What is your development philosophy?

‘To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.’

‘To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’

‘To instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.’

These are the mission statements of arguably the most popular Internet companies in the world – Facebook, Google and Twitter respectively. These statements encapsulate the philosophy and vision these companies and their products embody. They serve as a guiding principle for their future forays and new initiatives. Users, investors, VCs and even their own employees are quick to notice any deviation from the ‘mission’ and ensure that the management stays the course. Hence, a company constantly needs to reassure its users of its commitment and focus through every product it ships.

Much as mission statements are important to address one’s users, it is important to address another set of key stakeholders – the extended developer community. Most technology companies owe a debt of gratitude to thousands of developers who contribute directly or indirectly to their products. It is thus crucial to engage this audience meaningfully. This is where it perhaps makes sense for a company to have a ‘Development philosophy’ – a pledge to keep the interests of the larger developer community in mind when laying out its future product roadmap. It sets the bar high for transparency and accountability. It also helps leverage the developer community as participants in building a stronger product / platform for the users.

Facebook, Google, Twitter have had a checkered history when it comes to communicating and engaging with their developer community. Flip-flops on promises made in their earlier years, changes to their privacy clauses have left a lot to be desired. The most recent instance of this being Larry Page’s announcement of a single, unified Google experience and the SPYW (Search plus Your World) initiative. Ostensibly, it is a measure to simplify the myriad privacy policies across different services into a single, simple privacy policy across all of Google’s products. While it does not sound very harmful at first glance, it has raised alarm bells across the developer community. In fact, a bunch of Googlers themselves are quite miffed at this latest diktat.

During their early years, most successful technology startups scale rapidly and focus solely on shipping great products. This often leads to a situation where you build a product but fail to build a company. The philosophy and culture of a company are as important as the products and need to be shaped with the utmost care. This ensures long-term sustenance of not just the passion but also the values of the founding team.

For startup founders, it might make a lot of sense to have a development philosophy, which serves as a framework for its own development team as well as the extended developer community. The long-term payoff of such a move could be enormous and it could win the company long-term loyalty from the developer community.

What’s your take?

[Guest article contributed by Shashank P S. The author can be reached on twitter: @shashank_ps]

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