In a previous post, I discussed the poor quality of the interviewer during the Mark Zuckerberg keynote. Now, I'll take a moment to discuss his comments during the interview and the subsequent Developer Garage on Monday.
First of all, I am extremely impressed with Zuckerberg's intelligence and thoughtfulness. He seems like a very insightful young man, with an amazing amount of passion for what he is doing. Not crazy, obnoxious, sales person-type hyper-enthusiasm, but a strong belief in that what he is doing is important as much as it is gainful. He was uncomfortable with questions about his youth (23 years old) and his wealth (some say $15 billion), saying that they are not that focused on those sort of things. He clearly articulates Facebook's mission as to "help people connect and communicate more efficiently." He is careful to give a nod to the audience by saying in both the keynote and the subsequent session that it is "built by you guys," the developers of Facebook's apps and those creating content.
Lots of questions about privacy and being able to manage friends. He mentioned the phrases "granular privacy controls" and friends lists on several occasions. The biggest mistake they made with Beacon, the system that broadcasts your activities throughout the site and outside, was that they did not give users as complete control over their info as they should have.
He didn't think that Facebook was going to be the "iTunes killer" with a music application, as had recently been reported in the press. He again pointed to the music apps on the site, but admits that they hadn't really touched on it. I sensed that he was being a bit vague on purpose.
As far as being CEO, he seems to feel that the high expectations of him are tough, but he balances that with the excitement he has for building a business and attracting talented people. I liked when he said "How many times in your life do you get a chance to do something like this? Zero or one." As CEO, he feels he can still be involved with product, although they recently hired someone to build a product organization.
When the question was asked about how Google felt that Facebook was "trapping information," Zuckerberg said "Those guys are nice," giving a sense that he wasn't too concerned about those implications.
So, even though the interviewer was quite possibly the worst I have seen, I was able to get a better sense of the person behind the phenomenon. Articulate and brilliant, with passion for a pet project that has changed the world...I'm impressed.
Graciously, Zuckerberg agreed to field more questions from SXSW attendees the next day at the Facebook Developer Garage at Pangaea. The video above shows him tactfully handling the question about what actually happened at the interview. Then, he quickly switched gears and addressed questions for about 30 minutes, dealing again with privacy issues and company direction.
And, later, our little group saw him at Ironworks. He was nice enough to briefly pose for a photo with one of my students. We have been talking about Facebook and Zuckerberg for a few weeks, so this was a pretty valuable opportunity.