Twitter and Etsy are teaming up on a joint project but, rather than a new type of integration or product, the duo are pooling their collective brains and starting an engineer exchange program which will see them temporarily trade employees and know-how.

The unique initiative is aimed at helping the companies to learn from each other, their successes, failures and different locations, as a joint post from the two on the Etsy blog explains:

This week, one of Etsy’s Staff Engineers is traveling to San Francisco to spend a week at Twitter, observing and helping out, learning what Twitter does particularly well, and seeing differences that may reinforce or refute beliefs we’ve held as core. Likewise, a Twitter Platform Engineer is traveling to Brooklyn for the week, and watching what Etsy does well and poorly, all while helping out (and, of course, deploying on her first day).

New joiners at both Twitter and Etsy are required to undergo a ‘boot camp’ style initiation, which brings them up to speed with the company, its products, code, systems, etc. The visiting staff will be put through an accelerated version of each startup’s induction but, rather than simply sitting back, observing and taking in the atmosphere, the loanees will actively contribute by coding, pushing to production and taking on small tasks.

It takes a huge degree of trust and quite a relationship to make such a partnership happen. The companies believe that, while such an exchange would make a lot of firms feel uncomfortable, “the value of cross-pollination of ideas and practices is far too high to be blocked by these concerns.”

It seems unlikely that a lot of startups will rush out and copy this model, but it will be interesting to see how the program goes down on both sides. The chances are remote, since the selected employees will helping out in small roles, but it would be quite something if either company pushed out a new feature or service as a result the scheme.

In reality, a good sign would probably be a repeat of the program assuming that both sides pick up pointers from the other.

Image via Flickr / Urban Combing (Ultrastar175g), hat tip Forrest Kobayashi