My friends at the Star-Ledger have opened a $5,000 contest to create a great Facebook app for New Jersey. They’ve offered up their feeds but using them is not required; they just want a great Jersey app. If Tony Soprano ran Microsoft… (well, they do bear similarities). The judges are Barista Debbie Galant, Winegod Gary Vaynerchuk, Ledger visionary John Hassell, and none other than my son, Jake Jarvis. So what makes a great local app?
Posts about facebook
I’ve been thinking what Gary Vaynerchuk says: Facebook is too slow. Twitter has spoiled me. I want a constant feed of stuff and Facebook is a trickle. It wouldn’t be at all hard to fix. Facebook should let me both increase the flow of information about my friends and to include external feeds in it (Facebook should have done Friendfeed).
I’ve been talking with lots of news organizations about following the feed model. Sometimes, I may want a packaged, prioritized presentation of news. But mostly, to quote Dave Winer, I want a river of news. Facebook did a brilliant job bringing an algorithmic presentation of a feed but now it’s falling behind in feed wars. They’d better catch up fast.
: Meanwhile, here’s ReadWriteWeb summing up various fears about feed OD and how to cure it.
Quite wonderful that Facebook announced that Mark Zuckerberg would hold an open Q&A at today’s Facebook event to make up for yesterday. Full coverage on Twitter. V. smart.
I want to get video of the uncomfortable keynote with Mark Zuckerberg and Business Week’s Sarah Lacy at SXSW today so I can use it as an object lesson in my journalism classes about how not do conduct an interview. My lecture:
Lacy’s biggest mistake was not knowing her audience. Here she had the founder of one of the most innovative, game-changing, and so-far-successful companies of the age — the age that is being created and celebrated by the audience here. But she could not, in the words of one frustrated audience member, ask anything interesting — not to them. Zuckerberg is a man of few words who doesn’t speak often and so there was a great opportunity to find out what this audience wanted to know.
How could Lacy have known that? By asking the audience. If I were up there, I’d have blogged a week before asking SXSWers what I should discuss with Zuckerberg. And if things still went sour with my own questions, I’d have opened up the discussion to the floor with the simple question: What do you want to know?
Next was the way she treated Zuckerberg. I have no doubt that she likes and respects him and that she was trying to put him at ease because he has been shy and nervous in such settings. But she condescended to him, talking about his age too much and about his flop-sweat when she first met him. In a magazine story for people who don’t know this man and what he has done, that might come off as quaint (it’s a magazine kind of observation — a way to show off, frankly). But, again, Lacy didn’t know her audience and by diminishing Zuckerberg it only seemed to insult him and this crowd. The equivalent would be interviewing Bill Gates at an industry conference and calling him weird who fidgets too much and has bad hair, like everyone in the room.
Worse, in her effort to charm Zuckerberg, Lacy came off like Mrs. Robinson. That was embarrassing for her and us.
She pulled some basic mistakes in interviewing. She interrupted him. The first minute of the conversation, he wanted to talk about people using Facebook to organize against Colombian guerrillas — a fascinating story — and she didn’t let him finish, trying to show that she already knew this. The real mistake was that she wasn’t listening.
Another good indication that she didn’t understand that her role was to let him have his say was when she announced that Facebook was opening in French tonight. That’s what he was going to say.
She rambled on to the point that Zuckerberg had to suggest that she ask a question. Definitely not a good sign in an interview.
She was inserting herself too much into the hour. The audience didn’t care a bit about her — or the book she plugged a few times (said a tweet: ‘Can we short her book?’). They were here for him.
When she tried to get tough with Zuckerberg, it came off as clumsy: “Come on, it’s not worth $15 billion.” And this once again shows that she wasn’t aware of the audience. They didn’t care about a business story. They wanted stories about technology and society. When the audience finally got to ask the questions and got tough on Zuckerberg themselves, they pressed him on why he doesn’t have a decent search on Facebook messaging — to which he agreed and vowed to fix it. In this crowd, that’s news.
When it became obvious that the audience was hostile to her — cheering Zuckergerg when he told her to ask a question — she acted hurt, as if this hour was about her. Worse, she told us how tough her job was. It wasn’t tough. It was a privilege and she was blowing it. And at the end, when she said that people should send her an email telling her what went wrong, she was so 1994; she didn’t understand that the people in the crowd were already coalescing in Twitter and blogs into an instant consensus. Oh, if only there’d been a back-channel chat projected on the screen beside her. Then, she could have seen.
After it was over, Lacy did go to Twitter and left this message: “in my book, getting mark to publicly admit to the yahoo deal, address beacon, and give news on changes in the platform and france equals successful interview”
Still, she wasn’t listening. Now, instead of asking Zuckerberg questions, she should again have been asking the audience. Instead she was telling them, NYTimes-like, what the story really was, not the one they saw.
At the end of it all, I have no doubt that Lacy is an experienced and talented journalist, that she respects Zuckerberg, that she was trying to put him at ease, and that she was going after the stories she found interesting. But that’s the essence of her problem: She didn’t stand back and remind herself that her job was to enable a conversation not with her but with the crowd about what they found interesting. And when she failed at that, the audience could tell her, in Twitter, blog posts, hoots from the audience, and even cartoons:
Mark Zuckerberg arrives on the stage at SXSW and faces a cheering crowd. He looks out and gives them a grin he can’t contain; there’s a bit of ‘wow’ in it. That’s what I like about Mark: He’s out front. Who wouldn’t grin at a cheering crowd.
He says that one of the first things that people did when Facebook was released in Spanish was organize to revolt against the guerrilla armies in Colombia.
Sarah Lacy of Business Week is interviewing him. She asks him about Facebook and terrorism. Mark says he heard a story a few months ago “that’s absolutely unbelievable.” He says that less than hatred, terrorism comes from a lack of connectedness, a lack of empathy. Facebook, he says, has a relatively large public in Lebanon. He heard about students there who maintained connections with people who’ve gone elsewhere in the world and it broadened their horizons. “It’s really profound, right?” Now I know some might skewer this: Facebook solves terrorism. But he has a point. The internet is about connections. Society is held together by connections. They are related. “What we are doing as a mission is a very important thing,” Mark says. “Helping people communicate.”
Next he talks about an organization that is trying to copy the techniques of the NRA and bring the sort of attention it gets to poverty. He’s talking about larger missions now. He asks: “Why does there need to be a big organization to channel people’s voices.” The internet should give them that ability. “There needs to be a solid base for people to communicate, not top down, but bottom up.” That will be built around applications like the ones created by people in this room, he says, and Facebook is one of them.
Lacy says that Web 1.0 companies may have grown bigger than Web 2.0 companies but the latter will have more impact on society. Well, I’d say that Facebook has the potential to do both.
His announcement for the conference is that Facebook is launching in French tonight, a month after Spanish and a week after German.
He says that Facebook is working on a universal need: connecting people who want to communicate. He says that someday everyone on the world will be using these tools. “It may not be Facebook.”
He leads with the mission and then says that Facebook chose to be a company to meet that mission and to make money he turns to advertising and that turns to Beacon. “When we announced that, we probably got a bit ahead of ourselves,” he says.
Beacon. “WTF?” says Lacy. She asks him what he wanted to communicate.
Beacon, he explains, “isn’t even a part of the ad team, it’s part of the platform team.” Rather than being a big site, he argues, social efforts will be a collection of social services, including things Facebook doesn’t build. Thus the platform. “What we were trying to do with Beacon is just take the first step in enabling people to take actions elsewhere in the web and share that with their friends back on Facebook.” And it’s tied to the ad system. If he’d explained and launched it in that order, he probably would have been better off. But I agree that endorsement is a basic activity that can be aided.
Lacy asks whether in Beacon and Newsfeed, there is some inherent conflict between where Facebook is going and privacy. Zuckerberg says he needs to give people complete control of their information. “All the mistakes we made are because we didn’t give people enough control.”
I have long said that the issue isn’t privacy. It’s control. That’s the case not just for Facebook but for the internet and our new very public life. People need and want to be public but they must control how public they are.
Zuckerberg says that “at Facebook, we believe that people are basically good.” He says he’s shifting from a set of rules to a trust-based system. “In one way, it’s setting less rules….. I actually think it’s more laissez faire, we’re making less rules ourselves.”
Lacy: “So according to Forbes, you’re the youngest billionnaire ever on their list.” Zuckerberg: “We’re just not focused on things like that.” Lacy says she loves Facebook “but, come on, it’s not worth $15 billion.” He repeats that he’s not focused on that. “It’s all the themes we’re talking about today, helping people communicate more efficiently, building the platform….” She asks whether the valuation sets too-high expectations. He says “the high expectations are tough but it adds a lot of positive things.” He adds: Revenue and profit “are a trailing indicator of the value that you’re building.”
But it’s also mission. He repeats that he wants to build a platform to change the way people communicate. “How many times do you get to do that? Zero or one.”
Two numbers: The company just passed 500 employees. But it has 200,000 developers. That is the new model of a business as a platform. WWGD? Paraphrase: We believe that the way to build our goals is not to build all these applications ourselves but to build a platform where other people can build applications and businesses, he says.
Asked whether Google is pissed that he has information that isn’t out in the searchosphere. He says that there are different kinds of information and some of it is private and semiprivate.
He’s asked twice about the limitations of messaging — how we can’t search and such. Yes, it’s ironic: He wants to help us communicate better but now we are asking for more functionality and access. Zuckerberg says the original idea was to make it simple. But he agrees that he needs to work on it.
Lacy — who wrote a book soon out that’s in great measure about Facebook — talks about Zuckerberg’s personality and says that after talking to him on the phone, where he’s blunt, she expected a “ballsy teenager.” She found someone who was so nervous his T-shirt was sweaty. He said very little and she told him finally that all she wanted him to do was say more than two words. That’s hard, Mark said. He really is shy. “Three words,” Sarah said. “Yeah,” he replies. Mark has changed at these public events; he is more relaxed and not so laconic as he was (a shyness that was too often interpreted as ego, I think). Lacy gets a bit cloying, making jokes about him being 5 when thing were going on and treating him a bit like a mother. But he’s also comfortable with her and the audience.
Twitter talk is negative, especially on Lacy.
The crowd’s frustration finally comes out at the end when Zuckerberg tells Lacy, who goes on and on about him writing in Moleskines, that she should ask a question. He gets an ovation. She goes off on some odd rant about how he burns them and when he says he doesn’t and that she’s making that up (he’s saying it nicely) someone in the audience tells her to ask something interesting. She gets pouty saying that we don’t know how tough her job is. Jeesh. Someone at a microphone mocks her and she gets sensitive. She says someone should send her a message telling her what she did wrong. All she has to do is read the blogs.
The chatter in Twitter wonders who’d do a better job interviewing him. I’ve done that. It’s like interviewing no one else because he is direct and doesn’t wrap his thoughts in corporate cant. But I’d rather interview him than most business executives I’ve ever met. It’s a fascinating trip into the mind of someone who thinks in new ways.
It’s not as if Facebook needs my defense; it has Microsoft’s millions. And I certainly can be accused of Facebook fervency in my writing. But I think some are too quick to jump on Facebook’s back precisely because it is so big and successful.
But I see something bigger happening here: I think Facebook is redefining how to make a mistake.
When they announced the newsfeed, they took their users by surprise and pissed them off. But after pulling back and explaining, it went ahead and, as it turns out, they were right: The newsfeed is the heart of Facebook and is, I’ve been arguing, a new interface for news elsewhere.
When they announced the ad program, they again took their users by surprise and didn’t include enough privacy controls for the users. But after pulling back and adding those controls, I’ll say again that I think they’re onto something. See what Matt McAlister says responding to my musings about airlines capturing the wisdom of their crowds the last few days:
Carrying the theme to retail markets, you can imagine that you will walk into H&M and discover that one of your first-degree contacts recently bought the same shirt you were about to purchase. You buy a different one instead. Or people who usually buy the same hair conditioner as you at the Walgreen’s you’re in now are switching to a different hair conditioner this month. Though this wouldn’t help someone like me who has no hair to condition.
That’s what Facebook’s ad strategy will work to deliver: social shopping. And I want that. Just as I’m interested in what apps friends install I’m interested in what products they buy, so long as they are willing to tell me, and also what they think of them.
Now comes the Scoble Plaxo kerfuffle. Facebook did right: It protected my email from going to the dreaded Plaxo. It cut off Scoble for violating the TOS. But it then reinstated Scoble before he could make a video whining about them. Plenty of folks say they did right.
But now to the bigger point: how Facebook makes mistakes. See Rick Segal defending Zuckerberg on this point:
The larger issue and concern for me is the piling on from Bloggers and questionable Political Action Groups when it comes to pounding on Mark Zukerberg. I turn fifty in 22 days so I can clearly say Mark is a kid. He is going to make lots of mistakes and he will continue to learn and grow. Focusing in on him and how he personally handed it, dissecting his blog posts, etc, is just silly. Many of the blog posts, especially from the “A” list types, have that twinge of arrogance and smugness which is normally seen when the business of business turns into the blood sport of watching somebody fail.
We need to use care in beating up Zuckerberg and Facebook in general because we want these folks to push the limits of finding new ideas and trying to make sense out of all the data flowing everywhere. Try it and get some reactions, adjust, find the happy center, rinse and repeat. That’s what Facebook should be doing and all the users and give feedback about the business. If they go off sides, it will get corrected, it always does. If they do really bad things, people vote with the mouse clicks. Just ask MySpace or AOL’s GeoCities. People vote and have no problem moving.
Right. We can’t expect to see new companies innovating and taking chances without the chance that they make mistakes. Of course, they’ll make mistakes. The question is what they do about them. Zuckerberg and Facebook have done a good job listening to their public and correcting their mistakes and keeping the nerve to innovate and experiment. And they do it in the open.
Too often, companies and brands — especially media brands, I’ll add — try to act as if they’re perfect and they don’t make mistakes and they don’t want to risk their reputations by making any. This makes them timid and that kills innovation.
I’d rather have a company that tries to innovate and makes mistakes, so long as they listen and correct them. That, I believe, is the new way for companies to act. It works only if you are in a conversation with your customers and listen to them. And so far, Facebook has done that. So I agree with Segal. And I say, don’t be so quick to jump on or write off Zuckerberg and company. They’ve done a lot right so far. Could they make the Big Mistake that messes it all up? Sure. That’s what Plaxo did with me, spamming me to the point that I will never trust that brand or company again.
But so far, Facebook has learned from its mistakes. That’s the most I can ask from them.
Mike Arrington gets it right in the kerfuffle over Robert Scoble using a Plaxo scraper to take email addresses of his friends — mine included, I might add — and put them into their damned spam machine. Scoble’s doing to loud public crying act over this but I agree with Mike that Plaxo is wrong and Facebook is right. I want Facebook to protect my email address. I don’t want Scoble downloading it and giving it over to Plaxo, a brand and company I will never, never trust and would never choose to do business with or hand data to on my own. So much of the reaction to this little incident gets it backwards; there has been much talk about how we should be able to get our data out of Facebook and that’s fine but we also need to protect our data from others making use of it without our permission and that’s what this is about in the end.
: And what she says: Dawn, comment on Arrington’s post:
Facebook has created an environment where we only allow access to certain items that we want people to see. If I have let Scoble see my entire profile, meaning my education, my employment, my DOB, etc., and he takes any of that with him, to where ever he is taking it (and he could take it elsewhere), he is violating my right to privacy.
Not only does this affect the careful identity construction that I’ve done, but it also undermines my ability to only be a part of communities that I wish to take part in. He is porting my identity to sites unknown and using it in a way that I haven’t consented to.
If today it is Robert Scoble, who is to say that tomorrow it’s not someone stealing my identity and using it on sites that are unsavory?
Instead of jumping on a revolution bandwagon, we should be thinking about the overwhelming social issues here. I believe in portability for MY OWN identity. I don’t think that you should be allowed to take my information anywhere you want to go with it.
Right. Especially Plaxo.
: Scoble is back up on Facebook. But he now has fewer than 5,000 friends. Did some leave him?