Posts about facebook

SXSW: Zuckerberg on stage

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.”

It’s business.

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.

DLD: Social & worldwide Facebook

At a Day 2 starts with the session on social: Matt Cohler of Facebook, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Lars Hinrichs, Joanna Shields of Bebo.

Cohler announces that Facebook’s multilingual translation is in private beta as of Friday in French, German, and Spanish and will be released soon. Had discussions last night at a Munich blogger meetup about whether Facebook will make inroads in Germany. StudieVZ is the killer social site here; it concentrates primarily on students but it has the long headstart and it is local. Social is, after all, essentially local. Cohler says that Facebook’s internationalization depends on both the translation and on developers making local applications on the platform. He also says that though they will translate some of Facebook with professional translators, they will depend instead on a translation application — that’s what went into beta Friday — that enables the users to translate the service: translation as a platform play. That is a fascinating strategy: giving your users the tools to rebuild your application.

Before Facebook opened up past colleges, it was almost all American. Now, Cohler says, it’s 37% U.S. and a third European.

The econ editor of FAZ, a leading German paper, asks Cohler to expand on their international ambitions and whetehr they’ll buy StudieVZ. Of course, he doesn’t take that bait. But asked about whether they’d see acquiring some social networks in Europe, Cohler says “it’s certainly possible.”

Michael Arrington asks about the impact of Yahoo’s announcements at CES about social email and such. Sean Parker says the switching costs are enormous. Yes, I wouldn’t bet on this as Yahoo’s salvation (given that they’re making tough decisions, as PaidContent reports).

In defense of Facebook

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.

What he says

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.

: LATER: Good gawd, Nick Carr and I agree. Jack Schofield of the Guardian agrees, too.

: Scoble is back up on Facebook. But he now has fewer than 5,000 friends. Did some leave him?

Newspapers v. Facebook

While in Sweden…. The new editor of Aftonbladet says they learned in a focus group with 20somethings that their major competition for time is Facebook.

I had a somewhat related conversation with my entrepreneurial students yesterday as we debated what properly can be defined as a journalistic enterprise, or part of one. This is a business variant on the who-is-a-journalist debate. But I argued that the real question is, what is the role of the journalistic institution in its community? Is it merely to inform or is it also to organize (which, not coincidentally, is the advice of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: bring your community elegant organization)?

Is a social service that helps local sports players organize properly part of a journalistic organization? For that matter, I’d argue, is a sports section? If we define journalism merely as reported content, then perhaps not. But if we define the larger role of the news organization to help its community organize itself, then social applications — even about sports — are properly part of the mission. I think we need to define the role of the news organization broadly, especially until we figure out what works.

So should Aftonbladet view Facebook as competition for attention — or its mission? I’m not suggesting that Aftonbladet should start its own social network; that would be the reflex of most media companies (we do it all ourselves). Instead, the question should be how to help the community where it is, doing what it does.

If I were making Facebook applications for news organizations now, I wouldn’t be making quizzes and such fripperies. I’d be figuring out how to get news that matters to you in your news feed. I’d be finding ways to tie you with other people who share your interest and know what you want to know. I’d find ways to enable you to recommend more news to your friends.

Seen this way, Facebook isn’t a competitor for a newspaper. It’s just another place to help your community.

(Aftonbladet news found via Media Culpa — which, by the way, is a great name for a blog.)