We Saw The Facebook Movie: The Social Network

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate.

We went to see “The Social Network” this afternoon. That’s the new movie about Facebook written by Aaron Sorkin. If you check Facebook more that a dozen times a day you’ll be going too!

Wondering why Saturday afternoon? Just look at the box office numbers from Friday night alone when 2,771 theaters sold $8,000,000 in tickets! We didn’t want to get shut out or be forced to sit in the first row.

The movie traces Mark Zuckerberg: geek, nerd, socially awkward smart smart guy Harvard student who had the idea (sort of) and wrote the code that made “TheFacebook.com,” and then Facebook a social phenomena.

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate. More on Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) in a moment.

As Zuckerberg’s creation begins to take off he becomes more in demand. His application crashes the Harvard computer network at 4:00 AM. He is hit on by beautiful Asian groupies&#185 as “The Facebook” usage continues to surge. Finally, Sean Parker the business oriented co-founder of Napster enters his life as an evil angel.

Standby. I’ll get to Parker soon.

The story is told in anecdotal flashback spawned from a series of actual depositions. Whether the anecdotes are true is anyone’s guess. Sorkin says:

This is a nonfiction story about two lawsuits that were brought against Facebook at roughly the same time where the defendant, the plaintiffs and the witnesses all came into the deposition room and swore an oath.

Of course everyone’s deposed testimony differed. There’s a lot of truth to pick from. Recently people who should know have said there’s a lot more fiction than fact. Who’s to say? Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for Zuckerberg the movie will probably trump history!

What’s not in dispute is Zuckerberg did pay an eight figure settlement to a group led by identical twin Harvard students who said Facebook was really a project they proposed and he agreed to code for them. Also not in dispute is a payment to Zuckerberg’s original partner who was squeezed out under pressure from Sean Parker but walked away with cash and a perpetual website credit line.

OK–Parker time.

Sean Parker is a real life character. Though Sorkin’s script makes him “the Napster guy” I immediately went to Google. I remembered Napster’s genius as Shawn Fanning. We’re both right. Fanning was the coding guy. Parker was the business guy. Fanning was the only one I’d heard of until today.

Sorkin makes Sean Parker the biggest schmuck here. All Zuckerberg wanted was for his website to grow so he would be validated. Traffic was his goal. He says (often) money is not his motivating factor. It was Parker, as Zuckerberg’s Svengali, who convinced him the ultimate target should be cash and convinced him to screw his best friend and co-founding partner!

You see why it’s easy to hate him?

It’s funny considering the subject matter but this was an action picture with a rapid pace. As with anything Aaron Sorkin touches the writing was tight with no dialog wasted. I was envious of the partying college life I saw (a life that sadly didn’t exist… or more likely just didn’t invite me while I was in college) early on, but not at all envious of the dark path Zuckerberg followed to success.

I never saw him happy. Money really can’t buy it, can it?

&#185 – The movie makes a point of the fascination Jewish men have with Asian woman. I can’t explain why except to say it’s true. The movie tries to make the case it’s a two-way street. I’ve seen little… OK, no… evidence for that.

Facebook, You’re Bugging Me

But it’s my choice and I don’t use the subterfuge of friending someone to accomplish my commercial goals.

facebook-page.gifWhen I first plopped myself onto the Internet in 1992 it was a very different place. This was the pre-browser, pre-WWW era. If there was anything commercial on the web I didn’t see it. Besides, the web (for me) was totally text based and running to my computer at either 300 or 1,200 baud (I can’t remember at the moment).

Things have changed! The Internet is full of ads and commercialism. Some companies, Google for instance, managed to find a way to make ads more valuable by making them contextual. Few find Google’s ads objectionable (though they’re often weirdly out-of-context)

Lets talk about Facebook. It’s relationship with ads is very different.

Modeled on Harvard’s actual physical “you can hold it in your hands” Facebook, it has become the leading social networking site on the web. They claim 350 million active users over the last 30 days! I can believe it.

Running the site must be expensive, because even with all the ads there are also commercially sponsored apps. I have railed about apps and their misleading come-ons in the past.

Either I’ve clicked enough buttons to silence most of them or their number is diminishing. Maybe their days are numbered?

Still, Facebook is too ripe with customers for businesses to stay away. Three of my last four friend requests were from businesses! That’s against Facebook’s TOS, but just wrong as a matter of common decency.

One woman (recently friended and now unfriended) sent an unsolicited invitation to her company’s wine tasting. I hit ignore (I’m a non-drinker) but was still spammed this morning by her ALL CAPS Facebook email with the details.

Founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.

“[T]rusted environment.” That’s the operative phrase. That’s why I find this whole rush toward businesses wanting to be my friend smarmy. They want to take advantage of that trusted environment, which they’ve done… to the detriment of trust!

There is a place for business on Facebook. There are fan sites and other ways to communicate with customers. I am part of one. I am a member of others. But it’s my choice and I don’t use the subterfuge of friending someone to accomplish my commercial goals.

Facebook has in many ways become a pain-in-the-ass. There are many good parts. I like that I can see photos and hear stories from my friends (whether close friends or just Facebook friends). I don’t want to be hustled. We are approaching the tipping point.

If not careful Facebook will find, as MySpace has found, friendship is fleeting.

Me A Dinosaur? Really?

I don’t know if I would have blogged when I was younger… even if we had PCs or the Internet. It takes a lot of discipline. That’s one trait never associated with me.

The average age of bloggers is getting older. That’s because “young people are losing interest in long-form blogging.” Harvard researchers conducted the survey.

I don’t know if I would have blogged when I was younger… even if we had PCs or the Internet. It takes a lot of discipline. That’s one trait never associated with me.

That being said, this is one of the most satisfying activities I have. Blogging has allowed me to discover how much fun writing can be,

Mistrust And Fear

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market.

The TV was on when President Obama walked into the White House briefing room today. He was ‘walking back’ his comment on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.”

Agreed. Here’s my takeaway on this whole thing.

1) President Obama did what our recent president(s) wouldn’t. He was conciliatory. He attempted to dial down the rhetoric. He admitted he’d been wrong in what he had said and characterizations he’d made. He was a mensch!

2) Here is a problem which cuts and separates our society.

There continues to be a racial divide in America. I am not proud to say I have been frightened by young, black men solely because they were young, black men. I am not alone.

Any time I hear a news story about some perp arrested during a ‘routine traffic stop,’ I think: DWB–Driving While Black. There is no doubt there is some… maybe more than some… racial targeting. It is an institutionalized manifestation of the fear I’ve experienced.

A significant portion of black America originally thought O.J. Simpson was framed because he was black and because… well because that’s what happens.

There’s an old joke: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following you. Similarly, just because there is profiling didn’t mean O.J. was innocent. It is too easy and patently unfair to dismiss any incident as being wholly racial just because some are. It’s the other side of the racial paranoia coin.

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market. It is bad for all of us.

More than likely Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley (the Cambridge, MA police officer involved) came into this confrontation already primed. Tensions and tempers flared. Neither could find the easy way to get out with their dignity intact.

If this incident opens up a national dialogue it will have been worth whatever discomfort these two men have endured. We need that dialog.

Don’t Piss Off Alec Baldwin

This is how a child fights. This isn’t the response I’d expect from an adult.

Alec Baldwin is a gifted actor. He needs a little lots of anger management help.

Remember how he railed at his daughter… the voicemail heard ’round the world. Now he’s going off at Jack Cafferty, CNN’s avuncular gadfly.

This isn’t to say Cafferty hasn’t said wrong minded things about Alec Baldwin. I think he has. From HuffingtonPost’s “Man of the People” column written by Baldwin:

“I was sorry to watch, live on CNN, Edward R. Murrow and Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and all around “Man of the People” Jack Cafferty spit on me on his broadcast today.

After decrying the notion of “actors and comedians” running for public office, Cafferty stated, “Baldwin’s credentials are questionable… but Franken is no slouch. He’s Harvard educated.”

So Franken fits the mold for Cafferty because he went to Harvard? What other schools does Cafferty approve of as breeding grounds for office holders in America? What other professions does Cafferty believe should be excluded from holding office? “

OK–I can understand Alec Baldwin being upset, but how far does an adult go? Is this too far?

“I would like to make a deal with Cafferty. Jack, you don’t tell people that a career in the performing arts disqualifies them from seeking elected office, and I won’t say publicly that your being convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in which you struck a cyclist and then ran two red lights while you were pursued by the police and were subsequently ordered to serve 70 hours of community service back in May of 2003 disqualifies you from posing as a “Man of the People” on a major cable news network.

Fair enough?

This is how a child fights. This isn’t the response I’d expect from an adult.

If Baldwin does decide to run for political office his education will be a lot less important than his explosions.

We are all flawed. We are not all volatile.

The Hidden Stuff On Facebook

I wonder if I was memorable at all? A few years ago I had contact with a junior high teacher I’d really liked and he had no idea who I was.

Facebook has progressed from a student project at Harvard. Everyone’s on now, even my father (my wife being the lone exception in the Northern Hemisphere). On top of that groups are springing up encompassing nearly every possible affinity group.

Last night I was looking around and found a group from my junior high school and another from the apartment complex where I grew up. Crazy. The school hasn’t existed in decades and we moved into the apartment in 1953!

I actually recognized a few names–but only a few. Most of them lit no lightbulb for me. I wonder if I was memorable at all? A few years ago I had contact with a junior high teacher I’d really liked and he had no idea who I was.

What was cool was to read about one particular teacher in my junior high who I always thought was weird. As it turns out everyone else thought that as well!

One More Debate

The politics of slime is distasteful to me. However, what if you’re running for president and feel you have all the answers and your opponent will be taking us to hell in a handbasket

There’s a presidential debate tomorrow night in Hempstead. It will be at Hofstra University–the Harvard of Hempstead. Wow! The election just is three weeks away.

Is there anything that can be said or done tomorrow which will turn things around–save the day for John McCain? What over-the-top trick could he have up his sleeve? Is there an October surprise?

The cable buzz is McCain will bring up William Ayers and possibly Reverend Wright. Is it too late for those associations to resonate? It’s no longer a matter of helping the undecideds make a decision. At this point John McCain will have to turn some people around to win.

The politics of slime is distasteful to me. However, what if you’re running for president, feel you have all the answers and your opponent will be taking us to hell in a handbasket? At that point does the end justify the means? Is it acceptable to slime if in your heart-of-hearts you’re sliming for “all the right reasons.”

It will be interesting to watch the battle unfold. I suspect Obama will try to go on offense before McCain can. No matter what, I’ll bet fewer people watch than last time.

Hyperbole As Large As Space Itself

Over the past few days I’ve seen headlines for, and mostly avoided reading articles on, the discovery of a new planet, Gliese_581_c. Time Magazine headlined: “Life on the New Planet?” Those words just don’t pass the sniff test.

It would be nice to say I’m excited about Gliese_581_c, except there’s a whole lot less here than meets the eye.

“On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X,” said Xavier Delfosse, an astronomer with Grenoble University in France and one of the planet’s co-discoverers. Dmitri Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, went further, enthusing to The New York Times, “It’s 20 light-years [away]. We can go there.”

Sure, what’s 120,000,000,000,000 miles?

He’s talking 20 years, if we travel as fast as light. The fastest a man made object has ever traveled is around 150,000 mph by the Helios 2 spacecraft. This amazing speed was reached as the probe whipped around the Sun, using solar gravity for an assist.

Even at that normally unattainable rate, 120 trillion miles would take about 91,000 years.

And that life stuff – no one has actually seen the planet. Its existence is implied, based on orbital mechanics and shifts of the star it orbits. We don’t know if its got water or an atmosphere or what the surface temperature is. Gliese_581_c’s extremely close proximity to its “sun” probably affects its rotation, though we have no firm understanding of the final result.

The assumption is, gravity would be about twice what it is on Earth with tidal forces about 400 times what we see. The planet might be locked into its orbit in such a way that one side is always illuminated while the other side is under constant darkness.

What I’m getting at is, it’s an immense leap of faith to go with Time’s headline and project a planet supporting life.

It’s good to get excited about science. Why spoil that by turning on the hype machine?

I Should Have Gone To Yale

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I really enjoy photography. As of tonight, “Clicky” has taken 24,123 shots. Obviously, I try and take pictures any time I can.

Tonight, I had my chance to shoot a basketball game. Yale was playing Columbia and I got a pass to sit on the baseline at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on the Yale Campus in New Haven.

It was Senior Night, which is nice. It was also the night of the Jones Brothers. Yale is coached by James Jones. Columbia is coached by his brother Joe.

I haven’t really shot a lot of sports. I’ve been to some Major League Baseball games, shooting from the stands, and stood on the sideline at the UCONN vs Army game a few years ago at Rentschler Field in Hartford. This was my first attempt at hoops. I am humbled.

Shooting basketball is much more difficult than I had imagined. it took about sixty seconds to come to that conclusion!

First, an observation I made after shooting the UCONN football game. Still photographers can get great shots, but they seldom get ‘the big play’ the way TV cameras do. Still photography doesn’t cover the field the same way. You often have to aim and wait for the play to get to you.

Basketball poses even more problems. It moves very quickly and is played in a relatively dimly lit gym. My lenses, fine lenses for an amateur like me, are just too ‘slow&#185’.

There were a few professional shooters at the game as well. I needed four to eight times as much light for the same shot!

I wanted to keep my shutter speed as fast as possible, so I compensated in other ways, which is why all the shots are very, very grainy. It might look like a nice artistic touch, but it wouldn’t be there if I had any choice.

In this game, Yale was blown out. Columbia was red hot. I haven’t seen the stats, but it seemed they just couldn’t miss a shot!

There was a a lot going on off the court. As with most colleges, Yale has a cheer squad They also have an unusual pep band, the Yale Precision Marching Band.

I didn’t see them march, though after the game they did play while crawling on their knees!

The YPMB also featured one guy wearing a “Harvard Sucks” t-shirt. At Yale, that sentiment is not an idle boast.

I felt very comfortable in these surroundings. It’s a shame I was so awful as a student growing up, because I would have fit well at Yale. And, my guess it’s, it’s much more prestigious to be thrown out of Yale than it was to be thrown out of Emerson College!

None of the shots from tonight will be printed. On the other hand, there is a little artistic merit there. I put a few of them in my gallery, if you’d like to take a look.

&#185 – When a photographer talks about a slow lens, it’s a lens that needs more light. The name comes from what you must do to compensate – slow down the shutter. The slower the shutter, the less sharp the action will be. It’s a vicious cycle.

Agents – Someone Else Sees The Problem

I used to have an agent. He was a nice guy, very smart. In fact, he was a Harvard Law School Graduate with anexcellent reputation. If someone was going to represent me, why not him?

When I signed with my agent I assumed our interests were aligned. The more I made, the more he’d make. It wasn’t until the relationship was real that I realized how wrong I was.

I have discussed this with a few friends in the business over time, but had never seen my concerns espoused in print, until today and an article in the Sunday New York Times.

This particular example is real estate agents, but the idea is exactly the same.

Steven D. Levitt, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, found that commissions did not align the interests of agents with those of their customers, a conclusion he recounted in his book

Phrases To Be Stricken

I was reading the Times a moment ago. It’s another story about the Harvard student/author, Kaavya Viswanathan and what looks like plagiarism… again.

But enough about Kaavya. The most interesting part of the article is buried toward the end. The Times tried to get in touch with her agent.

Ms. Viswanathan’s agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of the William Morris Agency, was traveling and could not be reached.

Right.

Call me crazy, but in the year 2006 we need to replace that excuse. Agents are available (though not to their own clients) for a living. And, it’s tough to believe any William Morris agent is Blackberry-less… ever.

OK – it’s possible. Still, in my mind, this has been filed in the fiction section.

As long as I’m at it, aren’t there other phrases that need to disappear?

We all know what “left to pursue other opportunities,” or “spend more time with his family” mean – you’ve been fired. Saying either of these doesn’t hide what happened. They just make you look like a wuss for trying to hide it.

I Cannot Tell A Lie Radio Shack Style

What’s Radio Shack’s slogan: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers?” As it turns out, not all the answers were true – at least as they applied to the CEO. He resigned yesterday after revelations that the two degrees from non-accredited colleges he claimed, didn’t exist.

First of all, as long as you’re going to lie about it, why a non-accredited bible college? Why not Yale or Harvard?

I’ve never lied about my lack of education. I am an official high school graduate. I went to Emerson College on the accelerated dismissal program, flunking out during the height of Vietnam.

That probably tells you more about my intellect than anything else. Were it not for my high draft lottery number, who knows how my life would have changed?

My resume has always said, “attended Emerson College,” which of course I did (though infrequently). It was more like, “lived in dorm,” but that’s beside the point.

Now that my three years at Mississippi State University are complete, I’m still just a high school graduate.

MSU’s program is a certification curriculum. It’s as if you were allowed to attend college and only take your major subjects, no humanities, math or language. I learned everything I would have learned in an Earth Sciences BS program – no more.

I work with a PhD in physics, Dr. Mel Goldstein, and when I’d tell people I was completing my education at MSU, they’d often ask if I was getting my doctorate. I wish.

This Radio Shack guy, David Edmondson, lied and got caught. He probably deserves what’s coming to him, but the story is much deeper than that and it goes to the core of what college confers upon you.

I have a daughter in college. Steffie, stop reading this right now. I don’t want to throw you off the track.

There are many things college prepares you for, and many ways it broadens you. But college is not always necessary to succeed in a job or career – even some careers that are associated with specific courses of study.

Did I suffer in my career because I didn’t have a degree? Who can say for sure. I’ve certainly done OK for myself.

On the other hand, before I got the job here, I got a call from a news director in Boston. He had seen my tape and was interested in hiring me. Was I a meteorologist?

End of story. He said he liked me but he’d be lambasted in the papers if he hired me. I understood.

Back to this Radio Shack guy. He didn’t just come in from a craigslist.com ad. He was inside the company for well over a decade; a guy who worked his way, literally, to the top. He had been judged on what he could do, and really, it didn’t matter that he did it without a degree!

If you look closely at higher education, you will see it is designed by academicians, not practitioners. When we get interns here at the TV station, they learn more on-the-job than they ever learned in school. The same goes for fresh grads.

I’m not saying college is worthless. That’s just not so. I think it serves a valuable purpose and provides a good background and, hopefully, broadening. It is not the end all, be all, in career preparation.

It would serve companies well if they stopped using a college degree as a crutch and began looking at an applicant’s real skills. That’s what they’re going to use anyway.

This guy from Radio Shack – I feel bad for him, but he lied. There’s really little excuse for that, especially when he’s is the company’s credibility.

Wrongly, instead of proving what he could do without college, he felt it was necessary to lie. He felt his skills would never have been recognized… no one would have looked past his lack of academic credentials.

We overlook too many talented people this way, every day. Where’s the upside to that?

Two Interesting Controversies… Well, To Me They Are

I thought I’d write about some interesting things I’ve read over the past few days.

The first seems to be a simmering controversy. It has not yet reached critical mass, but it should as soon as someone in the mainstream press catches on.

Is someone else fudging when it comes to global warming? Last week there were questions about a pro-industry push. This is just the opposite.

It starts with some comments on global warming from a respected scientist representing a respected organization

Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) claims that warmer oceans and increased moisture could intensify showers and thunderstorms that fuel hurricanes.

“Trends in human-influenced environmental changes are now evident in hurricane regions,” Trenberth said. “These changes are expected to affect hurricane intensity and rainfall, but the effect on hurricane numbers remains unclear. The key scientific question is how hurricanes are changing.”

All well and good, except this is a conclusion and a report steeped in controversy.

Dr. Chris Landsea is from the National Hurricane Center. He’s the guy who wrote the Hurricane Center’s FAQ. He is not a happy camper.

Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe.

Landsea goes on to say global warming will have minimal impact (if any) on tropical systems down the road. In fact, Landsea has resigned from this board in protest of the books being cooked.

Earlier today Matt Drudge was linking to an article which quoted Dr. Trenberth with no opposing viewpoints or perspective I was upset, so I wrote the author of the story.

Hello,

I appreciate you pointing this out. Unfortunately, the article was

published before I was finished with it. It was pulled off our site (but

not before it was picked up in other places), and I have now added some

context.

http://www.livescience.com/forcesofnature/050616_hurricane_warm.html

I apologize for this mixup.

Michael Schirber

LiveScience

How much damage has been done? Who can tell. Even bad or retracted research sometimes takes on a life of its own. I’ll wait and see what’s quoted later.

On to the second bit of reading which concerns the space program. It’s not often I see something in the National Review I agree with (in fact it’s not often I see the National Review). Today was the day.

This time it’s an article by John Derbyshire about the space program and its dubious current value. This is something I’ve written about before here in the blog. It’s not a popular thing to say the space program is a total waste… but it is.

I wrote John (whom I’d never heard of before this evening) and he wrote back.

Thank you, Geoff. Excellent comments. I just did a radio spot with Jerry

Doyle — he’s a big shuttle fan & has swallowed all the NASA guff about

microgravity manufacturing & the rest.

I think of the Shuttle program as a sort of Brasilia of the skies — pure

1950s thinking. Who else, today, is riding a vehicle designed by slide

rule?

Best,

John Derbyshire

A Brasilia analogy – wow!

Google Tries To Catalog Everything

There’s an article in this morning’s New York Times about a new move by Google. Boiled to its essence, Google wants to convert everything at Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library to a digitally readable form and index all of it. That’s just the beginning.

I ‘read’ the Internet a lot. I am constantly learning from new sources, and I am careful about my sources. Often the most readily available source is not the best source, or sometimes it’s just plain wrong (the Internet does not have fact checking built in). The number of urban legends which are taken at face value on the net is astounding.

For researchers, knowledge freaks and high school students writing term papers this new addition will expand the available ‘good’ knowledge available from home. I’m sure there are copyright problems which will have to be sorted through, but this seems to be the logical extension of the library in the 21st century.