking multi-hour meetings, we focus on the real work of designing, programming, and supporting our customers.

In the end, shipping meaningful work is what matters most to me, and that’s what keeps me motivated day in and day out.

😌 Calm is critically important

While shipping meaningful work is a great goal and motivator, even the best employees in the world can’t do their best work if they’re stressed, tired, rushed, or distracted. The folks at Basecamp know this, and that’s why calm and focus are cornerstones of everything we do.

One of the main ways we maintain calm is by not wasting time and energy on unnecessary bullshit and distractions. This is incredibly important to me — when I’ve got plenty of focused time to get my work done, I don’t rush. And when I don’t rush, I don’t feel stressed.

And while that may sound obvious and easy to avoid, I’ve worked at enough companies to know that wasting time is extraordinarily common. Opportunities to waste time present themselves in a lot of different ways, so here are just a few things we do to combat them:

  • We have very few (if any) meetings during a normal week. If there are any, they have the fewest people possible involved, usually a max of 2–3 folks. And we definitely don’t have recurring meetings.
  • We don’t commute. We all work remotely. Why spend 30–60 minutes traveling to some random building in a busy area to work when we can do the same work at home? This easily saves me 10 hours a week.
  • We don’t chat all day. There’s zero expectation of keeping on top of every chat or responding to an IM immediately. In fact, if anything we’re encouraged to close everything communications-related (including Basecamp!) so that we can focus on the actual work on hand. I regularly do this for hours on end, every day.
  • We don’t all work 9 to 5. We work hours that fit our life and brains. If, for example, you’re sharpest at 6 am, why the hell would you wait until “normal business hours” to start working? That’s a waste of your best brainpower! As long as we overlap a few hours with our team, we work when it makes sense, not by some arbitrary clock time.

Another major component of maintaining calm is to be very, very serious about not overworking and recognizing life’s priorities. In other words, when the work day is over, it’s over. And if something happens that’s clearly more important than work, we go take care of that . We work to serve our lives, not the other way around.

That means I don’t work some bullshit 60 hour work week.

That means that I don’t get notifications from the Basecamp app after 5 pm.

That means I don’t have meetings early in the morning or late in the evening that interrupts time with my family.

That means if I’m sick, I actually take the day off to get better, not partially stumble through the day trying to work.

That means if something comes up at home that’s way more important than work, I go take care of it and my co-worker’s don’t even blink at it.

That means I get a good night’s sleep because I’m enthusiastic about the next day’s work, not dreading it.

“Work-life balance” is an overused, rarely accurate term, but I think we’re doing it pretty damn well.

🙏 Autonomy and trust

A big part of Basecamp’s culture is the autonomy that we’re afforded. There are no managers, no daily stand-ups, and no playbook on how to do our daily work. It’s up to us to figure things out and own the calls we make.

For me that means I get to make a lot of decisions that have a direct impact on the outcome of my work — I choose what I want to work on, I make the final call on how any particular batch of code is shipped, and I’m ultimately responsible for how it performs.

Maybe this all doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it means a lot to me.

To me having freedom and autonomy is a vote of confidence. When the people around me give me plenty of space to do my thing, it isn’t negligence or disinterest — it’s trust. It means an awful lot to me that people I genuinely respect have such trust and confidence in me. Maybe that makes me weird or lacking self-confidence or sappy, but it’s true.

Whatever the reason, it’s been an important, formative element of my five years at Basecamp.

🎩 It starts at the top

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned in my nearly 20 year career is that for me to have any kind of longevity at a company, it’s critically important to believe in the people at the top. I’ve worked for all sorts of companies before Basecamp, and I’ve never exactly felt super connected to those folks running the show.

Why is this important? Because at the end of the day, there are going to be a handful of people in a company that make the big decisions. And those big decisions in some way, big or small, have a direct impact on me and my work. These people are the ones deciding what’s important at the company, what isn’t, and what my work life is going to be like as long as I’m there.

And so the question becomes, do I believe in those folks? Am I more or less aligned with their principals — their professional beliefs, ethics, values, strategies, and overall ideals? Or do I have fundamental disagreements with a lot of what they believe in.

For me, Basecamp is the first place where I really do believe and trust in our leaders, Jason and David. Most everything they’ve done to build, grow, and sustain Basecamp agrees with me. And that makes it a hell of a lot easier to stick around and stay motivated than it would be working at a company where I’m constantly wondering “WTF are these clowns thinking?”

Now does that mean I agree with everything Jason and David do or say? No, of course not, I’m not some mindless drone. But generally speaking I do believe in the direction they provide and the choices they make. And perhaps more importantly, even if I do disagree, I respect their position, the thought they put into making a call, and the honesty and decency they treat everyone with.

👩‍👩‍👦‍👦 It takes a village

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the people I work with at Basecamp — what a crew! I truly, genuinely would not be where I am today in my career without them.

Sorry, it’s a tired trope but I have to say it — I work with really wonderful people. They’re so open-minded, friendly, welcoming, and damn smart. We’ve worked on so many great things together and I’ve learned so much from them. It’s an easy choice to stick around when you’re around folks like this. And beyond all that, they’re just great human beings.

Thank you Adam, Andrea, Ann, Ashley, Blake, Chase, Chris, Colin, Conor, David, Dylan, Elizabeth, Eron, Flora, George, Jabari, James, Jamie, Janice, Jason, JZ, Javan, Jay, Jayne, Jeff, Jeremy, Jim, Joan, John, Jonas, Justin, Kristin, Lexi, Matt, Matthew, Merissa, Michael, Nathan, Noah, Pratik, Rosa, Ryan, Sam, Scott, Shanae, Shaun, Sylvia, Tara, Taylor, Tom, Tony, Wailin, Zach, and all our beloved alums for making this a fantastic five years!


Thanks for reading — if you enjoyed it, please do mash the 👏 button so we can show Medium that they really nailed that 50 clap idea! 😏

Heyyy … Improved Hey! in Basecamp 3 for Android

Ping and Message excerpts, image previews, and grouped Campfires make catching up with Basecamp a breeze.

There’s a new Hey! screen design in Basecamp 3 for Android. Hey! is already pretty good on Desktop and Web. Currently you get a chronological list of unread Campfires you’re following and discussions you’re part of.

On Mobile, however, you’re probably peeking in for a quick summary of What’s New. Hey! should help you prioritize what’s important at that moment. A better design can save time.

Here’s how the current Android Hey! and this new design compare:

The new design (right) makes Hey! easier to parse and prioritize.

✨ What We Improved

  1. Show me my Pings. Excerpts from unread Ping conversations are now shown at the top of the Hey! screen. If you have more than one unread Ping conversation they’ll be grouped together. You’ll see all your new Pings in one place. Note: All Pings are still accessible everywhere in the app via the top navigation. Just tap the “conversation bubbles” icon next to Search.
  2. Group unread Campfires together. New chats from Campfires you follow are now easily scanned since they’re grouped together. The Campfire notification will also display who spoke last (which matches Basecamp 3 on the Desktop and Web).
  3. Give context to Messages, Comments, and more. It’s a mystery what’s behind that unread notification. It might be 1 sentence, or 1 emoji, or a long paragraph. Now there’s an excerpt of text and image thumbnails so you can see what was posted without having to tap through.

💅 The Result: Better Insight into What’s New

Messages and Comments are no longer a mystery. Excerpts and image previews hint whether you should dive deeper or move along. Unread Campfires aren’t scattered across other notifications. You can prioritize chats you want to read.

The new design gives Hey! notifications more context. It helps you stay looped into Basecamp without having to tap each notification. Stay updated at your own pace.

🖼 Bonus: Swipe Through Multiple Images

We also updated our image viewer to know if a Message or Comment has multiple images. Now you can swipe back and forth between images! If there’s a caption we show that too.


We hope you like these improvements to the Basecamp 3 Android app (Version 3.9.1, updated May 1, 2018). We have a lot more planned and thanks for being a Basecamp customer—especially if you have an Android device!

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions about Basecamp 3 for Android please let us know.

— Brought to you by the Android Team at Basecamp: Jamie, Dan, and Jay