So DHH dropped another smug blog post on us, this time about business formality.

Formality is like a virus that infects the productive tissue of an organization. The symptoms are stiffness, stuffiness, and inflexibility – its origin never with those who do but with those that don’t.

DHH is making 2 mistaken assumptions and totally misses one important point about himself.

Rules aren’t All Bad

First up is the rules and dress code. DHH asserts that formality breaks down the ability of the real creatives to do good work. I can agree that there is a point when adding another rule does nothing but slow things down. Rules are in no way bad.

Try and raise a child with no formality. Don’t make them say please, and thank you. Let them stay up as late as they want when their a toddler. Let them order you around. You’re going to end up with a bad, messed up kid. Kids need rules, we all need a proper framework to operate inside.

You need basic rules at your place of work to. You don’t steal other’s lunch out of the fridge. You get your tasks accomplished, listen to your boss. Why do we do those things? Because it’s a formality, but we have to do it.

Boring May not be Bad Either

DHH brings up IBM, RIM and Nokia. I do agree that RIM is all but dead. Nokia has a chance in my opinion and IBM? What’s wrong with making lots of money every year and employing thousands and thousands of people? Oh wait that’s boring.

Yes the crowd that Signal vs. Noise caters to will totally agree with DHH that IBM is a bad company, but it keeps food on the table of more families than 37Signals can. Sure IBM is no longer the darling innovator of the tech industry, but is that a bad thing?

The best analogy I can think of comes from cycling legend Jens Voigt. A real fast man with many wins in his heyday, he keep racing at 40 and will continue in to his 41st year.

“It should be a perfect circle. You come in the sport and the first part, you learn. You just give. You just work, work, work, work,” he said. “Then, you have the upper part of the circle, where you take more than you give, because you’re on your prime. You want to win, that means the team has to sacrifice for you. They have to ride tempo, they have to close the gaps, they have to get bottles for you. And then you perform and win.”

I see IBM in the last part of that circle. They were the tech darling and everyone catered to them. Now they’re doing the boring stuff again, but that’s their job. There is nothing wrong with doing their job.


The thing that DHH (and almost all other internet celebs) forget is that they are speaking from a position of privilege. They’ve ‘made’ it and thus can afford to say anything they want while they race expensive cars. While I have a successful web design business, I’m 100% willing to admit that I’d take pretty much any job that wasn’t morally objectionably to keep a roof over my kids head.

Saying all this ‘awesome’ stuff when you need a job and money is a totally different endeavour. Let’s not rag on the people that wear suits, and work unexciting jobs. Maybe they decided that they’d rather be good parents than work for some ‘exciting’ company. I know I’d rather be a good dad and husband.

3 responses to “DHH: Speaking Again and Making Way to Many Assumptions”

  1. Andy Avatar

    An excellent rebuttal to DHH. Your last paragraph sums up my feelings also.

  2. thank you Avatar
    thank you

    The 37 Sig gospel gets so old.

    1. curtismchale Avatar

      They do have good points from time to time but they seem to forget (often) the postion of privilege fram which they speak. It’s a lot harder to say the same things when you need to feed the kids.

      I’m still going to read the blog.