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Thoughts from F8: Move Fast, But Don’t Break Things

· by Ayaka Nonaka

Last Wednesday, our mobile engineering team at Venmo attended F8, Facebook’s developer conference.

At some point during the kick-off, Mark Zuckerberg stood on stage with the famous phrase “Move Fast And Break Things” projected in the background. Many cameras went up to capture this iconic moment. Moments later, a new phrase was projected: “Move Fast With Stable Infra[structure].” Zuckerberg sheepishly admitted that this isn’t as catchy sounding as their previous phrase, but it was a much needed change. I always thought the right phrase was “Move Fast, But Don’t Break Things” so this was a very welcome announcement that made me excited for the following sessions.

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There were four separate tracks that an attendee could follow during the conference: Build, Grow, Monetize, and Hacker Way. Although you could switch tracks at any point during the conference, I ended up staying on the Hacker Way track for the entire day.

At first, I was hesitant to register for all of the “hacker” sessions, because I was there to learn about engineering best practices; not how to “hack” things together and break things. But after reading the descriptions for each of the sessions, it sounded like this track was the right one. As a cynic of the “#shipit” culture, I thought this was a little ironic.

The sessions, as promised, took us through Facebook’s engineering process—everything from UI prototyping to continuous integration, and even performance optimization using subtree pre-compositing. For UI prototyping, they use Origami, a tool that they built in-house. To speed up testing, they built xctool for iOS, and Buck for Android. To achieve the level of seamlessness in Paper’s gestures and animations, they built Pop. These tools are available to everyone. The best part? They’re all open-source, with active contribution from developers all over the world.

Facebook’s developers showed us all the processes and tools that work for them to “Move Fast” while shipping stable, quality software (i.e. not “Break Things”).

In hindsight, the name “Hacker Way” isn’t actually ironic. Facebook seems to be redefining the “hacker” culture. “Hacker” doesn’t mean the too common definition of “one who breaks into computers” or the slightly newer definition of “one who ships stuff quickly (and probably with bad code).” To be a hacker is to build and ship quality products while knowing what tools and processes can help do this faster. Afterall, good software engineering practices like using proper design patterns and testing were invented not to slow you down, but to enable you to move fast and not worry that you might have broken something.

Overall, we really enjoyed F8. Not only did Facebook announce cool new products like Anonymous Login and App Links (which we’re super excited to be integrating in the coming weeks), but they took it one step further and offered sessions that enable hackers (in the newest sense of the word) to go out and build the best products to delight their users.

Thank you for having us there, Facebook!

P.S. You can go here to watch all of the sessions from F8. The videos with the blue backdrop are the ones from Hacker Way.