Saturday, March 16, 2019

Facebook, an Enormous Company Run by a Child

Well, Move Fast and Break Things may be a great motto in a dorm room, but it hasn’t worked out all that well for Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook rose to a Forbes rating of the 4th most valuable brand in the world.

There’s a lot at stake.

Facebook has moved fast. Blindingly fast and lots of stuff has been broken, most notably when lying to its users about confidentiality and selling user-data for profit to bad actors, including those who most likely have criminally swung elections in America and misrepresented the Brexit referendum in Britain.

Experts, prosecutors, defenders, users and national governments have all taken a swing at Facebook and they know far more than I am able to parse about the inner workings of this very complicated company.

But, personally, I think it all boils down to Facebook being run by a kid. Owning 66% of Facebook, no one can second-guess the guesser.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Zuckerberg is a bad guy, with evil intentions. So, what do I mean when I charge him with too little maturity to run so large a show?

Well, he’s a wildly smart guy and his background education is quite diverse, but he’s never been out in the world of work. And out there, rubbing elbows among we commoners, is where one matures. Mark was raised in privilege, all the best schools and never a day-job.

That’s not a disqualifier but it suggests a need, particularly at age thirty-four, for mentoring—the reflection upon and advice of others before shooting from the hip. Mark had such mentors early on, but he dismissed them one-by-one, along with his founding associates at Facebook. 

Like the Trump Cabinet, they’ve largely been shown the door and replaced, or left in frustration. Only two of Facebook's first twenty employees still work at the company and you can probably guess that Zuck is one of them.

Dustin Moskovitz, was Zuckerberg's college roommate. The two dropped out of Harvard together to move to California and create Facebook. He left ten years ago.

Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook served as the site's first spokesman. He picked up and went elsewhere fifteen years ago.

Eduardo Saverin, another co-founder sued Zuckerberg and the two reached a settlement. Gone in 2004.

Sean Parker, an early employee at Napster was the founding president of Facebook. Gone thirteen years ago.

Taner Halicioglu came on board soon after it was founded and built-out the entire initial hardware infrastructure. Hired in 2004 and gone in 2009.

Tricia Black Facebook’s first VP of Sales, came in 2005 and left in 2006—and on and on.

And as I write this, Chris Cox, the top product executive at Facebook as well as a top lieutenant to Zuckerberg has just turned off the lights and left the company. Chris Daniels, the executive in charge of the WhatsApp messaging platform left along with him.

WIRED commented, “If Mark Zuckerberg were to ever leave the company, Cox, his longtime confidant and a representative of the engineering and product side, would be set up to run it.” 

Now, it seems not.

In a statement, Cox said, “For over a decade, I've been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: Social media's history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral. It is tied up in the richness and complexity of social life. As its builders, we must endeavor to understand its impact—all the good, and all the bad—and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good. This is our greatest responsibility.”

The point of which is that, with Zuck, it seems to be my way or the highway and that’s not working out all that well for a thirty-four year old. The company’s receiving incoming-fire from all sides and its commander-in-chief has never faced an enemy.

Zuck’s still a kid, with a kid’s stubbornness, a limited view of the world and a very profit-focused business plan. That’s made him America’s fourth richest individual. Good on him, but he’s shown himself to be far from the nation’s most trustworthy.

Trustworthiness is most often gained from skills that result from direct participation in the down-and-dirty work common to those of us who have to answer for our actions.

Zuckerberg answers to no one, from his Facebook associates to the parliaments and congresses of nations.

And it shows.

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