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Being Responsible for Code

By Steve Jones,

I read this great account of how Facebook releases new code, and found it to be very interesting. Apparently the entire FB site compiles to a single 1.5GB binary at this time. That in and of itself is interesting, but their deployment strategy caught my eye as well. They use bittorrent to deploy the large file to all their servers. Very creative and interesting look at things from one of the largest web sites in the world.

The process is interesting, but one of the comments caught my eye. It includes a quote from the article:

I know there's no shortage of developers that make mistakes and don't want to have responsibility for the code they release. I like the idea of tracking these metrics, and letting people's actual performance being a part of their evaluation each year. Not trusting the manager's memory, or the recent complaints from co-workers, but actually looking at the relative mistakes being made. This leaves out scale, but I'm not sure the scale of the mistake is as important as the frequency.

However this is a double edged sword. Some people will perform worse if you place them under this pressure and may find it too stressful an environment. If you don't have the same pressures as a company like Facebook, you might end up driving away good employees that could fit in elsewhere.

My recommendation would be that you hold people accountable for their work and use metrics like this to actually track that back to specific incidents, but that you use this as only a portion of someone's evaluation. Track other measures available that help you determine if a particular worker is contributing value to your company outside of the bugs they might have in their code.

Steve Jones

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