How hacker culture propelled Facebook to dominance - TechCentral

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How hacker culture propelled Facebook to dominance

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook’s core values include a powerful, results-orientated, anti-theoretical philosophy called the “Hacker Way”, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration,” Zuckerberg writes. “Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo.”

The remarkable “letter” from Zuckerberg appears in Facebook’s S-1 form announcing its intention to go public , which the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released on Wednesday. No starting price has yet been named, but Facebook said in the filing it expects to raise $5bn in the initial public offering (IPO). The transaction may leave the company valued between between $75bn and $100bn.

The Hacker Way, Zuckerberg writes, is embedded deeply into the company’s culture. It prioritises code-based solutions over theoretical arguments, practicality over perfection, risk-taking, and iteration (creating things quickly, testing, then refining).

It’s a remarkable codification of principles that many programmers and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have understood for a long time. The 37signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeyer Hansen elaborated a similar philosophy in their book Rework, and Eric Ries touts an entrepreneurial version of the code in his book and blog, The Lean Startup.

Reading a business book is one thing; seeing the principle outlined in the SEC documents filed by a company planning to go public is another. It’s a sign of how deeply the hacker ethos has transformed the way the tech industry works.

Among other things, the philosophy appears in sayings that Facebook employees frequently repeat:

Done is better than perfect. Code wins arguments. Move fast and break things. The riskiest thing is to take no risks.

Leaving nothing to chance, the company also ensures that all employees are steeped in this worldview by putting them through a Facebook “Bootcamp”.

“To make sure all our engineers share this approach, we require all new engineers — even managers whose primary job will not be to write code — to go through a programme called Bootcamp where they learn our code base, our tools and our approach,” Zuckerberg writes. “There are a lot of folks in the industry who manage engineers and don’t want to code themselves, but the type of hands-on people we’re looking for are willing and able to go through Bootcamp.”

Another prominent part of the company’s culture: frequent hackathons, all-out coding marathons that produce code everyone gets to see and comment on. Some of Facebook’s most popular features emerged from hackathons, including the new Timeline, chat, video, the company’s mobile development framework, and even some infrastructure elements.

Zuckerberg’s letter also shows a sharp awareness of the shift in human interconnectedness brought about by the Internet and mobile technologies. The company was “built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg writes. Facebook does that, he says, by helping people connect to one another, starting with the most fundamental relationship: that of two people to each other.  — Dylan Tweney, VentureBeat

  • Image: Deal Journal (used with permission)

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