Hey, Retard! is what the game-changing E‑mail software from Basecamp is not called. Its name is just Hey.

The great Jason Fried of Basecamp, author of so many bestsellers on usability and the futility of meetings at the office, charges you a hundred bucks for the worst E‑mail software in three decades. Hey.com is the IBM PCjr of electronic mail.

Actually, a Chiclet keyboard would be an improvement

Things were bad enough with Windows users (q.v.), whose knowledge of electronic mail begins and ends with attachments and Reply All, and with Gmail, an instant-messaging service masquerading as E‑mail.

“Smartphones” and “tablets” (this means iPhones and iPads) have effected a civilization-wide Men in Black scenario in which computer users are taught they have one finger on one hand, not ten on a pair.

  • What can you do on a touchscreen? Touch it.

  • What can you do on a computer? Type (with up to five modifier keys), move cursor or viewport with keyboard, scroll with mouse, click with mouse (up to four times in typical software, and with any number of modifier keys). You can talk to your computer and it can talk to you, but that applies to handheld computers too, and isn’t germane anyway.

  • Have you observed a proficient Photoshop user? It’s a two-handed activity, with one hand holding down modifiers or typing single letters.

    Fire up any kind of drawing software on your iPad and try to draw a perfect circle or square. On any drawing platform from 1984 to present, one simply holds down Shift to constrain that operation.

Hey.com is E‑mail software designed for a curious toddler who knows how to poke. And that’s all he knows.

  • This thing won’t even let you select a message so you can choose to do something with that message afterward. Hey.com is like Punch-a-Bunch on The Price is Right – touching a message opens it instantly. Every single option available to you at that point causes that message to disappear forever (into some invisible mailbox).

    Hey will not leave a message where you found it. Nor can you set up how much of a delay must pass before a message is marked as read.

  • You cannot arrow-key through your messages. (You certainly cannot discontiguously select them.)

  • Weaned on Gmail instead of Eudora, the social-justice warriors of Basecamp aren’t retards but searchtards. Hey.com has its equivalent of mailboxes. (“Messages go in mailboxes that go in folders” was another classic paradigm Windoids could never learn.) It’s got a strange penalty box at screen bottom where E‑mails that get nailed for high-sticking can sit and feel shame. But, while one can open another window on the Macintosh version (see below), you cannot drag and drop messages between mailboxes or folders.

    “Why would you need to?” I assume the baffled kids at Basecamp muse during their busy meeting-free workdays of crushing white supremacy. Phones show one app at a time. Gmail displays one mailbox. Until Windows 7, apps there defaulted to fullscreen. How preposterous even to have to note that these kids have no experience with multiple windows.

Of course it forces you to top-post

Windoids are a lower form of life, and so is everyone who top-posts their E‑mail. The remaining actually competent computer users could now easily fit on a single subway train. I say again: Top-posting turns what you tell yourself is electronic mail into instant messaging. (You blurt a statement. Your interlocutor blurts another statement. You aren’t having a conversation.)

Hey.com top-posts the original message (and never in plain text, either – see below). But then it incarcerates the original text in some weird JavaScript juvie hall. You can’t even select it, much less edit.

Box surrounding E‑mail text with ⓧ at top

The only thing you can do is delete it entirely. (Why not just delete it for us?)

What else can’t you do?

  • Send a message again. Bonus question: What should be done if a message bounces back with an error and you choose Send Again on that message?

  • Search on the same field twice. Here we have yet another concept that is impossible to get across to Windoids. Do you vaguely remember that your friend Jim’s E‑mail address contains jim and ends in @gmail.com? In Eudora you could search on relevant fields multiple times in one shot, revealing the full address by displaying both the parts you searched for.

    (Actually, in Hey you can’t search on multiple fields unless you type in specific search tokens you’re supposed to know up front. Great for software engineers on H1‑B visas, I suppose, but not workable day-to-day.)

  • Sort messages in any order other than newest-first. The slow children of Basecamp live in an eternal present.

  • Guarantee what you are sending is plain text. Basecamp talks up its privacy features, in that Hey.com blocks tracking pixels and the like. HTML E‑mail, which started out as rich-text E‑mail, is intrinsically the problem. Were it not supported, phishing would not exist and many lives would not have been harmed.

    Instead of taking a serious design step and presenting plain text only, thereby solving the problem, Basecamp half-assed it.

Anything else wrong with Hey?

Nothing’s right with it. The iPhone app can’t deal with large font sizes. The Mac app has never been updated and is simply an HTML container. (It does let you open a new window, at which point you must somehow figure out how to reveal another of its mailboxes. Since some mailboxes give you a message list while others show a half-screen’s worth of message preview, no, you really cannot drag messages anywhere.)

Indeed, the Mac app won’t even put the cursor in the To: field when you start a new message (then won’t let you tab directly to the subject line).

There’s a lot wrong with Basecamp

  • A year and a half ago, I wrote this to a perfectly nice fellow I had been dealing with at Basecamp:

    The other week, I borrowed the latest Jason Fried book from the library. Though difficult to distinguish from the other books, it went to some lengths to explain how much care Basecamp takes to respond to customers in a human(e) fashion. Lots of discussion of how well you guys are treated in-house, except of course there is no “house” per se in your famously distributed environment.

    Then I remembered how I, a recognized expert, showed up pitching some new business, yet was greeted with a wall of silence – admittedly after being treated respectfully. But surely Basecamp’s procedures and methods work so well they warrant multiple hardcopy books documenting them?

    I am reasonably confident you personally put adequate effort into ensuring the accessibility of Basecamp. But, all told, you didn’t handle me well, despite what I had earlier written.

    Now don’t be stupid and reflexively hit Reply and top-post an off-the-cuff rejoinder to me.

    Of course this perfectly nice man fell silent here.

  • I tried to fact-check my concerns with Hey.com:

    I am working on an article for my Web site describing Hey.com as the ideal E‑mail program for simpletons and children. I will have fact-checking questions to submit beforehand.

    Will Hey staff be able to carve out enough time in their busy day spent accusing the Jew who owns the company of white supremacy to answer those questions?

    I got an autoresponse explaining they reply to support mail 12 hours a day five days a week, then nothing else.

  • Basecamp is of course the daycare-like boutique software house that told its Democrat employee base to quit talking politics at work. A couple of dozen of them righteously abandoned the Pop-Tarts Jason Fried had laid out for them and slammed the door on their way out.

    Fortunately, that left us with a convenient industry blacklist of malcontents who will destroy your company too after you suicidally choose to pay them to while away their workdays crushing white supremacy.

    Jason Fried and his partners, I gather, wanted their charges to stop talking politics and focus on work, like developing a new approach to E‑mail. That problem was already solved, and the name of the solution was Eudora.

Certainly no one at Basecamp should be under the impression that I am doing anything other than calling them dumb and incompetent (also unschooled on the relevant history).


A couple of days ago I received an exciting! update to Hey.com. Basecamp discovered that real people (could they be Nazis?) print out E‑mails, and now they make that actually functional.

More ominously, as with other graphical E‑mail software, Hey treats addresses as objects you can grab and drag and drop rather than text strings. Plus it defaults to Reply All. Hence this staggering new update introduced a completely hidden method of replying to just one original sender or group recipient. (What if you need just two or three instead of all of them?) To do that, you have to manually inspect a closed element and extract one of those draggable tokens. With your mouse, obviously. Because every user has a mouse handy at all times.

Reply All needs to be off by default, and addresses are simply sequences of text (“strings”) one can easily edit. Really, this isn’t hard. It was a solved problem 25 years ago.

Is there a worse user interface out there?

Of course there is. We’ll always have 1Password.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2021.07.21 17:22. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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