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    January 25, 2010

Toolsets and Skillsets. Or Namedropping at Facebook

Christopher Jones
Senior Principal Product Manager

It's no secret that some North America-based PHP folk met at Facebook's Menlo Park HQ last week at the invitiation of David Recordon and new-hire Scott MacVicar. To tell the truth, I was honored to be part of what was a wide ranging technical summit.

Facebook's large open-plan office had an air of enthusiastic intent. There was some informality too, epitomized by the casual way co-founder Mark Zuckerberg joined us for lunch in the (noisy) cafeteria on Friday.

Anyway, enough name dropping. The summit covered a lot of technology. One thing touched on briefly was XHProf: "XHProf is a function-level hierarchical profiler for PHP and has a simple HTML based navigational interface". It was developed and open-sourced on PECL by Facebook. We were given a demo of Facebook's analysis system built on top of XHProf. It provides a lot of nice analysis and drill down. This particular interface is too Facebook-specific to be opensourced.

My point here is not how XHProf was developed, nor how it is used at Facebook - interesting though all that was. My point is that the toolset exists and is in use. Maybe it's because my previous post has a similar theme that I have this on my mind - again. I wonder how much of Facebook's ongoing success is due to making analyis of performance data easy?

From programmers to corporations, a good toolset is important. I've seen plenty of people display mastery of a personal toolset, from regular expressions to profilers. Think of your favorite conference speaker or blog writer and recall how well they demonstrate tool mastery. At the other end of the spectrum, non-technical computer users who work in isolation are often painful to watch using computers.

Everyone has their own toolset. Experts in some things are not always efficient at other things, so don't think you have to master everything. But how efficient is your toolset? What are you missing that you should learn?

The Facebook summit provided a free flowing exchange of information. Meeting and talking is a great way to improve a skillset and learn about new tools and techniques. With the northern hemisphere conference season starting, you should seriously think about attending a conference this year.

I guess you want to know more about the summit? That will have to wait for other blog posts - or a conference.

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