F*ck the Real World, DHH

There seems to be a trend to publish a lot of information in video format these days, which is great but it’s by no means the best method to receive information. Watching video cannot be skimmed like text or easily bookmarked, plus it simply takes a lot of time and the functionality of the various flash players can leave a lot to be desired.

Not everyone is as diligent as the boagworld team in transcribing their content, and of course in the case of releases conference presentations it’s all a bit of a favour to those people who couldn’t go. So in an effort to make extra use of any video that I watch I’m going to occasionally transcribe the content of a video I’ve watched (and maybe add some commentary).

You’ve started to see this, not least in the rails world where the fabulous RailsCasts has now been joined by ASCIICasts, text versions of the same mini-tutorials.

This one is from the unapologetic swear-y and be-quiffed David Heinemeier Hansson from the Future of Web Design in Dublin (March 2009) put on by the fine folks at Carsonified. The original video is on Vimeo.

F*ck the Real World by David Heinemeier Hansson

It won’t work for you, in the real world

In the real world people won’t pay for that.

People are not going to care.

These statements are a pessimistic wall to your ideas, presented as a obvious reality without having to flesh out their argument. The worst thing is that it triggers your fears and worst expectations, and causes inaction. ‘The Real World’ is a nasty term.

So you know what? F*ck the Real World. Don’t let the real world dictate your idea, or govern your success.

Everything DHH has ever done, that has turned into anything, was not supposed to work in the real world. Don’t let yourself be discouraged. They said “In the real world everyone uses Java or PHP, why would they listen to a student with his esoteric Ruby framework.” Now six years down the line… it won’t work in the real business world :-)

Basecamp was launched 5 years ago. It wasn’t supposed to work, it was the side project of three people and is now a multi-million dollar business. There were lots of paper dragons along the way.

Too simple

What is so hard a about todo lists, calendar? The idea was ‘too simple’ to work. People were already using email and Outlook to manage their workload.

People like simple things, simple problems should have simple solutions. When the iPod was released it was derided as being ‘only 5GB, no wifi, lame’. The Flip camera: video recording been around a long time why compete against the entrenched market, but sold millions for a ‘less good camera’.

Simple is a strong indicator of success!

No Plans

To be a real business you need plans. Write stuff down, specifications, roadmaps, projections. Docs, docs, docs. Ask yourself how can you know the future? No one can.

Writing guesses down does not make them anymore true. The future will surprise you. Plans rarely work, things have worked out alright.

%I’d add that DHH isn’t advocating no planning, but plan at most in the medium term and the rough direction of your business and be prepared to change your plans as soon as you need to. Decisions are temporary.%

Say No

There is a misguided idea that you have to say yes to all your customers. This is the worst thing you can do. Your number one power is to be able to say no, make the kind of business that you want.

You should listen to your customers, but you don’t have to say yes. If you’re just going to say yes, why bother listening? Use your ‘power of no’ wisely and often.

All Rock Stars

There’s no way you can find the 37signals quality of talent! Bullsh*t.

Create a rock star environment, let people be the best that they can be. Take the radical step of not treating your employees of being liars, crooks or stupid. Which (if you’ve ever worked in a big company) is a totally radical concept but it leads to trust. Everyone gets a credit card at 37signals and the only policy is “spend wisely”. Its about the environment not the people.

Easy Domain

It’s claimed that 37signals make apps in a simple domain. However Project Management and CRM are two of the most complicated areas; you only need to look at the horrendously complicated mess that Sharepoint and Salesforce make of it. 37signals chose simplicity.

What about somebody adopting your domain and blowing you out of the water? Google is not going to kill your business unless you’re dependant on them. Making something easy to use is not easy to do. Don’t be too worried about the gorilla, it’s about your style, product and connecting with your users.

If someone says it won’t work, you can count that as a win.

F*ck doing a startup

‘Startup’ is a horrible term. Call it a business. Great ideas have to be married to someone who wants to pay for it. Ask yourself at all times ‘would I want to pay for this?’ and don’t concentrate on getting loads of users. Get people to pay for it.

Pitch the Idea

It’s not about the idea, they are dime-a-dozen. Ideas are only a small part of a business and are nothing without execution. Don’t be the guy who says, ‘I thought of that’ and did nothing.

Find the Secret

What’s the secret of 37signals success? Is it the ajax-y ‘yellow-fade’. No. There is never “a secret”. There isn’t even a secret recipe for Coke, don’t focus on the secrets. The reason for success is execution perseverance.

A mediocre idea with great execution is a great business. So stick with it. Basecamp wasn’t a ‘success’ in three months, six months or even a year… it doesn’t have to be billion dollars in a year. The trajectory isn’t nothing to greatness.

Invest in something until it’s great. Stick around until something is great. Most of todays success stories were sold long before they were profitable, and some remain that way. Flickr, YouTube, Facebook. Terrible businesses, but it seems there will always be more VC money.

Invest in yourself and bet on execution, bet on sticking around and don’t listen to the ‘real world’ too much. And you’ll be fine.


2009