Meet the Team

Meet the Team: Tim Wong, Engineer

Written by Anne Dreshfield

Tim is a senior engineer who, in his three years at Nextdoor, has helped build a small neighborhood social network into a platform serving over 90,000 neighborhoods across the US. This week, we sit down with Tim to find out a little more about him, working in infrastructure engineering, and life at Nextdoor.

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a Senior Engineer on the Infrastructure Team. We build and maintain many of the backend services at Nextdoor, including the newsfeed, email, Taskworker infrastructure, and more. I’ve been at Nextdoor for 3.5 years, working on the Nearby Neighborhoods feature before the formation of the Infrastructure team. I’m a Bay Area native and studied at UC Berkeley for my bachelor’s degree and UCLA for my master’s degree.

Why did you join Nextdoor?

When I joined, the company was pretty small and the website (there were no other platforms at the time) could use a lot of work. While the idea was not proven, I definitely had a sense that this type of social network should exist and there was great potential in the idea. After meeting the team, I was really impressed with the quality of the people from all ranges of experience and loved the jovial company culture. From those things, I knew it was a place that I could contribute, learn, and enjoy myself at the same time.

What was the most interesting technical challenge that you worked on at Nextdoor?

This would probably be the inaugural Infrastructure Team project to re-architect our newsfeed backend. This came after the release of the Nearby Neighborhoods feature and the site redesign around two years ago. With Nearby Neighborhoods, we allowed users to post content visible to neighborhoods adjacent to their own. This fundamentally changed how we had to view our content model, and this combined with built up technical debt over the years made to create an increasingly complex and slow process to render a newsfeed. This became a project of taking these news feed features we had already built, unifying the data model into something more consistent and pluggable, and making the resulting system faster than what came before. We ended up simplifying our newsfeed generation to a couple of different queries that we could optimize and then separating this into our first standalone service outside of our front end application. There were new technologies to learn and come to grips with as well as older application code to profile and optimize. The news feed service works more smoothly and scales better than the old system ever could. But with changing requirements and new features in development, the work of Infrastructure Team is never done.

What’s the next problem that you want to tackle at Nextdoor?

Over the past year or so, our team has started to build our new core services in Go. There was a lot of thought that went into moving away from Python for building some of these services — how we arrived at our decision might be a future topic for the Engineering Blog. I think it has turned out well and something we’d like to push outwards to the broader Engineering organization was we think about building new services.

What’s your favorite Nextdoor moment?

There are plenty to choose from. In my experience as a user of Nextdoor, a neighbor of ours discovered a family of kittens living in an empty lot in the neighborhood a couple of months ago. This person posted this on Nextdoor with pictures and was able to get donations from the neighborhood to shelter the kittens and find new homes for them. When you think about how else someone might accomplish something like that, you start to understand the efficacy of the platform for local communication.

What do you like most about Nextdoor’s engineering culture?

As I mentioned before, part of it is the friendliness and liveliness of the engineers here; it’s enjoyable to be at work every day. Everyone is helpful and good willed towards each other. What I really like is that at the same time, we communicate openly and directly: people voice their opinions and are heard.

What are your favorite things to do outside work?

Besides rooting for my favorite sports teams (Go Bears!), I’ve lately been getting into cycling. Every weekend, I’ll try to go out with friends for a ride around the city or up to Marin. On weekdays, I’m usually on the indoor trainer. I’m also into the mechanical aspect of cycling too, so I’ve built my own wheels (to varying degrees of success) and done my own maintenance on my bikes.

What do you think is the most significant impact Nextdoor will have on the world?

This was brought up in a recent all-hands that we had in the company: that our platform brings people of all different backgrounds together. The types of communication that take place on other social networks are very different: users normally opt into voices of common interest, so there’s usually not much variation with the types of opinions one hears. On Nextdoor, you’re exposed to many people you don’t know and are tied by physical location rather than interest. So inherently, you’re exposed to a lot of different opinions. We live in a time where it seems like society is becoming more and more divided on issues and people are unable or unwilling to hear different points of view. As a platform, getting people together to have these types of conversations is a healthy change when we need it most.

If you want to join the fun, we’re hiring!

This post originally appeared on the Nextdoor Engineering blog.

2 Comments

  • It would be nice, if the team has time, to have a method of removing old entries from my inbox. Nextdoor is a very nice concept and I use it a lot. Thank you for developing it.

  • I live in a Condo complex that uses Next Door. Every year owners vote in a new board. It would seem like Next Door would be the perfect and obvious way for those running for the board to inform the other condo owners as to who they are and why they are running. Yet, I’m told they can’t do that because Next Door doesn’t allow campaigning. Was that the intent?

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