Former Facebook engineering director David Recordon made a similar move in March, joining the White House as director of information technology.
Facebook acquired Branch and sister service Potluck in January 2014, and Miller joined the Facebook Conversations group, eventually becoming product manager for its Rooms stand-alone anonymous chatting application from Facebook Creative Labs.
Miller announced the move in a blog post:
I put my college studies on hold to create a technology startup, Branch. The software we built allowed people to host curated conversations on any topic of their choosing. For example, PBS Frontline invited the likes of James Fallows and David Maraniss to talk about the 2012 presidential election–a debate that was then published on The New York Times’ website. Our hunch was that if Branch could enable people to see different perspectives clash and collide, it would lead to greater understanding–a concept inspired in part by my time on Capitol Hill. After growing the company to 10 people and two products, the Branch team joined Facebook. There, I have been leading the development of new Web and mobile products ever since.
Now, I’m moving on to something new, while also returning to an old problem that means a lot to me. Today, I start in a new role at the White House serving as its first director of product. I’m as giddy, wide-eyed and determined as ever. The White House has many digital products–from WhiteHouse.gov to the We the People petition site. It’s a dream to be able to add to and improve this portfolio.
In order to do that, my plan is to lean on the product ideals that I learned during the last four years building Branch and working at Facebook. Wouldn’t it be great if your government had a conversation with you instead of just talking at you? The Obama administration has already responded to 255 online petitions that had collectively gathered more than 11 million signatures. Imagine if talking to the government was as easy as talking to your friends on social networks? White House officials have started to regularly host Q&As on Twitter. These initiatives represent amazing progress, and there’s so much more good work to be done. I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned in the technology industry to the ideals of our democracy. As a mentor of mine likes to say, “It’s gonna be great!”
Readers: What do you think of Miller’s move?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.