Thinking of slacking on homework? Turning in assignments can pay—especially if you're one of the 75 Stanford students who took professor B.J. Fogg's 2007 "Facebook Class." One of Fogg's fun homework assignments was to create Facebook apps, and the results have made several of the students millionaires and transformed the way Silicon Valley envisions start ups.
Fogg told the New York Times he didn't intend to turn the tech industry's business model on its head with the assignment. But his advice to students "to build no-frills apps, distribute them quickly and worry about perfecting them later," has now become "standard operating procedure for a new generation of entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley and beyond."
The app assignment is a great example of the potential of applied learning, but what's also fascinating is how mainstream Facebook has become since late 2007 when Fogg gave the assignment, Fogg, who runs the university's Persuasive Technology Lab, faced some tough criticism from administrators who didn't take the social media site seriously because it wasn't respected in academic circles.
Fortunately the innovative professor could see that students were hooked, so he pushed to make the assignment happen. Some students subsequently made so much money from their apps, they dropped out of school. Still others have sold their apps for millions or gone on to start other Facebook-related businesses.
Could the millionaire-making Facebook assignment still happen today? Fogg says it's a matter of the class happening right when there was a real window of opportunity. "There was a period of time when you could walk in and collect gold," he says. Nowadays Facebook tightly controls apps on the site and makes it more difficult for them to spread.