Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is such a control freak he “makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies,” according to a former engineer who worked for the company for six and a half years.In addition, he often tells Amazon employees that they should pay him to work there, and he hands out yellow sticky notes reminding them who’s in charge if they disagree.
But he’s also often way ahead of his time — which is why it works.
This morning, Google engineer Steve Yegge posted his thoughts on Jeff Bezos as part of an epic rant on why Google+ isn’t working and how Google isn’t really a platform company. The post — which is on Google+ of course — was intended to be shared privately with Google employees but accidentally got posted to the public.
As part of the rant, Yegge said that working at Amazon wasn’t a picnic — their “pay and benefits suck” with very few of the perks workers get at Google or Facebook, and they make engineers do a lot of the operations work, which “leaves almost no time for coding” in some groups.
But, Yegge said, all of this was made up for by the fact that Bezos was a micromanager, and super super smart.
Back in 2002, Bezos insisted that all Amazon services be built in a way that they could easily communicate with each other over Web protocols, and promised to fire anybody who didn’t do that. As Yegge wrote:
His Big Mandate went something along these lines:
1) All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
2) Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
3) There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
4) It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care.
5) All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
6) Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.
7) Thank you; have a nice day!
Ha, ha! You 150-odd ex-Amazon folks here will of course realise immediately that #7 was a little joke I threw in, because Bezos most definitely does not give a shit about your day.
#6, however, was quite real, so people went to work. Bezos assigned a couple of Chief Bulldogs to oversee the effort and ensure forward progress, headed up by Uber-Chief Bear Bulldog Rick Dalzell. Rick is an ex-Armgy Ranger, West Point Academy graduate, ex-boxer, ex-Chief Torturer slash CIO at Wal*Mart, and is a big genial scary man who used the word “hardened interface” a lot. Rick was a walking, talking hardened interface himself, so needless to say, everyone made LOTS of forward progress and made sure Rick knew about it.
In short, Bezos understood WAY BACK IN 2002 that Amazon needed to be a platform that outside developers could easily access — not just a set of disconnected products that talk to each other in random ways.
Yegge thinks that Larry Page and other execs at Google STILL don’t understand that need to the same degree as Amazon does. Looking at the fact that Google+ launched with no developer APIs, it’s hard to disagree.