It has been a long while since I have posted to this blog. This is due to many factors, the rise of other social networks and a busy life being the primary two. However, I feel a post is warranted after experiencing what I can describe as one of proudest moments of my career, if not the proudest of them all.
I have been working at Facebook for just over a year now. My time there has been, well, awesome. But I will save my overall Facebook experience for another post. I work with a team of super smart people that owns languages and tools within the company. Two of the specific technologies that I have been working with is HHVM (the open source virtual machine that runs PHP and sites like facebook.com) and a new programming language for HHVM that was just released to the public called Hack.
I have been part of various releases while at other companies or working for myself (internal products, language standard specifications, website, etc.), but this was different. The release of Hack to the public and open source world was my first real product launch at this scale.
My primary role with Hack was its user documentation. When I got to Facebook, I helped create the initial documentation for internal users. This served as a good testbed for what would end up being the public facing documentation for the language. For the launch, we decided to add the Hack documentation on top of existing documentation and tools that already existed for PHP. This required a migration of the internal documentation from a markdown format to a docbook format, code changes to the rendering tools to support new syntax (e.g., generics) and interfacing with our new website design. So creating user documentation isn’t just documentation — it also included (and continues to include) a bit of coding, which I love.
The last two weeks before the Hack launch was the most interesting, if not the most hectic (as probably expected). Dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s actually requires a bit more coordination than you might think at first. Are the domain names in order? Do we have our GitHub repos ready? Is the code packaged correctly? Does the code work on multiple distributions? Does the logo and website design flow correctly? Is all the initial documentation complete? Do we have open source licenses in order? And much more.
Hack was officially launched at 9AM Pacific time on March 20, 2014. And I can tell you that we needed every minute up until that point to make sure the launch was successful. Imagine a web server, configuration files and making sure the sites could be viewable.
But we did it. And it felt really good to experience something like this for the first time. What makes this a very proud moment for me is not just that the work I did had an impact on the launch itself, but the reception to Hack was actually very positive overall. Watching the amount of continuous traffic to the websites that first day was surreal. Reading all of the articles, tweets, posts and comments about the launch was downright fun. Of course, with something this big, and building upon a very popular language like PHP, it was expected that some people may not warm up to Hack. But all in all it was a great experience. One that I sure won’t forget. One that will sure be tops in my career highlights.
Congratulations to the entire team and thank you for allowing me to be a part of this launch.