Basecamp publicly and ostentatiously declared that it was banning political discussion among its employees at work. This led to a debate over the usual topics of racism, wokeness and corporate responsibility. It was noted that the one of the gentlemen shutting down workers' distruptive chitter chatter had not been made happy by the purchase of yellow lamborghini, and that he would perhaps not be made happy by this either. But then The Verge's Casey Newton unearthed the grimly predictable backdrop to all this: Basecamp had undergone an internal scandal about a blatantly racist list of "funny names" in circulation there, which ultimately led to the prohibition on even talking about that kind of thing.
Around 2009, Basecamp customer service representatives began keeping a list of names that they found funny. More than a decade later, current employees were so mortified by the practice that none of them would give me a single example of a name on the list. One invoked the sorts of names Bart Simpson used to use when prank calling Moe the Bartender: Amanda Hugginkiss, Seymour Butz, Mike Rotch. Many of the names were of American or European origin. But others were Asian, or African, and eventually the list — titled "Best Names Ever" — began to make people uncomfortable. What once had felt like an innocent way to blow off steam, amid the ongoing cultural reckoning over speech and corporate responsibility, increasingly looked inappropriate, and often racist.