Many cool Valley companies have engineering-first cultures, but Facebook took it to a different level. The engineers ran the place, and so as long as you shipped code and didn’t break anything (too often), you were golden. The spirit of subversive hackery guided everything. In the early days, a Georgia college kid named Chris Putnam created a virus that made your Facebook profile resemble MySpace, then the social-media incumbent. It went rampant and started deleting user data as well. Instead of siccing the F.B.I. dogs on Putnam, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz invited him for an interview and offered him a job. He went on to become one of Facebook’s more famous and rage-filled engineers. That was the uniquely piratical attitude: if you could get shit done and quickly, nobody cared much about credentials or traditional legalistic morality.
The hacker ethos prevailed above all.
In mass media, we have debated for generations whether content or distribution is king. Turns out neither is. There is no king. Instead, the kingdom is ruled by the relationships among its citizens.
Relationships, of course, fuel Facebook’s empire as it connects people with each other. Relationships inform Google as it uses what it knows about each of us to deliver greater relevance in everything from search results to email prioritization to maps. Each of these giants knows every one of us as an individual. Each is a personal services company.
Not the news business. We still treat the public we serve as a mass, all the same, delivering a one-way, one-size-fits-all product that we fill with a commodity we call content. What has died thanks to the abundance and choice the internet enables is not print or newsstands, longform or broadcast. What has died is the mass-media business model — injuring, perhaps mortally, a host of institutions it symbiotically supported: publishing, broadcasting, mass marketing, mass production, political parties, possibly even our notion of a nation. We are coming at last to the end of the Gutenberg Age.
How many times have I read how dreadful email is killing business, how much time was wasted just to be able to empty one’s inbox; I may even have contributed every now and then.
Email is to remain for quite some time simply because of the way we work. If you have ever viewed presentations or tutorials of Slack which is meant to literally kill emails you may have realized that the demo scenario is systematically a unique project everybody seems to be working on at the same time. In the real life it doesn’t work that way : everybody is assigned to work on sets of projects which one rarely shares with anybody else.