Makers vs Takers: The Developers Dilemma – Conscience over Profit

Earlier this week, VentureBeat featured a guest post by Jason Cavnar, called Why Developers Should Start Choosing Conscience over Profit This is a subject that the team at Singly cares greatly about and that has helped shaped our company culture and values. Ultimately the demand for developers often faces them with choices between extreme profit and the value of the project on which they are working.  No doubt, the future of many innovative companies is at the mercy of developers, but there are many projects that are extremely valuable and important that may not be as lucrative as others.venturebeat

 At the employee level, a growing percentage of Silicon Valley engineers are exploiting a red-hot labor market by jumping startup to startup or cashing in on comfortable jobs in large companies that are overpaying to retain workers. Far too many of them are happy to be peddled by recruiters who exacerbate their god-state with terms like “rock stars”, “unicorns,” and “ninjas.”

Companies and apps that focus on social good, open sourced technology, and crowd funding are delivering great results and the developers who help to create such products are often passionate about their work because they are inspired and happy. These are The Makers.

Makers don’t need to be valued at the highest end of the market. They don’t need the micro-fame of tech blogs. They don’t aspire to be “acqui-hired.” They don’t ask questions about optimizing their paycheck, their communal fame, or their personal brand. And they don’t need good pick up lines (or apps) at the bar.  Makers choose their work based on impact and happiness…  

Click here to see examples of the Makers on the Rise including GitHub, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Change.org and more.

We pride ourselves on being a company of authentic, open, and service oriented individuals. Here are our company values:

Singly Values

The post created a whirlwind of comments on VentureBeat, HackerNews, Twitter, and many other social media channels. Although a few opinions are opposing the theme of this post, they do echo the validity and passion behind the issue. Technology innovation is at the mercy of talented developers who are often faced with dilemmas regarding salaries, project integrity, open source vs. closed work styles, and even immigration issues.

On Tuesday, NPR’s Martin Kaste did a story on “Older Tech Workers Oppose Overhauling H-1B Visas” which touches upon the same issue of the ultimate value of developers and the demand for highly technically skilled workers.  The issue here is the value of visa status rather than profit or salary.

The biggest gating factor on the industry’s ability to keep innovating and keep producing more products is the ability to hire more engineers. It is slowing us down.

We’d love to know your thoughts on the issue and how we can all work together to build a more socially connected society through our work, or technology, and our values. Send them to us on twitter @Singly or email community@singly.com.

How we use GitHub for hiring

Singly values transparency. Like, a lot. We’ve selected it as a core value of the company, and nearly all of our production code is fully open source and available from our GitHub account. It’s there because we want to help build an ecosystem around data ownership and management that can’t flourish with one player. We want the community to know what we’re up to and how it will affect them, and we want plenty of open channels for feedback and dialogue.

Numbers!

On that profile, you can (today) see 17 repositories. There are 11 you can’t see, of which:

  • 2 should definitely be opened, and are just waiting for keys and things to be cleaned out
  • 2 could probably be opened, but they’re just configuration management and might not be worth sanitizing
  • 4 are irrelevant; either parts of our old infrastructure or functionality that has been merged into open[able] places
  • 3 don’t contain any code

Those last 3 are the interesting ones, at least in existence if not content. Unfortunately, they’re not ultra-secret government deals or magic, proprietary awesomeness. They’re just marketing/outreach plans, general company knowledge, and people we might want to hire. None of it’s really even that sensitive, there’s just no reason to publish the code to our front door or how much we spent on beer and helicopters for our App Challenge.

These repos exist because we like simplicity as much as transparency, everyone was already accustomed to using GitHub Issues, and the system is perfectly capable of tracking tasks irrelevent of whether there’s code behind them.

You’re the Issue

As soon as you apply for a job or we otherwise become aware you’re out there, we create a new issue with your name on it. Résumés are easily uploaded to the repository’s file space, everything we know goes into the description, and as we court you, we leave scheduling notes, feedback and whatever else might be relevant. A picture says roughly 237 words:

As you can see on the left, labels categorize you and track your progress through the flow, as well as add useful flags like “Needs Review” or “Recontact Later”. Employees are assigned when they’re holding the ball, like if they’re scheduling or next up to talk to the candidate. We can use the familiar GitHub API to run stats on when people drop out of the flow (we don’t remove the step, we just tag them Passed/Rejected and close the issue), how noisy a given source is, or anything else we leave in labels or semi-structured data in the comments. Scanning the list, one can even get a light sense of conversion from one step to another or how long it sometimes takes to align schedules as people move through.

The cool parts

The primary win here is that we can use a system everyone’s comfortable with and don’t have to introduce another tool. We avoided adoption/training cost, and maybe saved money, depending on what else we might have used. We’re in GitHub for tasks every day, so it’s not going away and it’s nice to have everything in one spot.

Labels are nice and flexible. It’s easy to evolve our process and a candidate doesn’t necessarily have to go through in the “right” order. Filtering for a task at hand (eg, what résumés need looking at) comes for free.

Email integration, which most trackers finally have nowadays but is a great feature. Though I do wish GitHub would notify you when you become assigned.

We get to use all of GitHub’s perks, like Markdown, easy references to a candidate’s public code and an API for stats and bulk or automatic entry.

The bad interesting parts

One could question the wisdom of putting our hiring database or marketing strategy in the hands of a third party, but if it weren’t GitHub, it would be someone else. Frankly, if you want to hack your way in, make an issue and we’ll be in touch about work soon.

Issues stick around, so a new hire can go read everything we wrote about them. In part, this comes back to transparency and our general forthrightness with feedback, but really, if we hired you, it’s because we had nothing but good things to say. If there’s something on an issue that we wouldn’t want a candidate to see, it’s a solid sign that they shouldn’t join the team.

It’s a hack. There are definitely better/smoother/more specialized tools for this sort of thing, but they all have their own pitfalls as well.

In Conclusion

If you’re already hosting code on GitHub and need a candidate tracker or any other list of things to complete, this’ll do it for you. Our process here will certainly change as we grow or just start thinking differently, but there’s very little reason to get everyone set up with a whole new system. If you’ve got fun ideas or decide to give it a shot, let us know in the comments or hop into IRC. And if you want to try the flow out first-hand, you know where to find us.

Join us!

We’re always open to adding great engineers to our team. We have an opening at the moment for Infrastructure Engineer. We’ve built a powerful platform. We have some awesome apps in the works and it’s time to scale.  email us at ohhai@singly.com

Infrastructure Engineer

Your mission: Design, implement, maintain and scale Singly hosting infrastructure

  • Lead infrastructure projects from concept through final deployment
  • Identify and eliminate problems which limit scalability, security, and robustness
  • Evolve infrastructure to meet technical and business objectives, as we grow and change
  • Develop tools and applications to automate and standardize operational tasks
  • Partner with other engineers to complete projects spanning the full application and infrastructure stack
  • Respond to operational problems such as performance and availability issues, analyze and identify root causes, and take corrective action

Tools of the trade – Be able to work with technologies such as these, and others in their respective classes:

  • Amazon Web Services, especially EC2
  • Puppet
  • Node.js
  • Graphite
  •  Ubuntu Server
  • Git and Github
  • Capistrano
  • LXC

Here’s a bit about us:

We’ve built what we feel represents the future of the personal internet: the personal data platform. It supports our mission to empower individuals and developers — improving the ways we create, connect and share with applications and one another.

Our office is open, beautiful and bright. In fact, so is our team. We ♥ node.js, sunlight, good beer, music, vegetables and anything open source. We maintain a positive atmosphere; open communication; and an ever-challenging workload. And we’ve made it known to our account holders, investors and the internet: selling sugar water just isn’t our thing.

Looking for a UI + UX Lead

About us:
Singly is a startup based in the Mission District of San Francisco.

We’re on a mission to empower individuals and developers by breaking down barriers that limit personalization and creative expansion of the web. By connecting networks and platforms and allowing open interaction and portability of data, Singly will turn constraint into opportunity. We aren’t simply allowing developers to build on this platform; we’re encouraging, supporting and interacting with them in every way.

Our office is open, beautiful and bright. In fact, so is our team. We ♥ node.js, sunlight, vegetables, good beer, music and anything open source. Singly prides itself on maintaining a positive atmosphere with open communication and an ever-challenging workload.

About you:
You need a job that you love. You’re excited about solving difficult problems and creating the future of sharing on the web. You seek consensus but are not intimidated by groups. You’re excited about making tools for developers, and eating dog food.

Responsibilities:

  • Work closely with the product lead to design and prototype apps and features.
  • Lead the user experience as we grow, including helping to build the team.
  • Collaborate with engineers and other designers as needed.
  • Create (or commission) pixel perfect assets.
  • Ability to work across engineering, product, and marketing functions (even though, secretly, ______ is your favorite).
  • Translate product requirements into UI/UX concepts, mockups, flowcharts. Iterate. Rinse and repeat.

Requirements:

  • 5+ years designing browser and mobile applications.
  • A portfolio of beautiful and useful things you’ve made.
  • Not to brag, but you’re quite handy with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Google docs.
  • Develop and maintain specs and mocks.
  • Ability to move between designing for different users.
  • Understanding of browser and mobile web design best practices.
  • Experience with responsive web design.
  • Experience with Github.