Midterm — Programming at Facebook

For my developer profile, I selected a programmer whose employer is the intersection of journalism, public relations and media — social networking behemoth Facebook, Inc.

Vincent Song’s aspirations for becoming an expert with computers started at a young age, and the seeds of interest were planted when he joined his middle school’s robotics team.

From a young age

His experience programming robots to complete simple commands eventually led to him trying his hand at other small projects, such as Android applications, in his early teenage years.

But it wasn’t until after he graduated from secondary school and started his computer science degree at the University of Maryland – College Park that he started learning about web development.

“I worked at an internship where one of the responsibilities included me modifying some of their webpages,” Song said of his initial internship experience at Facebook, Inc., in Mountain View, California. “I also created a small exit survey program for them as well.”

Song said he grew accustomed to using a number of tools on a daily basis, such as a text editor called “Atom,” which is an open source editor maintained by GitHub. He’s also used Python, PHP, .NET and Node JS for developing full stack web projects.

Facebook: A New World

The company “Facebook” is a household name, and its services — enjoyed by billions of people across the world — are easily accessible for all locations and usable for all ages because of the expertise and ingenuity of people like Song.

Web developers and programmers are needed within most private and government industries, from journalistic organizations to public relations companies and elected officials.

And with the advent of new technologies like the nascent “social media industry” with real estate on all of those grounds, Song and his teammates are both privileged and cursed with responsibilities that programmers don’t always have.

For instance, there is the user-friendly aspect of Facebook, which includes the basic caption and photo posting, along with video sharing. And there is Facebook for journalism companies and businesses, which tackles publishing, job listing creation, news sharing and aggregation and a number of other roles that bundles Craigslist, Penguin House, and the daily newspaper all into one package.

And Facebook for developers is an entirely new world.

There are a number of different tools that Song’s company has developed for outsiders wanting to use Facebook. There’s the API documentation resolver, which allows users to find documentation pages for any API request. There’s the object visibility debugger and general Facebook debugger, which allows users – generally news organizations – to manually scrape recently updated posts and pull new information linked from an outside source (news site) as quickly as possible.

There’s the app security checkup, which allows users to spot vulnerabilities in their own apps and edit their settings. This helpful function is undoubtedly pointed toward the nature of early coding’s open source nature, where developers as a competitive, yet ethical, community work together to improve the overall quality of their user’s experience.

And more recently, there’s the 3D validation tool, which validates 3D models to make sure .glb files can be shared on Facebook.

Although technology as a whole by its nature continues to build on itself, the company Facebook has structured itself with the unique capability of embracing nearly every aspect of its growth — from advertising and helping Tesla car’s marketing, to watching 3D videos, to livestreaming the president’s State of the Union address, to easily saving and storing pictures of the toddlers for extended family to see.

Vincent and Facebook

Song’s initial stint at Facebook, which included writing code for modifying webpages, could appear to be primarily for aesthetic or usability purposes. But ever since its birth and gradual hegemonic status since 2004, political elections, ethics and everything in between have prompted politicians and legal experts to home in on the minutest of details on its webpages.

From actively opening advertising space to differing political and social viewpoints, to countering disinformation campaigns, the company’s programming and web developing experts have embraced broad responsibilities that generally aren’t shared with most companies.

Stretching yourself

According to Song, the demands of broad expertise with Facebook’s ever-increasing responsibilities necessitates in equally malleable staffers.

“Learning different ‘languages’ and ‘tools and technologies’ is part of the job,” Song said, calling the skill of being flexible and ever-learning not only a positive trait, but an often misunderstood necessity in his profession.

“Sure, there are specialists, but any software engineer [worth] their salt can quickly pickup any language whenever they need to — depending on the requirements of the projects they’re working on.”

On the vein of stretching yourself, Song continued to say his own goal is to eventually lead an engineering team to build something that billions of people would use.

And when encouraging young, future programmers, he stressed the reality of both lofty and moderate ambitions starting with mastering the basics.

“HTML, CSS and JavaScript will never go away,” he said. “Focus on algorithms in college, and you’ll be able to get into almost any company or project you want! Don’t burn out, enjoy it, but also remember to live life!”

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