Silicon Valley is a unique place to work, and people often have to make some cultural adjustments when they arrive. Usually, people who have been here for a while are very understanding about this adjustment period, and will do what they can to help. Every so often, though, a new arrival goes too far, and we are driven to make an award. And so I must reluctantly announce that the Silicon Valley Clueless Newbie Award for 2004 goes to Scott Sassa, CEO of Friendster.
Scott arrived in the area a few months ago from Southern California, where he did something or other in TV. He had no experience with the Internet, no experience managing software engineers, and all of his media experience was in broadcast — a one-way medium. One might expect a certain amount of humility from Scott, and a willingness to go through some on-the-job training. Instead, when Scott encountered his first genuinely two-way medium (a weblog) he panicked, and fired one of his key engineers for blogging.
That’s right — Scott fired one of Friendster’s most respected engineers, for blogging about Friendster. Fired her, what’s more, for blogging in a generally positive and non-specific manner about Friendster. (Judge for yourself.) There were no warnings, no requests to remove the material, no other reasons mentioned.
Two interesting questions about this firing: its morality and its legality. But even putting those minor considerations aside, you have to wonder what the guy is thinking. Has he heard that hiring and retention of good engineers around here is a challenge? Has it occurred to him that engineers talk to each other and compare notes? Has he wondered whether anyone in his/her right mind would take a job at Friendster after hearing this story? Scott, there are remedial classes available: ask your secretary to fill out the online application for you today.
By the way, Friendster makes its money by displaying _your_ own personal data publicly. If you’re a member, you can stop that by cancelling your Friendster account. (No, wait, that’s step 2. Step 1: tell all your friends.)
[Update: A couple of people complained that in my original post I didn’t exactly make it clear that I’m married to the fired engineer. Sorry about that — as I said in one of the comments, I’m not used to this being read by people we don’t both know already. Also, I am hardly cloaked here — if you stare really hard at my domain name, you might even be able to figure out my own name. I’m also JP’s co-author on the PHP Bible books.
These opinions are mine, not Joyce’s, and I still stand by every word. If you think I’m uniquely partisan, visit Jeremy’s blog for some pointers to similar opinions by people who aren’t married to Troutgirl, and for the start of the cancel-your-account campaign, which bandwagon I happily jumped on.]