Hecker on Spolsky on Amazon vs. Ben and Jerry's

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While browsing through the Free Software Business archives, I came across some comments Frank Hecker posted regarding Joel's Strategy Letter I - Are you a Ben and Jerry's company or an Amazon company? Hecker worked as a systems engineer at Netscape, and his essay, Setting Up Shop: The Business of Open Source Software, was influential in their decision to open source the Netscape browser. He agrees with Joel's assessment of Netscape's culture at the time.
Tim O'Reilly wrote:
> I was delighted to read this article by Joel Brodsky
> (http://joel.editthispage.com/stories/storyReader$113).  It had some
> great stuff about what kind of business you want to be in.
> It definitely captured a lot of things that have been true of O'Reilly.

It also captured a lot of things that were true of Netscape as well
(which was definitely a company on the Amazon.com model):

"When you are growing faster than about 100% per year, it is simply
impossible for mentors to transmit corporate values to new hires. ...
Netscape is the most egregious example of this, growing from 5 to about 2000 programmers in one year. As a result, their culture was a mishmash of different people with different values about the company, all tugging in different directions."

Absolutely true. We tried to do a values and culture initiative at
Netscape in early 1998 and it basically failed for lack of any consensus as to what "core Netscape values" actually were. I suspect Netscape lost any chance for consensus on values past the end of 1994/beginning of 1995, when the decision was made to charge for Navigator and go all out on getting browser license revenue. (I don't work there anymore, so I can't say for sure, but it's quite possible that what remains of Netscape may actually have more internal consensus on values now than it did in its go-go years.)
Read the rest of the comment here:


-- Anonymous, January 03, 2001

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