Basecamp Is Failing Its Own Future
The company’s ban on social discussions forgets that workers are people
For the past several years, Chicago-based company Basecamp has positioned itself as a moral and strategic leader in the tech world. This posture has come, in no small part, from the tireless workplace culture evangelism of cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson—better known by his web handle DHH. DHH’s reputation for performatively calling out the unethical practices of other tech companies is part of the reason it came as a shock to many when, on Monday, Basecamp issued a statement outlining a series of internal changes to the company. Among other things, this statement (which has already been heavily edited in response to criticism) aims to establish a ban on “societal and political discussions” in the (virtual) workplace. Such discussions are framed as “a major distraction” that “saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places.”
Basecamp is not the first tech company to take such measures. Back in September, the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase announced a new policy against allowing employees to engage “broader societal issues” that were deemed to be unrelated to the company’s “core mission.” Coming from Coinbase, such a statement was disappointing but not entirely surprising given the company’s amoral, libertarian outlook. But Basecamp was supposed to be a different kind of company (or at least that’s what it had spent years trying to convince the public).
They Led the Cult of Remote Work. Now We’re All Members.
It only took a pandemic for us to live in Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s remote work fantasy
The social media response to Basecamp’s announcement was swift but largely thoughtful. A number of tech workers, including multiple employees of Basecamp, took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to clarify the context around the changes and express their frustration and disillusionment: