This is why we have working managers at Basecamp (and why Microsoft and Apple stumbled when they…

He knew how to work up a sweat for developers, I’ll give him that. But…

Harvard Business Review studied what makes 35,000 employees from the US and Britain tick and found:

The benefit of having a highly competent boss is easily the largest positive influence on a typical worker’s level of job satisfaction.

Not the pay. Not the perks. Not even coworkers. Managers competent in the work of the worker. Bam.

I hadn’t thought about it in such clear terms before, but the vague hunch is why we designed Basecamp to be managed by people who do the actual work, and are very good at it. We don’t have any managers at Basecamp who just manage. Everyone with managerial responsibilities also do the work, and then they manage on the side.

I explored this approach to management in moonlighting managers ain’t got no time for bullshit, but didn’t appreciate the motivational value of working for someone who truly, deeply understands the work of the people they’re managing.

Consider this at the grand scale as well. Not just our merry band of fifty at Basecamp. Now forgive me for wheeling out the specter of Steve Jobs, but I think this finding helps explain why Apple went awry under John Scully too. Even if it was Jobs himself who recruited him. Scully knew how to sell sugar water and run organizations. He was not a competent technologist. That shit seeps in until it rots out the core.

Microsoft might well have been an evil empire under Gates, but at least there was some serious and formidable technology to underpin that empire with Gates. Once the sales sidekick took over the shop, the earnings might have gone up, but the core of competence started to rot there too.

Perhaps this too is why VCs have retreated from the earlier idea of bringing in “an adult” to run the place once the technologist founders hit a few snags on their INCREDIBLE JOURNEY to 10x returns. Keeping someone in charge who actually knows what the work is about keeps the troops happy. And happy troops are productive troops.

We all strive to do great work. It’s much harder to do that while working under someone who aren’t intimately competent in that work and what makes it great.

Microsoft reboots war on sleep

A few years ago, Microsoft launched a Office 365 campaign with the slogan of #GetItDone. The basic premise was fitting more work into more places of your life. Well, not so much just fitting as shoving, cramming, and crunching it into every damn nook and cranny of your existence.

Like, why shouldn’t you check up on that Excel spreadsheet with the latest TPS numbers from the bathroom? Or take that conference call from your kid’s soccer game? Or fake presence with your spouse reviewing Word revisions while watch a show “together”?


Seriously. I’m not making these scenarios up. Microsoft’s campaign included all of them, complete with stats to alleviate the guilt of living such a shackled life. See, everyone is doing it! And Microsoft 365 makes it easier!!

Fuck. That. Shit.

We tried to push back against Microsoft’s #GetItDone back in 2013 with #WorkCanWait. That lead to a whole series of features in Basecamp 3 to encourage the exact opposite of what Microsoft wanted the future of work to look like. Basecamp 3 has a literal feature called Work Can Wait, which ensures that work stays out of your kid’s soccer game or your family’s movie night.

Anyway, that was then. I kinda thought Microsoft would have wised up since. In 2013, you could at least excuse the company somewhat since the dancing buffoon was still in charge. But in 2016? No. No, you cannot excuse that any more.

So watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjs2uiKPo2c

Oh yeah, that’s just Microsoft putting a chipper fucking jingle to an ideal of work that’s literally presented as “14 hour days, 7 days a week, for decades”. Say what now? In what alternate universe is that an ideal you want to endorse?

Maybe that’s what the new Surface is all about. Perfect for sweatshops like Marvel to churn out yet another superhero rehash. Just so everyone else who’s working death shift after death shift for decades can escape the hell that is their life in make-believe fantasy. Swell.

But hey, THIS IS THE FUTURE OF WORK, right? The Surface Pro 4 is just here to enable the inevitable transition to this glorious paradise of productivity. Your life: 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, running Microsoft gear. Wouldn’t you want this too? Isn’t this aspirational? No. It’s death.

Sleep is good. Sleep works. Fuck companies and products that endorse skimping or skipping it as some kind of superpower. Fuck the Surface Pro 4’s marketing team. I seriously hope that this is just Microsoft temporarily slipping up, not a trend worthy of retracting forgiveness for.

Microsoft, I forgive you!


Microsoft is different now. The evil masterminds are all retired. No more Ballmer jumping around screaming for developers, developers, developers. No more Gates plotting monopoly schemes for world domination. They’re both finally out, and the new guy in charge isn’t making us wince.

The company seems to be finding its groove again. Seems being the operative word. Lots of cool stuff that’s actually shipping, but whether it’ll make a dent in the world remains to be seen. Yet at least there’s some promise and optimism back. The ghosts of “cutting off the air supply” and IE6 have finally been vanquished.

Just look at the latest Microsoft Event recap. This is not Ballmer’s bouncy castle anymore. This is good. This is fun. This is promising.

Besides, the company just isn’t scary any more. Or tone-setting. Or, in many areas of past glory, even relevant. And perversely enough, that’s exactly what is setting it free to try harder, try again, and make an impression with a crowd that’s no longer dispositioned to reject the effort because Microsoft is the big bad wolf.

There’s no more wolf any more. It’s more like a puppy. Or a Golden Retriever at best. Nobody is afraid of Microsoft. So since they can’t rule the roost through fear, they’re trying the long route of — let’s not get ahead of ourselves and kid about LOVE — intrigue. And frankly some hope.

The two titans of integrated hardware and software are Apple and Google. And they’ve divided the spoils of the world just a little too neatly between them. It’s bizarre, but I actually want to see a resurgent, strong Microsoft. If for nothing else, to take the smug confidence of both titans down a peg.

I’m hoping real hard that either the Surface or the Hololens or SOMETHING out of Redmond is an honest-to-god big hit with the general public (outside of gaming). Not another cool demo or R&D plaything. But something that ships and in quantity.

I’ll be honest and say I held a grudge. For a long time. And that axe wasn’t getting buried until that hopping, jumping, dancing buffoon was out the door. But now that he is, and Gates is busy spending his loot curing the planet, do you know what? I can forgive.

Yes, I know they’ve been pining for it, so here it is: Microsoft, I forgive you. And I’m actually excited for the work you’re doing. ✌️


Would you believe that we actually have a Windows app for Basecamp 3? Yes, hell indeed did freeze over and Ballmer started flying.