How Meta uses Meta’s workplace tools

A look at how Meta employees use virtual reality at work.

Horizon Workroom

Meta’s future of work team meets in Workrooms each week.

Image: Meta

Ever wondered how the companies behind your favorite tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Twitter uses Twitter, and how Spotify uses Spotify. We talked to Meta execs about how they use Meta’s workplace tools.

The idea of strapping on VR goggles and gathering with avatar co-workers is still, fundamentally, weird. At a Horizon Workrooms showcase for reporters back in August 2021, Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth admitted that weirdness is a “problem that VR always had.” Meta’s vision of the metaverse, especially within the workplace, has been met with a good deal of skepticism. Why go through the effort of supplying employees with VR goggles when an old-fashioned video call does the trick?

“Obviously, it’s very emerging technology,” said Meta’s VP of People Brynn Harrington. “It’s not something we’re able to use in every meeting yet. But just using it has helped me get a sense of what virtual presence is going to look like in the future.”

Though the company unveiled Workrooms eight months ago, the tech is still in very early stages.

Meta’s future of work team meets in Workrooms each week; with Meta investing so much in VR as the future of the workplace, it would be odd not to. “It would be pretty disingenuous if we weren’t in Workrooms for that meeting,” Harrington said. The meeting consists of eight people, which is the ideal size for Workrooms right now, according to Harrington.

The Workrooms future of work meetings are held at a consistent time each week, as spontaneity doesn’t really work when it comes to VR. You have to make sure your Quest headset is charged and ready, and the laptop app is updated to the latest version. Harrington said people are starting to become more comfortable with sharing their screens and using whiteboards via Workrooms.

“This is really basic, but alignment and predictability around when this technology can be used gives people a heads-up and the planning time they need to make sure that they can work really productively,” Harrington said. She’s been surprised by a spontaneous Workroomified meeting before and doesn’t recommend it. If your headset isn’t charged or you don’t have one, you can join a meeting via video camera. It’s not the end of the world, but it feels more awkward.

Christine Trodella, formerly the head of Workplace from Meta, is now in charge of B2B sales at Meta’s Reality Labs research firm. Her job will be to market Meta’s automated and virtual reality tools to businesses, when those tools are ready for a full rollout. Meta is still very much in the dogfooding stage when it comes to Workrooms.

“The first [Workrooms meeting] I got into, we were all so giddy to be in it, I don’t think we even conducted our meeting,” Trodella said. “We were playing with all the bits and bobs and giggling and stuff.”

Meta employees (Metamates, I guess I should say) can sign up to test out the Quests and

Workrooms, whether they work remotely or in the office. As part of the program, they commit to two or three Workrooms meetings a week and provide regular feedback on the product. After Meta ships them a headset, they undergo a brief training program. “We’re encouraging full teams to collectively sign up for dogfooding,” Harrington said. “This doesn’t work effectively unless we’re all doing it.”

VR isn’t for everyone. Some people, especially women, experience motion “cyber” sickness. As an HR executive, Harrington is most focused on how to make the Workrooms experience as equitable as possible. One aspect is allowing people to accurately express their identities though avatar. Another is simply giving people the time and resources to learn.

Antonio Gomez, a software engineer in London, said his daily Workrooms meetings are incredibly immersive. Julie Cullinane, a B2B industry manager for Facebook in New York, pushed her team to switch over to Workrooms entirely. It was a way to quickly get up to speed with VR tech. She loves commenting on avatar outfits at the start of each meeting, as well as high-fiving each other.

Horizon Workrooms is only the latest and flashiest tool that Meta employees use to support their work. Workplace, Meta’s internal communication platform, is another essential part of the company toolkit. The tech world became intimately acquainted with Workplace in October 2021 when former employee Frances Haugen leaked a trove of documents that had been posted on the platform. Some screenshots showed remarkably frank comments from employees, expressing criticism and honest feedback about the company.

Honesty is the point, as Harrington uses Workplace to “get a pulse” on how people really feel about working at Meta. She uses Workplace groups like “Remote Social,” a space for full-time remote workers, to learn more about the challenges employees face at work. “If we announce a new product feature internally, the person who launched that product is actively engaging in that thread,” Harrington said.

This type of product feedback was on full display in the Facebook Papers, one example being Facebook's plan to introduce more private spaces within the app in March 2019. Former head of Facebook app Fidji Simo’s post prompted scores of comments, mostly positive but some negative feedback as well.

Like any central communication tool, Workplace brings together co-workers with similar interests. Mark Guth, a chef in Seattle, said he found fellow skiing, tennis and fried chicken enthusiasts. “Being a chef at a tech company can often feel isolating, but I get a lot of social mileage out of Workplace and I’m grateful for that,” Guth said.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories