Rails Goes Off The Rails!

This week The Founders talk about the Basecamp drama and break down how it may impact companies using Rails. They also discuss customer support for developers and Gen Z's emoji game leaving Millennials and X's for dead. Check it out! ;-p (I've still got it!)

Show notes:
Links:
Write for Honeybadger

Full transcript:

I've been like texting with Zoomer person. And their emoji game is so deep and subtle that I just don't even know how to respond to these. I'm just like a thumbs up and they're just like emoji of falling leaves. How do I interpret that?

Josh:
Is that the difference between us and them? Is that they actually use all the emojis?

Starr:
I think so.

Josh:
We use six.

Starr:
I was just like, I can't just reply this with heart. So I just went and I was just like, emoji of panda bear. That seemed to be like an appropriate reaction to falling leaves. But I really don't know. I could have just completely been a jerk without realizing it.

Ben:
Yeah, I hadn't thought about it Josh but yeah, I think I can list the emojis that I actually use. There's thumbs up, there's troll face, there's pile of poop. Smiley face, heart. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Josh:
You should get them tattooed on your arm. I think our other defining characteristic is that we're the generation that still use this text emoji and thinks it's cool.

Starr:
I don't think it's cool anymore. But sometimes it's just like, this is just what I'm doing. This is who I am. I'm just going with it.

Josh:
Yeah, we've accepted it now.

Starr:
Because if we keep at it long enough, it'll come back around. I've seen some people use text emojis ... They're emoticons, right? They're not emoji. But it's like ... The Zoomers with the super nuanced emoticon game. They're not typing these out, that's for sure. They've got like a clip file of these somewhere.

Josh:
It's like an additional vector of communication.

Starr:
Yeah, that's true.

Josh:
We'll never be fluent.

Ben:
I think emoticons are vastly superior to emoji, especially for this mighty face case, because it's always going to be the same representation no matter what platform you're on. But the emoji, they change. An apple emoji's differ from a Google emoji, etc. So if you send an emoticon, you what you're going to get.

Starr:
What if the person's using Wingdings as or fonts, though?

Josh:
Yeah, that's a good point.

Ben:
I guess I hadn't thought about that one.

Starr:
Comic Sans.

Josh:
I guess they had similar problems back when emoticons were all the rage, when they were first discovered. What happens if they're like ...

Ben:
I think emoticons are just going to be a symbol of the crusty old man syndrome. I also prefer text based email.

Josh:
That's a get off my lawn.

Ben:
Definitely. Shaking my fist at clouds.

Josh:
I was just going to say on text based email that reminded me of one thing I like about Front, which we recently switched for our support to Front. And they have a markdown mode. I like my email in markdown.

Starr:
So what is Front? Could you describe it?

Josh:
It's like a shared team inbox. Like a support tool ... I mean, we're using it as a support tool but I think it's more than that. It has a deep integration with Gmail. And basically lets a whole team share the same Gmail inbox, basically. But they have their own app and everything. And then it adds collaboration features to your email. So you can assign email, you can even add your personal email to it. So you could assign a personal email to someone on your team, and it would move it to their inbox which is handy for delegation.

Starr:
Yeah, that's pretty cool. I just started messing around with it and I really do like it. I really like this email centric focus of it. Where I guess you can use this as support but that's not really the only thing it's for.

Josh:
Yeah, it has a bunch of add-ons which we still need to explore a little bit and I know it also supports ... You can add custom paints to it like how Help Scout could ... Which we need to add for ... So that when someone emails us to our support address, it'll pull up their customer information from our proprietary admin tool.

Ben:
Yeah, I haven't done that yet. Because the way that Front does it is, of course different than the way that Help Scout did it. But I much prefer the way that Help Scout did it. They hit an HTML endpoint that you define, and then render the HTML inside the Help Scout UI. And then of course it to be simple, an Li or P or whatever. You couldn't do all kinds of crazy stuff because the space in which you would render is very limited. But at least it was straightforward. All I had to do is dump out some HTML, but with the Front, it's like, well, you got to create this single phase JavaScript app and talk to our API. I was like never mind.

Josh:
That's what I heard about it. That you can do more with it but it lacks that simplicity. And I agree with you that I personally would prefer the Help Scout approach, which is ... It's almost dumb but it's good in a good way.

Ben:
The only thing we link out to our admin tool anyways and display some text. Not even emoji, just want to display some emoticons. But Front is nice. I'm glad we switched. The one thing I wish that it did as well as Help Scout is having a widget on the page that's not a chat widget. So I really liked having the Help Scout widget because it just dumped ... Someone could use our app, open up the widget to contact support and they would send us a message rather than starting a chat, which we prefer. And Front doesn't really have that, they have a chat thing. And they do have support for a form submission which you would think would work but it's limited, it's like one URL. You have to specify what URL it is at. It's like, well, I mean, that doesn't work inside of our app because our users are all different URLs every time they talk to us.

Ben:
So really that feature from Front is really meant for a contact page on a website that's static. And that's not a good fit for us. That's frustrating. Now we don't have a widget, and I don't like that as much. Basically every support link now in the app is, well just email us at support. Which is fine but it's just not as nice as having that widget.

Josh:
Yeah, Help Scout definitely seems like it's a little bit more tailored specifically for our SaaS use case was. But overall, the collaboration flow in Front, it seems to be better. But yeah, Help Scout gets a lot right. And Front also doesn't do ... If you have documentation that you're also hosting with your support, Help Scout has a docs feature. And the thing that's nice about their widget is that if you use the docs feature, it also integrates with that. So you can send them to the docs first before they create a ticket. But we never used that so it wasn't a deal breaker for us.

Starr:
Yeah I don't really like it when I go to support and it's like, what's your problem? And I start typing and it's like, here's some links.

Josh:
How often do you click on ...

Starr:
I do click on it sometimes. It's like, this is not what I'm looking for. Thank you. That's why I'm looking for support, not going to your help question.

Josh:
That's a good point.

Starr:
I am going your help desk, I'm not going to go into your docs.

Josh:
Yeah. It depends on how competent or savvy your users are too. Because if you're the type of person that goes and looks in the docs, assumes that you're going to find ... Search for the answer first, which I usually do. If it's something simple that I know is going to be in the docs, I'll assume that they've got it there and I go look for it, which is why it annoys me when I go to ... I have something super specific and it's trying to suggest the simplest possible guess. I'm sure there's a lot of people ... Companies that have a high volume of of support, that get a lot of the same questions and stuff, I could see it being useful there.

Ben:
Yeah. To your point there, I was wondering if perhaps those systems are better from our general use case apps, depending on ... An audience that's not technical, like QuickBooks. If you're in QuickBooks and you need some help about, I don't know, your payroll and you start typing W2, there's a good chance that they have a help desk knowledge base article about W2s that will answer your question. But if you're a software developer using a very technical tool, as a developer you've probably done everything you possibly can not to contact support because you don't want to talk to people. And you've done all the research and there's nothing that's going to help you. So by the time you get to the point of saying, okay, please help me with, you really don't need a suggestion.

Josh:
Yeah, that's true. It is a last resort for me.

Starr:
Exactly. By the time I'm like, please help me, I've been in the desert for seven days and dying of thirst. I'm sunburned, vultures are circling above me.

Josh:
I've read like your entire site on the Wayback Machine.

Ben:
I've read your blog. I've listened to all your podcast episodes. I know you better than yourself. I followed you on Twitter. I've visited your ancestral home.

Josh:
Even an app like ConvertKit comes to mind as the ... Because they have a much broader audience ... Bloggers. Did you I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger is using ConvertKit now? He was interviewed talking about his newsletter I think with Jimmy Kimmel. And it was fun to watch.

Starr:
Did he name drop ConvertKit on Jimmy Kimmel?

Josh:
No. They were talking about his actual newsletter.

Starr:
I just want to hear him say ConvertKit. What's that celebrity hiring platform where you can hire celebrities? I just want to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger say Honeybadger.

Starr:
That would be amazing.

Ben:
That's be amazing.

Starr:
In a terminator voice.

Josh:
You could always tweet at him every day for a month and see if you could get his attention because he seems like the kind of guy if you just happen to have a little extra time, he'd throw it out there for you.

Starr:
There you go.

Josh:
Yeah, he seems like a nice guy.

Starr:
There you go. You got to link it to fitness. Like every day, I'm going to exercise more until you get back to me.

Josh:
You could just record a little video between reps.

Ben:
Speaking of Arnold, there's a funny bit by Fluffy, the comedian about meeting Arnold. So you should go check it out. I'll see if I can find a link and send it to you. It's funny. It's worth the five minutes or whatever to watch.

Josh:
Cool. Are we going to talk about Rails?

Ben:
Do we need to talk about Rails?

Josh:
Starr was just waiting for it.

Starr:
Oh yeah.

Ben:
So this week, there's been some news in the Rails community thanks to Basecamp. One of the co-founders of Basecamp is DHH, David Heinemeier Hansson. And he's also the creator of Rails. And he created Rails for Basecamp and since Basecamp was in the news this week in such a spectacular way, it has now spilled over to the Rails community. And I suppose we should talk about the Basecamp stuff first, and then we can talk about the Rails stuff.

Starr:
Oh, yeah. I know about the Basecamp stuff. I haven't been paying attention to Rails land in the past couple days.

Josh:
We have drama to report, Starr.

Starr:
Really? Oh, my God, this is the best ... Yes. The FounderQuest gossip sesh. It's going to be great.

Ben:
So on the Basecamp thing, so Jason Fried came out with his posts talking about some changes they're making at Basecamp. And one of the changes is, we're not going to have these political conversations anymore.

Josh:
About level of information.

Ben:
About that level of information. And I'm sure people internally knew the background. Of course no one on Tuesday outside of Basecamp knew the background. Over the week, there is some reporting done that exposed some of that background and then DHH came out with some more. After that, reporting him [inaudible 00:19:36] and it's juts this snowball. On Tuesday, when that first hit, I was actually chatting with someone about this and my first thought was ... Well, I had many thoughts. The first two thoughts were, this really seems like ... Then again, having no inside knowledge, it seems like this could have been communicated better internally before it was communicated externally. It seems like the initial impact that I saw on Twitter was a lot of employees at Basecamp being blindsided by this.

Ben:
And I thought, it seems like that could have been handled better. It seems they were feeling like they weren't heard or they didn't have a chance to have input onto that thing before it went public. And the second thought I had was, that was one item out of a list of items of changes they're making at Basecamp. And some of the other items were definitely worth talking about but they all got lost in the noise about that one item. Things like we're not going to do 360 degree reviews anymore. Things like we're not going to be paternalistic in the benefits we offer. I think each of those things were interesting and deserve their own conversation. But having them all be right there paired with the whole we're not going to talk politics anymore thing was ... I think to me was disappointing, because I thought there was great stuff that could have been great conversations, but just got lost in the in the fear.

Josh:
Yeah, I thought it was interesting that Ben Thompson at Stratechery pulled out ... The thing that he focused in on was actually the benefits thing in terms of the broader Basecamp business analysis that he's done in the industry. But he made some interesting points just about how that actually does fit with ... That's very Basecamp thing to do is they're trying to ... They've always been the anti Silicon Valley company. And that's taking the opposite position of the Googles and Facebooks and Apples that have a campus where they expect you to live your life and everything's included, and they're giving you perks or rewards for exercising and staying healthy and things like that. But yeah, that didn't get really discussed a whole lot. I saw a few people talk about it. Maybe after all this blows over, we can circle back to the actual business discussions. But yeah, I have the same thought.

Josh:
It seems like we and them, them being the Basecamp employees were reading this at the same time, which doesn't seem ... That just didn't seem right. Which really surprised me, and I have the same thought. They must have been discussing this internally before this came out or something must have happened, but they didn't really go into it at all. And they left a lot of I think questions on the table which is what some journalists then picked up on it and started digging to figure out what that story was. What was the backstory? Which turned out to be dumb in my opinion. Did you read the Verge article Starr?

Starr:
No. I've been cut off from the news this week.

Josh:
Well, obviously this was only one part of it, but it sounded like the thing that was the last straw that led to Jason and David making this blanket decision was that there had been this internal ... I guess their customer support team, long way back has started this list of funny customer names. Customer names that make them laugh.

Starr:
Yeah, it's a little shitty.

Josh:
It is shitty. It just seems like a dumb ... especially being who they are but even for us ... For a company like us where we've talked about our customers so much and customer support is everything to us and all that. You're keeping a list where you mock and laugh at your customers, it's backwards.

Starr:
Yeah, that's true.

Josh:
I don't know, it just seems like the kind of thing that I would immediately ... I'm not necessarily surprised that in a company with tens of employees or more, you can't necessarily keep tabs on everything, but they were aware of it. And it just seems like the kind of thing that you would be ... You just acknowledge it like he did at first but then just ... I don't know why it had to turn into an argument. It's like, yeah, that was bad. We're not going to do that. I don't know.

Ben:
The conversation that I had earlier this week, I came to it saying, well, I can see both sides of this issue. From a business owners perspective, I can see where David and Jason might have been frustrated with, let's just get work done. Can we just settle this? Can we move past it? Can we move on? And again, Tuesday, I didn't know what the context was but now that I know, okay, this funny names list ... Yes, that was mistake. We shouldn't do it again, let's move forward. And then do we need to spend all of our cycles at work talking about these kinds of issues when that's not what we're here for? We're here to build a product to serve our customers. So I can totally see that side of the issue. And I'm just guessing that's where David and Jason were coming from. It's like, let's just get to work. But on the other hand, I think a lot of employees that I saw on Twitter were frustrated feeling like, well, we feel silenced. We feel like we don't have a place to express our views about these issues which are important to us.

Ben:
And I can totally get that too. You spend a lot of your life at work. And, for a lot of people, they're socializing too. Especially in COVID days, when you're locked into your house. If you're 100% remote company like Basecamp or like we are and Basecamp has a lot of remote, I can totally relate to, hey, my Slack is where my friends hang out. I'm hanging out with Starr, I'm hanging out with Josh, and I like chatting with them and talking about the things that matter to me. I get how you can feel shut down. I can see both sides and I think it comes back to ... A lot of companies will say, "We're family." And even some companies that I admire have that as one of their core principles. And I can respect that approach but I totally disagree with it. My company is not my family. My family is my family. My company, we might be friends, that would be a good thing. But we might not be, but at least we can be kind to each other. At the very minimum, we can be accepting of everyone. We can be kind and tolerant of everyone and respect when we have differences of opinion or differences of lifestyle, or differences of approach or whatever.

Ben:
We all are going to have a diversity of things. And I think we all should come to work in whatever situation we're in with an appreciation for differences and acceptance of differences. But at the same time, we don't have to focus on that all the time. That doesn't have to be our thing. Yes, we're different. We also have a common goal in this business to serve customers, make money, etc. And I think just getting wrapped around that axle of well, if I can't talk about all my things all the time ... Yeah, you're going to be frustrated.

Josh:
There are limits. It seems just like a very delicate thing. I think potentially one of the mistakes or at least one of the issues with what their response was that they made a blanket decision that banned an entire category or categories of opinion and feedback at the company. Versus ... I think it would have been different if they had said in that specific instance ... The first part of David's response was, yeah, this was a systemic failure of Jason's and mine that this list existed for so long. Yes, we were vaguely aware of it or whatever. We let it continue. We didn't really focus on it and it's wrong, and we're shutting it down now. And then say, okay, now we've discussed this and this is the decision on this issue and we're moving on, let's get back to work. Instead of going into the second half of his response which proceeds to argue specific points of the discussion with the employees, which seems to further ... It furthers the debate or argument on the issue.

Josh:
If it had just been like, okay, this has gone far enough, this is getting a little out of hand even in my opinion ... This is the decision, this was bad, we're not going to do it anymore. I'm closing the thread or whatever. I don't think they would have had the same response I assume compared to going public and saying, "Okay, we're never going to have a conversation like this ever again." Which by the way was not just somewhat random political ... They weren't arguing in favor of a politician or a social issue even, it was about the company itself. So when you say you've worked here for 15 years and you're not allowed to raise concerns that you have about the place where you work anymore, I could see where ... That's not cool.

Josh:
I probably broadly lean towards their point of view like David and Jason in terms of ... And yours Ben in terms of I think a business should exist to have a very more specific mission. And it shouldn't be your entire life. I think people are served better by having different facets of their life and business is one of them. And hopefully you work at a company where you both have the same mission.

Josh:
But yeah, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you can just blanket say, we're not going to ever discuss political or social issues ever again. How do you do that? And especially considering David and Jason are two of the most political ... David is arguing political issues in front of Congress for crying out loud.

Starr:
I agree with you both a lot I think. One thing that is just true I think is that if you're in a group of people and you're trying to be good, and do whatever the right thing is ... Because in any group of people, people are going to sometimes mess up. And that will require a course correction, and everything and that's going to be uncomfortable. And it just seems like being able to exist in that discomfort is a really important skill to have when it comes to just getting along and leading a company. And the thing that struck me when I read this post at first is this has real big daddy's mad energy. It's like. "Daddy's mad. Oh, no!"

Josh:
And they mentioned the paternalistic benefits but I think the term paternalistic almost, fit the whole narrative better.

Starr:
IT does, yeah. Exactly.

Josh:
That was my thought too.

Starr:
It's like the kid's upset with something about their ice cream cone and so daddy just storms in and be like, "Nobody eats anything ever again." That's the energy it has to me. And the fact that it was not ... This was not discussed with people, this was just handed down in a dictatorial way furthers that. And it's also interesting because Basecamp has held itself up as this model of how to be a small business and stuff. And I feel like this letter is a very clear consolidation of power. Maybe power had gotten a little bit too dispersed among employees and stuff. So it's consolidation of power back into the ... I know that Jason and David are equals, I don't really understand how that relationship works. But whatever it is, I got that feel from it.

Josh:
Yeah, it sounded like they're just moving power back into the hands of upper management. Because it talked about the committees ... Because they disbanded a couple of few committees that had started and said that responsibility for those issues were moving back to the whatever head of whatever department that related to.

Starr:
I wonder if we're going to get a book from them about waterfall management now, like waterfall development. That's going to be the new hot take. If anybody could do it, DHH can.

Ben:
Starr, I think you made a great point there in that Jason and David as well put themselves forth as an example of this is how it should be done. They were very public about their very opinionated approach to business. And I think a number of people were just blindsided by seeing this thing coming from them. When they had bought into this idea that yes, Jason and David are into the progressive stuff. They're into the issues that I feel good about. And to have had this daddy's mad scenario ... I think you nailed it. I think really shocked and surprised them. I don't know if you noticed the Rework podcast for this week-

Josh:
That was brutal.

Ben:
That was brutal. The two hosts ... Okay, so they're employed by Basecamp. And the whole point of the podcast is talking about a better way to work. And they started their podcast episode, they're like, "No we just can't do this." So Basecamp is a way to work.

Josh:
And it's very like trouble in paradise type.

Ben:
The title of the podcast was going dark. I'm like, well, that's in more ways than one. They're basically saying, yeah, we're going off the air because we just can't do this with good conscience right now.

Starr:
I would have a very hard time doing that too.

Josh:
Yeah, how do you talk about anything? Ben and I were talking before this podcast. We were like, how do you not talk about this if you do a podcast? Now that it's an issue, you have to address it. So being a podcaster at the company, I can only imagine, there's no way you can continue.

Ben:
I've been thinking this week about what lessons to be learned from this, for Honeybadger or how do we change anything at Honeybadger if we do. We're not 55 employees, we're just five employees. And so that makes a difference. But as I was thinking about that, I was thinking back to when we hired Ben Findley, I remember Starr saying to the three of us privately, "Maybe we need to not be dropping our political views into our general channel in Slack." Because we always make jokes about political figures or things because the three of us have fairly similar political outlooks and belief systems and that sort of thing. And so we agree to most of the stuff that we share. And I think I had shared something and I was making fun of some politician, I don't know what it was. But Starr was like, "Maybe we shouldn't do that in general anymore. Because that might make our employees a little uncomfortable, feeling like they have to agree with us philosophically or politically." And I thought that was a great point.

Ben:
And so we moved that stuff out of our whole employee chat room into just the three co founder chat room, so we could still be amused of that stuff and not feel like we're imposing. But I think that a lot of people felt betrayed. We thought we were in this together with Jason, David, we thought they were on our side. And now they come and say this, which is totally different from what we had expected. And we feel like we're not aligned. I think a lot of was that.

Josh:
It seemed like a very illiberal decision.

Josh:
You're silencing dissent basically is out of character with a company that has advocated for such the opposite, or at least it feels like they have. When at the same time, there's a valid point that you cannot have your whole company absorbed in politics, either. But again, it's not something that you can just have a single ... There's not a single line you can draw. Even going back to with us, we try to keep things fairly apolitical. But we've definitely had some political discussions since then with our employees and even in some cases, they've been the ones to say something. Or when there's a big event happening ... We haven't had any major society affecting events in politics recently.

Starr:
Of course not.

Josh:
But it's like, how do you not say something about that? How do you not mention that a Viking is in the capital?

Ben:
Exactly. That was the first thing that came to mind when you said that is like January 6th. That was a bad day for us. And I remember we were just like, okay, I got to [crosstalk 00:39:41].

Starr:
I was like, I'm taking the day off. I need to figure out if I need to flee to Canada or something.

Ben:
And I totally think that kind of thing is fine. You got to have that space.

Josh:
We're all people.

Ben:
But at the same time, that conversation didn't go for weeks in our Slack. It wasn't like work stopped. We got back to it when we could. And I think there needs to be a balance there. I think people need to feel like they can express themselves about things that are they're concerned about. And to your point, I think this is probably a one on one conversation where the boss comes in says, "Okay, I appreciate you're having a hard time, maybe you need to take a vacation."

Starr:
Some management? Maybe this is the problem with non hierarchical type companies. There's no manager who can just take people aside and smooth out the tensions and all that.

Josh:
They have ahead of people ops, which is where some of the power got transferred in that post. And so does the CTO need to be the one that's stepping into squash ... They have managers that are supposedly their sole job is to deal with people too. The other thought I had about just political discussions arising at work is that if anything, I would say the leaders are the ones who should be not 24/7 just ranting about politics in their company chat. If anything, I think we made the right decision like, okay, let's not broadcast all of our political baggage and opinions in chat to make our employees feel like they have to agree with us or something. But we didn't say like, let's make sure they don't ever talk about politics. It's just like, let's not make them feel uncomfortable by broadcasting our politics.

Josh:
So I think you should almost give them more room to involve their opinions. And as far as the founders politics go, it's not that you shouldn't be political but I think that's where it comes down to where the company mission ... I think back during the whole Coinbase debacle, Ben Thompson had an interesting framework for dealing with political things in businesses. And I think part of it was the company can have a mission that has a society wide goal or whatever. And I think the founders moving ... If it's part of the company mission, that's where the founders ... That's where their politics should come through. You start a company like that is it to some extent, it's an extension of you. And I don't see a problem with wanting to change the world in the direction that you think it should go.

Josh:
But I think that's where founders should moderate themselves in at least in terms of the workplace to advocate for the mission of the company, and not be spewing all of their political red line bedrock issues as DHH called it.

Starr:
There's definitely this power dynamic and now it's something ... When we hired our first employee, I was super aware of that. That there was this power dynamic where I wielded really without wanting to, more power as a owner than an employee does. And so I just want to be very careful. That's why I suggested we move things to backroom because I just want to be very careful not to make people feel uncomfortable. And you talked about the mission of the company, there's different ways of looking at a company's mission. You can obviously look at a company and be like, the mission of this company is make as much money as possible. And yes, that's valid. But I mean that's just one side of things. Because the mission of somebody building a company with people in it is to create a system in which all of these people can work together to make money or do whatever in a way that is sustainable and scalable, and all of that.

Starr:
And part of those people is politics. For example, me personally, as a trans person, my existence is politicized in ways that I wish it weren't. But here we are. That's something that has to be taken into account. You can't just be like, okay, turn off all politics at work because that's basically asking somebody to deny some part of themselves. And I can't figure out how to make the system work with you in it. So I'm just going to ask you to pretend that you're somebody else to fit into this system that I made.

Ben:
Yeah. Some people tossed out the notion of they're canceling my existence. And I think that's a dangerous phrase on both sides, someone who does actually want to do that, and someone who's accusing another of doing that. Because we do bring a lot into the situations that we're in, we all have blind spots and it's easy to recognize someone else's blind spots without recognizing our own. It's much easier someone else's than our own. And no one should feel like they have to turn off a part of themselves or hide a part of themselves in order to be part of a community. I have strong feelings about this. We should be able to love each other enough to be able to accept whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever point they are. And be able to communicate that. And I keep coming back to this communication part. Because I think so much of this brouhaha is just communication. People being able to sit down and talk to each other and say, "This is how I feel. What you say and what you do makes me feel this way or that way." And responding to that rather than coming down with saying, "Well, this is how it's going to be."

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
I'm a pretty upfront in your face person with my communication style, and I'm sure I've offended more people than I could ever count. And I don't feel good about that. And I work on that or I try to be better about that. And I have my blind spots that are huge. And I'm sure I've rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and I still will. But not intentionally. I'm not out there to hurt people. And I think sometimes there are cases where people feel like, oh, he intentionally hurt me by doing X, Y, or Z. And it's like, well, no, they actually didn't. They didn't intentionally hurt you. Yeah, I can see where they did hurt you. The hurt is real. It happened. There's no question. But there's a difference between someone that hurt you inadvertently versus intentionally. And I think just offering some grace to people will help a lot in smoothing that out. I don't know, maybe that's idealistic.

Josh:
It seems like these issues Starr mentioned, these should not be politicized issues. And I think a lot of this is dealing with the fallout of the greater ... What's been done to society as a whole, making everything a political issue. And the polarization, it's bleeding into everything now.

Starr:
We're not allowed to talk about society in this podcast, Josh.

Ben:
Let's stay in our lane.

Starr:
It violates our policy.

Josh:
They shouldn't be political issues to begin with. People should be discussing things without assuming political positions, but it's almost impossible to do that anymore. And then I had mentioned I think before or maybe to you, Ben privately, we were talking before the podcast, just being professional ... Just treating people with respect. Obviously everyone is different and people have never agreed on everything. The tech industry especially is made a big point about being casual and dropping a lot of the trappings of business and empowering people, which is good. But then also, it just seems like there's a lack sometimes of just respect and professionalism between people. I can have my point of view, you can have your point of view but we can still work together because we agree on the bigger picture or whatever. I mean, I guess that's part of the point. There has to be some big picture that you agree on to. And I think that picture should be broad but it still has to have balance.

Ben:
Go ahead, Starr.

Starr:
Oh, sorry. I was just going to gently push back a little bit on the idea that things can be completely apolitical. And I'm not really talking about partisan politics. I'm just more talking in the more general sense. I think to some extent pretty much everything is political and wishing that things weren't political is ... That'd be great if there could be things that weren't political but I think just in reality, most things are. And I'm not saying that there's not a place for professionalism and all that. I think that's where the willingness to think that's ... The professionalism to me is where the willingness to endure some discomfort comes in. And that's I think what we're seeing in this statement by Jason is an unwillingness to endure discomfort. It's like, I'm uncomfortable, you guys have to be different so that I'm not uncomfortable anymore.

Josh:
I get what you're saying. I think I agree with you. In the grand scale, everything is political in the sense that if you're talking about power structures and things ... The people that have the power are the ones that are going to want to say that things aren't political, I think in most cases. And so if you are in a group that wants to see change, how can you not be political? So in that sense, everything. Is that what you're saying, Starr?

Starr:
Yeah, that's pretty much where I was going at. And But again, it's different from partisan politics. It's different from that kind of politics. It's a different thing.

Ben:
We all have our differences. We're all different people, everyone is unique. And I think we would be more accepting of differences and that makes the world better place. On that note, take on a weird segue, so we promised talking about the Rails effect.

Josh:
Yeah, let's talk about Rails.

Starr:
Yeah, we got to do that.

Ben:
Okay. So this is I feel, I guess, a little more emotion about this because it affects me a little more directly than the Basecamp thing does. Because as a company, we are invested very heavily in the Rails community. And as an individual having been involved in the Rails community since 2015 or so, it's a large part of my identity and my lived experience. So people are saying, "Well, we should fork Rails." Because-

Josh:
Well, first of all, let's talk about ... Some of the employees who are leaving Basecamp over this are Rails core contributors, they've contributed to a lot of the open source ecosystem of Rails, and some of them have actually said, "I'm not just leaving Basecamp but I'm no longer going to be involved in any of these open source projects." That's going to put a lot of pressure on the open source community when your core contributors are leaving because the control structure or whatever.

Ben:
And I got to say, it pains me. It pains me to see someone ... Because I can empathize with the weight of that decision. Some of these individuals, it's a lot of their life has been invested in these projects that they've put out there. And it's a generous gift that they've given to the world and they feel like they have to step away from that because of this situation, which I think is super painful. And I can totally appreciate why someone would make that decision. And on the other hand, having been an author of open source stuff myself in some things that have gained some popularity, there are times when it can get to a point where it grows beyond you. I'm thinking right now about Faker. I started the Ruby Faker as a copy of Perl Faker and it was a fun little thing for me to have something that I wanted to see in the world and it took a life of its own. It got to a point where I wasn't interested in carrying it any further.

Ben:
And other people were. And so now they are. I'm still around, occasionally might do a little bit of work here and there. But it definitely has a life of its own. And I don't want to make a false like equivalency here. I'm not saying that my stuff is anywhere near as interesting or valuable as some of the projects that you're referencing, Josh. But that's just a way to say I can understand this feeling of one, this emotional investment and two, sometimes things just grow beyond the individual.

Josh:
Yeah. And if anything, I'd almost say maybe it's time for DHH to think about that. As you mentioned, and I interrupted you ... So sorry about that. But you were getting to the point that there have been already people talking about forking Rails. What do you think about that? I'm going to put you on the spot.

Ben:
I got to say, it makes me frustrated to think about people saying, well, this is the reason why we need to fork Rails. It's obviously that DHH is bad and we want to be good. And we want Rails to be good and so we have to divest ourselves of DHH. A lot of thoughts there. One is, okay, it's really hard to have a really successful project and have a good fork. There are a lot of things there. The resources, the energy, just a whole lot goes into that. But one of my thoughts is-

Josh:
There's a split in the community.

Ben:
It's really painful. Why shoot yourself in the foot like that? And I know a lot of people think that that's a bad thought. But the DHH thing is what really I think gets me. If you want to fork Rails, okay, we can talk about that. But if you want to fork Rails because of DHH's behavior and that was the impression that I got from what I read about this one person who was talking about it ... DHH hasn't changed. This isn't new. DHH has been DHH for a long, long time.

Josh:
It's a running joke.

Ben:
I'm trying to avoid the false equivalency thing but in 2015, I wrote a blog post about Rails. I was at that time looking at Rails, but I was still doing a lot of PHP and Perl stuff. And I wrote a blog post and I compared where Rails was, it was still almost brand new. It was pre-version of 1.0. And I compared it to what I was familiar with in the PHP world, some frameworks that I had used, some approaches that I'd taken, and I basically came to the conclusion like, well, Rails looks interesting but it's immature. It's got these problems. And DHH gave me the full bore DHH effect. He just came after me, guns blazing. And he's all like, well, blah, blah, blah. You're dumb, basically. And that was his M.O at the time.

Josh:
Did he cyberbully you? Was that one of the first cyber bullyings? You're talking about 2005?

Ben:
Yeah, 2005.

Josh:
I thought you said 2015.

Starr:
Yeah, I was like, I had no idea you were doing PHP in 2015.

Ben:
Wow, time flies anyway. But this was what DHH did. Anytime anyone criticized anything about Rails, he just lit into them. Whether it was a Java person or a Perl ... It didn't matter. He didn't care. That's what he used for marketing. Intentionally or not, that's what he did. And it was effective, it worked, people gave him attention. And DHH has been basically the same. He has very strong opinions. He is not shy about expressing them. So by saying, well, this just shows that DHH is a butt head and we need to fork Rails because of it, why did you ever participate in Rails in the first place?

Josh:
I think part of it ... Go ahead, Starr.

Starr:
Oh, I was just going to say it's not really a rational choice like that. They're just pissed off and they're just saying shit like people do when they're pissed off.

Josh:
There's definitely some of that going on. My first reaction is just, whoa, cool down. Let's wait. Let's not fork Rails this week or even this month. But I think it's probably a little bit more than just we want to punish DHH for what he did or his opinion, although that might be part of it. But I think part of it is that DHH has so much control over Rails that there really is no participating in Rails without DHH being your open source boss, basically. And so the people that don't want to work for DHH to the extent that they're giving up their 15 year career at his company, I imagine are thinking, how can I still exist in this open source community where DHH owns the trademarks for Ruby and Rails and asserts them and basically has the final say on everything that happens, and is very vocal about it. He's not your boss anymore but he would be if there's someone who has a say over how your project gets incorporated into the larger ecosystem or whatever.

Starr:
I imagine DHH is not nice to people he's pissed off at.

Josh:
That could be part of it too.

Starr:
I think that just seems obvious to me is ... If there is a project like Rails, it's been around for so long and is so central to so many things. It needs to be owned by a independent Rails Foundation, that's a nonprofit or whatever. And yeah, sure DHH would play a role in that but it would be an independent organization ... That just seems to be like the way that these big software projects, open source ones get handled and it seems to work okay. Every place has drama, but why does Rails have to be so tied to Basecamp except that DHH wants it to be his personal project?

Josh:
Yeah. But it is unique in the sense that ... The roadmap for Rails basically has come out of Basecamp. Basecamp has been the roadmap for Rails essentially. So it is so tied to it ... Most of what gets into Rails or a lot of what gets into Rails is directly code from Basecamp. Which I guess does make it an interesting control structure currently. But that is the other alternative I have heard someone mention in all of this so far is, there should be some larger body overseeing the project now. It shouldn't just be one company. And if I had to pick between the two, I'd much rather have a Rails foundation than whatever the new Rails is going to be. I was telling Ben, I don't know if I have the energy for a Rails fork at this point in my life. The other interesting thing to think about is how this impacts our business just because we are very dependent on Rails in a lot of different ways. And it's our market, too. So in any case, I think we're going to be involved in this whether we like it or not.

Ben:
Yeah. It's funny because we're the live and let live kind of people. We roll with it kind of stuff. And this kind of thing is not what we signed up for. We don't revel in drama. But I was joking with Josh before we got on the podcast about I need to add this scenario to our risk register, with our Soc2 compliance, we have to list down various risks to the business and I'd never conceptualize that this could be a business risk where I have to worry about what some random person at some other company thinks about , Rails or whatever. It's like, oh, great.

Starr:
Well, maybe it's time to brush up on those PHP skills.

Josh:
Yeah, there's always Elixir. I said the risk should be DHH in his damn mouth. That's what we should put on our risk register.

Ben:
DHH blows up our business.

Josh:
I appreciate a lot of things about DHH in fairness too and he's been nice to me. But that does not come as a surprise that he has opinions and asserts them on people.

Ben:
Yeah. Reading some of the tweets that I read this week, sometimes I thought you did sign up to go work for DHH. You knew what you're getting into. He is a very opinionated person. And the way they run the business is very top down like most businesses are. And sometimes, you're in a situation you just have to leave and that sucks. I think that sucks for everybody. I think that sucks for the person that has to leave and a number of people are leaving Basecamp. I know it sucks for them and it sucks for DHH and Jason. They are losing the opportunity to interact with these fine people and to have their world broadened by the experiences that these people bring into their lives. So it's sad. I think it's sad all around.

Josh:
I think they're risking a lot. I don't know what they're thinking right now. And I guess you could make the argument that this is still just in that phase where the dust hasn't settled yet and people haven't accepted, but that's pretty optimistic. I guess if things settle down and there is no ... People don't fork Rails. But if a Rails fork happens, how can that benefit more than hurt your business in the long run when you basically depend on ... That's a big part of their appeal and their business. I just don't see how that's good for Basecamp just from a purely business perspective. I don't see how any of that's ... I guess time will tell, but they do tend to try to take the long view where they're like, this is for the good of the industry and the world. This decision is how business should be done and one day you'll all agree with us.

Starr:
Oh god. Someone told me this is publicity tour for their next book.

Josh:
Well, someone did make the point.

Starr:
It's going to come out within a week. We've been played, this whole time.

Josh:
There was a good tweet ... I don't remember it verbatim but it was about how Basecamp is basically trying to communicate trust in the trappings of marketing ... As marketing or something like that. Their post was very ... It was marketing, almost. It was in the voice of these are our big ... We're making these big changes at the company because this is how we believe the industry should move forward. I think that's the gist. And it's always in terms of telling you how it should be. And it just feels like in some way, they're telling you how you should be.

Starr:
Yeah, that's true.

Josh:
I guess don't give your touchy company announcements to the marketing department or something.

Starr:
I don't know. Like most Americans, I love a good fall from grace, a good reversal of fortune story. So I'm just going to get my popcorn. And hopefully it doesn't affect us too bad.

Ben:
This is just yet another example of a good reason why you do not want to be a thought leader.

Starr:
Yeah, good point. We really dodged a bullet there.

Ben:
We sure did. I'm just going to go back to running my business, keep my head down and trying to make people happy.

Josh:
So, speaking of, do we have any critical advice for the Rails community in this moment? That they will listen to you next week after they've made their rash decisions.

Starr:
Our weekly hot takes.

Josh:
Our advice is, take some deep breaths and think. Just spend some time to think for a week or so. And if you do that, if you listen to us right now, you'll save the community.

Starr:
Oh, Josh, you just don't want to have a bigger CI suite.

Josh:
Oh my god. I did not think about that, Starr.

Ben:
My advice, I would just steal directly from Bill and Ted. And it is to be excellent to one another.

Starr:
Oh, I thought I was going to need a party on. That's strange advice, Ben for the moment but it was actually good advice.

Josh:
That's party on Wayne.

Starr:
Oh, you're right.

Josh:
They both work in all situations.

Starr:
All right, well, I don't know. Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar eats you. I don't know what that means but it's from The Big Lebowski.

Josh:
It's from The Big Lebowski and it's truth.

Starr:
Yeah. Have we said our peace?

Josh:
I think so.

Starr:
All right.


Starr:
All right, this has been FounderQuest. If you would like to go to review Apple podcasts, that's great. Please go do that. If you want to write for us, we are usually looking for writers for our blog and stuff, go to our blog, Honeybadger.io/blog and look for the write for us page and get in touch. And I will see you all.

Ben:
And if you'd like to mimic Arnold Schwarzenegger saying Honeybadger, please do get in touch.

Starr:
Oh yeah, do that. Send us your WAV files.

Josh:
Please.

Starr:
All right. If you are Arnold Schwarzenegger listening to this, you know what to do. 

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