When I Hear “Web 2.0”, I Reach For My Revolver

A friend and I were chatting this morning and he pointed me at a help-wanted ad he saw as a prime example of how NOT to hire developers. I read it, and I’d go even further: not only is it a prime example of how not to hire developers, but it’s a prime example of the ridiculous priorities of so much of the Web sector these days.

To illustrate, here’s the ad copy, with my annotations. I’ve removed the name of the company and the principals because this isn’t a slam on them specifically; it’s more an observation of the culture in which they are swimming. Fish don’t know they’re in a fishbowl and these guys don’t seem to know they are in the "Web 2.0 Reality Free Zone" either. 

We’re looking for a rockstar developer to help us with <our Facebook app> (5+ million users) and other major apps we’re building.

One way to let me know that you’re not worth paying attention to is to say that you want to hire "rock stars". Have you ever seen a real rock star? They are out-of-control ego demons who waste everybody’s time with ridiculous demands like removing all the green M&Ms from their candy dish. They certainly don’t waste time on unimportant concepts like "working well with others" or "meeting deadlines". Going out of your way to hire them means spending all of your time catering to their eccentricities if you hire one, or spending all of your time mediating their arguments if you hire more than one. Have fun with that.

We have contract work available, but also want someone full-time in SF. This isn’t going to be the ideal job for most people. It’s a full-on startup environment, and we need someone who can start right away. For the right person, it’ll be awesome.

Translation: we expect you to work 80 hour weeks without bitching about things like "food" or "rest" or "pay". You’re a rock star! Rock stars don’t worry about shit like that!

A bit about us: * Two of us (A, 21 and his brother B 23) do web development,

Two of the three founders do the same job you’ll be doing. So get ready to lose lots of arguments!

the third (C, 23) handles tons of other stuff.

The unimportant stuff, like figuring out how we make money. Nowhere in the ad does it explain their business or its prospects, other than it being on Facebook.

True story. Back during the first Web bubble, I was approached by a major national bookseller to come join their online team. They flew me out to their headquarters and gave me the royal treatment. They were constantly saying how they were going to put Amazon.com out of business.

When the time came for my questions, I only had one: "Why should I buy a book from your online bookstore instead of through Amazon.com?"

They couldn’t answer it.

I turned down the job.

And last time I heard, Amazon was doing fine. I have yet to meet anybody who will admit to buying a book through this major national bookseller’s online store. Funny about that. 

We do all our decisions/brainstorming/everything together. We’ve worked together for several years and love what we’re doing.

Try our Kool-Aid. It’s excellent! 

We’ve never hired anyone before so we’re figuring this out as we go. In rough order of importance, we’re looking for: * Someone who’s honest, reliable, and easy to work with

Pick two. 

* Someone who can get things done FAST and WELL

Pick one. 

* PHP, MySQL, Ruby on Rails, Facebook API

We’re 100% buzzword compliant! 

* Someone who can help with scaling/optimization/server/security stuff

It’s telling that this is left for last, and that things like "scaling" and "security" are covered in ten words. Scaling and security don’t work if you do them as afterthoughts, or if they’re everybody’s second priority. You have to put them first and make the hard choices they require. (And "work fast!!!" doesn’t tend to encourage building scalable or secure systems, either.)

I don’t mean to bag on these guys too hard; I don’t know them, for all I know they’re good guys who just wrote a bad ad. But so much of this stuff is flying around these days it makes me sick to my stomach. The worship of youth over experience. The development of features rather than businesses. The desire to impress 53,651 technology obsessives in San Francisco rather than real people with real problems. And on and on.

Enough already.

The best thing about the dot-com bust was that for a while, we got back to building real applications that solved people’s problems in exchange for money. It’s depressing to see just how thoroughly that idea has been eclipsed once again by 1998-style "build it and they will come!" nonsense. 

Come on, folks. We can do better than this.



August 1, 2007
2:19 pm