How LinkedIn launched Influencers in just 6 weeks

LinkedIn (s lnkd) has made a splash in the publishing world by persuading the likes of Bill Gates, President Obama and Sir Richard Branson to submit original essays to its publishing platform, Influencers. Normally, a feature like Influencers takes many months to create and test drive, but the company was able to have it running full-steam in just six weeks.

The secret to the rapid deployment, according to Engineering SVP Kevin Scott, is a management structure that allows for hundreds of developers to push out and test products on the site whenever they want. Speaking at GigaOM’s Structure 2013 event in San Francisco, Scott explained that the approach, based on a trunk-based software model, allows engineers to constantly test features and gather data all the time — and is faster and more efficient than building products in a silo and trying to integrate them.

The Influencers anecdote came as part of a larger talk about how companies should make decisions about tech at a time when they are also trying to achieve traction and scale. According to Scott, a rising company should not waste time trying to make the perfect bet on technology but instead focus on pushing out product and testing business hypotheses instead.

“Don’t optimize too early. Refine your hypothesis as you go. Don’t lock into tech decisions when you’re still finding your fit,” he cautioned.

Scott explained that LinkedIn’s tech stack, like other companies that arrive at the knee of a major growth curve, was a crazy jumble that resembled the Royal Ontario Museum:

Ontario ROM

For Scott, this situation was normal and even natural for a growing tech company, but soon resulted in LinkedIn being unable to build fast enough, excessive friction and a lack of risk-taking. In response, in 2011, LinkedIn made the hard decision to cease all new product development for two months in order to sweep away “accumulated tech debt”  and implement a unified, trunk-based development model.

The result of the metamorphous was a happy development team capable of building and refining a major product like Influencers in six weeks.

Check out the rest of our Structure 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page