Continuous Deployment Done In Unique Fashion at Etsy.com

With customers and suppliers on seven continents, there is no good time for system maintenance -- and little room for error -- at Etsy.com. Yet by the time you finish reading this article, the company's continuous deployment process has resulted in code pushed to production by a developer with no one else's approval.

By Matt Heusser
Fri, March 30, 2012

CIO — If you visit 55 Washington St. in Brooklyn and take the elevator to the fifth floor to the main offices of Etsy.com, don't expect to see the typical reception station and front desk. Instead, you leave the elevator to see bare walls and this greeting:

Welcome to Esty
Welcome to Esty

The office is about 200 feet down the hall, on the right. Just follow the signs.

Don't mind the dogs; the office is pet friendly.

Etsy
Nothing about Etsy is typical.

Founded in 2005, Etsy is more than an online marketplace. It is a platform for independent, creative businesses, where people sell handmade and vintage goods and supplies. By the end of 2011, Etsy had grown to handle 800,000 active sellers and 13 million members, with more than 260 employees supporting a digital store that processes credit card transactions, PayPal and electronic funds transfers. And new programmers are expected to write code that deploys to production on their very first day.

Here is how they did it.

Infrastructure as Craft

When you walk into the offices, two words come to mind: fluid and personal. Noah Sussman, the company's architect for quality assurance, greets me at the door with a huge "over here" grin and a wave, and immediately starts talking about the office environment, perhaps the most open I have ever seen.

The technical team has its desks strewn about in rough rectangles to create "hallways" to the walls. The team needs those hallways, as it grows to fill an office that appears to be, at first, one huge room, with a few side offices used as conference rooms. (The conference rooms have nicknames, like "Kung Foo Fighters" and "Slim Jim Morrison" My favorite was the spaceship room, "Pjörk," which included art designed to create a "mustache mural.")

Another word that comes to mind is playful.

Yes, that is a set of mustaches as art on the wall. It's in the spaceship room.

But the Etsy staffers are also completely serious about their work, and these two features they share in common with their customer base, who are tying to earn side money, if not pay the rent, by designing the hand bags, walking sticks and hand-made chocolates that have made Etsy famous in the artisan and sustainable business scene. As one anonymous forum poster once put it: "It's hard to take Etsy seriously; they sell hand made walking sticks and tchotchkes." To which Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson replied: "Last year, we sold 24 million of those tchotchkes through our site."

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