If you have a mailing list that’s worth signing up for, you don’t need to trick, cajole, or bribe people in other to get them on board. You only need to do that when you know that most people wouldn’t voluntarily join. That’s a pretty weirdly coercive play.
While part of me loves this idea, the other part of me thinks it's really easy to say you don't need to get email addresses when your company is stable and pays all the bills you need paid. It's easy to say this when you can send a Tweet with a link about some event you're going to run and know that 5-minutes later it's going to be sold out.
When you're already famous and sought after, of course you don't need to collect any emails.
But that's not the reality of most businesses. I'd wager the many of the people that line up with the thinking of Basecamp aren't even huge companies, but smaller entrepreneurs wanting to build a business like Jason and David have built.
Email is the best way to get people to take action on your products. It performs better than social media posts at converting readers to customers.
Yet, DHH is saying that using the best marketing method out there is sleazy and wrong and you probably shouldn't be doing it.
I'll agree that many ways to get feedback and details on users are sleazy. I encountered a WordPress plugin recently that wouldn't let you turn it off unless you gave feedback on why you were turning it off. While I didn't dig into the code, it wouldn't surprise me if they grabbed the admin email of the site and sent that off for further marketing later.
That is clearly sleazy, but I'd contend that many people aren't acting like that. On my email list no matter what free product you sign up for I send you to a page that has every free product I offer. No second opt-in or marketing path triggered by software you have to follow to get the other offers. You just get them all up front.
I end up putting most of the chapters of the books I write out in some form on my site for free, with no email request to read them. Just find the content and read away. Go use the information and run a better business.
By no means am I saying that you should be putting everything that you do behind an email request. It just seems to easy to hear from an established company that they don't need to ask for emails, thus it must be sleazy to do so and you shouldn't either.