I’m very excited to announce that I’m joining Facebook’s product team to help run the mobile app ads product and business. I’ve always been attracted to working on products that impact a lot of people and I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to work on a couple of them. There’s something amazing about working on a product that impacts a billion people, one that is such a big part of my and everyone else’s daily lives.
I still remember how I first heard of Google.com. Back in high school, I was reading an interview with Sabeer Bhatia where he was asked about his relationship with Aishwarya Rai (there were a few rumors back then). In the interview, he turned to Google.com to see who was talking about them. I had never heard of Google before then so I when I could go online again, I went to Google.com and had my jaw drop when search queries returned in milliseconds.
So why tell this story now? Aarthi is doing a panel with Sabeer organized by South Asian Women Enterpreneurs at the Federal Building on the 18th. Sadly, I couldn’t convince her to ask him about Ash.
UPDATE: Found the piece! http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/ie/daily/20000525/xclusive.htm
2011 was a weird year.
I was looking through some old email and I saw a mail I had sent a friend in February 2011 saying “Umm..yeah..I should really think about moving to California sometime”. It’s surreal to see how much has changed in such a short time.
bubblegum has all the cool filters and social options iOS and Android users have been enjoying with Instagram, but integrates beautifully into the WP7 platform.
Update: See Carmack’s response to this post.
I wanted to post this as a comment on this thread about John Carmack on HN
John Carmack is one of my heroes in the tech world. Not because of his technical accomplishments and helping to create games that I’ve spent years of my life on. But for his single minded obsession with his craft after two decades. Every time he is on stage, he is so obviously in love with what he does that it is infectious.
That was one of my favorite things about Dave Cutler back at Microsoft.
Here’s this legendary figure pushing 70 years who has accomplished more things than most developers dream up. But he showed up at work every single day and made checkins every single day - including Dec 25th and Jan 1st, something he was proud of.
I was once at Microsoft campus late on a Sunday and walked past his office. Spotting the familiar blue hue from his office, I looked inside and saw him debugging something.
“Hey Dave,”, I said “Ever get bored of
ntos/ke? You’ve been coding there for…for like 20 years now?”
ntos is the core part of the Windows NT source tree and
ke is where the kernel code lives in. Where pretty much every source file would have a header with Cutler’s name on it and a created date in the 80s.
He turned slowly, looked me over. Obviously not very thrilled about this pipsqueak program manager interrupting him being in the ‘zone’. He then smiled and said. “I love this stuff. What else do you want me to do? Be on a boat somewhere?”
With that, he turned back to his debugger and went back to work.
I sent out mail at work by mistake today which misspelt ‘public’ as ‘pubic’. I knew it the moment I had hit send but I couldn’t stop the sending quickly enough. Of course, we all had a laugh about it but it got me thinking about how archaic email was as a medium when compared to what I’m used to with Facebook, Google+, Twitter or any modern discussion app.
Email doesn’t have to be ‘email’. It can be as good as any modern app given that it is used mostly in the same way - common server side software and a few client side apps speaking public APIs/protocols.
Here’s what I want
The ability to unsend email and have it deleted everywhere. Not the silly ‘recall’ feature in Exchange/Outlook that guarantees your readers will be hunting down what the original email was. Gmail has a light-weight version of this in their labs but you can’t genuinely delete/unsend something like you can with Twitter, say.
The ability to edit email after it is sent.
Change the list of people who can see an email thread at any time. If you can change the viewership for your Facebook posts at any time, why not for your email conversations?
Permalinks to email threads so you can point to a live version instead of attaching a static version (I believe shortmail does this already, Google Wave used to do this too).
Of course, all this only works when you can control both the client and the server but in most corporate environments, you already do - all users run on the same server side software (Exchange, Notes, etc) and the same few client apps (Outlook, Mail.app). You only need to speak ‘email’ when you go outside your controlled environment to an external email address where you could switch to today’s email experience.
One of the occupational hazards of working at Microsoft was attending offsites. These were 2-3 day affairs, typically cloistered watching endless sessions of Powerpoint in a out-of-the-way Washington resort with a bunch of execs. At one such shindig I was attending a few years ago, one of the attractions was a talk from a couple of external speakers, both of them local VCs. The talk was covering certain things Microsoft could be doing better in particular areas (being deliberately obtuse here to honor confidentiality and besides, the details aren’t pertinent here).
This VC threw up a slide at the end of his slide to summarize most of his talk. It had the following sentence in bold which made the room break into applause.
Don’t be so f-king strategic
All large companies (and I do mean all - this is not a post about Microsoft) tend to be in love with finding the right ‘strategy’ in place before doing anything. There are reams and reams of text written on what exactly strategy is and how to go about having a good one. Some of them are actually quite good (for example, Porter’s work on the five forces). You could often get rapped on the knuckles (or worse) for being ‘off-strategy’.
Don’t get me wrong. Good strategy combined with good execution is a joy to watch (case in point - Apple over the last decade). The last thing you would want is people off doing their own thing and being all ‘off-strategy’ and rebellious.
But here’s the problem.
You’re not Steve Jobs and your organization is not Apple. And your well-thought out strategy is probably terrible.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the corporate world, it is that a staggering amount of ‘strategic analysis’ is nonsense and guesswork. There’s nothing wrong in admitting that. Figuring out the market, what the future looks like, what users want or heck, even what your own company can do is hard. Bloody hard. Eric Reis says that all startups are experiments and the same can be said for any company in a fast changing industry too.
Most times, you don’t even know what the right thing to do is until you have actually gone out and tried a bunch. Experimenting might be hard if you’re launching spacecraft (and even that doesn’t stop Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos). But if you’re in the software world, there is no excuse for not building a bunch. For not trying a bunch.
Building stuff and getting people to use it will always lead to better results than sitting in a bunch of meetings with over-paid consultants and trying to extrapolate from various signals and trends on what people might want and what you should be doing. Even if you had the right strategy in place at one point in time, that isn’t good enough. The world changes so quickly that you might need to do a 180-degree turn in a matter of months to react to changing user behavior or market trends. Top-down strategic planning doesn’t deal well with this.
What you need are many experiments in parallel. Not all of them need the same amount of resources and not all needs to be released to the public. But you absolutely do need people working on crazy, random things. It doesn’t matter whether you call it 20% time, whether you call it a research department or it is just what all your employees do on weekends. But it needs to happen in some form.
This only works if your corporate structure is built with the flexibility to do random things. Especially things which are ‘off-strategy’.
If you’re a mining corporation in Minnesota, allowing an employee to experiment with adhesives might wind up with you revolutionizing the stationery industry (this happened).
If you’re the world’s largest software company in 2005 and your strategy is to sell phones to enterprises, going off-strategy to understand/build what normal consumers want, might save you years later (this didn’t happen).
So go out there. Try random things. Don’t be so f*king strategic.