Ending my hiatus and starting at Facebook

Ending my hiatus

 

I left my job at Lyft in March to start an indefinite career hiatus. I wrote about my goals for that hiatus here, which can be summarized as:

  1. Health: Develop healthy habits around diet, exercise, and mindfulness that will stay with me after my hiatus

  2. Organizing: Develop productive habits around reading, writing, and task management that will stay with me after my hiatus

  3. Reading tons of books about history, philosophy, economics, and politics. After improving my foundational knowledge, go into more current topics like healthcare, education, climate/energy, financial inclusion, and urban planning

  4. Writing tons of essays about what I read and how my worldview adapts. Learn more through the ensuring discussions. Write a ton about my product management experience as well

  5. Teaching: Advise startups and mentor junior/aspiring PMs. Give talks and produce content that scale my advice to more people

  6. Exploring: Live in a bunch of interesting places around the world and immersing into different cultures

  7. Music: Learn how to produce and mix music. Make some songs, maybe an album

  8. Side projects: Tons of random projects I've been interested in doing, from starting a nonprofit to a podcast to writing a book

 

Obviously a HUGE list of things here, with very little chance of me getting through all of it even with an entire year 🙂

Four months later, the hiatus is coming to an end!

Here's a review of the past four months:

Why I'm ending it

 

When my partner and I first started our hiatus, our plan was to go with the flow and see how long we would enjoy this new chapter. My biggest worries were that I wouldn't feel productive with so much unstructured time and that I would miss being around my friends and family in the SF Bay Area.

Everything that I had in mind for the hiatus - aspirations, hopes, and worries - all of course had to completely change upon the onset of COVID-19. Which set in the day after arriving at our first destination, Buenos Aires. All of Argentina went into lockdown and we spent most of our three months there in our apartment.

Ultimately, I feel like one of the luckiest people alive right now. I and my loved ones have our health. I had already left my job and was planning on taking extended time off, so was financially fine. In the grand scheme of things I have nothing at all to complain about.

That said, enough of our plans were predicated on being able to immerse in the places we were living in and spend hours a day outside where continuing the hiatus no longer made sense. So now we're back in the Bay and planning out next steps.

This is something that we, depending on where life takes us next, may want to take a second stab at in several years, but for now it's time to move on and adapt 🙂

What I did

 

The earlier list was aspirational, to say the least. I am proud of the progress I made throughout the four months I did have, though!

What I did and learned:

  1. I slept without an alarm every night and actually got 8 hours of sleep a night (unheard of!)

  2. I meditated and exercised (almost) every day and feel much better nowadays about what I eat

  3. I developed a system I like a lot for reading, note-taking, and reviewing my notes. Largely inspired by some frameworks from Farnam Street and Readwise

  4. Same goes for task management and writing workflows

  5. I read 6 books

  6. I wrote 14 essays of varying lengths

  7. I met with 40 aspiring/junior PMs to help coach on career goals and PM interviewing, and developed advisor relationships of varying depth with the founders of 5 startups

  8. I worked with some friends to start the COVID-19 initiative testandtrace.com

 

What I hoped to make progress on but didn't:

  1. I hoped to read more books, and ones more like econ and history 101

  2. I mostly wrote about personal life updates, my work experience, and teaching product management concepts, but I also wanted to write more about new-to-me subjects like healthcare and urban planning

  3. There were more side projects that I wanted to kick off, like a podcast and developing passive income, that I didn't get around to

  4. I learned that while I'm surprisingly comfortable with lots of unstructured time, I'm not effective at things like reading or writing for more than several hours a day. I'm not sure I have the innate ability to sit down for 12 hours a day and just read or write

  5. While I learned a decent amount from reading and the back-and-forth's that came from my writing, I've found that I learn best by collaborating closely with others

  6. I spent zero time on music. I lugged a DJ controller, microphone, and traveler's guitar all the way to Buenos Aires and didn't use any of that gear even once 🤦🏻‍♂️ I think there are only so many things I can focus on at once

 

A major thing that I got out of this time that I'm hoping will carry over after being on hiatus is having better systems and habits. I hope that now, even in the context of having a full-time job, I'll be able to carve out blocks of time on an ongoing basis to productively read, write, maintain health habits, etc.

Starting at Facebook

What I'm doing at Facebook

 

With all that said, I am now back in the Bay Area and this past week started a new role at Facebook. I joined Integrity team, which is the org at Facebook focused on issues related to harmful content, misinformation, inauthenticity, and general well-being on the platform.

I'm focusing primarily on keeping Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger all free from harmful content related to elections and COVID-19. Think things that could mislead folks about the details of America's 2020 election, health risks and scientific updates for COVID-19, and more. I could not imagine a role more aligned with my career goals and causes that I care about!

Why I'm joining Facebook

There are a lot of reasons why I think Facebook is the perfect next step in my career right now. Most notable are:

  1. Size: Most of my career thus far been at small startups and non-profit. The largest company I've worked at has been Lyft which I saw grow from 1000 —> 5000 employees. Facebook has tens of thousands of employees, a level of scale I've never been a part of. While I have loved smaller orgs and imagine I'll eventually go back to that scale, I want to give a bigger company a shot and see what that is like: socially, professionally, with respect to productivity and impact, etc.

  2. Learning: I've been really impressed by all the people I've met who are a part of the Facebook community. In fact, even at Lyft some of the most impactful mentors I had were from Facebook. I think I'll learn and grow a ton as a part of this organization

  3. Impact: In ways both good and bad, Facebook has impacted the entire world more than almost any organization ever has in the history of humanity. I believe there's a lot of work still to be done to mitigate the negative externalities social media is having on we stay both physically safe and epistemically healthy, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to work on this problem within the organization that has the most leverage on the problem

My current views on content moderation

 

I'm planning a more in-depth post about this for another time, but TL;DR:

  1. We live in a world where a handful of social media companies oligopolized how we communicate and organize. This was driven primarily by improved consumer value and doesn't make sense to break up. I am also doubtful that competition will effectively break up the consolidation of power here

  2. Facebook in particular has a level of influence on how we communicate and organize that is on par with the advent of the printing press / postal service / radio / television

  3. Social media has done a lot of good for the world in that it has empowered everyone, not just gatekeeping media publications, to have a voice and affect the politics of their society

  4. The advertising models has been helpful to provide this service for free to billions of people. However, it has also inadvertently created an incentive structure that results in the amplification of disinformation, hate speech, election interference, and even large-scale physical violence

  5. Someone has to define the standards by which the internet moderates content to avoid these negative externalities

  6. I do not want that "someone" to be unaccountable corporations (which really means one or several executives), serving as arbiters of truth and centrally planning what content should or should not be censored

  7. This means that policies relating to content moderation should come from democratically accountable governments, to be complied with and enforced by social media companies. Ideally at an international level and also at the level of countries. This already exists for example when it comes to human rights law for violence

  8. Beyond where governments explicitly lay out content moderation rules, companies should be as lenient as possible when it comes to allowing access to content (in other words, if it's possible to view that content at all), while exercising discretion around amplification of content (if it's pushed / recommended to users)

  9. That said, doing this sort of work at the scale of billions of users is insanely hard and every false positive is a violation of peoples' right to express benign content, so companies should lean towards less censorship in areas of their discretion

  10. Companies should be as transparent as possible about what their content moderation policies are, what content they have actually taken action on and why, how those policies and enforcement change over time, and how to appeal those decisions

I'm excited to keep learning and refine my views throughout my time at Facebook!

What I've been reading to learn about content moderation:

  1. Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet, by David Keye

  2. Stratechery has a great series of posts about this topic

  3. Great video by Facebook's old Chief Security Officer on content moderation

  4. Why We're Polarized, by Ezra Klein

  5. Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Citron

  6. The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet by Jeff Kosseff

  7. Twitter and Teargas by Zeynep Tufkeci

  8. Please recommend more if you have any other favorites!

© 2020 by Hadar Dor

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