The F*#k No Feature
Have you ever wanted to bid farewell to bothersome emails without the hassle of unsubscribing or composing polite “please stop emailing me” requests?
Today 37signals’ co-founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, join host Kimberly Rhodes to walk listeners through HEY’s newest addition that allows users to express their email frustrations unconventionally. Introducing the ‘Fuck No’ feature for those instances when a simple “no” just won’t suffice.
Listen in as Jason and David delve into the concept of Easter eggs—those hidden surprises that infuse a touch of edgy enjoyment into software. Then discover how this feature has emerged as a compelling reason for both newcomers and returning users to explore HEY as their email solution.
If you’ve ever wanted a playful solution to solve an age-old email dilemma, tune in!
Check out the full video episode on YouTube
- The ‘Fuck No’ feature in HEY: offering unapologetic email management with an edgy twist.
- In a world filled with seriousness, the ‘Fuck No’ feature serves as a reminder that software and work, in general, should be more lighthearted.
- The rapid implementation of the ‘Fuck No’ feature showcases the benefits of not overthinking things in order to allow your organization to implement small, low-risk changes quickly and efficiently.
- Resurrecting Easter eggs: rediscovering the hidden surprises in software that have all but disappeared in today’s tech world.
- Unprofessional? NOPE—how adding a playful edge can enhance the user experience and add a layer of levity that resonates with many (MOST) users.
- How the ‘Fuck No’ option is unleashing catharsis on annoying emails while enhancing the HEY user experience, and embodying 37signals dedication to empowering customers.
Rework is a production of 37signals. You can find show notes and transcripts on our website. Full video episodes are available on YouTube and X [formerly known as Twitter).
If you have a question for Jason or David about a better way to work and run your business, leave us a voicemail at 708-628-7850 or email, and we might answer it on a future episode.
Links and Resources:
A Cathartic New Feature in HEY—@jasonfried
Books by 37signals
Sign up for a 30-day free trial at Basecamp.com
HEY World | HEY
The REWORK podcast
The 37signals Dev Blog
37signals on YouTube
The Rework Podcast on YouTube
@37signals on X
37signals on LinkedIn
Kimberly (00:00): Welcome to Rework, a podcast by 37signals about the better way to work and run your business. I’m your host, Kimberly Rhodes, and as always, I’m joined by the co-founders of 37signals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. And before we get started, I do have a bit of a disclaimer. The Rework podcast has always had an explicit rating, but this episode in particular you might not want to listen to with children in the car. So if you’ve gotten past all of that, welcome back. We are talking about a new feature that the 37signals team recently built into their email product HEY. We’re calling it the Fuck No feature. And Jason, I’m going to have you tell us a little bit about the feature that they built, but then I kind of want to go into some of the things that I personally learned from this very quick experience of building this feature. So why don’t you take it away?
Jason (00:44): Sure. So HEY, our email system has a feature called the screener, and the screener has a thumbs up or a thumb down, a yes or a no. And the first time somebody emails you can say, yes, I want to hear from them, or no, I never want to hear from them again. Click no. You’ll never get an email from them again. They don’t hear anything back. It doesn’t say like this person screened you out. They just don’t know and you’re protected from their emails. And we had this idea basically to go beyond, go above and beyond the standard no. When you really are just annoyed by somebody sending you an email or you find yourself you’ve already rejected this person at another address and they’re emailing you from a different address or whatever it is and you just want to say something, this is a personal moment of cathartic expression and you just want to say not no, but fuck no.
(01:32): And so we had this idea to basically, if you hold down shift, was it shift F Ithink it is on your keyboard when you’re looking at the screener, the thumbs down, no icon changes to a middle finger flipping the bird, fuck no icon. It’s the same feature. It doesn’t do anything differently. It just gives you a real warm fuzzy feeling. And we built it in a few hours. It was one of these things, it’s like it’s not necessary, whatever, it’s no big deal. But it also represents to me a couple things. It’s fun to work this way and to make independent decisions like this and not feel like we are going to get in trouble if we do something like this. And second, software and work in general should be just more lighthearted, I think. There’s just so much seriousness everywhere. Everywhere in the business world and in the software world and in the business software world. Just lighten up. So this is one of those attempts to bring some levity to something that really doesn’t matter that much in the first place.
Kimberly (02:38): From the first idea, I think it was three hours between someone on our team saying, I’m getting spammed by this dude to the chat going and people just like, let’s do this. Three hours, I think beginning to end.
Jason (02:51): Well, I mean the idea actually, funnily enough, it had its roots in 2021. I pitched this idea, a slightly different variation of this idea back in 2021 and it just sort of actually, interestingly enough, it was too complicated. It would require you to enter some keywords and if those keywords ever show up in a subject line, it would automatically give you a fuck no icon. And we didn’t do it because we didn’t have a way to match keywords in The Screener. We didn’t have a place to do this, and so it was a lot of extra stuff and it never got done. And then this idea came up again when I was like, why don’t you just hit a keyboard command and then we’ll just flip the icon again? There’s no software involved here really whatsoever. It’s just a little indication that you want to say something different. And then that’s kind of how it all came together. Yeah, it was a few hours. I actually didn’t say build this. I’m like, we should do this. This is funny, whatever. And then a few people picked it up and just ran with it, and that’s the best kind of work too.
David (03:50): What I really love about these things is that harks back to the long history and software development of Easter eggs. This is something all software used to have. If you push this explicit keyword combo or you clicked on this icon five times in a row, something would change. Something would just be fun. Software makers used to build not just like one Easter egg into a piece of software, but 10, 20, 50 Easter eggs into a piece of software. In the gaming industry, people have this with sort of cheats. If you do up, down, left, right, jump, jump, then you get something extra. Then there’s something unlocked, something that isn’t described in the manual, something that’s perhaps like a little on the edge, something that you wouldn’t want kind of on the main sales material, but it’s fun. It’s fun that software can have a little more depth and as Jason says, can be a little lighter, can be an expression of there’s actual humans behind this, especially when it comes to something as often boring as business software where people are just in this straight-laced environment.
(04:56): Now I think what’s interesting about this, I saw some of the feedback that went back and forth on Twitter. People were like, well, this is unprofessional. Yeah, do you know what? I wouldn’t ship HEY with that as the main thing upfront that everyone who signs up for it sees it right away. That I don’t think would be appropriate. But this is what’s so fun about Easter eggs, you literally have to first of all find it, learn about it, and then actively do something yourself. So you’re in on the joke. The software isn’t kind of just gratuitously offending you If you’re like, oh, swear words is just not something I’m comfortable with. Great. Alright, awesome. No harm, no foul. Just don’t put the special key combo that you’re not going to find by random, right? That there’s room for the software to sort of stretch like this. I think it’s something we’re missing in web software in particular. In fact, I’m trying to think of another Easter egg I didn’t even know about in another piece of web software. I mean I’m sure it’s out there, but it used to be everywhere. It used to be in all kinds of software including business software, creative software, not just in video games. And I wish some of that would come back. I wish we get more Easter eggs. Jason, this is the fact we should make sure that there are some Easter eggs in the first piece of once.com software at least.
Jason (06:13): Yeah, I was thinking about Easter eggs in way back when we made this product called Campfire back in 2007 and it had this feature called Play. Slash play and there’s a bunch of songs and sound effects and whatnot, and we actually kind of publicize it eventually as you kind of have, well, you don’t always have to. Some people find Easter eggs, but it’s kind of nice to quietly say, Hey, there’s this thing, but you got to know the command. You got to know how to type it in. You got to know the library of commands that you can run. And that was I think a really fun and people love that. People love that. They love to be in on something, love to be in the know and it’s all personality. It didn’t need to exist. It’s not critical or central to the product at all in any way, but it’s really fun.
(06:56): And then people would recommend songs or sound effects. Occasionally we would just add 'em here and there. We wouldn’t add all of 'em, but we’d add a few. And some of them were really timely. One of the best ones is slash play live, which was what Bill O’Reilly screaming, fuck it, I’ll do it live or whatever. It was like this famous thing and it’s so perfect and we used it all the time when we were going to make an edit in our products. We are like, should we do it? And someone just fuck it, play live and they just did it and it was great. So that kind of stuff’s really fun and software should be more fun
Kimberly (07:27): Slash play Bueller is one of my favorites.
Jason (07:30): That’s a good one too.
Kimberly (07:31): That’s still in the campfire. Okay, so lemme ask you this because David, you mentioned that there’s been some pushback on Twitter. I haven’t seen that, but did you guys ever think in advance maybe we shouldn’t do this questionable? Or is it like, you know what, we want to do it. It sounds fun. Did you ever worry about any of that pushback that might come?
Jason (07:49): I didn’t really see, I saw one pushbacky tweet, but I saw hundreds of like, oh my God, best thing ever. Hilarious. Thank you. Whatever. There’s a lot of positive feedback on it. And a lot of people going like, this is a good reason to try HEY. This is a good reason to try hay for the first time. This is a good reason to come back and try HEY again. It’s fun to see companies do this sort of thing. So almost all of it was positive in that way. No, I don’t think we ever thought because it wasn’t even something we really were going to do. It was like just this thought that came out of nowhere. And again, as David mentioned, because it’s hidden and there’s a key command it, it’s not in people’s face. So if someone is going to be offended by it, and I know there are people out there who are like that and I can understand where they’re coming from on it, that’s fine. It will never do that by itself. You have to be complicit. You have to do the work to be offended. So it’s very safe. There’s really no reason to be afraid of something like this.
David (08:43): I’d also say you really have to be careful who you hand over veto, right on product decisions to.
(08:49): You do not want the most, and I don’t even mean this in a pejorative way, but the most easily offended people should not have veto right on what you put into your product. It is okay that you will launch some features at some points that not everyone is going to love and some people maybe even going to dislike it. And if special few are going to hate it. Okay, fine, that’s part of it, right? If you’re just doing it gratuitously and you’re just like willy-nilly offending people and pissing them off. That’s probably not a long-term good business strategy, so don’t do that. But sort of setting the bar that, you know what, let’s take this example. Let’s say there were two people who complained on Twitter. You could have gone like, oh my, there’s some complaints we shouldn’t do the thing because there’s complaints. No, absolutely not.
(09:33): I have articulated, at least in my head, much more clearly this perspective that you have to occasionally step over a little bit, not a hundred percent, not 500%, like 10% over whatever someone would draw the line at to find something with a little bit of spark. I mean, I know it used to be a little bit of a joke, I think in marketing world – it needs more edge. It needs to be a little closer to wherever the line is. Even if that became a meme, there’s something real in it that at times we occasionally have to push a little bit at the boundaries and explore something that’s like, ah, I don’t know. And then also just think, fuck it, we’re doing it. So okay, there’s two people, five people, 10 people on Twitter who think is not a good, you can find anything, even the most heartwarming story if you distribute it largely enough, there’s going to be a hundred people on Twitter who actually think this is the worst thing that has ever happened on earth.
(10:31): And you have to learn to ignore most of that most of the time and just accept that there are going to be people who don’t like whatever it is, puppies, rainbows, unicorns, alright. You once have a scary dream with a unicorn and a clown, get it. That’s just your issue, right? You’re totally in your right to opt out of unicorns and rainbows and whatever. It doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that we can’t put some of that in there. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a little bit of fun. It doesn’t mean we can’t be lighthearted about it. And I think this is one of the things, I mean comedy has been going through this for several years now. What is actually permissible to joke about and so on. And there it’s usually a lot more spicy than something like this where people arguing where the line is.
(11:14): But Ricky Gervais has this wonderful expression of do you know what? You’re entirely entitled to be offended. That’s a personal feeling that arises inside of you. It just doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. You are in charge of your emotional repertoire and however that gets triggered, great. Go be offended if you want to be offended about a joke or just don’t watch the comedian if you don’t like it. So there’s also some of this I could totally imagine, at least in my head, this is one person. I will never buy another 37signals product because they swear in their products and this is just really to me that the companies I do business with never swear. Great. Dude.
(11:58): I’m happy you have such a clear sighted vision of what you want. I mean, most people can’t even pick out what kind of cereal they want to eat in the morning, but you know exactly where the line goes for you. Wonderful. Great. Have a nice life.
Kimberly (12:10): Okay, talk me through a little bit about adding this feature on so quickly with such a small team. I know we work in two person teams. I think two people made this happen. It didn’t go through this whole long QA process. Kind of talk me through that a little bit.
Jason (12:24): Yeah, so there’s just a couple of people who worked on it. Jose did the coding and then JZ did the icon and that was really all there was to it.
(12:31): Probably it was a total of an hour or so it was worth of work and getting it out there, and the next morning it was sort of ready to go and we deployed it. It was just a quick win. Now, one thing you got to be careful about is throwing your whims out there because sometimes, especially if you own the place, people will just follow it. I knew that this feature was not hard. This was not like, I’m going to throw this thing out there, it’s going to derail everyone for four weeks and we’re fucked. That’s not what this was about. This was like, this is going to be really stupid, really simple. If we decide to do it and someone’s just going to do it on the side, it’s fun anyway. No one’s getting stopping their work to do this. There’s just like if you have a pause in the day and you want to throw a little code in there and make a little icon, we can make this happen.
(13:13): So it felt light. It was light. It shipped fast. Nothing was put on hold because of it. Nobody had to work nights and weekends because of it. It just kind of came together naturally, rapidly and we all moved on and had a lot of fun. Then the next morning I recorded just a quick one take video of walking through it and threw it up online, and that’s kind of how we got the word out about it. Of course, we didn’t announce this in the product. We announced it out of the product and it traveled quite well and Twitter and LinkedIn, people were really fired up about it and really excited about it. And I think on balance it was 98% positive, let’s call it.
Kimberly (13:52): And I’ll link to that video that you made in the show notes. It is hilarious to me and it’s one of the very few pieces of content honestly that I’ve just sent to all of my friends family members. This is hilarious that my company is doing this, which I think a lot of people don’t have that benefit of, just check this out. It’s hilarious.
Jason (14:10): It’s fun. This is the thing, everyone smiled internally about it. It was fun. How often does that happen at work? It should happen a lot, but it doesn’t happen as frequently as we’d all like it to happen, I think. And occasionally you can throw these kinds of things in the mix and just let people have fun with it.
David (14:29): I think what’s also really funny about this is it is an experiment or almost a test of organizational capacity. Can you do very small things quickly? There are a lot of companies that have rigorous procedures on how you update the main application that prevents something like this from ever happening because it simply does not allow someone to invest an hour into making a change out of schedule, out of the backlog, out of the roadmap, out of the planning, out of the QA process, out of the rollout process, about a trillion processes you can imagine that exist in a bunch of organizations that prevent something small from ever coming to fruition. It’s just not capable of that. It doesn’t, you know what? We couldn’t do this if we knew it was going to take two days. If it knew it was going to roll through all the processes, we knew it had to wait in the QA queue until someone was ready to really give it the once over of whether it’s also fully correct.
(15:25): So what if it didn’t work? This is part of it, right? Someone programs it up, it’s hidden already. You got to push it out. Okay, if it takes out the whole site, that’s a problem, but it doesn’t. You have to be proportionate to the changes that you’re making in your process. So I love us doing these things occasionally. How quickly can we push a change that actually is a real change, even if it’s mostly just fun? Can that be done in an hour? And I do feel like there have been occasions in our history where I feel like have we lost some of that? Have our processes become too rigid to allow something simple, low risk to be able to ship very quickly? What can we do in two hours that actually makes it into the product? I think is a really useful exercise to go through as an organization.
(16:14): Are you able to do small things? If not, what’s holding that back? What is the rigor in your processes that should lax off a bit? If you can only do big things, I think you really narrow the scope of what you can work on and whether you can have this kind of fun and whether you can delight random people who just get a video sent by you, Kimberly, on like, hey, look at the crazy thing my company’s doing. That stuff needs an environment to be able to exist in and I think constantly probing your organization, are we capable of something with this? Levity is important.
Kimberly (16:50): I love that. Well, you can check out the fuck no feature on HEY. You can sign up at hey.com and check that out for yourself. One of our fun features in that product. Rework is a production of 37signals. You can find show notes in transcripts on our website at 37 signals.com/podcast. Full video episodes are available on YouTube and Twitter. And if you have a question for Jason or David about a better way to work and run your business, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can leave us a voicemail or text to 708-628-7850 and we just might answer it on an upcoming show.