Screwing up with class

Those that know me know I’m a big fan of 37Signals. Heck, I even applied for a job there once upon a time along with several hundred other people.

Over the last week or so they have been having some major issues with their campfire product. And in true 37signals style, they have an explanation and apology all wrapped up in one great blog post.

What’s so great about it?

Well, first off, its honest. There’s no marketing bullshit. No fake apology. Its sincere and straight forward. They had several issues, they laid them out, and took full responsibility for stuff breaking.

You could feel the pain. They rely on this product and were pissed it was down. More to the point, they were pissed that they were letting their customers down. Many of which, like me, are fans. Its easier to win back fans. But there are others that are on the fringe that they could have lost and they come right out and state that they need to earn their trust back.

The structure of the apology. Not many people realize that there is an art to writing this sort of message. The Pointy Haired Bosses (PHBs) will read a few sentences to maybe a couple of paragraphs. The first section is for them. The second paragraph is for those that have to answer to the PHBs. Middle managers that made the recommendation that are going to get the heat about it. They can state, “Yes, there was a problem and we’re getting a credit” The 3rd section is for the admins out there. The guys that want to hear what happened and learn from others issues. We’re guys that may run into this ourselves and knowledge is power here.


For those reading this thinking that it doesn’t apply to them because they’re not a tech company I say to you, wake up. Just take point number 1 as an example. No matter what profession you are in, you’re going to screw up at some point in your life. And when it comes time to apologize, be honest. Don’t sugar coat it or bury it in a non apology. Take responsibility, be sincere and admit you fucked up. Your customers will respect that sort of apology.

Matt Patterson avatar
About Matt Patterson
Husband, Father of 3, Programmer at heart, spends his days running ridiculously large data centers in the midwest.