The Hacker Way

The Hacker Way

Just read about Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to the shareholders. It’s intriguing that he calls their corporate culture the ‘Hacker Way’. It clearly shows that companies are not the same as they were before – especially online companies. The culture is different, the way of doing things is different, the mindset is different, the competition is different. It’s a whole now different playing field at a whole new different level.

I think it is an encouragement and at the same time, a vision that we can all absorb. I’m definitely inserting this in my company DNA. And what a coincidence that our company’s name is SEO Hacker (SEO Hacker’s Way? Lol. On second thought…)

Here is a brief summary of what Mark said in his brief letter to the shareholders (I’m re-posting it here… In risk of Google Panda… Kidding.):

Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.

And we think this is a good way to build something. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits.

By focusing on our mission and building great services, we believe we will create the most value for our shareholders and partners over the long term — and this in turn will enable us to keep attracting the best people and building more great services. We don’t wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money, but we understand that the best way to achieve our mission is to build a strong and valuable company.

This is how we think about our IPO as well. We’re going public for our employees and our investors. We made a commitment to them when we gave them equity that we’d work hard to make it worth a lot and make it liquid, and this IPO is fulfilling our commitment. As we become a public company, we’re making a similar commitment to our new investors and we will work just as hard to fulfill it.

The Hacker Way

As part of building a strong company, we work hard at making Facebook the best place for great people to have a big impact on the world and learn from other great people. We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way.

The word “hacker” has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers. In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world.

The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. 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.

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words “Done is better than perfect” painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.”

Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win — not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.

To encourage this approach, every few months we have a hackathon, where everyone builds prototypes for new ideas they have. At the end, the whole team gets together and looks at everything that has been built. Many of our most successful products came out of hackathons, including Timeline, chat, video, our mobile development framework and some of our most important infrastructure like the HipHop compiler.

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 program called Bootcamp where they learn our codebase, our tools and our approach. 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.

The examples above all relate to engineering, but we have distilled these principles into five core values for how we run Facebook:

Focus on Impact

If we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on solving the most important problems. It sounds simple, but we think most companies do this poorly and waste a lot of time. We expect everyone at Facebook to be good at finding the biggest problems to work on.

Move fast and Break ThingsMove Fast

Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.

Be Bold

Building great things means taking risks. This can be scary and prevents most companies from doing the bold things they should. However, in a world that’s changing so quickly, you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. We have another saying: “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.” We encourage everyone to make bold decisions, even if that means being wrong some of the time.

Be Open

We believe that a more open world is a better world because people with more information can make better decisions and have a greater impact. That goes for running our company as well. We work hard to make sure everyone at Facebook has access to as much information as possible about every part of the company so they can make the best decisions and have the greatest impact.

Build Social Value

Once again, Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. We expect everyone at Facebook to focus every day on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. We believe that we have an opportunity to have an important impact on the world and build a lasting company in the process. I look forward to building something great together.

I’m not a big fan of Mark Zuckerberg. But after reading these ideas, I must admit that he must be pretty darn good – even outside programming.

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Comments

  1. Henry says

    Hello Sean!

    Thanks for sharing this one! Just like you, I was not a big fan of Mark Zuckerberg but with what I have read, his ideas really had an impact on me. Move fast and break things it is, and taking risk instead of letting opportunities pass by you. Very interesting person that’s what Mark is, surely.

  2. Spatch Merlin says

    What made FaceBook so popular nowadays is how Mark Zuckerberg made it a point to increase its social value. And also, they don’t highlight it as a business but a free way of connecting with people around the world. Great points listed here. Thanks for the inspiring post.

    Spatch Merlin

  3. Mike Glover says

    So so brave to take on Panda Head-On like that :-o I admire that in you Sean.

    Seriously though, great share. I’m with on not liking Mark Z. all that much but this letter shows a different side of him that endures a lot of the Geek/Hacker in me to his style. Might not have seen that without your post!

    As always…YOU ROCK brother! Keep it up!

  4. Ray says

    This is very attention-grabbing; you are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and stay up for looking for extra of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks

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