Programmer · Hacker

"Social Media" Projects Are Boring For Me As A Programmer


March 13th, 2014

Honestly, these words are a huge turn-off for me in a pitch.  Here's what they sound like to me as a programmer, and I don't think I'm alone:

- We're entering an overly-crowded space!
- Most of what you will be coding every single day will not be new or innovative!
- We're gonna hitch our entire project and investment onto the back of someone else's platform!
- We have no idea how we're going to get users!
- We think it's 2008!


March 13th, 2014

"Growth Hacking" included. 

Peter Gao Front End Software Engineer at Quantcast

March 13th, 2014

Take a look at how Jeff Bezos advertised to his early employees (this is the real deal! Preserved from usenet thanks to Google Groups):!msg/

In particular, this is quite standout to read as a technical individual:
"You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should be able to do so in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible."

In short: Offer up a real challenge to us technical folks. We don't want to be retreading the same waters of building yet-another-CRUD app (btw, "CRUD" is not a derogatory term here, it refers to:,_read,_update_and_delete).

The fact that he mentions in the subject line "Well-capitalized" was also helpful, I'm sure ;).

Duane Nickull Chief Marketing Officer, Co-Founder at Cheddar Labs

March 13th, 2014

Social media is a very real type of media.  The first thing I always ask is "what does it mean".  I always like to get a definition where I can answer the question "What is NOT social media".

Given I have been teaching courses on this topic since 2008, I believe that there are people who have abused the topic to the point it becomes absurd.  OTOH, I still teach classes in Social media today and there is a very real set of architectural patterns that can be used to define social media and juxtapose it to conventional media.

For starters, social media is not a broadcast pattern, it is conversational in nature.  There is an element of "trust" given social media is media that comes to you from your own social circles.  Unlike conventional media, it is largely raw and unprocessed (or unfiltered) and lacks the perspective of a properly trained journalist.  As such, messages or content appears to be largely biased and uses unique patterns of inference.  I have multiple books worth of material on the topic.

As for the programming perspective, as a programmer myself, I find the patterns very real.  Mechanisms like RSS and patterns such as reputation systems have very unique laws associated with them.

I am not sure what you are building, but describing in with terms like "uses the patterns of social media" is better than just stating the buzzword.

The patterns of social media also include sub-patterns like "declarative living".  there is nothing new about social media itself per se (we have all been gossiping between friends since the dawn of mankind).    The new beast is that we are all declaring things about ourselves in a non-mutatble way that may haunt us until the day we die.  Those embarrassing moments we used to be glad no one remembered are now self described and declared in a manner that others may use them in a sister pattern called "event harvesting".  I have written about both of these patterns using the MN Architectural patterns metamodel in a book entitled "Web 20 architectures", co-written for Tim O'Reilly.

I do tent to agree with you however when people think their ideas are new and cannot describe social media.  The litmus test for me is usually to ask someone "How do you describe social media" and let them hang themselves.


Chris Hundley Entrepreneur in Residence at Madrona Venture Group

March 13th, 2014

I don't really understand the point of posting this from the OP's perspective. Everyone has things they are interested in, and things they aren't interested in. And they are probably not alone. Think of it as a mad lib:

"__________ projects are boring for me and a turnoff, and I don't think I'm alone."

Now replace the blank with these: CRM, ERP, Mobile App, Big data, PaaS, Marketing, E-commerce... the list could go on forever. All true for some swath of the populous. But who cares?

Austen - to bring it closer to home let's talk about your project:

"I'm working on Servant which introduces standard formats for the most popular types of content (Blog Posts, Products, Events, Reviews, etc.), offers hosting for them in the cloud along with a powerful API to access them."

I first heard about the semantic web in 2001-2002. Since then I bet I've seen pitches or been asked to join a dozen or more companies attempting to normalize the Internet. Really, none of them have worked and frankly when I hear someone trying to do it my attitude is somewhere around "meh, good luck with that!"

So back to my original question: what was the point of this post? You're obviously not looking for a job, or looking to join another venture. I don't understand the relevance of the types of companies that bore you.

My point: I hope the FD community is more interested in networking and helping move projects forward - not tell what's likely to be a good chunk of participants that their social ideas are boring, not innovative, and are 6 years behind the competition.

I'm not part of a social project, but I know a hell of a lot of people who are - some of who are doing just fine and having no problem recruiting engineers.

Simon Bain CEO SearchYourCloud Inc.

March 13th, 2014

LOL. Well thank you for that, you have put a smile on my face. I could add some more, but to save embarrassment I will not. Simon - also a coder!


March 13th, 2014

Ouch, Chris.  I'm not feeling the love you're advocating.

But, I've said it once, and I'll say it again.  Every day, I write code for people's projects, so much of that code is written for social media integration.  At first it was only redundant, then it became soul-destroying.  Now, when I hear pitches that touting "social media", I cringe.  I know I'm not alone because I feel embarrassed to say I'm working on a project that involves Facebook in public.

Yet, in my dark, dimly-lit corner of a workspace, I harbor dreams of building something really special.  For anyone trying to attract a technical cofounder, this is just the plea of a programmer who grinds out code for 10+ hours a day:  Please don't make me do a social media project.  They are killing me... 


March 13th, 2014

I think I understand the post. Similar to from Peter Thiel 's class at Stanford University called Computer Science 183: Startup: People focus too much on the 1 to n of globalization and not enough on technology. But to be great, you have to do something new and important. All great companies solved the 0 to 1 problem in unique ways. Globalization basically means copying things that work. That is safe, examples and finances available.
Yes FD community is interested in networking and moving projects, but how about a challenge - have not seen much challenging topics. That could be a difficulty due to a format of present forum: imagine if someone steps forward and posts challenging new and important idea - what then?

Chris Hundley Entrepreneur in Residence at Madrona Venture Group

March 13th, 2014

Agree somewhat Alexandr. If Austen's approach were to rant a little about social and then provide a list of the things he thought were new, exciting, challenging, etc... that would have had a completely different tone. What I was social media projects are boring and a turn off. Followed by some sarcastic comments suggesting people getting into something social were six years behind the entrepreneur curve.

Austen - if you want some love I'm happy to help. I've connected in person to more than a dozen FD folks and helped  them with feedback or connections.

As for something more important to talk about: in my opinion an experienced technical co-founder realizes there aren't a lot of new innovations in the way of building an early-stage product. The reason I'm an entrepreneur is because I like to participate in all facets of building a company. From business development to product design to customer interviews, etc. Writing code is actually the mundane part. Build another UI, build another service/api layer. Get your chef scripts in order. Select a cloud provider. Integrate with Twilio and an email provider. Every early stage product has these building blocks that get done over and over and over.

Facebook started as a simple web app with a MySql database. It took many years for them to innovate from a technology perspective (out of necessity). This is true of 99% of all startups. If you're bored building a rapid prototype that's just a simple web app and simple database supporting it... you'll be bored with 99% of every startup that's ever existed.

Mathieson Sterling Senior Software Engineer at Apprenda

March 14th, 2014

I can say from experience though that many self-appointed visionaries think that by using the phrase social media they instantly become 'game-changers'.  And there's a point where you do grow tired of finding a nice way to say "yeah, but the world doesn't need another Dropbox, because there's Dropbox".

While, as mentioned, Facebook and Twitter began as startups, they are not that anymore.  Nor is social media the new frontier it was at that time.  Rather it's a very established area that has extreme network effects, with very large players already entrenched.  The fight for dominance has largely been settled - anyone remember Virb?  The environment today for 'social media' is closer to the OS market in the early 2000s rather than the social media market, but many projects seem to think reinventing this wheel is a great idea.

There of course are many opportunities left in that sphere, as always.  But it's also become the goto generic idea to cover a lack of real strategy, so I can understand the OP's frustration.

Michael Barnathan

March 15th, 2014

The #1 thing an entrepreneur needs to convince me of in his pitch is that he's actually got the skills to be entrepreneurial - originality, out of the box thinking, executing with little resources, selling people on the idea, etc.

Someone boasting a "hot social media app" (particularly if they don't tell me anything else about it) just screams "unoriginal and doesn't know how to differentiate a product" to me. What's being built may or may not be innovative, but that *presentation* of it saps my confidence in the nontechnical person's ability to pitch. More specifics are necessary to communicate the differentiator / what makes it innovative.