LAUNCH003: Responses to Jason's "What I Learned from Zuckerberg's Mistakes"


We love receiving your thoughtful feedback and want to continue the conversation around Mark Zuckerberg's [] developer-driven culture. We've selected a dozen responses below from Etsy to Netflix. Additionally, we summarize the L002 survey and find that almost none of your trust Facebook. Original essay in L002: [ /blog/2010/12/14/launch002-what-i-learned-from-zuckerbergs-mistakes.html ]

all the best,

Jason & the LAUNCH team (Kirin, Kate, Nick, Lon, Tyler & Krute)

P.S. Talk about #Launch on Twitter


Responses to Jason's "What I Learned from Zuckerberg's Mistakes"
1. Eric Stephens of Etsy: "traditional model of product development is broken..."  
2. Joe Ranft: " yourself a favor, don't create a developer only culture"
3. David Doolin: "Anytime I hear the words ‘code monkey' it feels like a slap in the face"
4. Paul Reinarz: "<FAMOUS FOUNDER> mentioned this...and it changed our development process"
5. Paul May: "we push releases... EVERY DAY... knowing... we're going to... f$%k things up"
6. Chad Williams: "This is like saying a food company should just put food out without thinking about if it might kill a few people"
7. Josh Borthwick: "I'm going to take those recommendations into our sales-driven culture"
8. Misha Manulis: "unless a person is a psychopath, doing the right thing is simple"
9. German Vargas: "I find that people who are willing to move sideways...are useful"
10. Kevin Foxe: "let the guys who know how to make it, make it and get out of the way"
11. Terry Chapman: "we at times get caught up in our own cleverness and create things that our wives...hate"
12. Kade Dworkin: "You never stumble upon an opportunity by standing still"

1. Eric Stephens
Hi Jason,

Over the past year I've learned a lot about how to quickly build great products. I completely agree that a developer driven culture is critical, and the traditional model of product development is broken. I've also seen a new product role emerge that is equally important, product designer. This is someone with user experience, visual design, and front end code experience who works directly in the codebase with engineers.

Facebook, Quora, 37Signals, and Etsy are all hiring for this role:

I think it's a mistake to outsource all design. A lot of the magic happens when great product designers work closely with great engineers, constantly iterating in the codebase.

I think this is a great example of where product development is going:

I also think all aspiring web entrepreneurs need to teach themselves to program. At this point I'm doing almost all of the programming for BeerMenus. It's been a lot of fun and opened up a ton of possibilities.

I hope all is well, and I'm looking forward to checking out the next iteration of Mahalo.

Cheers, Eric

[ Eric Stephens ]

2. Joe Ranft
Hi Jason-

I think you're going guardrail to guardrail here. Most great sites, including Facebook, do some form of quick mockups or wireframes. Granted, I'm a desiger, but I've learned over time to change my process. Now I do everything in Balsamiq, where I can design a basic layout and flow in hours, which I used to do this in Photoshop/Visio, and it would day days or weeks. So I do agree with you, not more Big Ass Design (TM), but do a few concepts before you start coding.

Otherwise, you could end up like Google, and developer centric products like Wave and Buzz that nobody but genius developers understand or want.

I predict the same fate for Facebook messages. They they everybody is a developer, and wants all of their communication combined into one stream like Twitter. But normal people actually like things like subjects, and sometimes choose the medium for the message and use the media differently. I use email differently than I use SMS than I use chat. Developers might think these are all the same, but normal people don't.

So do yourself a favor, don't create a developer only culture. You'll end up with quickly built but weird products normal people don't understand or want.


[ Joe Ranft is a Boston-based design and strategy consultant, currently doing work
under an NDA and advising a startup called!/jranft ]

3. David Doolin
[snip snap]

> Sadly, I came to the conclusion that innovation was largely coming from community managers, designers and product managers, not our developers. This system is how 90 percent of the industry works, and has worked, for decades. Developers were brick layers, product managers were architects.

Which is why, at age 49, I'm retooling completely into Rails, node.js Javascript, and teaching myself enough real design that I can present my work without looking (and feeling) stupid.

Because no one else will do it for me.

Some very long days I'm putting in right now.

Git some.

-dave d

ps: Anytime I hear the words "code monkey" it feels like a slap in the face, total disrespect for the colossal number of hours I put into mastering my craft.

[ David Doolin ]

4. Paul Reinarz
Well written and much enjoyed. <FAMOUS FOUNDER> mentioned this process while we were at TechStars in 2009 and it changed our development process. We went from the traditional waterfall dev/stage/production process and environment to releasing tweaking features as they roll out on the live server. It has been big for us and it will be for you too I'm sure.

[Paul Reinarz, CEO of Rezora ]

5. Paul May
it's not a developer vs PM culture's a matter of lean thinking vs. traditional thinking.  My background is product management and we push releases out EVERY DAY, fully knowing that we're going to regularly f$%k things up (which we do with astonishing regularity).  We try to think through the issues that could create major problems, but we don't obsess over them...and, truth be told, we've screwed plenty of these up as well.  Our attitude is that, as long as we've got the macro right, people will forgive a lot of mistakes (and we can always apologize and clean these up after the fact).  

[ Paul May, Buzzstream founder ]

6. Chad Williams
I think its a shame if the software industry takes this approach (it already has, I know...).  This is like saying a food company should just put food out without thinking about if it might kill a few people due to poor quality control.  Or that a toy company should put out products using the cheapest quickest Chinese producer who puts lead and melamine in the toys because the payoff to parents from killing a few tots is going to be less than the potential revenues from the toy line.  If this is the incentive structure and I think it is, we're f$%ked.

[ Chad Williams, independent consultant ]

7. Josh Borthwick
Great insights! I've got an online sales house (premium ad-network essentially) and I'm going to take those recommendations into our sales-driven culture. We rely heavily on technology, but most heavily on sales results, so I'm going to see what empowering my guys with more quick decision making ability around deals and integration can do.

Many thanks,


[ Josh Borthwick ]

8. Misha Manulis
Wanted to make a (long winded - sorry) comment in regards to the theme of "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission".  I just think of it as that's how the world works.  It's great when you don't have to deal with politics and the "dirty side" of business.  However, if a person abhors having to deal with politics and having to push the envelope they don't belong in running a company or anywhere near that position.

If a company is truly interested in building great products and trying to serve their users the best they can the ethical/moral thing to do comes naturally.  Having worked at several companies ran by very ethical and moral people as well as truly evil people (doing reprehensible and illegal things) I've come to accept that there are very few instances of white and black (i.e. watching child porn at work or cheating people out of pay), everything is a shade of grey.  Getting that thought through the general public's skulls is another matter.

That's why innovators have to push the envelope and question the establishment, otherwise we'd all just be collecting paychecks.  Trying to affect the world requires changes that will make people uncomfortable, the true litmus test is how much do you care about __truly__ hurting people.  And that's where Zuk screws up.  He doesn't seem to give a damn if people get hurt as long as his vision of the Web and Social Media is pushed forward.

If I'm interpreting your LAUNCH Code correctly, the end is a sum of all the means used to get where you're at.  If you had to trample people and screw over your users just to see your vision become a reality, that is not a justification!  Jobs has a vision for how products should be, he doesn't try to shove it down your throat, if you don't like it, go buy a different computer, phone or tablet.  If you're the only game in town, then you have a responsibility to manage that role properly (an overblown analogy: if I have nukes it's my responsibility to manage them well and make sure someone doesn't try to launch them cause their wife is cheating on them; put it another way: with great power comes great responsibility).

There's nothing magical about doing the right thing, unless a person is a psychopath, doing the right thing is simple, maybe not be easy or cheap or fast, but it is simple.

Please excuse the rant, didn't mean for it to get that long.


Misha Manulis ]

9. German Vargas
Hi Jason,

I'm a lurker when it comes to the newsletter and your other outlets. I thought I'd respond to this one because I found it particularly insightful.

I know a lot about you I guess, so let me introduce myself. I am a technical writer and a graduate student in learning technology - between us cynics, this means I'm also an entrepreneur in the sense that I get funding (spare change, from a dinosaur) so I can put out "products" that make sense only to the smallest possible group of people who, probably already agree with me. Eventually, this changes the world for the better (or so we hope).

At any rate, there were two things about your article that I thought I'd bring up. One is the issue of accountability and the other is the role of management.  I think the reason why Facebook could thrive with a developer-driven culture is that their services are (or were, at the beginning) non-essential for their audience, especially before Facebook became a part of the workplace.  At that point, if a developer pushed something out that breaks or changes things in a way that users didn't like, there were no real damages, and they could either roll the changes back, like they did so many times or just stick out the storm until dissenters moved on.  I get a different feel about how Facebook is being managed now, like a farm, when it used to be more like a jungle.  Their development cycle might not have slowed down much, but the changes are not as radical. It definitely seems more controlled, manicured, and deliberate.

Services that are locked in to clients' needs or who are responsible for offering seamless functionality to their users need to have product managers and designers as intermediaries between clients and developers, and cannot take those risks. On the one hand, you risk losing clients over service quality and on the other hand you risk losing your developers to poaching or over the fact that talking to human beings was not in their job description.  You may find coders who make good designers, project managers, and decision makers, but you won't find any that have the time to do all three things well.

This is one area where I find that people who are willing to move sideways instead upwards in a company are useful. If you have a developer who gets it and has a newly-found interest in human interaction, you can give him a crack at management or design and maybe they'll make a killer "hybrid" or translator between these two areas of your business.  This may seem obvious, but I think it is often overlooked (I've been there myself).  At the same time, if your "soft skills" folk have an interest in more than just the superficial aspects of your product, they should have a say in how it is developed - their job is to be sensitive to your user's/client's needs, which are often driven as much by emotional attachments and personal opinions or preferences as they are by whatever added value you are offering them. These are insights that developers are many times insulated from or indifferent to, unless they serve a dual role within a company.

Just my gut reaction. I'll go back to lurking now. Good luck with your projects.

[ German Vargas ]

10. Kevin Foxe

all i can say is, wow.
after so many years in the movie business where, when a true filmmaker (or developer) makes a film, it is usually good, or at least good enough to make an audience talk and think and enjoy and come alive.
yet, when a studio executive ( or product manager) makes a film, it is usually dreck.
now, as i go into the wonderful world of storytelling in the digital age, and create and build more web/platform/gadget based creating, we encounter the exact process we should all have learned from the old days, that you so clearly state in this email.
let the guys who know how to make it, make it and get out of the way.
then clean up behind the elephant as it entertains the masses.
thank you, jason for this wonderful bit of insight and as usual, saying what needs to be said aloud to those who need to hear it.
you are awesome.
God bless,
kevin j foxe

11. Terry Chapman

I enjoyed the inside information and the thoughts you gleaned from it.

Having spent many years writing code, I agree that if you want to innovate fast, turning a small development team loose to make the decisions is the best way to go.   You have to be careful to not have too many developers working together on a single project (pairs seems to get the best result).  Also I would have them read this book:  As developers, we at times get caught up in our own cleverness and create things that our wives (and half if the universe) hate.   As the book points out, good developers think differently than most people.  If they are aware of it they can compensate, if they create things they think are cool you end up with a million options and the ability to tweak everything.  As we know from the apple example a lot of people want "simple with safety rails".


[Terry Chapman]

12. Kade Dworkin
No doubt I'm late to this party, Jason.  That stated, my grandfather who ran a successful fur coat business for over 50 years in Philadelphia had a saying for this type of activity inside a business:

"You never stumble upon an opportunity by standing still."

Being developer-driven as you describe Facebook and Google to be is key to finding opportunities.  In my eyes it should be the product manager's role to remove those initial roadblocks that prevent developers from pushing new features and after a short time period (days to a few weeks) make a decision based on actual usage data about whether a feature requires placement into the long term roadmap or continued as a developer personal project.


[ Kade Dworkin, VaynerMedia ]

LAUNCH002.1: Results of Developer/Facebook Survey: 42 Percent Would Not Partner with and Only 11 Percent Say They Trust Facebook (Ouch)
Developers appear to have a fair amount of control, and most of you are wary about Facebook.

As to whether your company has a developer-driven culture, "no" got 36 percent of the votes,  but when you combine  "yes" (33 percent) and  "sort of" (31 percent), the majority of you indicated that developers wield a lot of power.

You overwhelmingly favor Google  (81 percent) over Facebook as the developer-driven company with the best products.

Developers in your company/generally are mainly engaged in or manage the process (41 percent). A third said developers "have the power to push product" while a fifth said developers "only write code." Some fascinating responses under "other" include

* "In between - I own product at my company, I want the dev team to have more freedom and go faster. CTO is resistant."

* "dont get enough input from the field to know... this is a problem... we dont have time to have them out there.. and they refuse to take calls from customers - its a conundrum... They end up developing in a dark room with no field inpu"

* "The CEO of my company (Netflix—Reed Hastings) was a developer, so we definitely have a developer-driven culture. But I would say product is customer driven. We're even more meticulous about measuring (with A/B tests) than Google."

In regards to what you think of Facebook, "evil" got 27 percent of the vote and "clueless" 25 percent, with 13 percent voting "unlucky." The largest share (36 percent) gave us their descriptions, which ranged from "lucky" to "partly evil" to "brilliant" and "awesome." One reader said all of the above: "A little bit of everything. They are somehow profit-driven, which makes them evil; breaking new ground in social interaction, making them clueless; and, like any high change organization, sometimes unlucky with bad changes and shots in the dark."

Nearly half said they'd partner with Facebook and 42 percent said flat-out no. Other responses fell into two main camps: only on amazing/right terms and only in the Zynga model.

Exactly half of you said that as a user, you don't trust Facebook, a third said yes and no, and just 11 percent said yes. This comment sums it up: "I consider all content on Facebook to be public regardless of privacy setting."

LAUNCH Conference, February 23rd and 24th
Next year we will be hosting the first LAUNCH Conference in San Francisco and we're currently looking for your suggestions on judges as well as startups that should launch at the event.

If you have a brand-new company for the 1.0 competition that is 100 percent stealth and unlaunched, introduce them to and have them fill out the application at the site [ /apply/ ].

If you have a known company that is launching a killer new feature, pivot or product, they can apply for the 2.0 competition at the LAUNCH website. If it is truly killer, have them email

If you would like to attend the event, bootstrapping startups can attend for only $400, and everyone else can attend for $1,000. Use the code launch3 and you'll get 10 percent off any ticket.

Finally, we are looking for sponsors and partners to help us underwrite the event. Please email and we'll create a package that helps you achieve your goals in the technology and startup community.

Suggest a judge on this Quora thread:

Conference details


Questions about the conference:

Comprehensive List of Incubators/Accelerators by Location and Application Date
We knew plenty of incubators/accelerators -- many inspired by Y Combinator and/or TechStars -- were out there, but we had no idea how many until we started researching. We have two lists of incubators/accelerators worldwide: by location and by application date. Here are the first parts of both lists, with links to the complete versions. If you know one we missed, please fill out this form [ /add-an-incubator/ ] or send an email to

Complete List of Incubators and Accelerators (like Y Combinator)

Name: Astia,
Date Founded: 1999
Cities: San Francisco, New York, London, Bangalore
First Class: 2003
Total Classes:
Total Companies Graduated: 255
Notable Graduates:
Founded by: CEO is Sharon Vosmek
Next Deadline: February 7, 2011
Next Class: March 2011 in London and New York

Name: DogPatch,
Date Founded:
Cities: Cambridge (MA), New York, San Francisco
- Cambridge, MA (222 Third St., 4th Floor)
- New York, NY (36 East 12th Street)
- San Francisco, CA (Pier 38 off Embarcadero)
First Class:
Total Classes:
Total Companies Graduated: 28
Notable Graduates:
Founded by: Polaris Venture Partners
Next Deadline: "If you are interested in joining us, please drop us a note!"
Next Class:

Name: Founder Institute,
Date Founded: 2009
Cities: 13 worldwide (Bay Area, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Washington DC, Boston, Houston, Singapore, Paris, Brussels, Berlin)
Address: Palo Alto, CA
First Class: Bay Area Summer 2009 Semester
Total Classes: 23
Total Companies Graduated: 231
Notable Graduates: BookBrewer, BreezyPrint, CloudCanvas,, Heliograph, KwiqApps, Micromobs, Profitably, Rentcycle, Retailigence, Skimble, Skydera, ShareSquare, Udemy
Founded by: Adeo Ressi
Next Deadline: Boston due January 16th
Next Class: Boston Winter 2011, Denver Winter 2011, San Diego Spring 2011, Washington, DC Spring 2011, New York Spring 2011

Name: TechStars,
Date Founded: 2006
Cities: Boston, Boulder, New York and Seattle
First Class: 2007
Total Classes: 16 [IF all four cities each year]
Total Companies Graduated: 60
Notable Graduates:
Founded by: David Cohen, Brad Field, David Brown, Jared Polis
Next Deadline: January 31 (Boston), March 16 (Boulder), May 16 (Seattle)
Next Class: Winter 2011 (New York)

[ Complete list: /blog/2010/12/16/complete-list-of-incubators-and-accelerators-like-y-combinat.html ]

Incubators/Accelerators by Deadline

January Deadlines
January 16th
Founder Institute Boston

January 16th
Tech Wildcatters (Dallas)

January 21st
Entrepreneur Center (Herndon, VA)

January 31st  
TechStars Boston

[ Complete list: /blog/2010/12/17/incubatorsaccelerators-by-deadline.html ]

Coming in L004: Too Many Accelerators?  
We have found about 70 incubators/accelerators so far, and we are in the process of studying the space and breaking them down by a number of useful categories. Right now, though, we are wondering if there are too many of these programs. Are there enough successful entrepreneurs to teach the classes on offer from Athens to Dallas to Silicon Valley? Are there enough diamonds-in-the-rough with solid potential to keep the incubators/accelerators in business?

What do you think about the state of accelerators? Hit reply and send us your thoughts and tips. Do let us know if your comment is *not* for attribution (we assume all replies to the editor are for attribution).


LAUNCH is a media company that covers and celebrates new products, services and technologies in two ways: an email newsletter and an in-person conference. LAUNCH was founded by serial entrepreneur, former journalist and blogger and now angel investor Jason McCabe Calacanis.

About the LAUNCH Newsletter
Our newsletter is compiled in a collaborative fashion by a half dozen writers, researchers and industry pundits we invite to our Google Docs from time-to-time. Our conflicts are many (i.e., Jason's angel investments: [ ] ), but our insights are always well-researched, honest and to the point. You can probably assume that if we're writing about a company in a glowing fashion (i.e. that Jason might be considering investing in it. If he has already invested in a company, we will note that in the text. Note: Jason tried to invest in Path four months ago, but the round was closed. He remains a fan.


About the LAUNCH Conference
The LAUNCH conference brings together over a thousand startups, venture capitalists, angel investors, media, bloggers, pundits, recruiters, lawyers and fanboys to celebrate and commune around the launching of 40 new companies and/or products. The conference is designed to be the most accessible to startups, at only $400 ($360 if you use the code ilivetolaunch). There are two competitions at the conference: 1.0 for new companies and 2.0 for existing companies launching new versions and/or pivoting into new markets. So, if your company is already launched, you can still participate.


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#22: Eat your own dogfood, but don't drink your own kool aid [with credit to Jason Comely]