How Facebook's Children Think

In Silicon Valley, any time a company gets big and successful, some of its most talented employees leave to found their own ventures. In the old days, that used to happen after an initial public offering, which allowed the best and brightest to sell their stakes in the company and use the proceeds to build something new. While Facebook's rise hasn't culminated in an IPO, employees have found ways to cash out and start new companies.

With each wave, Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch notes, those employees take certain values and perspectives with them as they create the next generation of companies. In her excellent post, she discusses what she sees as the salient features of the new ventures: Quora, Cloudera, Jumo, and Asana.

Here's her list:

  • Not for Sale by Owner
  • Engineers Are Gods and Education Isn't What Made Them That Way
  • Rejection of the Lean Startup Model
  • Efficiency and Organization at the Expense of Free-for-All
  • Controlled Pacing, Not Cheap Viral Hacks
  • Solving Big Messy Social Problems Others Have Failed Trying to Solve Before

I think if you take a step back from all of these qualities she ascribes -- mostly rightly to these companies -- you see a generation of serious, social organizations. Even more broadly, I think Cuda's doing fascinating work trying to understand how being at Facebook shaped the worldviews that people leaving it take with them. I think we underestimate the texture and value of culture at technology companies because they all kind of look the same from the outside: a bunch of guys hunched over keyboards coding. But the individual ideologies and ideas that power companies matter a lot, as myriad works in science and technology studies have shown for other fields (Cf. Richard Hirsh's work on the electric utility industry in the 20th century).

Knowing what ideas shape these companies -- and Facebook itself -- also helps us understand where people using the tools in new ways are likely to find conflict. Activists on Facebook, for example, want to be able to use pseudonyms, for example, but have been confounded by Facebook's corporate belief that people should use their real names.