Dynamic Networks Focus on Learning Quickly

August 28, 2017
Ed Week

by Tom Vander Ark

There’s not just one version of Facebook. “At any point in time there are probably 10,000 versions,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Any engineer can test something with 10,000 or 50,000 people, whatever is necessary to get a good test. Then, they get a read out of all of metrics we care about: how are people connecting and sharing, do people have more friends, does it improve efficiency?”

If it worked, the engineer takes the idea to a manager to incorporate into the base code. If not, they add it to the documentation of failed trials. As it approaches 2 billion users, Facebook remains a dynamic network where Zuckerberg says the goal is to “Learn as quickly as possible what our community wants us to do.”

Three things enable Facebook’s strategy of learn and go as fast as you can: a culture that encourages people to try things; infrastructure that allows people to do that (i.e., run 10,000 versions simultaneously); and a testing framework that helps determine how well the trial worked.

Most school networks don’t share those three characteristics. For example, Job Corps is an education and job training program of the Department of Labor that serves 60,000 youth ages 16-24 in 125 centers across the country (about 70 percent of the centers are managed by contractors). Read more…