Short takes: Linkedin adds publishing, Twitter’s Chris Fry and the art of war, Meetup raises round to remain private

Linkedin, the professional business social network, has been painted into the corner as a resumé service, and growth has been slowing (see Linkedin disappoints with projections, but acquires Bright). Vindu Goel reports that Linkedin is rolling out a new service for its 277 million users, a reason to come back to the site more frequently, and to maintain more active communications with contacts. They are rolling out a capability to let people write long format posts — much like blogging — that go beyond the current 160 character maximum for status updates.

This service will be rolled out to users gradually, over the next few weeks. It is being positioned as an adjunct to Slideshare, the slide deck sharing service the company acquired a few years ago, and Pulse, the news service.

Goel suggests that these updates could open the door to the Linkedin Influencers program, which is apparently being expanded.


In a First Round Review piece that summarizes a presentation by Chris Fry, Twitter’s SVP of Engineering, Fry argues for a team-based approach to engineering that could have come from the pre-industrial era. His thesis is that building stable teams of roughly eight people with a well-defined team lead is the atomic unit of productive work, likening that to the Roman Army. In this model the members of the team only work together, and the individuals aren’t working as part of other teams. A very closed and non-fluid  model.

This is intended to counter a few problems, as First Round Review summarizes:

At a certain size, two things become clear: 1) Many people are working on too many teams at once and get stretched too thin, and 2) as the leader assigning people to teams, you’ve become a huge bottleneck of information. You start accruing technical debt because there’s no time to slow down and fix all the little cracks in your products. At the same time, you lose your ability to innovate.

My feeling is that this is more of an intensification of older ways of working, instead of exploring new, faster ways. For example, contrast this with Yammer’s approach, where management doesn’t assign work to developers: they pick what to work on (see The New Visionaries: Kris Gale). Or the new model of self-selected teams, at Valve and other companies, where management doesn’t assign members to teams. There’s a great deal of evidence supporting the fact that assigned teams are less productive than self-selected ones, for example. 

This approach also seems to be concentrating decision making in the organization to squad leaders and the director of VP level folks they work for. Sounds slow to me, and the sort of thing that comes about when strategy and product implementation is concentrated in the hands of a few, and the rest are simply told what to do, and perhaps even how to do it.

Lastly, I will make the case that Twitter is not a fast-moving product company. If anything, the pace of innovation there is significantly behind industry norms, so I wouldn’t hold the firm’s engineering up as an industry example.


Meetup, the social network of local groups, has announced a secondary round of financing from a group of the tech elite, including Evan Williams (Blogger, Twitter, and Medium), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), and Scott Belsky (Behance). They join others, like Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures).

Referring to this a ‘patient capital’ as opposed to venture capital, this is structured as a shareholder to shareholder transaction, and is intended to help a number of employees whose stock options are on the verge of expiring, and there fore the company would have to go public to create a market. The size of the funding is undisclosed.

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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