Basecamp, Coinbase, and Daring Fireball all agree: Comfort is more important than social justice

Dwayne Harris   ·   About 671 words

I wrote earlier about Basecamp’s terrible public blog post, where the CEO Jason Fried announced that employees are no longer allowed to have “societal or political” discussions on their internal discussion/messaging software (and that they’re removing committees, reviews, and some employee benefits).

The story has since been ongoing, with:

  • An article from Casey Newton from The Platformer reporting that most of this blog post decision started with some heated internal discussion about a list their customer service team kept of the funniest customer names they came across and how racist that list might have been.
  • Basecamp founder and CEO David Heinemeier Hansson (who previously wrote a tweet about how bad it could be to “appear apolitical” when trying to lead a company) trying and failing to explain how he agrees with the post.
  • Basecamp inviting employees to quit (with severance of course) if they don’t like the changes (which to me sounds like: either agree with everything I said in the post and don’t talk about it, or leave).
  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong literally (with emoji) applauding the post. I wrote earlier about him doing almost the exact same thing a while back with Coinbase.

In the meantime, John Gruber from Daring Fireball wrote a post quoting an entry Basecamp’s book about how when you make big decisions, people might not like them, but it’ll be fine if you just wait it out. His reply was “Good advice.”

What I don’t understand about these men in particular publicly advocating for this shit (remember, these aren’t just their personal opinions, these are public posts meant to be widely read) is just the basic optics of this. Even if you don’t agree that there’s anything wrong with CEOs making decisions like these, isn’t it just obviously a bad look for the type of people least affected by the “societal and political” problems that are being discussed here to publicly push for their employees to make them feel more comfortable?

From what I’ve read, right before the Basecamp blog was written, an employee at the company talked about potential links between the “funniest names” list and the mass shootings in March, where 6 Asian women (8 people total) were killed. As uncomfortable as that discussion may be, and as much as one might think that has no place in the workplace, when people are literally being killed because of our societal issues (I want to take a moment to include the names Ma’Khia Bryant, Ahmaud Arbery, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor), is this really the position you want to push for right now? In public blog posts?

John Gruber’s post wasn’t received very well on Twitter. It’s another guy not directly affected by the types of issues being talked about here publicly indirectly agreeing with the other guys (some of whom also happen to have been sponsors of his thing) not directly affected by these issues, so it’s not really too surprising.

He later wrote another post about Twitter being a “hate machine”, indirectly (again) referencing the situation and the push back he got for his earlier comment. Twitter’s definitely a hate machine, and a pretty terrible place overall, but that doesn’t mean all the feedback you get from it is invalid.

That last post went just about as well as the other one.

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