Basecamp controversy

I don’t use Basecamp but I know some on this forum do so I thought I’d share this article. “ Basecamp announced it would ban “societal and political discussions” at work.”


I don’t understand why this is a big deal. I have never had a job where it was ok to talk about politics. It wasn’t banned, but it was generally something to be avoided.


It’s everyone’s right to manage their business as they wish (good or bad) if people don’t like it they can make personal choices.

I am old enough to remember when people did not take phones to work let alone spend all day gossiping in slack/campfire whatever.

Some things should be left alone at work, basically politics and religion.


Thanks for the share. Gives much more information that I will accept with handful of salt. I’ve been wondering why the “overreact” for DHH’s post on Hey World.

My past unknowing self also thought that people confuse professionalism with prohibition of… activism (? I don’t know the exact phrase) as pointed in the Verge’s post in first paragraph of third section. Now I have topics to investigate more.

Coming from a country of diverse raciality (tens thousands islands, 5 major islands with their own races and ethnics), I may be unaware of these kind of issue and the very impact that may lead to the peak of pyramid of hate.

I believe there was additional controversy over a running list of “funny” customer names for years that were deemed as racist, etc. that made some workers uncomfortable.

This list is what led to the change in policy from what I read. A worker complained about the list, it was brought to light to DHH, which in turn he posted the complaint in front of the entire company and then dismissed it.


And David’s response: Let it all out

So, when do we get this “Best Names List”? :grinning:

I fail to understand how much energy can be put into such a minuscule issue. A dumb list is not even among the top 100 issues I had to deal with in my professional life.


It’s a shocking revelation that people make dumb decisions, don’t think about the consequences, talk about topics that are best kept with family and friends (or not at all), and we all just manage to be doofuses more often than we like to admit. There’s bigger priorities afoot than fussing about what goes on in any random organization.

(Of course, The Verge needs eyeballs to pump revenue.)


For those of us who know people at this company, it’s been a very distracted last couple of days…

We spoke about this at length on today’s episode of Connected. Hopefully people find our conservation useful:


I found the conversation on Connected to be spot-on, and I think it highlights the reasons that this is a bad move for Basecamp.

The fact is that “Leave politics at the door” is a great idea if you are happy with the status quo, and many workplaces run by white men have been perfectly happy with that system.

I assume that Basecamp employs people of color, people who are trans, non-binary, etc. These people, who are being regularly subjected to laws and social norms which keep them as second-class citizens affect their entire lives, including their work lives. In some cases it very much affects their ability not to be killed by police or a mob or a racist/sexist/homophobic white guy.

We need to do more to help people who are not straight white dudes, not less.

In 2021, when rich white male bosses tell employees that they (the rich white bosses) will decide what political topics are allowable (want to talk anti-trust against Apple? I bet you can at Basecamp!) and what are not, they are telling people who live in these minority categories that they don’t matter as much as the things that matter to the rich white bosses.

The guys on Connected did a much better job explaining this than I did, and I hope you’ll give it a listen if you don’t get why this goes a lot deeper than just “Don’t talk politics at work.”


I feel like there are tech companies and then there is everyone else. Where I have worked, you are not there for your politics, beliefs, or anything else, you are there to get the job done. It’s not about whether people are offended or doing the right thing, they just don’t want it to interfere with work.


Tech companies are just like everywhere else.

They have sexism, they have racism, they have homophobia. The field is massively dominated by one type of person.

And that type of person tends to perpetuate the myth of things like tech being a meritocracy where you are just there to be judged by the work you produce.

Ask women and people of color and non-heterosexual people if that has been their experience of the tech industry, and I bet you get a different answer.

Someone who has found success in the tech field may not be the best person to ask whether the tech field needs work and reform. Just like asking police departments if police departments need reform may not get you an accurate answer.

I’d write more, but I’m tired, have a headache, and I’m a bit grumpy, so I’m probably not at my best for talking about complex and difficult topics right now. (I hope it goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t: I don’t mean anything I said personally, since we don’t even know each other. I’m talking about tech as an industry and a system, which isn’t the same as talking about individuals or specific companies. I have family members in law enforcement who I love and respect and am grateful for the work that they do. I also believe that, as a system, policing needs massive changes, even if those who work inside the system don’t agree.)

Signing off for tonight.


Of course they do. I am sure every workplace has these problems. Management and HR handle it in private. If I don’t like it, I am free to go elsewhere. At a tech company, it makes the news as the employees talk to the press and every tech website covers it. In the rest of the business world, this just gets handled.

I guess it depends on how important you are. I am low-level finance. I am as important as my numbers. If I don’t like how the business is being run, I am free to find a job somewhere else. Outside of some very key important people, that seems to be true of most people.

The places I have worked didn’t ban politics as a whole, but people just don’t talk about it because it would cause a distraction. Of course, I have never worked at a place where employees did silly things like making a list of funny names. If it happened where I worked, management would have taken care of it and that was it. Again, I am free to go elsewhere if I don’t like how they handled it.

In the tech world, things just don’t seem to work the same way. Right or wrong, this seems to be a problem unique to these companies.


Politics should stay at the door since it is a personal thing, and it was recently turned into a weapon. Communists used to divide people by class, whereas the worker class was oppressed by the bourgeoisie and thus had to rise up. Today neo-marxist switched class to race/gender/sexuality and set their own sets of dogmas. Whoever goes against these dogmas (a thought is enough) can be cancelled and his life basically destroyed. No sane person wants this stuff in their company. And it seems that what was about to happen. Someone wanted to score points by cancelling someone else based on a stupid list of names.

Companies need excellence not diversity. Diversity comes as a natural secondary effect (depending on the size and market). However, it does not work the other way around. Are you aware that you insinuate that minority groups need help from white knights? Are they somehow inferior that they need saving? And what about people from these groups that actually succeeded? Did they do it by themselves or because they had help from white people?


The topic is a lot more nuanced, imho. Given the progressive political viewpoints of the founders of Basecamp it is unlikely they are operating on the basis of stereotypical ‘white male privilege’ here. Also, think about forums. 95% of the online forums I frequent explicitly ban politics and religion. Moderation is heavy and active. It has no correlation to the privilege of the owners.

One more example - the last place I worked before I retired was fairly diverse and the CEO role was occupied by a woman of color. We didn’t talk about politics there. We also didn’t have an employee forum, thank dog. Sure, individuals may have chatted about politics here and there, water-cooler stuff. But not in any company-wide setting. And I wouldn’t have expected any different.


If the environment was fair to begin with, if society was not prejudiced then yes, this would all be valid arguments.

The problem is, it’s not. It’s unbalanced on a structural level, as regularly proves the inequity of rights and chances depending on the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your gender and so many other discriminating factors. Therefore, the argument of a level playing field and fair competition cannot hold, and compensation mechanisms have to be introduced to deskew the perspectives.


Unfounded assumption.

Progressives aren’t immune from this. In fact, it was a conversation about how to improve conditions inside Basecamp that led them to shut down this conversation. They couldn’t deal with the criticism and didn’t feel like they needed to worry about it.

Read White Fragility and hear someone who has actually led conversations about racism tell you how badly white people – including white people who have voluntarily attended a seminar on racism – have responded when faced with evidence that they, too, might need to work on their own racism.


There never was and never will be a level playing field. Someone is born rich, talented or good looking. Most people are born as neither. It is not possible to balance the entire system fairly. Someone will always have the shorter end of the stick and there will always be a new group demanding special treatment. The best we can do is striving for equality. People used to call it The American Dream.


Excellence is impossible without diversity.

Nope, it doesn’t. Diversity comes when people are intentional about including and reaching out to others and making sure they are part of the conversation.

The world is not a meritocracy where everyone has equal opportunities, and the only people who think it is are white people.

Are you aware that these are all classic examples of excuses that white people give to ignore the fact that people don’t have equal opportunities? They’re basically echoes of “We don’t need affirmative action” arguments.

No one is saying anything about being a “white knight” we’re talking about being allies and vocal supporters who use our positions of privilege to make sure that we help others who don’t have the same advantages and opportunities that we have.

Again, the issue here is not saying that white people are perfect or saviors. The issue is that white people can either help or hurt the situation.

And the biggest way that we help is by accepting that things might not be perfect.

Then we listen to people who tell us their experiences that show us where the problems are.

Then we help to push for changes.

The only people who don’t think that we need to make changes are the ones who benefit from the way things are.