KA Engineering

KA Engineering

We're the engineers behind Khan Academy. We're building a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.


Upcoming fortnightly post

App Engine Memcache Performance

by Ben Kraft on May 1

Latest posts

App Engine Flex Language Shootout

Amos Latteier on April 17

What's New in OSS at Khan Academy

Brian Genisio on April 3

Automating App Store Screenshots

Bryan Clark on March 27

It's Okay to Break Things: Reflections on Khan Academy's Healthy Hackathon

Kimerie Green on March 6

Interning at Khan Academy: from student to intern

Shadaj Laddad on December 12

Prototyping with Framer

Nick Breen on October 3

Evolving our content infrastructure

William Chargin on September 19

Building a Really, Really Small Android App

Charlie Marsh on August 22

A Case for Time Tracking: Data Driven Time-Management

Oliver Northwood on August 8

Time Management at Khan Academy

Several Authors on July 25

Hackathons Can Be Healthy

Tom Yedwab on July 11

Ensuring transaction-safety in Google App Engine

Craig Silverstein on June 27

The User Write Lock: an Alternative to Transactions for Google App Engine

Craig Silverstein on June 20

Khan Academy's Engineering Principles

Ben Kamens on June 6

Minimizing the length of regular expressions, in practice

Craig Silverstein on May 23

Introducing SwiftTweaks

Bryan Clark on May 9

The Autonomous Dumbledore

Evy Kassirer on April 25

Engineering career development at Khan Academy

Ben Eater on April 11

Inline CSS at Khan Academy: Aphrodite

Jamie Wong on March 29

Starting Android at Khan Academy

Ben Komalo on February 29

Automating Highly Similar Translations

Kevin Barabash on February 15

The weekly snippet-server: open-sourced

Craig Silverstein on February 1

Stories from our latest intern class

2015 Interns on December 21

Kanbanning the LearnStorm Dev Process

Kevin Dangoor on December 7

Forgo JS packaging? Not so fast

Craig Silverstein on November 23

Switching to Slack

Benjamin Pollack on November 9

Receiving feedback as an intern at Khan Academy

David Wang on October 26

Schrödinger's deploys no more: how we update translations

Chelsea Voss on October 12

i18nize-templates: Internationalization After the Fact

Craig Silverstein on September 28

Making thumbnails fast

William Chargin on September 14

Copy-pasting more than just text

Sam Lau on August 31

No cheating allowed!!

Phillip Lemons on August 17

Fun with slope fields, css and react

Marcos Ojeda on August 5

Khan Academy: a new employee's primer

Riley Shaw on July 20

How wooden puzzles can destroy dev teams

John Sullivan on July 6

Babel in Khan Academy's i18n Toolchain

Kevin Barabash on June 22

tota11y - an accessibility visualization toolkit

Jordan Scales on June 8


Khan Academy's Engineering Principles

by Ben Kamens on June 6

You know those super-frustrating movie scenes where the entire plotline is driven by some sort of completely avoidable communication failure?

Where if the two characters WOULD JUST FRIGGIN' TALK TO EACH OTHER, the whole shebang could've been avoided? And you, you poor shmuck in the audience, just have to sit there and watch the author jump through all sorts of hoops to justify why these two otherwise-humanesque characters seem to be woefully incapable of talking like humans?

The "communication failure" trope seems super contrived when I'm watching a movie. But when playing my role as part of a growing company, I'm part of an intricate system that's constantly creating communication failures just as epic and just as avoidable.

Growing, changing companies are breeding grounds for communication failures, no matter how thoughtful and brilliant and well-spoken every single employee is. Sad!

One of the ways to innoculate your company against such a painful reality is by building a team that doesn't require perfect communication to succeed.

Fleetwood communicates well

That's how a lot of "company values" documents get started: with a desire to give every single person the context they need such that without perfect communication, one can make decisions in stride with the rest. By establishing a few key cultural messages that can be repeated — as new hires join, as processes change, as teams rearrange, as priorities shift — you can create a team that gets stronger while communication keeps getting harder.

Our principles, shared with you

Our engineering team is growing, communication is getting harder, and it's important that every single person wields a few key principles that can be used to make decisions in the face of ambiguity.

So we wrote ours down and are now sharing 'em with you. You're free to use this doc however you want — remix it, disagree with it, print it out and fold it into boat.

⇢ Khan Academy Engineering Principles ⇠

In writing this we were inspired by Gusto's version. If you read 'em, notice that they're meaningful in that they take guts and inflict pain. Gusto's "we're here to help" value is particularly gutsy in today's Silicon Valley culture.

It's certainly taken guts to stick with Khan Academy's "shipping beats perfection" and "anybody can fix anything" values. It's also been hugely valuable.

I'm proud whenever I see our principles help somebody move forward in the face of ambiguity. That's exactly the point — empower people to get going without requiring perfect communication. We're gonna need more and more of that strength as we grow.