I was lucky enough to spend a sizable chunk of time with Andrew "Boz" Bosworth (Facebook's Director of Product Engineering) and some the US Facebook team last week - firstly at the dinner that Nicola Mendelsohn and the IPA hosted for a small group of digi-folks and then with a larger audience at Facebook's first ever UK "Hack" day in Brick Lane.
I don't want to get into a pro's and con's of Facebook right now, but I did think that it was worth sharing some of the nuggets of interestingness that I learnt over those two occasions. It brought to life the Facebook ideology more clearly and made me think hard about where it's heading.
There's a lot that you should be able to throw into conversations about the social web and sounded erudite and informed :-)
- "Go Fast and Break Things" - love that. Fail fast and then get back on the track to success.
- "Hacker Culture" - Boz talked a lot about this. How a "hack" is different to a brainstorming where the aim is to spew out as many ideas as possible. A hack, or hackathon, is more about "thinking differently about a problem", moving fast, accepting that not every idea is a good idea, binning the shitty ideas and getting to some kind of working prototype.
- "The journey is 1% finished" - Apparently this is stickered all over Facebook HQ. Constant improvement, constant striving for something bigger and better. Zuckerburg has a kind of professional amnesia according to Boz, so that he has the ability to wake up and look fresh and Facebook like he's never seen it before and make changes again and again and again. When a developer questioned him about the fact that Facebook APIs kept changing and they had to keep changing their approach, Boz refused to apologise and basically said that it was because they were constantly trying to make their site better and that updating APIs was simply part of that. If they weren't updating and making improvements he countered that the developer would be creating apps for another website.
- Only the paranoid survive- Great story about how Facebook worry about being the "AOL of Social Networks", essentially the "play" social network before the real social web appears. Essentially there was a point when AOL = the web and where are they now?
- One killer feature is all it takes - When Facebook launched their photo service they were faced with a host of competitors all of which could far more than their's could (printing calendars, mugs, quasi-photoshopping and retouching services), all that Facebook could do was Tag. And that one killer feature was all that it took to effectively kill off their competition.
Boz is a fascinating character (have a read on Quora on how he got offered a job at Facebook) and Facebook a company that is utterly redefining our experience and expectation of the web. It falls to us all to really try to understand what drives the Facebook movers and shakers and their philosophy of open connectivity that is having such a profound impact on 750 million of us.