Posted on June 24, 2008
Filed Under Web 2.0 Kool Aid |

Valleywag what it purports to be Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield’s resignation letter.

Flickr, of course, was acquired by Yahoo in 2005 and Butterfield has joined the ranks of the Yahoo employees who have decided to leave following Microsoft’s failed acquisition bid and .

Butterfield’s resignation letter is humorous yet and the same time, makes some arguably valid points about Yahoo’s business strategy.

But I believe Butterfield misses the point and has displayed a severe lack of maturity in writing such a letter.

The purpose of a resignation letter is not to over-explain why you have decided to quit your job. It is not to criticize your former employer or to detail why you think that you can no longer make a contribution to the company. And it’s not to prove your worth as a comedian because you know that the letter will probably be “leaked.”

The best resignation letter puts all emotion aside and avoids negativity. It thanks the former employer for the opportunities it has provided and if appropriate, injects a modicum of positivity into the situation.

That is all.

Yes, I know. Butterfield doesn’t have to work another day in his life. He’s intelligent, creative and possibly a little bit eccentric. And he has received kudos for his clever resignation letter.

Yet his resignation letter lacks the one thing that money can’t buy and that intelligence doesn’t guarantee: class.

I found it quite telling that, at a time when Yahoo is going through arguably the most trying period in its history, Butterfield chose to focus primarily on how the company’s strategy and challenges affected him. As if a company that employs more than 13,000 people should have spent more time trying to make sure that Stewart Butterfield was happy.

I couldn’t help but note the irony: Web 2.0 is supposedly about “community,” yet in actuality it is more about individuals. From that perspective, it’s quite appropriate that the founder of one of the most popular early Web 2.0 services chose to write his resignation letter in such a self-centered fashion.

While Butterfield’s resignation letter will continue to win the praise of Web 2.0 hipsters and certainly won’t lose him any fans in the small world of Silicon Valley, it is yet another example that behind all of the Web 2.0 hyperbole and euphamisms, egotism, self-centeredness and outright narcissism reign supreme.

Hopefully as Butterfield spends time with his family, tends to his alpaca herd and gets back to working with tin, he’ll rediscover the value of class.

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6 Responses to “Flickr Founder Butterfield’s Resignation Letter Proves Money Can’t Buy Class”

  1. Allison Reynolds on June 24th, 2008 8:10 pm

    Balderdash… a resignation is whatever the resigner (scuse the bad grammar) wants it to be, it is the breaking of a contract and can be freeform or purely business like.

  2. SutroStyle on June 24th, 2008 11:16 pm

    Drama- let me take your valid point a bit further:
    I’d venture to say that none of the web 2.0 (or 1.0) founders has any class. People who have class do science, play music, write, maybe do some high-tech engineering or simply do nothing.
    It is as likely to run an internet company and have class as to be a publisher of NYC tabloid and have class or being a madam at an escort agency (possibly upscale) and have class.

    They are as classy as Burning Man or Kevin Rose.

  3. Drama 2.0 on June 24th, 2008 11:46 pm

    Allison: sorry, but there are commonly-accepted “rules” for what should and shouldn’t be included in a resignation letter.

    Even if you’re not one for formality, it doesn’t take more than common sense to recognize that the best way to part ways with an employer is to do so in a dignified manner.

    Absolutely nothing is accomplished by playing the blame game, no matter how cleverly one does so.

    Sutro: just what exactly are you trying to say about the people who run escort agencies?

  4. Vince on June 25th, 2008 2:25 pm

    I agree with you Drama.
    Based purely on one simple rule:
    “Never burn bridges”
    You may just need them again someday!

  5. Drama 2.0 on June 25th, 2008 3:06 pm

    Vince: exactly. As far as I’m concerned, you can never have too many bridges. They often come in quite handy.

  6. DB on June 29th, 2008 4:33 pm

    Right-on! Longtime flickr member here. I’ve always been turned off by Butterfield. On multiple occasions Ive watched him dismiss legitimate critiques by flickr members. I’ve also seen how he rewards the sycophants who shower him with praise as a genius. It’s worth remembering that flickr was started as a kind of dungeons and dragons game (see The game had a photo sharing component that became popular among users– so they morphed the platform into flickr.

    Yes, Butterfield is a visionary and brilliant man. But he also got lucky.

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