So, as some of you may have heard, I was in "the Valley" last week and amongst many stops, Facebook was one of them. I am about to start generalizing heavily but bear with me. There's a point behind this.
Not only did I visit Facebook's new offices, but I was also at Google's offices amongst other places. I've been known to show up in "the Valley" and infiltrate an office here and there but one thing really struck me about this past trip. So, politically correct banter first: thank you Facebook for having me. I really enjoyed being able to hang out with an old friend....one of your newer employees....while enjoying the benefits that your offices in "the Valley" have to offer. I am thankful. I have no axe to grind with Facebook. I am not a shareholder nor do I plan on being one any time soon. I am a user though. I like you guys. BUT, your new place of business is kinda weird and I wonder whether I am missing something.
So, let me start off with Google. Forget the whole "don't be evil" banter and Deathstar references about this business. When you go to visit them (or one of their employees to be precise) you have to drive to their campus. First thing you notice when driving on to the campus: a soccer field. The day I arrived, it was sunny (duh, it's California.....it's always sunny). Nevertheless, you see that soccer field full of happy Google employees, playing games, in the sun. Drive further on to the campus (all fairly open without any "gates") and you see many more happy employees walking around, to and fro. Some are on very colorful bikes which Google provides to go from one building to the next. Further, you walk up to any specific building (where your said friend or business partner has invited you to meet them) and basically, enough people are walking around that you can easily just basically walk in anywhere. Really quite easy to wander into any building (you're supposed to create your own badge and be picked up but I cheated). Being that I meant no harm (and generally like Google) I can be considered "safe". I was secretly pinning for a great lunch but you expect that when going to Google and yeah, shoot me, I like to eat. Anyway, long story short, I went to Google, felt like it was a really open place, saw tons of happy employees out and about, easily walked in and felt all happy and cuddly while there.......and yeah, the food is damn good. I even heard that you can invite your friends and family over whenever you want them to come and eat with you. Yup, you saw above my love of eating. If I can do this with my loved ones, you will grab my heart.
Now fast forward to Facebook. They bought an old Sun campus if I remember correctly the story I was told. This used to be a bunch of separate buildings just like every other campus in "the Valley". Yet, what did Facebook do with this campus? They put up walls between each of the buildings, basically creating a compound. I really don't like "compounds". This reminds me of Waco, Texas. Generally, "compounds" are not good and I wonder why everything has to be closed off? It's kind of odd that they gated everything in. Further, when you arrive at the main building, seemingly the only way in, there are all these turnstiles and you sure as hell ain't getting in without registering, creating a badge and getting picked up by whomever you are visiting. It's really nice and modern and you use iPads to create your badge but it's really "controlled". I wasn't expecting this at Facebook and it struck me as odd. Further, once on the campus, it's kind of a courtyard which all the office buildings surround. There's a cool, huge "HACK" sign on the main "square" (actually it's painted on or was the stones themselves...can't remember) which can supposedly be seen from space. Maybe it's a jab at Google? I don't know but fun.
Anyway, walk around and there's a bunch of other cool stuff. They were just putting together all the bikes to get around from one building to the next. Kind of unnecessary to me since it's really not that far from one building to the next and you can't leave the "compound" but hey, Google has em. Further, everywhere you look, there's food. A BBQ stand here, a taco stand there. A coffee place here and the cantina there. It's all about food. Whereas Google seems about sports and outdoorsy kinda stuff, Facebook seems about keeping you there, and making sure you are fed (any sports facilities are outside of "the compound" if there are any). Everything is enclosed or at least I got this impresson. Why? I found it kind of restrictive. Heard Zuck sits with all his developers and is in the middle of things but who really cares. He's still in "the compound" and you sure aren't getting anywhere near him without being invited. Don't get me wrong. The food was amazing and I was super jealous of this campus. We just DON'T have this level of employee catering in Germany regardless of where you work. I'd happily be somewhat "drone" to have this type of catering available to me every day. But it was so different from Google. It just seemed so odd to me considering this is Facebook.....the NEW big boy on the block.
I didn't visit the newer offices of Twitter on this trip. It would be interesting to see how they hang or how the other larger players in Facebook's, Google's and so forth's world are set up. But in summary, Google had an air of outdoorsyness (is that a word?) about it. People seemed to enjoy being outside, were healthy, interacted with one another, were open, family was welcome, everything was plush, green and so forth. Don't know about you but really positive feelings and just my take from a short visit (I may be totally off). Facebook on the other hand seemed closed off, corporate, shielded, concrete and controlled. It was suppossed to be fun and cool but it wasn't. It was all about "us", "this is our world" and "Facebook against them" type of positioning. Again, the campus wasn't even finished and I may have missed a ton of stuff. I just mentioned all these things to a colleague and he opined that this is definitely worth a blog post. So here it is. A hunch! Nothing more than my random thoughts on short visits. But Brogrammer compound verses sporty, nature friendly, family place it is when I compare Facebook's offices to Google's. Take it for what it's worth. I wonder how this effects the staying power of said companies, one an established player and one newly public and growing. I sure am curious where both are in five years.